Three straight left-handed hitters delivered a double and two singles in the top of the 10th inning off side-arming right-handed reliever Darren O'Day and sent the Cubs to a 5-4 victory over the Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday. The loss ended Texas' winning streak at five straight games.
"I brought in the best guy I had, and they got us," manager Ron Washington said. "They threw three left-handers in a row at me and they all came through. You usually don't see that: three guys and they all delivered."
Left-handed hitters were batting .333 off O'Day coming into the game. But they also hit just .239 off him in 2009, so O'Day is far from overmatched against them. But Washington admitted that it might have been better to have a second left-hander in the bullpen as a possible option.
"It certainly would have helped tonight," Washington said.
Harrison, who was in the rotation before being forced to the disabled list because of biceps tendinitis, has his own issues against right-handed hitters. But he would likely have more utility than Guillermo Moscoso, the Rangers' seventh reliever who has pitched just once in a mopup appearance since replacing Doug Mathis in the bullpen.
The Rangers will meet Sunday to discuss Harrison's role. He is scheduled to make two appearances on medical rehabilitation assignment on Monday and Wednesday before being activated off the disabled list. All signs point to him being in the bullpen.
"We still haven't discussed it yet," Washington said. "We'll make that decision [Sunday], so that when Harry comes back, he'll know exactly where he stands."
As for O'Day, Saturday's loss ended a stretch of nearly flawless pitching out of the bullpen. He entered the game with an ERA of 0.51, having given up only one earned run in his 17 2/3 innings of work. He had retired 27 of the last 32 batters he had faced and had the third-lowest ERA among relief pitchers in the American League.
But Cubs manager Lou Pinella pinch-hit three lefties against O'Day, and all three delivered. Left-handed hitters are now hitting .429 off O'Day.
"To be honest, I don't think it mattered tonight if they were left- or right-handed," O'Day said. "It was a pretty subpar performance. That's the conventional wisdom. I did a pretty good job of getting them out last year. I can get them out. It worked out tonight for them."
O'Day wasn't worried about the recent success lefties are finding against him, however.
"It's happened before. It will happen again," O'Day said. "Hopefully, it'll happen many times again -- that means I'll have been playing for a long time. Nobody ever had a zero ERA and never taken a loss. I'll go out there tomorrow or whatever and [do] the same old stuff."
After O'Day allowed the Cubs to take the lead on Mike Fontenot's pinch-hit RBI single in the 10th, Dustin Nippert came in and got Texas out of the inning with one more run scoring on Derrek Lee's groundout.
Even before that, the Rangers had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth. Josh Hamilton dropped a one-out double into center field and Nelson Cruz was intentionally walked, putting runners on first and second for rookie first baseman Justin Smoak.
But Smoak lined out to center field and Matt Treanor struck out looking to end the inning. It's been a trying few weeks for Smoak, who finished the day 0-3 with two strikeouts and saw his batting average fall to .172.
"He almost won the game for us [with the] line drive at [Marlon] Byrd," Washington said. "He's just got to keep getting his at-bats. Once things start to work for him, they'll start falling. We're not panicking."
The loss negated a solid performance by starting pitcher Derek Holland, who posted his second quality start in three tries. He pitched six innings and gave up just four hits while striking out five.
But he gave up the only three runs Chicago got prior to the 10th, all of them coming on home runs by Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro.
"My pitches were up. It's my job to get the ball down," Holland said. "I left a couple of changeups up, and they took care of it."
Had Holland been able to stay in the game a little bit longer, the bullpen might have been sparred of pitching another inning, maybe even potentially leaving open the availability of the bullpen's only other left-hander in Darren Oliver.
"If I made better pitches early in the game and didn't fall behind, maybe I could have gone a little bit longer and helped the bullpen," Holland said.