Tagged: Hector Rondon

Bad Day for Bucs

This is what Yadi looks like after breaking a tie score with an RBI triple.

This is what Yadi looks like after breaking a tie score with an RBI triple.

There was quite a list of things that didn’t go well for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.

First off, they lost to the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals for a second straight day, pushing them 7 games back in the division.

Secondly, outfielder Starling Marte left the game with a hand injury after being plunked for the 3rd time in his last 4 games. He’s hitting .285 with 13 HR and 22 SB this season.

Third, the Chicago Cubs won for the 12th time in their last 13 games to close to within a game and a half of them for the top Wild Card spot.

Pedro Alvarez‘s brick glove at first base cost the Pirates two runs early on.

In the bottom of the 3rd, with the game still scoreless, the Cards had the bases loaded and one out. Jason Heyward hit a bouncer up the middle that looked to be an inning-ending 4-3 double play, but Neil Walker‘s throw to 1st was in the dirt and not only couldn’t Alvarez scoop it, but he also let the ball bounce well enough away from him to allow two Cardinal runners to score.

This play, by the way, came after one in which Alvarez failed to get back to first base in time to cover the bag on a ground ball.

Yadier Molina‘s RBI triple in the 6th inning snapped a 2-2 tie and held up to be the game-winner in a 4-2 St. Louis victory.  Molina’s low liner into center field got past a diving Gregory Polanco, giving the Pirates’ their second questionable defensive play of the night.

Meanwhile, Michael Wacha (W 14-4) struck out 7 Pirates in 6 innings of work, somehow scattering 12 base runners to allow just a pair of runs.

Andrew McCutchen homered (18th) and tripled (3rd) in the Pittsburgh loss.

This is the largest lead St. Louis has had in the division since July 25th. With another win today, it would be their largest lead since June 30th.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, in Chicago, close Hector Rondon again tried to play “Houdini” by putting men at 2nd & 3rd with nobody out and a 1-run lead in the 9th. After striking out the next two batters, however, he bounced a pitch in the dirt that catcher Miguel Montero couldn’t handle, allowing it to get away and giving the Milwaukee Brewers a run to make it a 2-2 tie.

Miggy atoned in the 10th, with a solo home run (11th).

Kris Bryant poked his 16th homer of the year for the Cubs and first baseman Anthony Rizzo made an unbelievable play on a foul ball, jumping up onto the tarp and then stepping out into the crowd to make a catch and retire the much-despised Ryan Braun.

Braun had a nice day at the plate, actually, going 3-for-4 with his 20th homer of the year.

It was the Cubs’ 6th straight win and 12th in their last 13. Amazingly, they’ve only made up 3 games on the Cardinals during this stretch.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Fielding metrics are a tricky thing and (at this point, anyhow) largely subjective and prone to stringers.

I just want to throw that caveat out there before pointing out some numbers about the Cubs’ shortstop situation.

Much has been made of Addison Russell being the more “natural” or “gifted” shortstop and Starlin Castro being more of a hack.

Well, this is an admittedly small sample size for Russell, but take a look at the numbers so far at short.

Castro: 103 games, 4.43 range factor per 9 innings, .962 fielding percentage
Russell: 14 games, 3.07 range factor per 9 innings, .917 fielding percentage

The subjective data from Baseball Info Solutions has Russell as the better fielder, with a +3 in defensive runs saved already, compared to -7 for Castro.

So the numbers say one thing but the eyes say another.

