PHOENIX — Cubs manager Lou Piniella became the center of water-cooler talk around the country today after his questionable decision to pull ace Carlos Zambrano after six innings and just 85 pitches in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, an eventual 3-1 victory by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Facing a steady stream of questions on the topic before Game 2, here is a sampling of what Piniella had to say:
On keeping Zambrano fresh for a possible Game 4 start on three days' rest: ‘‘Usually, six innings for Carlos is 100 pitches. I’m going to ask this young man to pitch Sunday on three days’ rest. I wanted him to leave feeling positive.
‘‘I basically felt that our starting pitcher had pitched exceedingly well, had gone the amount of innings we wanted coming into that ballgame. And if we get a likewise performance on Sunday, we would be ecstatic.’’
On putting 24-year-old Carlos Marmol in to replace Zambrano in the seventh inning: ‘‘How many people wanted me to close Marmol? So then I bring in Marmol and it’s like the goat got out of its grave, like Leo Durocher turned in his grave. I mean for God’s sake, it’s only Game 1. We’ve got a five-game series here. We have to play good baseball. This was planned, OK.’’
On all of the second-guessing: ‘‘Look, what do writers usually do when a manager’s team loses? They second-guess. That’s exactly what they did here. If we had won that ballgame in nine innings, and now I had a rested pitcher for Sunday with only 85 pitches, ‘Boy, what a smart manager that guy is.’ C’mon, we all know the game. I understand it.
‘‘I do what I think is best for this club, OK? And it’s not guts. It didn’t work last night, but we wouldn’t be here if our bullpen hadn’t been pitching as well as they had. They’re all rested and they’re all ready to go. What else can I say? I wish the outcome would have been different.
‘‘I’ve had bad games as a manager. I’ve had good games and I’ve had bad games. I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I’ve had a hell of a lot of more good games than I’ve had bad games.’’