Writing About the Chicago Cubs and Looking at the Team’s Past
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Theo Epstein is your new Cubs president. The Red Sox purge is going to be the Cubs gain as they pick up one of the better administrators in the game. The Cubs are going to have to compensate both the Red Sox and then the Padres for their GM to get everything done, but I think it’s going to be worth it. You hate to keep bringing up the 100+ World Series drought but you hope this is the move that finally brings the Cubs their first World Series since 1908.
This team has some holes and it’ll be interesting to see what Epstein does. It wouldn’t surprise if he does a bit of a start over and starts with the farm club. That means the Cubs probably have a couple of years to wait to see the gains there. Still, the World Series is the goal. Epstein has been there and I’m hoping he gets the Cubs there in time. It’s also a good time to get your Cubs tickets because if Theo starts making moves quick, they’re going to be flying off the shelf.
There have been plenty of memorable games at Wrigley Field but A&E has decided to memorialize one of these classic games. Back in 1979, the Phillies and Cubs played in a game where they combined for 45 runs on 50 hits in ten innings on May 17, 1979. There were plenty of hitting stars and plenty of pitching goats and you can check out the details here. This is a fun game to own for $12.95.
It’s hard to say who was the hitting star. Mike Schmidt hit a pair of home runs and Dave Kingman went yard three times. Larry Bowa had five hits and Bill Buckner had seven RBIs. If you want to know how the flip side fared, the two teams threw a combined eleven pitchers, nine of which gave up runs and seven of which gave up four or more each.
How the scoring went down was interesting too. The Phillies jumped out to a seven run lead in the first but the Cubs answered with six in the bottom half of the inning. By the fourth, the Phillies held a 17-6 after four and a 21-9 lead after five but the Cubs managed to tie it up with some impressive offense. Ironically nobody scored in the ninth but the Phillies put it away in the tenth. A really fun game.
The Cubs are hardly out of it yet, but they’re as close to the last place Astros then they are to the second place and red hot Milwaukee Brewers. Even worse, they’re tied with the perenial losers, the Pittsburgh Pirates and they needed three straight losses by Pittsburgh isn’t going to cut it. 22-26 isn’t anything to write home about but hopefully the Cubs can still salvage things.
Alfonso Soriano is finally coming back into form. After a rough couple of years, Soriano looks like he’s back to his 30 home run pace. He’s not driving in runs although nobody in the league is. The Cubs are second in batting average with .277 but they’re sixth in runs with 205.
Offense isn’t the problem though, it’s been the pitching. The Cubs are dead last in the NL with a 4.69 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP. They’ve also walked more batters then any other team in the league. Take away Matt Garza who’s on the disabled list and this is just a horrendous rotation.
The Cubs get a chance to fight for fourth place because they start a three game series against the Pirates. Doug Davis and his 8.31 ERA gets the start tomorrow.
After taking the first two games from the Philadelphia Phillies, the Cubs appeared to be on their way to another victory on Saturday. They took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning due to a tremendous performance from Randy Wells who threw seven shutout innings. He did not make it easy for himself, giving up at least one hit for every inning he pitched, but it was another quality start for the right-hander. Wells is now 1-1 with a 1.63 ERA in his last four starts after struggling for all of May and much of June.
Carlos Marmol was supposed to come in and shut the door in the ninth inning and give the Cubs a chance at a sweep on Sunday. Instead, Marmol ended up being the first Cub in 90 years to walk five batters in less than one inning of work. The last man in a Cub uniform to accomplish this feat went by the name of Speed Martin, who walked five Philadelphia hitters and did not make it out of the first inning. Inevitably, all of these walks led to four runs and yet another painful loss for a team that has had more than its share already this season.
Marmol has been good for the most part this season, but anyone who has followed his career knows that he is capable of losing the strike zone completely like he did on Saturday. When Dusty Baker used to run him out there as a starter, five walks in a game was almost a norm for him during his rookie campaign. His control has certainly improved since then and he has become an effective closer, but not an elite one. Opponents are hitting just .153 against the Cubs closer and he does lead all relievers in strike outs with 81, well ahead of the next closest reliever. However, you have to force the other team to actually make contact to beat you and that is something Marmol still doesn’t always do.
It has been a disappointing first half for the Chicago Cubs, a team that was expected to compete for the division crown prior to the start of the season. However, GM Jim Hendry has watched his team flounder and instead of adding as the trade deadline approaches, he will be subtracting. Here is a rundown of players who may be headed out of town in the near future:
Ted Lilly- Here is the kind of guy that you hear about every year at the trade deadline. A left-hander that can eat innings and give you quality starts that nearly every contender is interested in. Lilly is in the last year of a four year deal which makes trading him almost inevitable at this point. The most recent rumors show interest coming mainly from the Mets, Dodgers, and Tigers but other teams are still in play. Hendry and Ned Colletti (Dodgers GM) reportedly discussed the possibility for a deal involving Lilly, as he seems to be their top choice at the moment in terms of starting pitching.
Xavier Nady- The Texas Rangers are already big winners in the trade market after acquiring Cliff Lee on Friday. Now they have their sights set on the veteran Nady who would come in and platoon at first base with Chris Davis. The Cubs would likely receive a solid Single-A or Double-A prospect in return which would make this a nice deal for both sides.
IF Trio of Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, and Jeff Baker- Expect one, or possibly two of these three to be in other cities by the time August rolls around. Ryan Theriot is receiving the most attention from other teams, and talks with the Tigers were heating up last week. However, discussion between the Tigers and Cubs has slowed and now the Colorado Rockies appear to be very interested in the Cub second baseman. Once one of these guys go, expect the Cubs to bring up prospect Darwin Barney as they look towards the future.
