Archive | April, 2009

10’s Wild In Arizona – Cubs Lose 10-0; Fall to 10-10

Posted on 30 April 2009 by Lou

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Why do I even write this blog.

After 20 games, I really don’t like the feel of this 2009 Cubs team. After losing 10-0 in Arizona on Wednesday, the Cubs completed a miserable 2-4 road trip and fell to 10-10 overall, 4 games behind the 1st place St. Louis Cardinals.

I knew I didn’t like the off-season move to acquire Milton Bradley.  GM Jim Hendry had to try too hard to convince everyone that Bradley would be able to stay healthy to play more than 120 games in the outfield in 2009.  Granted, he had only been able to do that twice in his career (way back in 2003 and 2004 ) and although he did play in 126 games in 2008, more than 90% of those games came with Bradley serving as the Rangers DH (an option not available for the Cubs who play in the National League where there is no DH).  Duh?

Right now, Bradley has played in only 13 games.  In 31 at-bats, he had 3 hits, including 1 home run good for a .097 batting average.  He has 1 RBI and 4 runs scored.   Not sure what Hendry was thinking on this one, especially since there were other left-handed hitting options out there – see Raul Ibanez (20 games, 78 at-bats, .359 batting average, 7 home runs, 17 RBI’s and 20 runs scored for the Phillies); Bobby Abreu (17 games, 71 at-bats, .352 batting average, 0 home runs, 12 RBI’s and 6 runs scored for the Angels); Adam Dunn (20 games, 68 at-bats, .324 batting average, 6 home runs, 15 RBI’s and 11 runs scored for the lowly Nationals).  All of these guys signed for similar or less deals than Bradley and have been far more productive than Bradley.  Given Bradley’s inability to play the outfield consistently over the last 5 years, this should have been obvious to Hendry.

What I liked even less was the move to unload Mark DeRosa for 3 minor leaguers.  DeRosa has gotten off to a slow start in 2009 (.236 batting average, 5 home runs, 18 RBI’s and 16 runs scored), but look deeper than that.  He has played in 21 games, and already accumulated 89 at-bats.  His 5 home runs best every player on the Cubs except Alfonso who has 7 home runs, and DeRosa would lead the Cubs in RBI’s (Kosuke Fukodome currently leads the Cubs with only 15 RBI’s).  The numbers don’t even bring into play the intangibles that come along with DeRosa for free.  His versatility is invaluable. Take the injuries to right fielder Milton Bradley and 3rd baseman Aramis Ramirez, for example.  If the Cubs still had DeRosa, the Cubs would not be relying on an infield that contained Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles day in and day out.  Or if you went with those guys, DeRosa could play right field, so that Reed Johnson didn’t have to play the outfield everyday.  By not having these options, Soriano, Theriot and Fukodome have had to play in just about every Cubs game so far this year.  DeRosa also a great club house presence and is a great sounding board for younger, up and coming Cubs stars (Soto, Hoffpauir, Theriot).

While I love Mike Fontenot, he is not an everyday player.  In 20 games, he has 66 at-bats and a mediocre .227 batting average.  While he has shown some pop with his 3 home runs, he is better suited as a role player who makes 2-3 starts each week.  Hendry relying on him as an everyday player was a big mistake.  Hendrys’ other move to sign Aaron Miles as a utility infielder has also looked like a big mistake.  Forced into an everyday role, his weaknesses have also been glaring.  Miles has only 8 hits in 41 at-bats and he breaks more bats with his weak-ass swings than Carlos Zambrano does over his leg after a bad at-bat (and that is saying a lot).

Unfortunately Cubs fans, we are in for a long, bumpy ride this season.  Unless Hendry can pull off a Jake Peavy or Matt Holiday trade, the Cubs will likely hover around the top of the NL Central division and need a lot of luck down the stretch to pull of the unprecedented 3rd consecutive NL Central title.

