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Game 116 Open Thread: August 12 2005

i'll get to mulder in a second, but first one other item. a few days ago, after eckstein's game-winning grand slam against the braves, i asserted (approvingly) that david becomes more aggressive in rbi situations -- abandons his usual take-a-strike, work-the-count approach and goes up there swinging, sometimes even offers at the first pitch. at the time of the post i had precious few examples to back up that statement, but eckstein helpfully supplied one two days ago and another yesterday.

on wednesday, in the finale vs milwaukee, he came up vs ben sheets with two on and two out in the 8th inning of a 1-0 game. first pitch crossed the plate, a strike -- eckstein took a hack, fouled it off. next pitch -- base knock, two runs home. move forward to yesterday's game: 5th inning, two on, two out, and stl trailing 7-2. extra-base hit makes it a game again. eck took a ball, then attacked one of those cutters maddux throws; swung through it. swung and missed again on 1-1; but on 1-2 he spanked one over the infield to knock in a run.

i'd have applauded the at-bats even if they resulted in outs. eckstein adjusted his approach to fit the situation; that's smart hitting.

other than that, nothing much good to say about this game. i'm not going to jump all over mulder, who in my estimation threw about the same as he's been throwing for the last six weeks. he was just slightly less sharp and a lot less lucky. with a little better luck his line might've read six innings, four runs, something like that -- not great, but not game-breakingly bad. but this explains why i'll be nervous every time he toes the rubber in october. this kind of disaster always lurks just around the corner with mulder.

i thought he made only one really awful pitch, to ramirez in the 4th inning -- diaz was set up way inside, and the pitch was over the outer half, and aramis drove it to right-center for an rbi double. in the fourth, when the game got away from him, he and diaz chose to go outside on a 2-2 pitch to macias, whom they had pounded inside successfully all game long. indeed, the 1-2 pitch of this at-bat looked for all the world like it caught the inside corner for an inning-ending strike three. i thought they should have stayed inside on him, but he fouled off one outside pitch and poked the next one into right for a hit. neifi followed with a single on a pretty good curveball -- up in the zone, yes, but right on the outside corner. neifi showed uncharacteristic patience by waiting on the break and taking it to right field; if he had whaled from his heels like he was supposed to, the result would have been a popup to second or a two-bouncer to short.

indeed, all the cubs were uncharacteristically patient against mulder yesterday. they are dead last in the league in walks drawn, yet they took three in four innings yesterday. and it's not as if mulder was all-over-the-place wild; he was throwing just off the corners, like he always does, but the cubs didn't chase. that, too, is smart hitting.

all in all i feel differently about this four-inning, seven-run pounding than i did about the four-inning, seven-run pounding he absorbed in cincinnati on june 22. in that alarming start mulder looked defenseless on the mound; yesterday he labored, but at least he had a plan of attack. unfortunately mulder has a nonexistent margin for error; when it isn't working for him, things can get out of hand very quickly. we've seen this before, and we'll probably see it again -- not in october, i hope.

an inauspicious pitching matchup today. watch jason's velocity; it's been down his last two starts, which followed a 132-pitch outing in san diego. also watch for a high-tight pitch to albert or jimmy; i bet the plunking of ramirez in the late innings yesterday didn't go unnoticed.

marquis zambrano
9-10, 4.24 8-5, 3.30