Tom Gorzelanny- The Giants had a scout at Wrigley Field last week watching Gorzelanny pitch. The left-hander has thrown the ball well this year, and would be a good addition for whoever gets him. However, this is a guy that I would like to see the Cubs hang onto for the future. He is still young (about to turn 28) and they can keep him on the team for a low price. With what he has showed this season (4-5, 3.16 ERA) I think it would be wise to not let him go.
Two sluggers that helped lead the Cubs to the playoffs in 2008 are finally getting on track here in the 2010 campaign. Aramis Ramirez and Geovanny Soto combined for five hits and four runs batted in during Saturday’s 7-3 win over the Dodgers out in LA. Each player’s stat line includes a home run, the ninth of the year for Soto and the tenth for Ramirez, who saw his average climb to .209. Normally a .209 average is not a good thing, but it is a far cry from the .160 average that he was sporting in June. As for Soto, he has a .429 average (15-35) over his last ten games with nine RBI’s. Both of these players are counted on as run producers in the lineup and they are finally starting to come around which should mean more success with runners in scoring position. The Cubs actually went 4-6 with RISP, a gargantuan improvement over a week ago when they stranded 17 runners in a win over Cincinnati.
One more positive from Saturday’s game is we finally got to see some fire from Piniella. It certainly was not the classic kicking his hat down the third base line outburst, but he did enough to get himself ejected for the first time all season. It’s interesting that baseball is the only sport where coaches are praised for getting tossed out of games. Bobby Cox, one of the most revered managers in the history of the game has been thrown out 132 times, more than anyone else. Consequently, he is praised by both his players and the media for his actions. In baseball, when a manager gets thrown out he is said to be standing up for his team. In any other sport, he is just a man with a very short temper.
The Cubs and Dodgers will complete their four game series on Sunday, as Chicago looks for the split. Carlos Silva (9-2, 2.96 ERA) will pitch despite minor calf problems that he has been experiencing.
Wednesday’s 8-3 Cubs victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks led to the rarest of occurrences this season. It gave the Cubs a convincing three game sweep, only their second of the season with the first coming back in April against the Brewers. The Cubs also swept a two game set at Wrigley in May against the Colorado Rockies. This also marked the team’s first three game win streak since late May when they took three straight from the Rangers and Dodgers. This sweep is certainly no small feat for a team that has struggled mightily to string a couple of decent performances together since the beginning of June.
There is still no word on Carlos Zambrano’s return to the team. Big Z has been going through anger management treatment as the Cubs advised him to, and is still on the team’s restricted list. The fiery right hander who has been off duty since his meltdown on June 25th is not expected back before the all star break. When Zambrano returns he will be headed back to the bullpen which should be…interesting.
Carlos Silva has been experiencing some soreness in his right knee, however manager Lou Piniella said that he should be able to make his scheduled start on Sunday against the Dodgers.
Final piece of news, the Cubs sent reliever Brian Schlitter to the 15-day disabled list after he hurt his shoulder last Friday against the Cincinnati Reds. Mitch Atkins has been called up from Triple-A Iowa to assume his roster spot, it is his second stint with the major league team this season. However, Atkins never made an appearance during his time with the team in June. With this addition, the Cubs now have four rookies in their bullpen. This is certainly not an ideal situation for Lou Piniella and the Cubs but they have been forced into it due to poor performances and injuries.
The wind was blowing out on Sunday afternoon and the Cincinnati Reds took full advantage of it, bombing the Fighting Colvins 14-3 while the rest of the Cubs took the day off. Well, that’s not quite how it actually happened but it sure felt like it as Tyler Colvin’s two home runs accounted for all the team’s offense on this day. The Reds did most of their damage against starter Ted Lilly and reliever Jeff Stevens. Lilly gave up four home runs in 6.2 innings, and allowed nine runs to cross the plate. Piniella then called for Stevens who faced six batters and failed to record an out while surrendering four runs and two more long balls.
Cincinnati added another home run in the ninth inning off Andrew Cashner giving them a total of seven on the day. You know it’s a bad day when light hitting OF Drew Stubbs goes deep not once, not twice, but THREE times (Stubbs entered Sunday hitting .233 with 8 HR’s). Things got even worse when seldom used backup catcher Corky Miller and his glorious mustache launched his first home run of the season into the seats in left. I would put Miller’s mustache up there in the modern day pantheon of great sports staches, right there with guys like Wannstedt, Ditka, and even newer members like Michael Phelps and Carl Pavano. If you have not seen it yet, seriously, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Overall, with the exception of Tyler Colvin’s two home runs it was just a bad day for the Cubs. They are now 35-47, putting them in fourth place in the Central, and 11.5 GB of Cincinnati. Two series remain before the all star break as the Cubs will head west to take on the Diamondbacks and Dodgers. Even though 80 games still remain it feels like we are approaching “last gasp” time with this team. If they don’t catch fire by the end of the month they will simply be too far out of the race to even think about tracking down the Reds or the Cardinals.
It was announced earlier today that Marlon Byrd will be the Chicago Cubs’ lone representative in this year’s all star game. This does not come as much of a surprise as none of the other offensive players have made much of a case to be a part of the game. I think that a case could be made for a couple of the pitchers on the staff such as Carlos Silva and Carlos Marmol, but certainly no complaints about them not making it. This will be Marlon Byrd’s first career all star game appearance and he will be a reserve.
