Cubs' Wells a silver lining on a somber day

August, 19, 2011
8/19/11
7:27
PM CT
By Chris Silva
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Friday mostly will be remembered for the way the day started for the Cubs, with the dismissal of general manager Jim Hendry and its emotional aftershocks in the clubhouse. The way the day ended, with a 5-4 comeback win over the rival St. Louis Cardinals in 10 innings that culminated with a celebration at home plate, might be a nice after thought.

What happened in between, however, should not go overlooked -- especially when considering the Cubs’ inconsistent starting pitching and corroding bullpen as of late.

Right-hander Randy Wells pitched seven innings for the second time this season, bringing even more relief to a bullpen that’s been worn thin with 404 innings pitched thus far in 2011.

Granted, Wells has surrendered a handful of runs in each of his seven-inning outings -- six runs in an Aug. 7 no decision against Cincinnati and four runs in another no decision on Friday -- but this strong start lightened the relievers’ workload to just three innings the afternoon following the team’s first off day in more than three weeks.

Only one of the three relievers the Cubs put on the mound (Jeff Samardzija) allowed any base runners. (Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall each pitched unblemished innings.)

“The bullpen was fresh and they did their thing,” manager Mike Quade said.

So did Wells, who along with Ryan Dempster has been the only Cubs starter to go seven innings since Aug. 7. In the clubhouse, Wells fielded two minutes worth of questions about the news of Hendry before a reporter asked about his performance, to which the right-hander exhaled, “Finally.”

“I felt good -- I think it’s the best I’ve felt all year,” Wells said. “It was a big game for me, obviously with everything that’s gone on, and I’d like to say I’d like the outcome to be different but all I care about is the team winning and I can honestly say that as long as we win as a team I don’t care how I perform. But I felt I threw the ball well and made a couple of mistakes and was able to battle through and work into the seventh and get through the seventh.”

[+] EnlargeTyler Colvin
Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIREThe Cubs had a reason to celebrate Friday -- in spite of Jim Hendry's firing.

The bulk of those mistakes came in the second inning, during which Wells gave up three runs on three hits. He retired the side in order in the third and, despite a pair of wild pitches on the afternoon, left his teammates in a position to mount a comeback. Quade praised Wells’ performance, singling out his first inning as one of his finest.

“The fact that he weathered that [second inning] and continued on is the story for me of him,” Quade said.

And in terms of the Cubs’ starting pitching being able to consistently put the bullpen in a position to succeed, Wells spoke about accountability.

“Not to be an individual about everything, but I just want to go out there and do my job and focus on my job,” he said. “The way I look at things is if I can take care of my job then everything else should work itself out.”

Caught looking: What could have been a costly mistake turned out to be a footnote in the end. After reaching first base on a fielding error to begin the inning in a tied game, Tony Campana was doubled off at first after a hit-and-run with Starlin Castro. Campana lost sight of the ball and third-base coach Ivan DeJesus.

Reed Johnson followed with a single, Aramis Ramirez walked and Carlos Pena flied out to end the inning. If the Cubs didn't win in extra innings, Campana’s mistake would have been magnified.

“I think it’s the first mistake I’ve seen him make up here,” Quade said. “I don’t think he’ll make that again. When you have the privilege of running when you want -- and he does -- and you’re so adept to doing it, there’s still one piece of the puzzle. If I’m going to give him the freedom to run he’s got to take care of being able to find the baseball, and I’m not taking the bat out of [Castro’s] hand with that count so whether he peaks -- and a lot of base stealers don’t like to -- he’s going to have to learn to. Or whether he really bounces up and finds his third base coach to get some help...that was plenty of enough time for him to recognize that, if he’s on top of that.”

Notes: Tyler Colvin, who supplied the game-winning hit off of Octavio Dotel, said he was already loose and had worked up a sweat from being on deck earlier in the game. ... Marlon Byrd’s first sacrifice bunt as a Cub, which set up the game-winning run, came on his 906th plate appearance in his second season with the team. Said Quade: “He’ll do anything you ask.”... Retired talk show host Larry King led the Wrigley Field crowd in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”... Prior to the 10th, arguably the loudest ovation came during a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds’ flyover in the fifth; the Thunderbirds will perform during this weekend’s Chicago Air & Water Show.


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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jake Arrieta
WINS ERA SO IP
10 2.53 167 156
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .292
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167