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Zambrano Leads Cubs to 11-3 Win Over D’Backs with His Bat & Arm

Posted on 29 April 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 11-3 on Tuesday night.  Carlos Zambrano pitched 7 strong innings, giving up 3 earned runs on 8 hits and 2 walks.  Zambrano also had 3 strikeouts.  More importantly, Zambrano just missed hitting for the cycle – getting a single in the 3rd inning, an RBI-double in the 5th inning and a solo home run in the 7th inning.  All-in-all, he had 2 RBI’s and 3 runs scored during the game.

Koyie Hill had a 3 for 5 night with 1 RBI and 2 runs scored.  Alfonso Soriano was 2 for 4 with 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored, including a 3-run home run in the 3rd inning which gave the Cubs an early 3-0 lead.  Mike Fontenot also hit a 2-run home run in the 3rd inning which extended the Cubs lead to 5-0.  It was Fontenot’s 2nd consecutive game with a home run.

The Cubs are back up over .500 with a 10-9 record.  They play the rubber game of the 3-game series in Arizona today before heading back home for a 6-game homestand at Wrigley Field against the Florida Marlins and San Francisco Giants on Thursday.

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Injuries Taking Toll on Cubs Weak Lineup

Posted on 28 April 2009 by Lou

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Reed Johnson as your leadoff hitter?  No offense to Reed Johnson, but Manager Lou Pinella and GM Jim Hendry need to do something.  And they need to do something fast!

Here was the Cubs lineup from Monday night’s loss to Dan Haren and the Arizona Diamondbacks – Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Theriot, Kosuke Fukodome, Reed Johnson, Micah Hoffpauir, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot, Aaron Miles, Ted Lilly.  The Cubs managed 3 hits off of Haren all night long – solo home runs by Alfonso Soriano and Mike Fontenot and a single by PITCHER Ted Lilly.  Gimme a break!  The Cubs clearly have the shortest infield in MLB with Theriot (5′ 11″), Miles (5′ 8″) and Fontenot (5”8″) roaming around out there.

The Cubs are lucky to be 9-9 right now and still only 4 games out of 1st place, but if they don’t get Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Milton Bradley back soon, they could end up too far behind to catch up very very quickly.

Hendry and the Cubs really need to make a decision on Bradley soon.  Throw him on the DL and let him fully heal his bum hamstring.  It doesn’t make sense to bring him back in every 3rd or 4th day only to have him aggravate it again.  If they had taken the conservative approach with Bradley when he first injured the hamstring, his 15-day DL stint would be close to being over, and he would likely be back in the lineup soon.  Now we’re forced to wait and hope that the injury magically heals itself.

Ramirez and Lee are expected to be back soon, so hopefully that happens for 1 of the last 2 games in Arizona.  Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Happy Birthday Kosuke – Cubs Avoid Sweep, Cruise Past Cards 10-3

Posted on 27 April 2009 by Lou

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The Cubs defeated the Cards 10-3 on Sunday afternoon in St. Louis.  Kosuke Fukodome had a great birthday game – going 3 for 4 with 5 RBI’s, 2 runs scored and 1 walk.  He capped off his great day with a 3-run home run off Trever Miller in the top of the 8th inning to put the game out of reach.  The Cubs finally got to a Cardinals starting pitcher early and often – striking for 8 hits and 6 runs in the 1st 5 innings.

Alfonso Soriano had 2 hits and 2 runs scored back in the leadoff spot, while Ryan Theriot had 1 hit and scored 3 runs in the 2-hole.  Micah Hoffpauir came in in relief for Derrek Lee and had 2 hits with 2 RBI’s and 1 run scored.  In the 8-hole, Aaron Miles had 3 hits and scored 2 runs.  The only bad news was that Derrek Lee had to leave the game with neck spasms and Geovany Soto continues to struggle at the plate.  Soto was 0 for 4 on the day and his average is still at .128.

Rich Harden had a nice outing for the Cubs – 6 innings, 4 hits, 2 earned runs – both solo home runs – with only 2 walks.  Harden struck out 9 batters and has faailed to strike out less than 8 batters in each start in 2009.  Pretty incredible.

