WASHINGTON — The Chicago Cubs protested Saturday night’s 5-2 loss to the Nationals, with manager Joe Maddon arguing that Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle used an illegal delivery in the ninth inning.
The double toe tap that Doolittle appeared to use as he delivered the ball to home plate has been deemed illegal in the past, but umpires on Saturday did not force the left-hander to alter his delivery, much to the dismay of Maddon.
“I said ‘if you guys don’t clean it up I’m going to protest the game,'” Maddon recalled after the game. “It’s their rule, not mine. I didn’t ask for it in the first place.”
Maddon came out to argue after Doolittle’s first pitch of the inning — a strike to pinch hitter Albert Almora Jr. Though the umpires huddled with each other, and then Doolittle, they sided with the righty while deeming his delivery OK.
“[Maddon] thought he was tapping his foot, which in itself is not illegal, and this all kind of stems from his pitcher being called on something that was a little bit different than what Doolittle was doing,” crew chief Sam Holbrook said. “So in our judgement, Doolittle did nothing illegal at all.”
Holbrook is referring to Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr., who was told in the second game of the season that he couldn’t do his version of the double toe tap. Recently, Mariners pitcher Cory Gearrin was also forced to change his delivery after warming up mid-inning.
“It’s real simple,” a somewhat exasperated Maddon said. “That’s exactly what Carl was told he can’t do. I was told that’s an illegal pitch and he can’t do it.”
Edwards added: “I figured once it happened to myself, it would get around.”
Maddon officially protested with one out in the ninth inning. If the Cubs win the protest the teams would pick up the game from that point, as Doolittle retired the next two batters to earn the save.
Afterwards, he was having none of what Maddon was trying to sell to the authorities.
“In that moment, he’s not doing anything other than rattle me,” Doolittle told reporters, according to mlb.com. “It was kinda tired. Sometimes he has to remind people how smart he is.”
Red Sox LHP Price to have surgery for wrist cyst
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Boston Red Sox left-hander David Price will have surgery Thursday to remove a cyst in his left wrist that ended his season early. The 2012 Cy Young winner is expected to be ready for the start of spring training.
Price, who went 7-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 22 starts this season, last pitched on Sept. 1 and made just two appearances since the end of July.
Boston manager Alex Cora said before Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay that Price should have a normal offseason once his recovery from surgery is completed.
“As of now everything seems like, take care of the cyst and he should be fine,” Cora said.
The defending World Series champion Red Sox were mathematically eliminated from postseason play on Friday night.
Cubs continue skid after Kimbrel’s blown save
CHICAGO — The Cubs are seeing their season slip away in heartbreaking and dramatic fashion as they lost their fourth consecutive one-run game at Wrigley Field on Saturday, after closer Craig Kimbrel gave up ninth-inning home runs on back-to-back pitches.
Kimbrel, 31, entered the game against the St. Louis Cardinals holding onto an 8-7 lead before Yadier Molina hit his first pitch, a 97 mph fastball, out to left field. Paul DeJong did the same, moments later, smashing another fastball out.
“I feel like I made two competitive pitches that I wanted to and they went out,” Kimbrel said after the game. “It’s frustrating. It’s the only thing I can say.”
The ending is becoming all too familiar for the Cubs and Kimbrel. He also gave up a game-winning home run to Matt Carpenter in Game 1 of this series on Thursday, breaking a 2-2, 10th-inning tie. In just 23 appearances since signing with the Cubs in June, Kimbrel has given up nine home runs, a career high for one season.
“We had the right guy there at the end,” Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. “You talk about two shots to the jaw, and they got the win.”
Watch Craig Kimbrel discuss the two home runs hit off him on back-to-back pitches in the Cubs’ 9-8 loss to the Cards on Saturday. Video by Jesse Rogers
The Cubs will have to wonder if Kimbrel was ready for the moment, considering he was on the injured list until Thursday with right elbow soreness. The team deemed him ready after a 16-pitch simulated game a couple of days earlier, but three home runs given up in less than two innings of work might suggest something different.
“I feel great right now,” Kimbrel said. “I just didn’t get the results I wanted. The results I need to have to do my job. Moving forward, I have a good feeling I will.”
As Maddon added, “He was already in one game. He’s had ample time to get it back together. It was kind of surprising … That was the right time for him. There was nothing wrong with his arm strength.”
Kimbrel is signed on for two more seasons after this one, so concern might grow about his performance, if indeed he is healthy. But the here and now is the only thing that matters for the Cubs at the moment. It was a crushing defeat in a week of them, even though they fought back several times in Saturday’s four-hour, 24-minute marathon. But whatever can go wrong has, as the Cubs dropped their fifth consecutive game and are reeling from injuries and blown saves.
“Craig’s a Hall of Fame closer,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “He’s got a track record for a reason. He puts in the work. We all see it. He’s an amazing guy in the clubhouse. We have his back. It’s tough. I know he feels bad, but he’s a competitor and he’s a champion and he’ll bounce back.”
It has been 47 years since the Cubs have lost four consecutive one-run games, but they’ll have to put that all behind them if they have any chance at a fifth consecutive postseason appearance. Saturday’s game will be a tough one to get over. Chicago’s chances to make the playoffs dropped from 77% at the end of play on Monday to 13% following Saturday’s loss, according to FanGraphs.
“I’m feeling for Craig right now more than anything,” Maddon said.
Braves’ new world — Loftier goals than NL East title
ATLANTA — One year ago, just winning the NL East was enough for the rebuilding Atlanta Braves.
Now manager Brian Snitiker and general manager Alex Anthopoulos expect more.
Even as players celebrated their second straight division title with beer and bubbly on Friday night, focus shifted.
“Our first goal was to win the East and we did, and I think now that’s not good enough,” Snitker said Saturday. “I think our guys know they’re capable of a lot more than that. The goal now is the big prize. We feel like we have a team that can do that. We are deep enough, strong enough. I think that is a realistic goal, not just to want to get in but to win the whole thing.”
After Friday night’s clinching 6-0 win over the Giants, Anthopoulos stood outside the clubhouse doors while the rowdy celebration continued inside.
The GM didn’t allow himself to be sprayed. He was looking ahead to the Division Series starting Oct. 3.
“Kind of by design,” Anthopoulos said when asked how he stayed dry. “Hopefully we’re doing this after the DS and that’s when I’m going to be wet.”
The Braves haven’t won the World Series since 1995 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, two ballparks ago. They have lost nine straight playoff series since sweeping Houston in the 2001 NL Division Series, including last year’s four-game loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Donaldson likely will not start on Sunday. Snitker acknowledged it may be more difficult to hold out Acuna, who is chasing a 40-40 season.
Swanson, however, feels he needs at-bats after missing a month with a foot injury.
“I need to play,” Swanson said. “I missed enough time. I’m still looking for ways to kind of find that groove and get back to where I was before. Each day I’m working to get better and I need the at-bats to continue to boost myself in the right direction.”
“I told the guys I feel like we knocked on the door last year. Now we’re going to try to kick that sucker in.”
Brian Snitker, Braves manager
“I think as soon as the season was over last year everyone was excited to come back and get to work,” Swanson said. “With the additions of J.D. and Mac and having Nick come back really put us in a good position to really win consistently and to be able to do it in a multitude of ways.”
Acuna (41 homers), Freeman (38) and Donaldson (37) have led Atlanta’s deep lineup. Freeman’s 120 RBIs led the majors entering Saturday’s games. Acuna led the NL with 126 runs and 37 stolen bases.
“I told the guys I feel like we knocked on the door last year,” Snitker said. “Now we’re going to try to kick that sucker in.”
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