CHICAGO – So what to make of Tyler Chatwood, he of the good stuff but the bad navigation?
The Cubs survived another bout of Chatwood wildness Thursday as they beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-3, at Wrigley Field. The victory gave the Cubs two of three in the series and improved their record to a season-best 11 games over .500 at 35-24.
Chatwood started and gave up four hits in 42/3 innings. But he walked seven and hit a batter. For the season, the 28-year-old right-hander has allowed only 48 hits in 581/3 innings, but he has walked 56, bringing his WHIP to a feverish 1.78 to go along with a respectable 3.86 ERA.
Both he and manager Joe Maddon put their best spin on things.
“Today is the best I’ve felt in awhile,” Chatwood said. “Obviously the results weren’t there, but physically, I felt good. I felt like the ball was coming out [well] for the most part. Obviously I walked way too many guys, but it’s a step in the right direction even though it didn’t look like it.”
In fairness to Chatwood, it looked like he did get squeezed a bit on a 3-2 pitch in the first inning, resulting in a two-out walk to Carlos Santana instead of an inning-ending strikeout. That helped run his first-inning pitch count to 24, and he wound up totaling 107 for the game.
But he hit the next batter, Aaron Altherr, and he lost control way up and in on several batters.
“It was better,” Maddon said. “I know that’s weird, but it was better. He had better pace and tempo, whatever you want to call it. I know he threw some really, obviously, wild pitches, but overall there’s a lot to build off of. I was really trying to get him through five, not for any other reason, just because of the bullpen.”
Maddon said the Cubs will forge ahead with Chatwood.
“We have two options,” Maddon said. “Let him keep working on it or not. We’re going to let him keep working on it. I thought he looked better. I liked the abbreviated windup out of the stretch, if that makes any sense. The way he was clearing the ball out, I thought, was better.
“I know he went 42/3, and that doesn’t look good. I know he walked seven, and that doesn’t look good. I’m not here to make excuses for him at all. I’m just telling you I thought it was a cleaner delivery. He did run into some really wild pitches, which has got to make him uncomfortable.”
Anthony Rizzo gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the fourth with his 10th homer of the season and second in two days. The Phillies tied it in the fifth as Chatwood gave up a hit and walked three.
But the Cubs came back with three in the bottom of the fifth, and once again, a play at the plate figured prominently.
Tommy La Stella and Kris Bryant hit RBI singles, bringing Rizzo up with the bases loaded and one out. Albert Almora Jr. was on third base. Rizzo flied to left fielder Dylan Cozens, who threw home, apparently getting Almora at the plate. But a replay review determined that catcher Andrew Knapp illegally blocked Almora’s path to the plate, and the call was overturned.
Maddon, no fan of the new catcher-collision rules, praised the Phillies for making what he thought was a good play. But he and Almora were happy to accept the run, even with rules that seem nebulous.
“It’s a tough situation overall just because as a runner, if I go feet-first, I’m going at him,” Almora said. “I’m trying to touch home plate. My foot’s got to be first. (The catcher’s) foot is there, and that might cause an injury to himself or myself, so I try to go headfirst. That might cause an injury.
“It’s a tough situation overall for both guys. Again, the rule is super unclear because I want to be safe. I don’t want to be a ‘dirty player.’ And he wants to prevent a run. I don’t know.”
It seems no one does.