Two decisions, one by Cubs manager Dusty Baker that worked and one by Arizona manager Bob Brenly that didn't, were key factors in the Cubs' 2-1 rain-delayed victory on Sunday.
Baker trusted his offense rather than pinch-hit for starter Matt Clement with the bases loaded in the sixth inning and trailing by a run. He was rewarded with two more scoreless innings out of Clement (9-9), who yielded three hits over eight innings, and Sammy Sosa dropping his 24th home run into the left-field bleachers with one on in the seventh inning for the victory.
"In my mind it's [Clement's] game and we had three innings to score," Baker said. "And I had my heat coming up the next inning."
Sosa's blow came after Brenly opted to lift starter Brandon Webb with one out and Kenny Lofton at second. Sosa had hit the ball hard in three at-bats against Webb, who had thrown 108 pitches and yielded only five hits.
But Sosa put a low breaking ball into the first row of seats off reliever Oscar Villarreal, who had not yielded a home run since May 15 and no earned runs in his previous 17 appearances.
The win gave the Cubs two out of three in their last three series. They produced nine runs to the Diamondbacks' eight for the three games.
"This weekend was about pitching," said Sosa, whose 523rd career homer left him 11 behind Jimmie Foxx for 11th place on the all-time list. "They had been pitching me carefully all weekend, and that was a tough pitch to hit, low and outside. This was a good series."
The Cubs were a study in futility before Sosa's homer. They had runners on in each of the first six innings, five in scoring position, but netted nothing.
"You could see by the way Webb was pitching that I thought we might lose 1-0," Clement said.
The Diamondbacks added another questionable move when Raul Mondesi attempted to steal second with one out in the ninth inning on a pitch that ran the count on Steve Finley to 3-0. Mondesi was cut down on a Damian Miller throw, whereupon the next pitch was ball four from reliever Dave Veres, closing for the first time this season.
"I think they were counting on that next pitch being a splitter and down in the dirt," Baker said. "[Miller] caught a very swift runner."
The Sosa home run saved Baker from some difficult questions. With the bases loaded, two outs and the Cubs trailing 1-0 in the sixth, Baker sent Clement out to hit even though massive storm clouds were roiling to the west of the park and Moises Alou and Eric Karros were available to pinch-hit.
Clement gave a gallant effort on all three of his swings, all misses for his third strikeout of the game. He was not entirely surprised that Baker stayed with him.
"Dusty gets paid to make those decisions," Clement said. "And he gives guys chances when he can."
Clement showed no signs of sluggishness despite the pregame rain delay of 3 hours 14 minutes. He fanned the first three Diamondbacks and retired the first 11 batters, five on strikes. The string ended abruptly when ex-Cub Luis Gonzalez lined a 3-2 pitch onto Sheffield Avenue, the only ball hit out of the infield off Clement from the third through the sixth innings.Copyright © 2015, CT Now