* * * * * * * * *

In his last 28 games, Cincinnati Reds‘ first baseman Joey Votto has a .563 OBP. He’s also hit .382 with 8 doubles and 5 home runs.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 73 40 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 65 46 7.0 L2
Chicago Cubs 64 48 8.5 W6
Cincinnati Reds 50 62 22.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 48 67 26.0 L2

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 65 46 +1.5
Chicago Cubs 64 48
San Francisco Giants 60 53 4.5
Washington Nationals 58 55 6.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

48-67 BREWERS Cravy (0-3, 5.40)
64-48 CUBS Lester (7-8, 3.227)
1:20 PM CT
65-46 PIRATES Liriano (7-6, 3.13)
73-40 CARDINALS Lynn (9-6, 2.76)
6:15 PM CT
50-62 REDS Sampson (1-1, 3.00)
64-50 Dodgers Latos (4-8, 4.67)
9:10 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .434
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .405
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .395
Jung-Ho Hang (PIT) .371
Matt Carpenter (STL) .367
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.99
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.04
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.11
Dan Haren (CHC) 1.12
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Montero Goes Yard Again in Cubs Win

Miguel Montero has been hitting the ball hard lately.

Miguel Montero is 5-for-8 with 2 HR in the last two days.

Miguel Montero picked up a 3-run homer for the second night in a row as the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds, 6-3, on Thursday.

Montero, batting cleanup, hit his 8th homer of the year in the 1st inning off of Reds’ starter Michael Lorenzen, who lasted just 4.1 innings and allowed 6 runs (5 earned).

Starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada struggled again for the Cubs, getting pulled after allowing 3 runs in 3 innings of work, putting on 6 base runners. Travis Wood stepped in and picked up the win (3-2), going 2.1 shutout innings, allowing just one hit and no walks.

In Wada’s last two starts, he has gone a combined 6.1 innings with an 11.37 ERA and 2.369 WHIP.

Hector Rondon was again tasked with picking up the save, and did so with a scoreless 9th. The Cubs’ bullpen really bailed Wada out, at one point retiring 14 consecutive Reds.

For Cincy, it marked the end of a modest 4-game winning streak.

Video Highlights (MLB.com)

Here’s a proposal for the Cubs. Start Wada – allow him one time through the order against a lineup which has been constructed to face a left-handed starter. Then bring in Edwin Jackson – again, one time through the order, now facing a lineup which is probably going to be right-handed heavy. Then you can either go back to another lefty (Wood) or turn it over to the rest of the bullpen. Crazy? Last year, opponents batting from the right side put up an .816 OPS against Jackson versus .930 from the left side. Piggy-backing those two is something to think about.

For the Reds, Zack Cozart’s knee injury was a big one. He’s out for the season. That hurts. In 53 games, Cozart’s 2.0 WAR was among the highest in the league, per BaseballReference.com. At the plate, he was putting up a slash line of just .258/.310/.459 for a decent OPS+ of 108, but he had committed just 3 errors at shortstop for a .986 fielding percentage, well above the league-wide mark of .971. In short, he was a plus defender who was showing some pop this year, having belted 9 homers already.

* * *

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Washington Nationals, 6-5, lending even more doubt as to the idea that the Nats are a great team.

Milwaukee trailed 5-1 heading into the bottom of the 4th only to chip away for the win.

Tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 8th, Milwaukee got a few base runners on thanks to poor pitching (a wild pitch on a strikeout), poor fielding (an Anthony Rendon error while trying to turn a double play), and then an RBI base hit by Scooter Gennett that gave the Brewers the lead.

It had to be a good feeling for Gennett, who had a miserable start to the 2015 season before being optioned to AAA. He had just gotten called back up yesterday.

Gerardo Parra, Ryan Braun, Adam Lind and Jean Segura had two hits a piece for the Brew Crew.

Francisco Rodriguez continued to showcase himself as good trade bait in the next two months, picking up his 13th save and lowering his ERA to 1.17 on the season.

Video Highlights (MLB.com)

* * *

Stephen J. Nesbitt at the Post-Gazette took a look at the success of the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ pitching staff at keeping balls on the ground, leading to a league-best number of double plays turned. Read about it over here.