Aramis Ramirez apparently reinjured his left thumb on a swing during Friday’s game and will sit out and work with team trainers to try to get back to full strength. Ramirez is hitting just .177 on the season with six home runs, but he had been better since coming off of the disabled list on June 25 granted it was in a very limited number of at-bats. No timetable has been placed on his return, but it does not appear as though he will be put back on the disabled list.
Lastly, with the trade deadline nearing, several Cub players could be on the trading block. The most recent names being thrown about are infielders Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, and Jeff Baker. Theriot had carved out a role for himself the past two years as a scrappy, hit-machine but he has not been at that level this season. As for Baker and Fontenot, both have been inconsistent and Piniella has moved them in and out of the lineup. I do believe that these guys could help a contender as a utility player, but they are being looked at for more than that. Teams such as Boston, Philadelphia, and Detroit are all looking for help at second base, but if they are thinking that one of these three can be an everyday player for them they should probably look elsewhere. It should be a very interesting month for the Cubs with the potential for a lot of player movement.
The Cubs got the good Randy Wells on Saturday. They got the Randy Wells that pounds the strike zone (71 of 99 pitches were strikes), makes it deep into games, and keeps hitters off balance. It was certainly a welcome sight for Lou Piniella as Wells took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds, surrendering just one walk through the first 19 batters. Wells eventually got the win ending his six game losing streak making him 4-6 on the season. Unfortunately, they needed every ounce of effort from the young right-hander because well, the offense was doing a whole lot of nothing…again. Chicago went on to win the ballgame by a score of 3-1, and it took everything that the Cubs had to push those three runs across.
In recent days, the Cubs were not scoring because they were not creating any chances for themselves. On Saturday however, there was no shortage of scoring opportunities. Seventeen. That is the number of runners that the Cubs left on base, one shy of the National League record of 18. For the game they were 3-16 with runners in scoring position, a trend that simply will not go away. It is in the players’ heads and they have said as much. It is too bad that even in a Cubs victory where the starting pitcher took a no-hitter into the seventh that the main story continues to be their inability to drive runners in.
The Cubs and Reds will play the final game of this four game series today at 2:20. Chicago is looking for the split by sending Ted Lilly (3-6, 3.12) to the mound against rookie right-hander Mike Leake (5-1, 3.30). Ted Lilly has received little to no run support this season, and the offense already has a difficult task today going up against Leake. Tough assignment for a team trying to break records that nobody wants.
The Cubs avoided the sweep and ended the White Sox 11 game winning streak on Sunday, topping the South Siders 8-6 at U.S. Cellular Field. Ryan Dempster went through his usual first inning struggles giving up two runs and putting the Cubs in an early hole. Dempster has now allowed 11 first inning runs in 16 starts. This premise has generally meant disaster for the team, but today was different. The Cubs grabbed control of the game by scoring the next six runs and never looked back. They took an 8-3 lead into the ninth before things got dicey with the normally dominant Marmol on the mound. The White Sox fought back to cut the deficit to 8-6 before Alex Rios struck out to end the game.
Tyler Colvin proved once again that he deserves the increased playing time that Lou Piniella has been giving him. He went 3-5 with a home run and four RBI’s, making it 27 on the year. That RBI mark is just nine below both Lee (36) and Soriano (36) but in far fewer at bats. Colvin has had just 130 AB’s this season compared to 270 for Derrek Lee. The rookie outfielder also has 10 home runs already which is one for every 13 AB’s.
Next week will feature the final home stand for Chicago before the all star break. First up will be the Cubs’ biggest nemesis, the Pittsburgh Pirates. After three with the Bucs, they will play four against the division leading Cincinnati Reds. People keep waiting for the Reds to fade away and for St.Louis to take control of this division, but it just has not happened. The Cubs are currently 33-42, which puts them at fourth place in the National League Central. They are now 8.5 GB which doesn’t feel right with how poorly the first half of the season has gone. It feels like this team should be farther out, but no team has seized control of the division.
A day after the Carlos Zambrano incident, the Chicago Cubs were looking for a fresh start. After Aramis Ramirez tied the game with a solo home run in the seventh inning off of Freddy Garcia, it looked like it might be there night. However, White Sox slugger Paul Konerko had other ideas crushing the eventual game winning home run off of an Andrew Cashner fastball in the eighth inning. It was a 99 mph. fastball coming on a 1-2 pitch, so you have to give credit to Konerko on that one. Matt Thornton then came in and closed out the Cubs, clinching the season series for the White Sox.
Carlos Silva was very good yet again. He only let in two runs on three hits over six innings, while striking out four. He had his usual Silva like command walking only one batter, but ended up getting a no-decision in this one. Cashner pitched the seventh and eighth innings, and was very impressive despite giving up the game winner to Konerko. After the game Cashner said he thought he had his best stuff of the season. He had all of his pitches working, it was just one minor mistake that he made and he paid for it.
The Cubs need to take a close look at what their crosstown rivals have done over the past two weeks because these two teams were in very similar spots. Both teams had solid pitching, but offenses that just were not getting the job done. However, over the past 11 games the White Sox have just found ways to win games. They are playing with extreme confidence and collecting wins even though the offense is still not producing many runs. The Cubs have the same kind of potential, but will they be able to get on a roll like the White Sox are on right now? I would not predict it to happen, although it certainly looked like it was never going to happen for the White Sox this season either.
The latest outburst by Carlos Zambrano should be his last one in a Cub uniform. On Friday afternoon, after allowing four runs on just 21 pitches, Zambrano exploded at teammates when he returned to the dugout. He exchanged words with Derrek Lee (who did not look pleased with what Zambrano had to say) before throwing down a cooler, dumping its contents all over the dugout. Piniella then banished Big Z to the clubhouse as most of his teammates stood around looking dumbfounded at what had just occurred. This incident has been such an embarrassment for the organization that they finally said enough is enough and suspended the nearly $19 million per year pitcher. Piniella also announced that if/when Zambrano returns, he will be in the bullpen and Tom Gorzelanny will assume his spot in the rotation.
