Of Course You Need Pitching and Defense

Here’s me, just 24 hours ago, in a post fortuitously titled, “Who Needs Pitching and Defense?”:

Okay, so maybe this team can’t pitch. Maybe they can’t field. Almost certainly, those weaknesses are going to come back to bite them in a big, stinking, painful way.

Funny how those things don’t seem to matter as much when you’re putting up double digit runs, right? Yet when you hit 2 homers and score 5 runs, and that’s apparently not nearly enough, it starts to become a little more glaring.

The sad thing is, Vicente Padilla wasn’t terrible. After giving up a run in the first, he set down 12 consecutive batters before allowing Drew Stubbs to single to left. Padilla could have made it through the 5th unscathed had he been able to handle Mike Leake’s sacrifice without making an error (though Blake DeWitt arguably kept his foot on the bag). Then in the 6th, he gave up a Jay Bruce homer on one of his ridiculous eephus-like curveballs, and when I say “ridiculous”, I mean Bruce started his swing, completely stopped, and then muscled it out using only his arms. (Cue Kensai with the animated .gif in 5… 4… 3…)

So Padilla ended up allowing 4 runs (3 earned, but again, that unearned run was his fault anyway) in 6 innings, which isn’t great, but isn’t a disaster either. (As I Tweeted during the game, this was reason #10981323 why wins are stupid. When Padilla walked off the field at the end of the 6th inning, he was down 4-3 and in line to lose. He was removed from the game for pinch-hitter Garret Anderson, who hit a two-run homer. So while Padilla was doing nothing but sitting in the dugout, he went from being in line to lose to being the possible winner.)

Yet in the 7th, the wheels completely fell off. Remember when we kept saying, “who cares about Russ Ortiz, because Hong-Chih Kuo and Ronald Belisario will be back soon”? Yeah… about that. Kuo come in to make his season debut, yet managed to get just a single out, allowing a hit while walking another. Belisario came in to get an out (on a scorching liner to second) and then gave up two runs on a Scott Rolen double – which Matt Kemp probably should have had. It would have been a great catch had he made it, but man, did he make not catching it look bad.

Of course, it’s not Kemp’s fault that Belisario then gave up two more run-scoring hits, allowing the Reds to get to the final score of 8-5. I’m not damning Kuo or Belisario just yet, not just 48 hours after their seasons have started. It’s just that for all my joking yesterday about how massive this offense is, you can’t expect them to carry the team every single night (and putting up five runs is hardly a failure). Relief pitchers, other than the best of the best, are notoriously volatile from year to year. Remember how quickly Cory Wade faded away after his out-of-nowhere 2008? Or how randomly Belisario excelled last year? You combine that with shoddy defense and questionable starting pitching, and you’re asking for trouble… and that’s how you end  up with a team struggling to break .500.

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