Brewers-Cubs: Chicago Falls 4-3, Closer Debate Ensues

Damen JacksonCorrespondent IApril 10, 2009

MILWAUKEE - APRIL 10: Kevin Gregg #63 of the Chicago Cubs throws the ball in the bottom of the 9th inning against the Milwaukee Brewers during the Opening Day game on April 10, 2009 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Brewers defeated the Cubs 4-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Cubs closer Kevin Gregg imploded in the ninth inning, first giving up a game-tying double, then the winning run on an infield hit in a 4-3 loss to the Brewers Friday.

You know, this was a conversation that I hoped would go away for awhile—at least until the trade deadline. I mean, in a town that could tolerate Joe Borowski, Latroy Hawkins, and Ryan Dempster as closers, Gregg seemed almost like an upgrade.

And yet, he's seemed so especially...feckless in this first week of the season that I'm certain the Cubs will be second-guessing this decision into the weekend.

First, allowing a run in the win on Opening Day. Next, giving up the winning run in the 3-2 extra-inning loss in Houston. And today, blowing the save in a nail-biter of a game that should have had the Cubs walking off with a well-deserved win. It seems that as the intensity rises, he just gets worse.

Let me set the stage. This was from the outset your classic pitcher's matchup. Both teams used a combination of 11 pitchers, with the Cubs using everybody in the pen—including quasi-starter Sean Marshall—sans David Patton and Angel Guzman.

Everyone for the most part was great—particularly the starters, Brandon Looper and Rich Harden. Looper was effective, giving up only a Milton Bradley home run in the fourth, his first of the season.

Frankly, Harden was better, littering 95-plus miles per hour fastballs through six innings of work. He struck out 10. It was a very sharp outing for Rich, and he left with an opportunity for the win after Koyie Hill went opposite way in the sixth for his first homer of the season.

But Lou Piniella was forced to go to the bullpen early and often over the next two innings in an attempt to preserve the win. Fortunately, Piniella finally went to Marmol to get him out of his seventh-inning jam. The Cubs got through the eighth a bit more quietly, using Joe Vizcaino and Marshall. Which takes us to the ninth.

With Gregg on the mound and one-out, Chris Duffy walks for the Brewers. Richie Weeks then promptly smacks a hard double to right, scoring Duffy to tie the game. After advancing to third on a Gregg wild pitch, he come around to score when Ryan Theriot inexplicably decides to come home on a Ryan Braun grounder, rather than taking his shot at a double play to end the game.

Now, who here thinks that Ryan Theriot's arm is going to beat Richie Week's legs, especially on an off-balance throw? Anybody? Anybody at all?

It wouldn't have been so bad if Theriot hadn't earlier committed a throwing error, called off the outfielders on a ball that he promptly let drop for a hit, and possibly missed the signal on a hit-and-run that got Mike Fontenot thrown out. Ugly stuff.

Normally, I wouldn't be so impatient, but Gregg has been a real disappointment to date. This problem needs to get solved, and quickly.