There is no reason that the team should be forced to put up with Big Z’s antics any longer. The situation is outrageous on so many levels and there is no justification for the way that he acted. Zambrano believed that his teammates were not giving maximum effort, but it comes off looking like a frustrated pitcher having yet another meltdown. It should also be noted that the Cubs have had no direct contact with their pitcher since the incident, however Zambrano reportedly had dinner on Friday night with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. If you are going to make a mistake this egregious, at least stand up and apologize and handle it the right way. Not only has Zambrano been publicly embarrassed by this incident, but the entire organization as well. When something like this happens it gives the perception that the team is dysfunctional. Whether that perception is correct or not is almost impossible to figure out from the outside, but with the way the media operates today they will surely be jumping to that conclusion.
So, what do the Cubs do now? They have already reinstated Gorzelanny back into the rotation which in my mind is a good thing even if this incident never occurred. Simply put, Gorzelanny has been far better than Zambrano this season. It was a shame that they took him out of the rotation in the first place because his performance justified him staying there. The other thing to watch is what will Zambrano be like when he returns to the team. I am assuming that the players will welcome him back, and they will try to manufacture some good vibes upon his return but will Zambrano be able to perform? Looking at what Zambrano has done over the past year and a half, I don’t think anybody can answer that question.
The Cubs were able to salvage the final game of the series on Sunday in resounding fashion as they crushed the Los Angeles Angels 12-1 at Wrigley Field. Carlos Zambrano delivered his best performance of the season throwing seven innings and allowing just the one earned run. He also struck out seven and walked just one hitter. When Zambrano has his control, he can still be a dominant pitcher and it showed today.
Meanwhile, the offense finally showed up producing 12 runs on 18 hits. Most of the damage was done against the Angels’ starter Joe Saunders and reliever Brian Fuentes (11 of the 12 runs). Every Cub starter recorded at least one hit including Carlos Zambrano who went 2-4 with an RBI. Derrek Lee also had a big game collecting two hits and tallying four RBI’s. With Aramis Ramirez still out of the line up, Xavier Nady took his turn in the clean up role and had a solid day going 2-5 with two runs scored. Finally, Tyler Colvin did not start but he still made an impact coming up with a pinch hit, two-run single. He now has a pretty impressive 22 RBI’s in limited action this season.
One final positive from today’s ballgame, the Cubs did not give up any unearned runs. If they really want to get this season turned around they have to curtail their habit of giving away runs. Chicago currently leads the league in unearned runs allowed with 44, and had committed 11 errors in their previous five games heading into Sunday. Jeff Baker did commit his third error of the series and the season, but unlike Friday night it did not cost the team any runs.
The Cubs will get Monday off before beginning a three game series in Seattle on Tuesday. The Mariners have gotten outstanding starting pitching, but the offense has struggled mightily. Seattle comes into the series with a 28-41 record.
Carlos Silva won the first eight decisions of his Cub career. He has looked like an entirely different pitcher when compared to his most recent stint in Seattle, where he often struggled to get out of the fifth inning. Now, he is being relied upon to deliver consistent starts and wins for a Cubs team desperately in need of them. Silva tried to do just that last night against the Los Angeles Angels in their first ever trip to Wrigley Field, but came up short losing his second consecutive game to fall to 8-2. He was good for six innings, allowing three runs on six hits before a leg cramp forced him out of the game.
It felt like the Cubs were trying to chase the Angels all night as they fought back from an early 2-0 deficit to tie the game, and later nearly came back from five down in the ninth. The furious late comeback was fueled by Tyler Colvin who blasted a three run homer to make it 7-5, and then with two outs Derrek Lee hit his second home run of the game to cut the Halo’s lead to one. Colvin has taken advantage of his increased playing time as that home run was his eighth of the season, and his average is now up to .315 for the year. He hit in the lead off spot last night in favor of Fukudome.
Errors continue to plague the Cubs, as they made three of them last night. The worst part is each one of them was very costly and it shows because four of the seven runs the Cubs allowed were unearned. Jeff Baker made critical back-to-back throwing errors which really helped open the game up in the seventh inning. This sequence never happens and we may very well be looking at a Cubs victory this morning. Just another example of the Cubs doing things to not win games.
The Cubs who are now 30-37, seven back of the division leading Cardinals, will try it again today at 1:05. Ted Lilly (2-5, 2.90) who is coming off of his near no hitter will look for a little more run support today against Jared Weaver (6-3, 3.29).
Carlos Silva threw seven strong innings against the White Sox on Saturday, but it was not enough to prevent his first loss as a Chicago Cub. Silva, who entered the game with an 8-0 record, allowed just two runs which proved to be one too many as the Sox won the game 2-1. The Cub offense was stymied for the second consecutive day, this time by Mark Buerhle who threw 6.2 scoreless innings while striking out seven batters. Buerhle and the rest of the pitchers for the South Siders gave the Cubs many chances, but once again the offense did not come through. They actually outhit the White Sox 10-9, but went 1-10 with runners in scoring position. The Cubs have struggled in these situations all year, and until this number starts to turn around wins will be hard to come by.
The Cubs stranded two runners on base in three different innings, and also left the tying run on base in the ninth inning. Over the past five games, they are 5-37 with runners in scoring position. That is a .135 average. You cannot win games hitting this poorly in clutch situations. The Cubs did everything else right yesterday except get the clutch hits, but most of the time that is what it comes down to.
