Monday, September 26, 2011

9/26/11 Chicago Cubs 0, San Diego Padres 2

Petco Park, San Diego, CA
Game 1 of 3

Casey Coleman is a GREAT pitcher. I believe in Casey Coleman.

The final series of the 2011 season finds the wayward Cubs in Petco Park to face the Padres, who very much like the Cubs are looking at a losing season with barely 70 wins and nearly 90 losses apiece. When I hear the baseball pundits complain about teams who “aren’t in the race” at the end of the season and how this may or may not affect their performance on the field, I think about games like this and I’m glad that I don’t subscribe to this way of thinking. The Cubs and the Padres both played as if they had a chance; especially Casey Coleman and his opponent Mat Latos.

Pretend for a moment that you are not aware that both of these teams are mathematically and metaphysically out of the running for a postseason appearance. The Cubs need Casey Coleman to continue his 2011 performance in the years to come…the same goes for Mat Latos, whose 2011 wasn’t quite as stellar as his 2010 campaign, but he (as well as Coleman) are damn good pitchers, and are both young enough to improve. Perhaps that’s what is driving them to excellence tonight, where they stare each other down for 5 straight innings of scoreless baseball; the greatest tangible advantage being the no-hitter that Latos has going on through those 5.

I fly my “Pitchers who can hit are sexy” flag fairly high and prominently, and I can’t imagine a day, time, year, or dissertation that could ever persuade me otherwise. That being said, Coleman breaks up Latos’ no-hitter with a 1-out triple in the top of the 6th. That’s just plain down and dirty awesome. As you may be able to tell from this photo, Coleman looks a bit peaked standing at 3rd after a run like that. Pitchers who hit well, I love it and I promote it. The same may not be said for pitchers who are aggressive baserunners…most Cubs fans still have a wince on their face from when Carlos Zambrano yanked a leg muscle a few years ago running to first to beat out a grounder and missed several starts. Here, the impact is more immediate; as soon as you can say “wow, did he really just do that??” Len Kasper and Bob Brenly immediately speculate on how Coleman’s hard drive to 3rd may affect his work on the mound in the bottom of the 6th. After all, they could be wrong…but there’s a point to be made there, couldn’t he have kept it to a double and be done with it?

Bottom of the 6th, Coleman yields a solo HR to Will Venable on a 0-1 pitch. Jason Bartlett grounds out to Coleman right after, but it seems as if the Padres have found his sweet spot as Jesus Guzman reaches on a ground-rule double that was nearly another HR. Nick Hundley strikes out swinging, but Cameron Maybin doesn’t, with a seeing-eye line drive down the left field line for a run-scoring double. The Padres are on the board, Coleman’s triple run seems to have revealed the truth in Kasper and Brenly’s statement, and Rafael Dolis gets the final out of the inning in his MLB debut.

Casey…please…next time, buddy, make it a DOUBLE.

Latos, in the meantime, stays in through the 7th inning and finishes with 9K and 1BB. Chad Qualls and Heath Bell administer 2 perfect innings and the Cubs are done for the evening.

Carlos Peña earns his 100th free pass of the season and is the 1st Cub since the 1900s to walk this many times in one season. Starlin Castro extends his hitting streak to 9 games and his on-base streak to 38 games. In addition to Dolis, Steve Clevenger makes his MLB debut.

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