by Adam Sobsey
If you were feeling uncharitable, you could pin the Bulls' 7-6, 13-inning loss at Louisville last night on catcher John Jaso: he struck out four times (the Bulls K'd 17 times overall), the last in the 12th inning against Bats' infielder Michael Griffin, who had been sent to the mound to pitch in emergency relief. Worse, Jaso struck out looking against the non-pitcher, with the go-ahead run on second base; he didn't even go down swinging. An inning later, Jaso allowed the winning run to score when former Bull Wes Bankston bulled into him on a play at the plate, knocking the ball loose from Jaso's glove.
But if you're feeling avaricious---or, to look at it more generously, if you're handing out leaflets of blame free of charge at the corner of Bull and Blog---why stop at Jaso's shortcomings?
Why not call out starter Matt DeSalvo? Although he "kept his team in the game," as the old cliche goes, DeSalvo ran through 96 pitches in five innings thanks to five more walks (that's 35 in 47 2/3 innings now). On a night when the Bulls had slim relief options, DeSalvo made his manager, Charlie Montoyo, use all of them---and more. The last of these, Jorge Julio, had pitched two innings in the previous night's extraneous-innings affair, and he set up Jaso's fatal error on Sunday by walking Bankston with none on and two outs and wild-pitching him to second.
And speaking of the manager, Montoyo made an inexplicable choice in the top of the 13th inning. His counterpart, Bats' manager Rick Sweet, sent another position player in to pitch: Luis Bolivar, who had entered the game in the sixth at shortstop, a scheduled replacement for rehabbing major-leaguer Alex Gonzalez. Bolivar allowed a leadoff single to Elliot Johnson. Montoyo then called on Ray Olmedo to lay down a sacrifice bunt. (At least, I assume it was Montoyo who called the play; if Olmedo was acting on his own, then as Crash Davis said to Nuke LaLoosh, "Don't think: it can only hurt the ballclub.") Olmedo is a good bunter and he moved Johnson along to second base. However: Understood that you only need one run here, but why on earth would anyone give away a free out to a shortstop? If you don't think Olmedo can get a hit off of Bolivar, send Rhyne Hughes in to pinch hit.
(Heck, send Hughes in anyway. Sure, he's in a slump; what better moment to bust out of it? Ray Sadler could have then moved from designated hitter to left field, pushing Elliot Johnson to third base. Yes, the pitcher would now have had to hit, but probably not for at least one more inning---which anyway you're hoping to obviate by making this move in the first place---and in any case the Bats had already lost their DH when Michael Griffin, an infielder, I remind you, dear reader, came in to pitch the 12th. I also remind you that Louisville used two position players to pitch in this game. Aren't you only supposed to do that in games like this one?)
But the above parenthetical maneuvering (and ranting) would have been unnecessary had Matt Joyce not gotten himself ejected arguing balls and strikes after home plate umpire Arthur Thigpen called him out on the latter in the top of the ninth with one out, two men in scoring position, and a tie game (Justin Ruggiano followed by also striking out and commencing extraneous innings). That forced Montoyo to replace Joyce with Jon Weber, who would otherwise have been available for a key 13th-inning at-bat---and we all know what Jon Weber does in late-and-close situations. Good things, that's what he does.
Anyway, although Olmedo sacrificed Johnson to second, Johnson was then thrown out at third on Henry Mateo's fielder's choice groundout. Mateo stole second to get himself into scoring position for Reid Brignac. Brignac struck out. I repeat, the Bulls struck out 17 times last night. Yes, the sabermetric revolution has shown that strikeouts aren't quite the unalloyed evil we used to think they were (see Howard, Ryan; and also this); but still, 17 strikeouts? Against a long-in-the-tooth starter who was just released by the freaking Nationals; three relievers you'd already seen two times each in this series alone; a fourth you'd seen for 2 2/3 innings two nights earlier; a pair of infielders; and a glass of club soda? Yes, I know the Bulls are second in the league in strikeouts. But seriously? Seventeen?
Also, the Bulls committed five errors (seriously? five?) and went 3-13 with RISP.
I'm so mad I temporarily forgot that this was supposed to be all John Jaso's fault. Which it wasn't. It's enough to make you want to be, I don't know, a book critic.
The Bulls have no excuse for this one. They just have to forget it and try again at Indianapolis tomorrow. Despite the consecutive evenings of extraneity, the Bulls, who now trail Norfolk by a game and a half in the IL South, will actually have three rested relievers behind starter Carlos Hernandez. Two of them have the best ERAs in the bullpen, so you'd like to like your chances. You'd also like to think that Jaso will have the night off after catching 29 innings in two days and getting creamed at the plate in the 29th. If nothing else, he needs time to play some mariachi music while he's wearing last night's golden sombrero. (Matt Joyce will be so jealous!)