The final game of the series will be shown in prime time tonight at 8 pm. Ted Lilly will take the mound for the Cubs, looking for his second win of the season. He is 1-5, but his ERA is just 3.28, not representative at all of his record. For the White Sox it will be Gavin Floyd who comes in at 2-6 with an elevated ERA of 6.18. However, Floyd is coming off of his best start of the season against the Tigers. Lets see if the Cubs can finally score a few runs tonight and avoid the sweep.
The White Sox jumped all over the Cubs on Friday afternoon and never looked back en route to a 10-5 win at Wrigley Field in the year’s first meeting between the crosstown rivals. Randy Wells struggled once again allowing five runs in five innings of work. Jake Peavy took the mound for the Sox and looked like vintage Jake Peavy. He has not had the same success in Chicago yet as he did in San Diego, but that start yesterday was awfully close to the old Jake Peavy.
Now it is time for some more offensive fun facts: runners in scoring position edition! The Cubs went 1-8 with RISP yesterday and are now 4-27 over their last four games. This issue has plagued the team all season and it is not going away. The players have expressed their frustration with the lack of clutch hits and it really has been the story of the season thus far.
Lou Piniella is continuing to take heat for not giving OF Tyler Colvin more playing time. I have come out and said numerous times that he needs to be playing more because every time he is in the lineup, good things happen. Well, yesterday White Sox announcer Steve Stone came out with some negative comments about Piniella’s use of Tyler Colvin. Stone basically said that Colvin should be playing more and that Piniella does not know how to handle his young players. In this situation I tend to agree with Steve Stone. While the Cubs have a surplus of quality outfielders, you still have to put the best players in the game. He is taking the experience of Soriano, Byrd, and Fukudome over the production of Colvin. Fukudome is on the same track that he was on last season when he started out red hot, before fading and eventually leveling off. His average right now is down to .278 with very little to show for in terms of production. At this point, it is hard to justify Colvin’s lack of playing time.
The toughest opponent for the Cubs to beat this season has not been the Phillies, the Cardinals, or any of the other usual suspects. The most challenging team to beat has been…the Pittsburgh Pirates? The Cubs entered today’s game with a 1-6 record against the Bucs, and were 0-5 in Pittsburgh. They have had a tough time pushing runs across against Pittsburgh pitching, and the Cubs pitching staff had been about the only one in the league that the Pirates had been able to hit. However, the unbeatable Carlos Silva delivered another dominating performance in front of a sparse crowd (announced crowd of 12,378, but it is estimated that there were only about 3,000) at PNC Park on Monday afternoon as the Cubs handled the Pirates 6-1. Today’s win moved Silva to 8-0 on the year, and made him the first Cub since King Cole in 1910 to win his first eight decisions with the team. Silva went seven innings and allowed just one run on four hits, while Jeff Stevens and Sean Marshall finished off the ball game.
It will be a quick turnaround tomorrow, as the Cubs head up to Wrigley Field North/Miller Park for a three game set with the Brewers. Chicago is 5-1 against Milwaukee and 3-0 at Miller Park this season. That one series that they played this year in Milwaukee was probably the best stretch of baseball this team has played. They had all facets of their game on track and outscored the Brewers a ridiculous 25-4. It would certainly be nice to see some of that hitting return.
The Cubs enter the series at 26-31, seven games behind both the Reds and the Cardinals who are tied for first place at 33-24.
Here are the probables for the three game series in Milwaukee:
Game 1: Ted Lilly v. Yovanni Gallardo
Game 2: Carlos Zambrano v. Randy Wolf
Game 3: Ryan Dempster v. Dave Bush
Lou Piniella continues to shuffle the lineup around, but once again it did not make a bit of difference as the Cubs were held to one run in last night’s loss to the Astros. Felipe Paulino, who entered the contest with an 0-7 record, surrendered just one run on five hits over eight innings. The Astros won the ballgame 3-1.
Piniella replaced Fukudome at the leadoff spot with Marlon Byrd who performed well with two hits including an RBI double for the Cubs only run. Meanwhile, Fukudome slid down to fifth in the order and went without a hit. The rest of the lineup stayed pretty much the same as it has been all season. With all of the shifting around that Piniella has tried to do with the lineup, there is one move that he seems very reluctant to make that I believe needs to be done. Aramis Ramirez simply cannot continue to hit in the cleanup spot. Not with a .154 batting average. It is a very difficult thing to do to move a player like Ramirez out of the middle of the order. Since arriving in Chicago he has been the Cubs most consistent run producer but he is absolutely lost at the plate right now. This is no time to be worrying about keeping guys happy and soothing egos, however that is exactly what it looks like. If Piniella wants to put the best possible lineup on the field tonight, it would include Mike Fontenot and Tyler Colvin, with Aramis Ramirez hitting somewhere near the bottom of the lineup.
This situation feels similar in some ways to the end of Sammy Sosa’s time with the Cubs. He was no longer the feared hitter he once was, and it took Dusty Baker months to finally have the guts to move him down in the lineup. I hope that it will not take Piniella as long as it took Dusty to realize this.
The Cubs will try to snap a four game losing streak tonight as Ryan Dempster (3-5, 3.72) will go against the Astros ace Roy Oswalt (3-7, 2.78). It has been a tough year record wise for Oswalt, but he is pitching his best baseball in a while. The law of averages says that eventually the Cubs will score more than three runs in a game again. Who knows when it will happen again, but tonight seems like a good time for it.
Carlos Zambrano will make his long awaited return to the starting rotation tonight against the Houston Astros. Big Z has pitched better recently out of the bullpen, and tonight’s start will test just how far he has come. His last start was on April 20 against the Mets, where he gave up three runs in six innings while striking out nine. He is 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA as a starter this season.