* * *

Pending a pass of a physical, the St. Louis Cardinals are looking to sign their 1st round pick in this week’s draft, Nick Plummer, by week’s end. Plummer was the #23 overall selection of the 2015 draft.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

WAR (fielders)
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 3.0
Todd Frazier (CIN) 2.9
Joey Votto (CIN) 2.6
Jhonny Peralta (CIN) 2.4
Kolten Wong (STL) 2.2
WAR (pitchers)
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.5
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 2.4
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.2
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.9
2-way tie 1.8

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 39 21 W1
Chicago Cubs 32 26 6.0 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 32 27 6.5 W1
Cincinnati Reds 27 32 11.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 23 38 16.5 W1

* * *

Schedule

27-32 REDS Cueto (4-4, 2.64)
32-26 CUBS Hammel (5-2, 2.76)
3:05 PM CT
22-39 Phillies Correia (NR)
32-27 PIRATES Locke (3-3, 5.37)
6:05 PM CT
31-29 Nationals Zimmermann (5-3, 3.18)
23-38 BREWERS Fiers (2-6, 4.06)
7:10 PM CT
34-23 Royals Ventura (3-5, 4.62)
39-21 CARDINALS Garcia (1-3, 2.67)
7:15 PM CT

Cards Take It To Dodgers

The Redbirds took 3 of 4 against the Dodgers over the weekend.

The Redbirds took 3 of 4 against the Dodgers over the weekend.

Monday means that it’s time for the Weekend Roundup!

* * *

The St. Louis Cardinals made some noise by taking 3 out of 4 in their weekend series against the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. Their only hiccup came Saturday when they were done in by Clayton Kershaw in a 2-0 shutout loss, but who can blame them for that?

After a convincing 7-1 win on Thursday, the final 3 games of the series all felt like October baseball. Quality stuff.

Of course, the Cards weren’t able to really gain any ground in the division because…

* * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates are on an amazing run, winning 13 of their past 16 games after taking 2 of 3 this weekend against the Atlanta Braves. Gerrit Cole pitched another 7 shutout innings on Sunday and picked up another win; he’s had an amazing season thus far.

No disrespect intended here, but the Bucs now have a 9-game home-stand against the Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox. This hot streak might continue for a while…

* * *

After having dropped series to the Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins, I honestly didn’t expect the Chicago Cubs to do what they did this weekend in D.C. But they managed to take 3 of 4 against the Washington Nationals.

They also started a closer controversy of sorts when Hector Rondon was pulled after facing one batter (a walk) in the 9th inning on Saturday. Pedro Strop picked up the save and Jason Motte got it on Sunday after Rondon pitched a perfect 8th.

Oh, and the Javier Baez watch was put off. He suffered a ring finger injury after sliding head-first into a bag.

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds kept doing their thing, losing 2 of 4 against the San Diego Padres. Stopper Johnny Cueto went 7 shutout innings in a 4-0 win yesterday to help avoid the sweep. He also struck out 9.

The talk of Cueto and Mike Leake being trade-bait has been heating up of late. The team is 13 back in the division, with a pair of winnable series (Phillies and Cubs) this week.

* * *

The Brewers took 2 of 3 in the Twin Cities, visiting the Minnesota Twins over the weekend. They travel to Pittsburgh to start a 3-game tilt today before heading home for a 4-game set with the Nats.

* * *

National League Ranks

Batting Pitching
St. Louis 10th 1st
Chicago 9th 6th
Cincinnati 11th 10th
Pittsburgh 6th 2nd
Milwaukee 14th 14th

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 38 19 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 31 25 6.5 W1
Chicago Cubs 30 25 7.0 W2
Cincinnati Reds 24 31 13.0 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 20 37 18.0 L1

* * *

Schedule

20-37 BREWERS Nelson (2-6, 4.41)
31-25 PIRATES Burnett (6-1, 2.20)
6:05 PM CT
22-36 Phillies Hamels (5-4, 2.88)
24-31 REDS Leake (2-4, 4.40)
6:10 PM CT
38-19 CARDINALS Lackey (4-3, 2.93)
25-30 Rockies Hale (1-0, 4.26)
7:40 PM CT

I Missed a Lot

Reds manager Bryan Price is starting to crack

Reds manager Bryan Price is starting to crack

I finished 2014 with a large surplus of vacation days accrued and, since I’m allowed to roll over only a certain number, I figured I’d plan a few “staycation” days ahead of time. Yesterday’s planned day off was supposed to include some bike riding to various local restaurants and museums. Instead it turned into a day that was about 25 degrees cooler than it should normally be and my wife and I had great coffee and watched snowflakes falling outside the store. Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was still a great day.

