CINCINNATI -- When Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer lent his support to his manager, Dale Sveum, before Tuesday’s game, he also mentioned that Sveum and his coaching staff are always being evaluated. Progress is what Hoyer wants to see out of his young players. But he never mentioned judging Sveum on his in-game moves.
That’s OK. Cubs fans will do it for him.
Sveum will be second-guessed for his handling of the pitching staff in the ninth inning of the Cubs' 4-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds that needed 10 innings to decide.
With Carlos Villanueva pitching a masterpiece, Sveum decided to pull him after walking the leadoff man, Shin-Soo Choo, and giving up a sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning with the Cubs leading 2-1. Villanueva had thrown 99 pitches.
“The fact that I was able to have a chance to go out there and finish it off, as a starting pitcher, that’s all you want,” Villanueva said afterward. “You want to finish what you start.”
Sveum was faced with a myriad of choices with Choo on second base and one out. Joey Votto was at the plate and Sveum could have left Villanueva in to complete the game. Or he could have walked Votto, setting up a double play. Or he could have had lefty James Russell ready to pitch to the lefty Votto. Sveum chose to go with embattled reliever Carlos Marmol. History dictated it.
“Those numbers don’t lie,” Sveum explained afterward. “He got the ground ball just, once again, it was ‘really, you can’t hit it at somebody?’ You’re kidding me.”
Votto was 1-15 with nine strikeouts against Marmol, including one in the 10th inning of Monday’s game. But on Tuesday the hitter won the battle as Votto hit a hard ground ball to the right of second baseman Darwin Barney, scoring Choo from second base as the tying run. It denied Villlanueva the win –- and made Sveum’s decision one to question.
Marmol walked two more hitters but got a strike out and ground out to keep the game going.
“Marmol was all right,” Sveum said.
If social media was any indication, Sveum chose the least popular option. Marmol has been great in tie games since losing the closer’s role, but he ended up blowing his second save of the year on Tuesday. He pitched two innings on Monday, so it was asking a lot for another effective one the next day. Hector Rondon was available as one of the few pitchers that did not participate in the 13-inning affair the night before, but he never got off the bench.
“That ground ball came so close,” Marmol said.
But should he have been in there in the first place?
Barney homered in the 10h inning, his first of the season. “It feels good to contribute on that side of the field for sure,” he said. The home run came as the plate umpire was calling catcher’s interference, but Barney still hit it out.
New addition Cody Ransom hit a home run on the first pitch he saw as a Cub and played a stellar third base. “I was trying to get a good pitch over the plate and got on top of him,” Ransom said. “No reason to sit around and get in a hole.”
“Maybe I would have rolled it over if it didn’t hit his glove.” -- Barney, on hitting the home run after touching catcher Corky Miller’s glove on his swing.
“I felt great for him because he’s about to commit suicide I think.” -- Sveum, on Barney’s home run and frustrations at the plate.