After winning series against the Dodgers and Rangers last week, there appeared be a glimmer of hope. They finally came through with some clutch hits and won close games, something that they had done very,very little of up to that point. However, they have quickly reverted back to their old ways in the most recent series against the Cardinals and Pirates. The offense has once again completely bogged down, and this team has proven that they simply will not win low scoring games. The Cubs are 3-22 when scoring three or fewer runs this season. Most teams are going to have sub-.500 records in these types of games, but this is a rather shocking statistic. You must be able to pull some of these games out, and the Cubs have not shown that ability. Needless to say that is far too many games in which the Cubs could not get past the three run barrier, but I won’t go any further into that right now as we have already discussed the problems with the offense ad nauseum.
Moving onto a different topic, this week’s not-so-perfect, perfect game thrown by Armando Galarraga has once again brought the discussion of instant replay back into the forefront. Watching him lose that perfect game on blown call was heartbreaking, but it still does not change my stance on instant replay in baseball. The ability to use replay on questionable home run calls is as far as they should go with it. There are far too many close calls in each game that it would be hard to figure out where to draw the line on what exactly is reviewable. Also,the human factor is one of many aspects of the game that makes baseball what it is. However, that is the part that is causing the most controversy right now. There is a growing segment of people that want to eliminate as much of the human element from the game as possible. To that I say the games are long enough as is, do you really want to make them even longer? Also, how satisfying would it have been if on that last out if they had to pause the game for ten minutes to decide whether the batter was out or not? In my mind it would not be the same, and baseball should stay away from instant replay as much as possible.
Carlos Zambrano will now have to wait until Friday at the earliest to return to the rotation after rain wiped out Wednesday night’s game against the Pirates. The game has been rescheduled for Monday at 12:35. This creates a hectic travel schedule for the Cubs who travel down to Houston this weekend, followed by the game in Pittsburgh on Monday, before heading out to Milwaukee the next day.
Piniella said that they do not want to wait until next week to pitch Zambrano. He will start one of the three games in Houston.
The Cubs are now an inexplicable 1-6 against the Pirates this season after falling 2-1 on Monday night at PNC Park. Pittsburgh came into last night’s contest as losers of nine of their last eleven, and they had scored more than three runs just one time during that stretch. However, two runs proved to be enough as Pirate starter Russ Ohlendorf handcuffed Cub hitters for seven innings allowing just one earned run. This was Ohlendorf’s first win since August 18, 2009 (10 starts). Randy Wells did a nice job for the Cubs yesterday, bouncing back from his Friday meltdown. He threw five scoreless innings but was on a tighter pitch count, which forced Piniella to remove him after 90 pitches.
The offense did a whole lot more of nothing on Monday, and Piniella finally appears ready to make some significant changes. Mike Fontenot started at second base instead of Ryan Theriot who was given the night off. However, Piniella hinted that it could lead to more than that due to Theriot’s recent struggles. Fontenot is one of the few players that has been productive of late and it is a good move to get him into the line up. He is hitting .324, and has a solid .373 OBP. His history shows that those numbers will fall as the season continues, but for now they need to find a spot for him.
Every major league line up is going to have holes in it, but those holes are usually not in the middle. That is the case right now though for the Cubs whose 3-4-5 hitters have struggled mightily. The three players that have been there the most, Byrd, Lee, and Ramirez are all slumping, and the latter two have been in a funk all season. Lee is in a 1-for-14 slump while Ramirez’s .162 batting average is the second lowest amongst every day players. Add in Marlon Byrd’s 7-for-46, and Theriot’s 5-for-36 and it is easy to see why they are not scoring any runs.
One final note, John Grabow has been put on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his left knee. The veteran left-hander is 0-3 on the year with a 9.45 ERA.
A player like Albert Pujols can only be held down for so long, and the Cubs learned that the hard way on Sunday during a 9-1 Cardinals rout at Wrigley Field. Pujols, who had just one multi-hit game and only one home run in his past ten games hit three homers on Sunday, two off of starter Ryan Dempster and one off of John Grabow. He was going to get hot again eventually and the Cubs were hoping that he would wait until they left Chicago, but Pujols had other ideas.
Dempster had his worst start of the season allowing 6 earned runs in 6.2 innings, dropping his record to 3-5 on the season. His record is not indicative of the way he has pitched though, as is the case with most of the Cubs’ starters. On the other side, Adam Wainwright’s terrific season continued as he gave up just one run, a solo home run off the bat of Geovanny Soto in seven innings. It was Wainwright’s seventh win of the season, and he also lowered his ERA to 2.28. John Grabow made another disastrous appearance allowing three runs in just two innings of work, and seems to have turned into the team’s sacrificial lamb. He has gone from the opening day setup man to a guy that only comes in when the Cubs are down and the game is sufficiently out of hand.
Despite the loss today, the Cubs were still able to come out of this recent challenging nine game stretch with a winning record. The North Siders went 5-4 against the Rangers, Dodgers, and Cardinals which regardless of who you are that’s a pretty good record. Now it is time to see if they can continue to elevate their level of play, or will they revert back to the team they were two weeks ago? Carlos Zambrano is moving back into the rotation on Wednesday and has shown signs of returning to form. He has the potential to give this team a major boost. Tom Gorzelanny has been moved to the bullpen which means that they now have four left-handed relief pitchers. This is why the Cubs’ top pick from 2008, right-hander Andrew Cashner will be joining the team at some point this week.