Back to baseball.

* * *

Looking around the division and seeing some story-lines that seem to be developing for each team.

The St. Louis Cardinals are as good as we expected. Their pitching staff has been nothing short of phenomenal, but the lineup has left something to be desired. It will be interesting to see if the hitters step their game up and if the pitching is for real.

The Chicago Cubs have started to parade out their young talent and have been a really fun team to watch. The lineup has been surprisingly effective, but Jon Lester has struggled in three starts as the high-priced ace.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, championed by many to win the division, are off to a really rough start. Like the Cards, bad hitting and amazing pitching, but they haven’t been able to get above .500 yet.

The Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers are as bad as expected, but for the Brew Crew it’s just one bit of awful after another. They lost star CF Carlos Gomez to a hamstring injury, C Jonathan Lucroy‘s fractured left toe will keep him out 4-to-6 weeks, and 2B Scooter Gennett just required stitches on after slicing open his hand while reaching for body wash. When it rains, it pours.

As for the Reds, manager Bryan Price (who has already made some really questionable decisions with his bullpen) went all Lee Elia on the media. And it was delightful.

* * *

Last night, the Cubs and Pirates went back and forth in a crazy game with numerous lead changes, ultimately ending with another bad outing by Pirates closer Mark Melancon (8.53 ERA) that led to an 9-8 win for Chicago.

Both teams got horrible work from their bullpens – each team allowed 5 ER in 4 IP of work from their relievers.

The Bucs took an 8-6 lead into the top of the 9th, but Melancon couldn’t hold it down. Anthony Rizzo singled, Jorge Soler doubled over Andrew McCutchen in center, Kris Bryant walked to load the bases, Starlin Castro tied it with a 2-RBI single and Bryant scored on Wellington Castillo‘s slow roller to second, putting Chicago ahead.

Three up, three down for Hector Rondon, who notched his 3rd save.

Castro also homered earlier in the game – it was his 2nd of the game.

New stud prospect Addison Russell went 0-for-5 with 3 K in his Cubs’ debut. Russell was the #2 ranked prospect in baseball per Baseball Prospectus, #3 by both Baseball America and Fangraphs and #5 by MLB.com.

Though he is a slick-fielding shortstop by nature, Russell will fill in at second base where the Cubs have been woeful. (He spent the last week playing 2B exclusively for AAA Iowa.) The Cubs would be clearly better served by swapping Castro and Russell at the middle infield positions, but for whatever reason will keep things as they are for the time being.

Castro has yet to play a game at second base in his MLB career, nor have I seen any news stories saying this is something they’re considering doing.

Javier Baez has not played a game in the minors in well over a week now, having taken bereavement leave following the death of his sister earlier this month.

Regardless of which position Castro plays, any talk involving a trade of him should be tabled. Since a bad 2013 season where the Cubs tried to turn him into a more selective hitter, he has been solid. He’s a 3-time All-Star, he’s only 25, he’s cost controlled, and he consistently puts up OPS+ numbers above 100. Those types of players don’t go on trees and, as Baez is an example of, there’s no such thing as can’t-miss prospects. Castro has proven himself to be a solid Major Leaguer and deserves to keep a spot in the lineup. Worst case is that he slides over to play second base next season.

* * *

In Washington, the Cardinals lost 2-1 in 10 innings.

Matt Carpenter had only one hit, but it did lead to a game-tying run in the 9th inning.

The Nats had a prime opportunity to win in the bottom of the 9th, loading the bases with 1 out, but Jordan Walden struck out Ian Desmond and got Jayson Werth on a fly out to Jon Jay in center.

