Here are the pitch graphs from last night’s sixth inning.
Jerad Eickhoff vs. Anthony Rizzo:
The blue was a bloop single.
Jerad Eickhoff vs. Ben Zobrist:
The blue was a ground ball single through the hole, just past Cesar Hernandez.
Jerad Eickhoff vs. Jason Heyward:
The blue was struck for a line drive single into left field.
Eickhoff was then lifted from the game, up 3-2 but with two men on. There were two outs. Pete Mackanin had Joely Rodriguez and Edubray Ramos warming up in the bullpen. Joe Maddon, upon seeing Rodriguez enter the game, pulled back scheduled hitter Miguel Montero and substituted right-handed hitter Willson Contreras.
Contreras, who since coming to the majors in 2016 has hit .327/.365/.531 against lefties, promptly hit a two-run double that gave the Cubs the lead. That was after Rodriguez and catcher Andrew Knapp got crossed up, resulting in a passed ball that allowed both runners to move into scoring position.
Maddon had a plan for attacking the Phillies once Eickhoff was on the ropes, and that plan paid off. Mackanin, however, seemed set on Rodriguez entering once Eickhoff was in too much trouble and a lefty was at the plate.
But Eickhoff was still pitching well. The first two hits he allowed were good pitches struck into lucky places. He fell behind Heyward 3-0 (which he had done both times before) and threw him a high and outside pitch Heyward decided to attack. Unfortunate but understandable.
Did Mackanin know Maddon would pull back Montero for Contreras? The Cubs do have three catchers (also Kyle Schwarber) on the roster, and if any manager is defined as “flexible,” it’s Maddon. There should’ve at least been some thought about it.
So then there’s this: What if Mackanin opted to keep Eickhoff in the game after Heyward’s hit? Again, he was still pitching well, and while Montero has been hitting righties well this year – .364/.400/.576 – it’s in a small sample of 35 plate appearances. Last season (244 PA), Montero hit .221/.340/.387 against righties.
Plus hasn’t Eickhoff earned the right to see that battle through? He’s been the team’s most consistent starter over the past year and a half. Why not give him the opportunity to finish off the sixth against the defending world champs? Why not then set up the seventh so you have Pat Neshek, Hector Neris and Joaquin Benoit ready to go? Why not maximize your options?
Wednesday’s game ended lame for the Phillies, who again proved they’re not quite ready to compete on a high level with baseball’s best. A lot of that is the talent, which is still developing and, in some cases, isn’t yet present on the roster. But within the margins, decisions being made are proving some negative impact on this young team.