A nine game road trip through the NL Central will begin tomorrow in Pittsburgh. Randy Wells (3-3, 4.79) will get another shot at it for Chicago after failing to record an out on Friday against St.Louis.
A day after the worst pitching performance of the season by a Cub starter, Carlos Silva may have delivered the best one yet as he dominated the Cardinals for seven innings en route to a 5-0 victory. Coming into this season I’m not sure if anybody thought that Silva was even capable of pitching like this anymore. During spring training he was being discussed as a possible option to be the fifth starter. Silva had a total of five wins the last two years in Seattle, and he was practically given away to the Cubs in exchange for Milton Bradley. At the time it looked like the Cubs were inheriting an overpaid pitcher who was on the downside of his career. Now he is 7-0 and is the Cubs most reliable pitcher. As for Milton Bradley? Well, he’s still acting like Milton Bradley. Thanks Seattle!
Not only was Silva dominant on Saturday, but the offense showed up as well coming up with some clutch hits. The FOX broadcast was clearly looking to make the Cubs lack of clutch hitting the major story line as they put up this gem right before the start of the game:
Last three game: 4-for-30 with RISP
They turned that trend around though by going 4-for-11 with RISP, three of those coming in the fifth inning. James Ottavino who made his major league debut today for St.Louis struggled with his control right from the outset, and Cub hitters quickly recognized this. They induced six walks out of the rookie who lasted 5.2 innings, allowing 4 earned runs. Ottavino also appeared to be a bit overexcited as he was missing high with his fastball all game. Nevertheless, the Cubs hitters took a good, smart approach to the plate and it paid off.
A win in the rubber game tomorrow would give the Cubs their third consecutive series win which would be impressive considering the teams they have played. Ryan Dempster (3-4, 3.31) will go for Chicago, and on the other side will be Adam Wainwright (6-3, 2.38).
Quick note on Carlos Zambrano, he is expected to make his return to the rotation on Wednesday against Pittsburgh. This likely means that Tom Gorzelanny will be the odd man out and will be forced into the bullpen, although nothing is set in stone. We will find out all of the details tomorrow.
The first six batters of the game made all the difference yesterday in the Cardinals 7-1 rout of the Cubs. Randy Wells was unable to record an out yielding a hit to each one of them and surrendering five runs before Piniella took pity and pulled him out of the game. James Russell took over for Wells and was tremendous as was the rest of the bullpen, holding the Cardinal offense scoreless until the ninth inning.
As usual the Cubs gave themselves plenty of chances to score, but they did not take advantage of a single opportunity. Not one. They were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, and it was mostly the middle of the line up that had chances to do the damage. The 4-5-6 hitters: Soriano, Ramirez,and Byrd combined to leave 12 men on base.
Chris Carpenter also did not appear to have his A-game, or even his B-game yesterday repeatedly getting into jams before maneuvering his way out each time. A lot of credit has to go to the Cardinals ace as that is what good pitchers do. When they don’t have their best stuff they are still able to give their team a quality start by bearing down and getting the big outs.
Any loss to St.Louis is going to be a frustrating one, but the Cubs were coming off of back-to-back series wins against two of the major league’s hottest teams. The way that the game felt “over” after six batters combined with all of the missed opportunities makes this one even tougher. However, the Cubs have a chance to bounce back today as they send the suddenly unbeatable Carlos Silva (6-0, 3.52) to the hill. Meanwhile, 24-year-old right-hander Adam Ottavino will make his major league debut for St.Louis. Ottavino was 4-3 in eight starts for Triple-A Memphis with a 4.17 ERA.
Lou Piniella announced after Sunday’s 5-4 win over the Rangers that Aramis Ramirez will get some time off to heal his sprained left thumb. Ramirez played on Saturday (0-for-5, 4 K’s) while sitting out on Friday and Sunday. According to Cubs trainers, the injury is not serious enough to put him on the disabled list. Expect the Cubs to use a combination of Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker over at third base during Ramirez’s absence.
Carlos Zambrano threw 73 pitches during a simulated game on Monday afternoon. Piniella said that Zambrano will make his first start on the road next week, and will not be available to pitch this week against the Dodgers and Cardinals. This is not an opportune time to be down a relief pitcher with two of the National League’s best teams coming to town this week. A decision is yet to be made on which pitcher will be taken out of the rotation to make room for Zambrano.
As stated before this is a tough week for the Cubs even though all of the games will be at Wrigley Field. They will play three against the red hot Los Angeles Dodgers who have won 14 of their last 17, followed by their first meeting of the season against the first place St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs finally displayed some clutch hitting during the final two games of the Texas series, and they will need that to continue this week.
The Cubs could not get the bats going in a 2-1 loss on Friday night against Colby Lewis and the Texas Rangers. They had their chances early on, but once again the Cubs failed to capitalize. Lewis was able to settle in and get through six innings allowing just one earned run. Ted Lilly was solid as well for Chicago allowing two runs in 6 2/3 innings. Carlos Zambrano also had a nice outing throwing 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
Errors played a critical role in this one, as the Cubs committed back-to-back errors in the fourth inning setting up the Rangers’ first run. What appeared to be a routine ground ball to third base turned into a three base error as Fontenot, who was playing for the injured Aramis Ramirez, sailed his throw over Derrek Lee. Second baseman Ryan Theriot retrieved the ball and promptly launched it into left field advancing Ian Kinsler all the way to third base. Fontenot’s tough night continued when he struck out with runners at second and third to end the eighth inning. The Cubs were unable to threaten again in the ninth against the flame throwing Neftali Perez.