Yunel Escobar ended the game with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th, ending the Cards’ 5 game winning streak.

Lance Lynn had another nice start done in by a lack of offense, as he went 6.1 innings, allowing 1 run with 7 strikeouts. He did have some control issues, however, walking 4 Nationals.

The Redbirds currently have three starting pitchers with sub-2.00 ERA and all five are under 3. John Lackey is the “worst” of the bunch with a 2.77 ERA, Carlos Martinez just outside the sub-2.00 group with a 2.08, while Michael Wacha (1.35), Lynn (1.56) and Adam Wainwright (1.71) are all making opponents look silly.

* * *

And finally, in Milwaukee, the Brewers’ pitchers allowed 13 hits, walked 6, and the fielding committed a pair of errors that led to 5 unearned runs.

Of course, when you allow 11 earned runs, what’s another 5?

The Reds were 16-10 winners in Milwaukee, as things continued to go downhill for the Brewers who have now lost 7 straight.

Since April 30th of last year – remember, this is four full months before they fell out of 1st place, but people seem to mis-remember that 2014 Milwaukee club has a good one – Milwaukee is 64-84 for a .432 winning percentage. They went 62-72 from April 30th onward last season.

Zack Cozart had a pair of homers for Cincinnati in the win that brought them back up to .500. Todd Frazier also went yard, hitting a grand slam. It was the 4th homer of the year for both Reds.

Elian Herrera homered, doubled and had 5 RBI for Milwaukee. Nice day for a kid that was drafted in 2003 and didn’t make it to the Bigs until 2012.

* * *

Schedule

8-5 CHICAGO Hammel (1-0, 5.11)
6-8 PITTSBURGH Worley (1-1, 5.84)
6:05 PM CT
8-4 ST. LOUIS Lackey (1-0, 2.77)
7-7 Washington Fister (1-0, 0.69)
6:05 PM CT
7-7 CINCINNATI Cueto (0-2, 2.14)
2-12 MILWAUKEE Nelson (1-1, 1.50)
7:10 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 8 4 L1
Chicago Cubs 8 5 0.5 W2
Cincinnati Reds 7 7 2.0 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 6 8 3.0 L2
Milwaukee Brewers 2 12 7.0 L7

PANIC!!!

11949846888132734don_t_panic__dan_gerhard_01.svg.hiI thoroughly enjoyed reading numerous local bloggers as well as listening to phone-ins to sport talk shows to get a good feel for how much panic there can be after just 3 or 4 games into a Major League Baseball season.

Lest you’ve forgotten, an MLB season is 162 games long. So we’re talking about assessing your team based on 2% of a total season.

Giving up on your MLB team after 3.5 games… In NFL terms, this would be akin to giving up on your team’s season with 9 minutes and 16 seconds remaining in the 2nd quarter. (I did the math for you, but feel free to double check.)

Reading Chicago sports media, for example – by the way, this is never recommended – there was utter panic that the White Sox were 0-4 and Cubs were 1-2. Never mind that the ChiSox had faced the defending American League Champion Kansas City Royals in those first three games and the Cubs had split 2 games with the still powerful St. Louis Cardinals.

I don’t know what record the Cubs and White Sox will have after 162 games are done. If I boiled down the dozens of season previews I’ve read over, I’d say national prognosticators have both teams somewhere in the range of between 81 and 86 wins. But I sure as shit know that I can’t base my opinion of them on 3 or 4 games.

* * *

Let’s get to the weekend recap in the NL Central.

