As written in a previous post, Cito Gaston gave his ace, Roy Halladay, more leeway than most modern day managers would. At nearly the same time, Lou Piniella showed no patience at all in a hot young pitcher and cost the Cubbies a game. And the way the Cubs are going, they cannot afford to be kicking away games.
Randy Wells has thrown four straight quality starts. Last night was his best yet as he gave up only two hits and carried a no-hitter late into the game. While Wells was throwing a masterpiece, his team had built up a five to nothing lead. Wells had thrown 89 pitches and Piniella came out to get him and gave the ball to Marmol. In the topsy-turvy world of major league relievers, Marmol has been throwing with mirrors this year. His ERA isn't that high, but as Rob Neyer pointed out in his blog, his strikeout rate is down and his walk rate is up.
Marmol gave up Wells' run (inherited base runner) and one of his own and now it's a 5-2 game. Gregg came in and finished off the Cubs with another blown save, allowing the Braves to tie the game and Heilman did to Cubs fans what he did to Mets' fans all last year.
The Fan's question is this: With Wells throwing so well and only throwing 89 pitches, why not let him go a little deeper into the eighth before yanking him? If he gets through the eighth, and the Fan has no reason to doubt that he would have, then the questionable closer gives up his three runs, and the Cubs win 5-3. Instead, Piniella felt better going with a shaky Marmol and predictable results happened. The closer finished the job and the Cubs lost. Too bad Kerry Wood is rotting away on an awful Indians team.
If the Cubs don't win the Central Division, they will look back on this game and a dozen others like it and see a ton of "what ifs" and a ton of lost opportunities.