The injury to Aramis Ramirez occurred on Wednesday night during an at bat against Jamie Moyer. He was supposed to receive treatment on Friday, and then he will see how he feels on Saturday. Ramirez is hitting .166 on the season and is hitless in his last three games.
The Cubs are looking to put an end to the Rangers five game winning streak today, as they will send Randy Wells (3-2, 4.13) to the mound. Wells’ sophomore campaign is off to a solid start, and he has shown an impressive competitiveness that this team needs. After lasting only two innings in a start against the Pirates on May 6th, he vowed that he would be better and that would not happen again. He has made two starts since then and has brought his ERA down almost a full run in those outings. Young left-hander Derrek Holland (2-0, 2.38) will start for the Rangers. He started 21 games last year going 8-13 with a 6.12 ERA , but appears to have made some significant strides over the off season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have had the worst bullpen in major league baseball this season. On Monday, they designated veteran right-hander Bob Howry for assignment after posting an ERA of 10.67 through the first 14 games. On Friday, the Cubs decided to sign Howry to a one year deal and he will be with the team for the weekend series against the Texas Rangers. Howry pitched previously for Chicago, and the results were mixed. He struggled mightily his final year with the team recording an ERA of over five. To make space on the roster, rookie Justin Berg will be sent down to Triple-A Iowa, and right-hander David Patton will be designated for assignment.
It is getting old to say, but to me this is just another head scratching move by the Cubs. The veteran reliever does not have the velocity that he used to, and he is prone to giving up the long ball. He allowed 13 home runs in just over 70 innings in 2008, and he has already given up six this year. Wrigley Field also does not compliment his pitching style very well, as depending on which way the wind is blowing seemingly routine fly balls can end up sailing into the bleachers. Furthermore, with the way that the Cubs bullpen is currently assembled it appears that Howry may be asked to assume a prominent role during the late innings. They already have left-hander Sean Marshall in the set up role so it seems like they would want a right-hander to compliment him in the seventh and eighth innings. With Zambrano moving back to the rotation it looks like Howry is a good bet for the set up role. Does the veteran have enough left to still be an effective pitcher in the late innings of a ballgame? We will find out soon and you have to think that Piniella will have him on a very short leash.
The Cubs have been playing better baseball of late, and they will surely take the split of the series they just finished up in Philadelphia. They came very close to taking both games from the Phillies, but an eighth inning rally against John Grabow prevented that. They are currently playing the first of three games down in Texas against the Rangers. Top of the third inning and the Cubs are already 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Ugh.
Just a few weeks after being moved to the set up role in the Cubs’ bullpen, General Manager Jim Hendry announced that Carlos Zambrano will be headed back to the starting rotation. Neither Hendry or Piniella would specify exactly when Zambrano will actually make the move back into the rotation, but they did say that he would be used in long relief to get his arm ready to start. Zambrano compiled a 6.23 ERA in eight relief appearances.
It appears that the Cubs have almost no plan whatsoever on what to do with Carlos Zambrano. The original move to the bullpen seemed premature based on his past and his contract. Being one of the team’s highest paid players, he has to be more than just a bridge to the closer. The Cubs believed that moving him to a one inning role would allow him to throw with more velocity and just blow batters away. Instead, the opposite happened as his velocity actually dropped, routinely struggling to hit 90 mph. Now the team believes that moving him back into the rotation will increase his velocity because he does not start hitting his top speed until the fourth or fifth inning. Didn’t they know this before? If they knew that it took him a long time to get warmed up and to hit his top speed then why was he ever moved to the bullpen? This entire situation has reeked of desperation from the beginning, and now it seems they are just trying to move on.
The Cubs have won three games in a row to move back to 18-22. They are currently 5.5 games behind the surprising Cincinnati Reds who are led by former Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker. A five game road trip begins tonight in Philadelphia against the first place Phillies. Tom Gorzelanny (1-4, 3.60) will start tonight for Chicago. He has pitched well so far, but has received very little run support which is a major reason for his 1-4 record. The 47 year old Jamie Moyer (5-2, 4.57) who made his major league debut before I was even born (and I’m 21 years old!) will pitch for Philadelphia.
The Pre-Chicago Cub version of Lou Piniella was that of a hot-headed manager who was frequently thrown out of games, and always let his opinions be known. However, since joining the Cubs his demeanor has been far different. Piniella has been calm and reserved both during games and when discussing his team…until today. Before today’s game against Pittsburgh, Piniella called out his highest paid players for not performing up to expectations. Then when asked about trying to get rookie Tyler Colvin more at-bats, he responded by saying that he needed to worry about getting wins, not playing time. It was nice to see Piniella show a some fire because lately it seems to have been missing.
The Cubs responded today with a 4-3 victory, their first win of the season against the Pirates. Chicago was able to overcome an early 3-0 deficit, something they have rarely done this season. They also got some clutch hitting as Xavier Nady got a clutch two out single in the eighth for the game’s winning run. Derrek Lee continues to show some signs of life, coming up with two more hits today including an RBI. His batting average is now up to a much more respectable .238, a far cry from where he was just one week ago. However, Aramiz Ramirez continues to do absolutely nothing going hitless in four at-bats. There are a lot of players that have a bad first month and go onto have a great season, but we are now more than halfway through May and he is still hitting a cool .167. The longer this slump goes on for the less chance there appears to be for a turnaround, and the Cubs really need him to get his bat going.
The next two weeks are going to be a real challenge for this team, as they will take on some the major league’s best teams. They will play two against Colorado at Wrigley Field before going on a brief road trip that will take them to Philadelphia, and then to Texas to face the Rangers. They will then return to Chicago for back-to-back series against the Dodgers and Cardinals. That’s a real tough stretch of games for a team that has been in a slump.
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