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Oh, I Feel Bad For Cubs Pitcher Justin Berg

Chicago Cubs pitcher Justin Berg has struggled with his control during his brief time in the majors. He walked 20 batters in 40 innings last season.

But he pitched with decent control earlier this season. In fact, he hadn’t walked anyone in his past 6.1 innings pitched. So tonight, he made his first appearance since May 28 after being called up to replace Marlon Byrd and his fractured face on the roster.

Here was the situation: Top of the second inning, game tied at 4-4 (Old school baseball fans had already turned this one off). The Mets had runners on first and second with one out. Now, the pitch-by-pitch breakdown of Berg’s outing. Breakdown being the appropriate word:

Batter No. 1, Jason Bay:

Ball.

Ball.

Ball.

Ball. Bases loaded.

Batter No. 2, Daniel Murphy:

Ball.

Ball.

Ball.

Ball. Mets lead, 5-4.

Batter No. 3, Justin Turner:

Ball.

Ball.

Ball.

Ball. Mets lead, 6-4. Justin Berg’s night is done.

James Russell relieved him, threw his first two pitches for strikes, which led to two big ovations from another shivering crowd in Chicago tonight. Russell actually struck out his two batters to end the inning and keep Berg’s embarrassing line to a minimum.

Twelve pitches, three walks.

I sympathize with Berg. He’s not a young prospect as he turns 27 in a couple of weeks. He’s pitched just 64 innings over three big-league seasons. I’m sure he doesn’t want to become someone who just played the game and was forgotten by everyone. Sure, at least he got the chance to play, but every player wants to make a statement, show that they belongs.

I have to figure that by the time Berg delivered five or six consecutive balls, he was no longer facing just the batter. It became a mental battle. Each of those next six balls had to feel like knives.

So, has it ever happened before?

Sure! This is baseball, there’s almost always a precedent! In 2001, Chicago White Sox pitcher Sean Lowe entered a game versus the Indians in a very similar scenario and offered 12 wide ones. Gary Glover relieved him and got a double play to end the inning.

This is topped by Royals pitcher Miguel Asencio who walked four White Sox batters on 16 pitches in April 2002. Asencio added a wild pitch for good measure to show that he REALLY didn’t have it going that night. All four runners he put on base came around to score.

Not that I can really comment on it, but I remember this game, or at least seeing highlights of it later that evening. The best part about it was the pitcher who replaced Asencio walked the first batter he faced. Hey, way to pick up your teammates, guy!

The best thing for Berg right now would be for the approaching rain to pick up the pace and wash this game away before it becomes official and his outing is cemented into baseball history. Mets currently lead in the top of the fifth inning, 6-4. Bases are loaded and no one is out.

Eh, I’d walk the next hitter. It would be better than a grand slam.

UPDATE: No such luck for Berg. The fifth inning passed by quickly, so this game is now official. Aww.

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