PHILADELPHIA -- As much as Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes lefty Clayton Richard in the bullpen, wouldn’t he more valuable starting a game or two down the stretch? With Dan Haren struggling again on Sunday, it seems like the right thing to do.
Haren gave up seven hits and walked three in just three innings, putting the Cubs in an early hole. They eventually tied it but the Phillies retook the lead to achieve a split in the series. It’s not what the Cubs hoped for, as they’ve led all seven games on the road trip so far but have won just four of them.
“I was fighting it,” Haren said. “Warming up, it just wasn’t there. Usually coming into the game something is working. I tried everything.”
Haren has been better lately, but Richard simply has better stuff. He came on in relief of Haren and settled the game down, giving the Cubs a chance to win. He threw four innings, giving up one run. The interesting thing is Richard’s numbers are better as a starter than as a reliever. He had a 5.09 ERA coming out of the bullpen before Sunday -- though that number came down after his performance. As a starter he's given up six runs in 18 innings (3.00). Maddon might like him in the relief role, but he can be just as useful if not more so in a spot start or two.
“I don’t know,” Maddon said. “I love him in the bullpen. It’s hard to say that right now. He was really clean today.”
Haren’s ERA since joining the Cubs is 5.73. Isn’t that enough evidence over eight starts to make a change? Game 4 of this series was there for the Cubs to win. They hit the ball hard all over the place and you get the feeling if their starter pitched a little better, the result would have gone the other way. Even Haren acknowledged Richard’s contribution.
“Clayton did an amazing job coming in,” he said.
If the Cubs want to catch Pittsburgh or St. Louis, they can’t stumble when a game is there to be won. It would be one thing if they were getting blown out, but in all three losses on the trip, the Cubs were tied or leading heading into the seventh inning.
“After winning the doubleheader, you would like to win one of the next two,” Maddon said. “We didn’t get it done.”
Most of it is on the bullpen, but on Sunday, it was a rare bad start that helped do them in. Will there be a change in five days? Should there be? Stay tuned.