The Cincinnati Reds hosted the St. Louis Cardinals. Coming into the series, the Reds were 3-0, coming off of a surprising sweep of the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cards had split a rain-soaked Opening Series in Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs.
The Reds took the series opener, 5-4, behind a pair of Joey Votto homers and yet another stolen base by Billy Hamilton.
The Cards won game 2, 4-1, behind Michael Wacha’s 6.1 innings, allowing 1 earned run. Johnny Cueto took the loss to fall to 0-1 with a 0.64 ERA; he went 7 innings and allowed 1 run.
The Cards then took the rubber game of the series, winning 7-5 in 11 innings when Matt Carpenter connected for a 2-run homer in the top of the inning off of Kevin Gregg, who I still can’t believe has a job. Carlos Martinez did not get a decision, but threw nicely for the Red Birds, going 6 innings and striking out 8 while allowing 2 runs.
Carpenter is hitting .300, while Jhonny Peralta (.333), Matt Holliday (.300) and Kolten Wong (.294) are also off to nice starts.
Votto has a slash line of .333/.429/.708 with 3 HR and 8 RBI. So far, the comeback is going nicely. Hamilton had 7 stolen bases.

The Cubs took to Colorado to face the Rockies. After losing game one 5-1, their offense showed up big time in a 9-5 win to even the series. Dexter Fowler enjoyed his homecoming (more on that later) with a pair of triples. And the Baby Bears had their first homers of the season with Chris Coghlan, Mike Olt and Starlin Castro all doing a number. Castro had 3 hits, by the way. Olt took a pitch off the wrist later in the game, getting those Kris Bryant whispers revved up. Bryant also homered at AAA the night of this game. Olt’s x-rays were negative and he would actually pinch hit in game 3 of the series.
Speaking of which, the Cubs showed they aren’t the same pushover team of recent years, coming back to win 6-5 and take the series. Trailing 5-3 with a man on 2nd and 2 outs in the 9th, Wellington Castillo singled in a run and then Fowler took LaTroy Hawkins into the upper deck in right field for a go-ahead two-run homer. Hector Rondon stranded the tying runner at 3rd, picking up his 2nd save.
Fowler had a slash line of .308/.400/.846 in the 3-game series at Colorado.
Arismendy Alcantara has looked fluid when he’s played second base, but he’s 0-for-12 at the plate. On the bright side, his 5 walks give him a .294 OBP which, while not spectacular, helps make up for some of that. His OPS+ is currently negative 5, which I didn’t even think was possible. Castro is hitting .300, but no other Cubs’ regular is hitting over .250 and four are hitting below .200.

And in Milwaukee, the Brewers finally won a game, but it was the Bucs taking the series, 2 games to 1. So no NL Central swept or was swept over the weekend.
After Pittsburgh took game one, 6-2, Milwaukee came back to take game two, 6-0. Jimmy Nelson tossed 7 shutout innings, striking out 9 while allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks. Vance Worley went 6.1 innings and allowed 6 earned runs for the Pirates. Andrew McCutchen did not play.
The Pirates took the final game of the series, 10-2, behind McCutchen’s 2nd homer of the year. He had 4 RBI while Neil Walker had three, picking up his first homer of the season.

* * *

National League Ranks

Cincinnati: 6th in Runs Scored/Game, 10th in Runs Allowed/Game
St. Louis: 9th in Runs Scored/Game, 2nd in Runs Allowed/Game
Chicago: 8th in Runs Scored/Game, 6th in Runs Allowed/Game
Pittsburgh: 7th in Runs Scored/Game, 8th in Runs Allowed/Game
Milwaukee: 13th in Runs Scored/Game, 15th in Runs Allowed/Game

* * *

Schedule

6-0 Detroit Sanchez, An (1-0, 0.00)
2-4 PITTSBURGH Cole (0-0, 5.40)
12:35 PM CT
1-5 MILWAUKEE Garza, M (0-1, 7.20)
3-2 ST. LOUIS Wainwright (1-0, 0.00)
3:15 PM CT
4-2 CINCINNATI Leake (0-0, 4.76)
3-2 CHICAGO Lester (0-1, 6.23)
7:05 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
Cincinnati 4 2 L2
Chicago 3 2 0.5 W2
St. Louis 3 2 0.5 W2
Pittsburgh 2 4 2 W1
Milwaukee 1 5 3 L1