LOS ANGELES – Michael Vollmer has faced David Peralta once before. In June, Fulmer Peralta threw a one-pitch bunt that ended up as an easy groundout to second base. Vollmer threw Peralta the same pitch to start his ninth inning at bat Saturday night, rolling it right after Nico Horner dived into right field. The single scored two runs as the Los Angeles Dodgers struck out the Cubs for a 2-1 win.
“We thought we’d start from there again and we just didn’t get inside enough,” Vollmer said. “I feel like last year may have come off with a turnaround and stuff. But this year just ran through the hole. Need to put on a better show next time.”
On the left in the photo above is the pitch where Fulmer threw Peralta in June. On the right is what he delivered on Saturday night. They were almost identical. So were the globes. But this time, no defender was waiting to be harvested.
But perhaps the biggest problem was the decision to face Peralta at all. It was a tying run on third, winning on second with first base vacant. On deck was the nine-hitter, Austin Barnes. The Dodgers catcher was 0-for-3 with two hits. On the season, he was no-hitter in 17 plate appearances with one walk to his name.
The Dodgers usually have Will Smith behind the plate, who is one of the best players in the game. But Smith did not start for the second night in a row after Thursday’s day off, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he was unavailable due to an undisclosed illness.
“The decision was to stick around him, walk with him,” said Cubs manager David Ross. Barnes (Next); They have some hitters on the bench. You know, who knows what Will Smith is and where he is? We can guess about it all day. I got an open base, trying to be careful, and the cutter jumped off the start and found a hole.”
If that was the message, it didn’t seem to have gotten through to Vollmer, who seemed intent on promoting Peralta, even if he wanted to be more careful than he ended up.
“It was definitely a mistake,” Vollmer said. “You have an open base. I’m not sure who was on deck, but (I) had all the space in the world to work with in the inside half. Even if he’s been sitting on that pitch since last time, I could run him a little better and either make him He takes the ball or gets a pass. It just didn’t work.”
Fulmer came on in place of Keegan Thompson, who worked two scoreless innings. Some may have wondered if Thompson should be running at No. 9 as well; Ross gave a firm “no” when asked if he was tempted to take him back out. Thompson was on 28 pitches at that point. His highest season outing this year is 32.
Despite only allowing one run this season, Thompson was battling his lead. He walked 18.2 percent of the batters he faced. It would probably have been the right decision to withdraw it at that point. He did his job.
But allowing Vollmer to take on Peralta instead of Barnes is questionable at best. The apparent breakdown in communication is also baffling.
Beyond that, the Cubs offense likely put more drills on the board to make all of this moot. In the eighth inning, they loaded the bases with one out with Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki out. Roberts decided to go with his lefty, Caleb Ferguson, to convert the hitter Hap into the ball. Hap is not hitting this season as a right-hander and in his career has 93 wRC+ from the right side (compared to 123 from the left). However, he hit . 305 with 123 wRC+ as a proper last season.
Saturday, Ferguson triumphed. He fell behind Hap 2-1 but then had him chase a four-seamer off the plate – the first hit was a four-seamer a little closer to the plate (but still farther) that Hap didn’t like, so maybe that tempted him to get to him – then finished him off with a cutter in the dirt. Ferguson only needed four pitches, all breakers, to sit Suzuki out at batters.
“That’s part of it,” said Ross. “Bases loaded, one out. They brought in that lefty for Haber and Sia; Opportunity. Those tight maneuvers, trying to add a run is really important.”
There were moments when the Cubs seemed poised to pull off an impressive win. Cody Bellinger stole what looked like a two-run homer off Jason Heyward’s bat in the second inning. That earned some spirited boos from the crowd, who continued to taunt Bellinger after every play he made the rest of the evening. Patrick Wisdom’s unmarried hit in the fifth looked like it might hold up for much of the night. That’s not how it worked.
“Really good game,” said Ross. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get out on top. They’re flexible there. I thought we did a really good job there. Obviously putting out more runs. But it’s baseball, though; it’s going to happen.”
In the end, it’s a huge loss that will once again put the microscope, unfairly or unfairly, on Ross and Vollmer.
(Top photo by Michael Follmer: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via The Associated Press)
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