The Cubs are 9-8, but still trail the Cards by 3 games in the NL Central.  The Cubs continue their road trip with a 3-game swing out to Arizona, before returning to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field with a 4-game series against the NL East-leading Florida Marlins on Thursday night.

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Injuries Mounting for Cubs, Pinella Frustrated with Lack of Personnel

Posted on 26 April 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs are reeling – both on and off the field.  The Cubs have lost 3 straight games and are now at 8-8 on the young 2009 MLB schedule.  After losing Geovany Soto for a week with a sore right shoulder, and Milton Bradley for 2 weeks with a strained groin muscle, it looks like the Cubs could be without Carlos Marmol and Aramis Ramirez for some time with leg injuries.

Carlos Marmol experienced soreness on the inside part of his left knee during Friday night’s 4-3 loss to the Cardinals.  Manager Lou Pinella and the Cubs staff took him out of the game after giving up the game-winning hit to Ryan Ludwick.  Marmol will likely miss a few games but does not think he will need a stint on the DL.

Aramis Ramirez felt discomfort in his left leg after he doubled in the 2nd inning.  He played until the 5th inning, but was removed when the discomfort grew worse.  It is unclear whether or not he will go on the DL, but he said that the leg did not feel good after the game.

Pinella is very frustrated with his roster right now.  Milton Bradley is still only available to pinch-hit because he cannot run.  “We’ve got no bench.  We’ve got an extra catcher in Koyie Hill and Micah Hoffpauir and Joey Gathright.  We’re going to have to get somebody in here. ”

Not good news for the Cubs.  The Cubs are already 3 games behind the Cards and could fall further back if the Cards pull off a sweep at home in St. Louis this weekend.  Let’s hope for some healthy legs soon on the North Side.

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Frustration Buliding for Cubs with 3rd Straight Loss

Posted on 25 April 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs are not getting off to the start that they wanted in 2009.  After starting the season with a 4-2 road trip, the Cubs have lost 6 of their last 10 games and find themselves at the .500 mark for the 1st time this year.  With injuries mounting – Carlos Marmol and Aramis Ramirez were injured in Friday night’s loss to the Cards – the Cubs are pushing way too hard too early in the season.

The Cubs bats have been eerily quiet for the last week or so.  The Cubs did not score until the 7th inning on Friday night, and even then, 2 out of the 3 runs scored were unearned because of an error that prolonged the inning.  Even with the error, the Cubs failed to really take advantage of the break when Ryan Theriot grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and no one out.  Sure it drove in the tying run, but it didn’t provide the Cubs with the big knockout punch that could have helped the Cubs end their 2- game losing streak.

The Cubs ended up losing the game in the bottom of the 8th inning.  After an Albert Pujols single and stolen base, Ryan Ludwick knocked in Pujols with the winning run with a single of Carlos Marmol.  Marmol then left the game with pain on the inside of his left knee.

Ryan Dempster pitched a decent enough ball game – 6 innings, 7 hits and 3 earned runs, with 1 walk and 6 K’s.  Dempster had one bad inning when he gave up a 2-run double to Joe Thurston and an RBI single to Skip Schumacher.  Other than that, he mainly stayed out of trouble.

The Cubs and Cards resume the series on Saturday afternoon in St. Louis.  Sean Marshall will face off against Mitchell Boggs.

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Reds Take 2 of 3 From Cubs; Cubs Head to St. Louis for Big Weekend Series

Posted on 24 April 2009 by Lou

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Maybe another road trip will be good for the Cubs.  After the Reds took 2 of 3 games from the Cubs this week at Wrigley Field, the Cubs home record fell to 4-4.  On the road, the Cubs are a mighty 4-2.  At 8-6, the Cubs trail the Cards by 2 games in the NL Central race, as the 2 teams play 3 games in St. Louis in another big weekend series.  Ryan Dempster, Sean Marshall and Rich Harden will pitch for the Cubs, while the Cards will counter with Adam Wainright, Mitchell Boggs and Todd Wellemeyer.

