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Chess Match: Pitcher selection

Chess Match: Pitcher selection

PHOENIX -- The pitcher's spot was at the center of virtually every important tactical decision in Wednesday night's Game 1. With both aces, Carlos Zambrano and Brandon Webb, dealing, the decision facing the managers was whether to have the hurlers bunt, hit or leave the game entirely.

No bunt for Big Z
The situation:
Zambrano bats with no outs in the fifth inning after Ryan Theriot reached on a two-base error.


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The decision: Manager Lou Piniella let Zambrano, one of the game's better hitting pitchers but still a career .219 batter, swing away rather than putting down a bunt.

The outcome: Zambrano hit a screaming line drive, but Stephen Drew leapt and made the catch, and Theriot didn't advance. Alfonso Soriano flied out to center field in the next at-bat, a ball that would have scored Theriot if he were on third instead of second. A groundball out ended the inning and left the Cubs still trailing, 1-0.

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The analysis: "We've bunted before. Zambrano hit a nice line shot. What are you going to do? We hit some balls hard and they caught them." -- Piniella

Carlos out, Carlos in
The situation:
In a 1-1 game, the 5-6-7 hitters in the Arizona lineup are coming to the plate to open the bottom of the seventh inning. Zambrano is cruising, having retired nine of the previous 11 hitters, four of them on strikeouts. The batters -- Mark Reynolds, Jeff Salazar and Chris Snyder -- had been 0-for-5 against Zambrano with a walk, a double play and two Ks.


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The decision: The Cubs lift Zambrano after six innings and 85 pitches, calling on setup ace Carlos Marmol.

The outcome: On his fourth pitch after entering the game, Marmol left a fastball over the middle of the plate. Mark Reynolds crushed it to center field for a tie-breaking home run. A walk, a double and pinch-hitter Conor Jackson's sacrifice fly later in the inning make it 3-1

The analysis: "I'm not accused of anything. I've got a good bullpen here, and I trust my bullpen. I'm bringing back a pitcher on three days' rest on Sunday and I took a shot with my bullpen. It didn't work. They've done it all year and I have confidence in them. Period. End of story." -- Piniella

Conor comes through
The situation:
With runners on second and third and one out, the pitcher's spot comes up for Arizona in the bottom of the seventh inning. Webb is rolling, having thrown just 89 pitches and coming off an easy 1-2-3 seventh.


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The decision: Arizona manager Bob Melvin pinch-hits for Webb, taking the chance to get an extra run or two. Jackson comes to the plate, and Brandon Lyon pitches the next inning.

The outcome: Jackson lofts a sacrifice fly, stretching the Arizona lead to 3-1. Lyon and closer Jose Valverde finish off the game for the Snakes, preserving the two-run advantage.

The analysis: "If we've got a man on first with two outs, I probably don't [pinch-hit for Webb]. but when we get in a situation where we can drive in another run, then it's an easy decision." -- Melvin

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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