10/10/2003 7:51 PM ET
Wood minimizes Marlins' speed
MIAMI -- Nobody loves to run like the Marlins love to run. Florida stole 50 more bases than any team in the National League, thanks in large part to the two men at the top of their batting order, Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo. Jack McKeon doesn't love to use the running game quite as much as his predecessor, Jeff Torborg, did, but the boys in black and teal can still fly.
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
The thing you always have to remember, however, is that you can't steal first base. And Pierre and Castillo just didn't have many opportunities for larceny Friday night against in the Marlins' 5-4 loss to the Cubs.
Both men reached base in the fifth, on a single and a walk respectively, but pitcher Mark Redman was ahead of them, preventing any chance at a theft. Pierre reached on a bunt single in the ninth, moved over on a sacrifice and stole third -- but didn't score. Castillo struck out but took first on a wild pitch in the 11th -- then was picked off between second and third for the game's final out.
"We had an opportunity," Pierre said. "I could have gotten on in the last inning."
Speed is nice, but it needs to be tempered with judgment and bolstered with bats. Mostly, though, in order to steal, you have to have chances to steal. Kerry Wood and the relievers who followed him minimized the chances for the Marlins.
"You have to keep those guys off the bases," Wood said. "They both steal bags and go from first to third on singles, and speed is something that never slumps."
That style of play becomes more valuable at Pro Player Stadium, where low-scoring games are the norm. Pushing for bases and playing one-run strategies make more sense in the pitcher-friendly environment in South Florida than in a more hitter-oriented place like Wrigley Field when the wind is blowing out.
There was another element in play, though. Cubs catcher Damian Miller throws out nearly 40 percent of would-be basestealers, and Wood is tough to steal against as well. The big righty had just five steals against him all year, while eight men were retired while trying to take a base. That was the second-best ratio of any NL pitcher who hurled at least 200 innings.
Wood ended up being fairly pedestrian, allowing seven hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings. So there were baserunners. But the ideal situation for the Marlins -- Pierre or Castillo on base to lead off an inning -- never materialized.
"Obviously, with Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez) and Derrek (Lee) hitting behind those guys, you have to keep those guys off the bases."
For the most part, he did.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.