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With Cubs a threat to run, pitchers forced to adjust
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/27/2008 12:04 AM

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WASHINGTON -- Most people in the sabermetrics community will tell you that for the stolen base to be worth the risk, it must succeed about 75 percent of the time.

The Cubs entered Saturday below that rate, having swiped 18 bases in 27 attempts, good for two-thirds.

The discussion came up Saturday in the wake of Ryan Theriot being thrown out twice in key situations during Friday night's 5-3 loss to the Nationals. Theriot went into Saturday's game 5-for-10 before stealing a base in the sixth inning.

"A lot of good things are happening that are basically not noticed by the casual fan, and let me tell you a couple of them," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella. "One, the pitchers are slide-stepping against us a lot more. Two, infielders are holding runners, which are creating more holes. And catchers are calling more fastballs.

"Those are pretty good advantages that you don't see necessarily."

Piniella acknowledged that "you don't want to see a baserunner thrown out with your 3-4 hitters coming up," but he noted Theriot tried to steal third base Friday on a changeup.

"You take a risk, off certain release points and also off reports on how the catchers are throwing," Piniella said. "Certain times dictate that you run, and the percentages are greatly in your favor. And unless you stumble, fall or get a real bad jump, you've got an 85 percent chance of making it. That's what we do. When we do it and it works, it looks great."

The day after: Center fielder Reed Johnson was sporting a nasty red mark on his arm and a bandage on his right knee Saturday, one day after making a spectacular diving catch on the warning track in left-center.

Johnson went full-out on the ball hit by the Nationals' Felipe Lopez in the fifth inning. He ended it by hitting his head on the padding and having the bill of his cap flip up.

"More scrapes than anything," said Johnson, who added that he saw the play on TV once after the game. "I think you see where I took off from. I took off from like that far (about a foot) inside the grass. I didn't really feel the track until I put my last plant foot on the ground.

"I knew once I landed, I was going to have to kind of like curl up and turn away from the wall, and I had time to do that, too. … That's one of the nicer plays I've made."

At the locker next to Johnson, left fielder Mark DeRosa said the catch was not only worth an ESPN Web Gem, but also an ESPY award.

"I've witnessed in person two of the best catches ever," DeRosa said, noting a grab at the center-field wall by then-Texas teammate Gary Matthews Jr.

Lou Piniella also was impressed.

"What a great play," Piniella said. "Oh, wonderful. "It's as nice a play as you want to see. … At Wrigley, they might have had to call timeout to find his head in the vines."

This and that: Reliever Scott Eyre (elbow) tossed a perfect inning and picked up a save Friday in a rehab appearance for Class A Daytona. … Lou Piniella said he might go with lefty reliever Sean Marshall for more extended appearances than facing a left-handed batter.