The Reds Johnny Cueto bested Ted Lilly in Wednesday night’s 3-0 loss.    Although Lilly allowed only 1 unearned in his 7 innings of work, he was on the short end of the stick as Cueto had the Cubs hitters off-balance all night long.  Cueto gave up only 4 hits and no walks as the Cubs never really mounted any serious threat against the youngster.  Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips each had 2 hits for the Reds, and Bruce’s solo shot in the top of the 9th inning off of Kevin Gregg gave the Reds a little cushion for closer Francisco Cordero.  Milton Bradley was in the Cubs lineup, but went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts.  He still has only 1 hit on the season and his batting average is down to .043.

On Thursday afternoon, the Reds Aaron Harang out-dueled Carlos Zambrano as the Reds beat the Cubs 7-1.  Joey Votto was a one man wrecking crew – going 4 for 5 with a home run and 2 doubles.  Votto drove in 2 runs and scored 1 run.  Harang pitched 7 strong innings giving up only 1 unearned run on 7 hits and 1 walk.  Zambrano, meanwhile, gave up 3 earned runs on 7 hits and 2 walks.  He did have 7 strikeouts.  He is now 1-1 on the year with a hefty 4.85 ERA.  Neal Cotts gave up a run in his 1 inning of work, while newly-called-up reliever Jeff Samardzija gave up 2 earned runs on 4 hits in the 9th inning.  Not good all-around.

Let’s hope the Cubs can get back on track on the road.  Although it’s early, the team has played uninspired ball so far this season.  If they think they have the NL Central wrapped up just because they have won it the last 2 seasons, they have another thing coming.  Time for Pinella to light a fire under these guys and see if a change in lineup can spark the lackluster club.

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Milton Bradley Could be Back in Lineup Soon

Posted on 23 April 2009 by Lou

Milton Bradley was held out of Tuesday night’s Cubs game against the Cincinnati Reds because of the inclement weather.  Manager Lou Pinella did not want to risk Bradley injuring his injured groin with the wet, sloppy grass given the rain the past 2 days in the Chicago area.  Bradley did take batting practice before Tuesday’s game and could be back in the lineup on Wednesday night.

Bradley is in the process of appealing a 2-game suspension issued by MLB.  Bradley was ejected from Thursday’s game after arguing a called 3rd strike by home plate umpire Larry Vanover.  Bob Watson, MLB’s vice president of on-field operations, issued the 2-game suspension because Bradley “aggressively argued balls and strikes” and made contact with Vanover after he was called out.

We’ll keep you posted if we hear more on Bradley’s suspension and to whether or not Bradley will make an appearance in the Cubs lineup in the next day or so.  Micah Hoffpauir has filled in well for the Cubs in Bradley’s absence as he hit his 1st home run of the 2009 season in Tuesday night’s win over the Reds.

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Cubs Top Reds 7-2 On Cold, Wintry Night @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 22 April 2009 by Lou

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The Cubs showed no ill signs of a 2-day “vacation” as they beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-2 on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.  On a cold, drizzly night at the “Friendly Confines”, Rich Harden re-found his form and went 6 strong innings.  Harden allowed only 2 earned runs on 3 hits and 2 walks.  Harden notched 8 strikeouts – his 3rd consecutive start in which he has struck out at least 8 batters.  Harden had good control of all of his pitches – unlike his last game in which he needed 90+ pitches to get through only 3 innings of work.

Micah Hoffpauir drove in 2 runs with a solo home run in the 2nd inning and a sacrifice fly in the 5th inning.  Aramis Ramirez had 3 hits and 3 RBI’s for the Cubs, while Ryan Theriot notched 2 more hits – bringing his batting average up to .409 on the young season.  Kosuke Fukodome did not have any hits, but he did walk twice and each time Ramirez drove him in with a single.

Aaron Heilman, Carlos Marmol and Luis Vizcaino each pitched well in relief, but Neal Cotts struggled once again – he retired only 1 batter after allowing a walk and a hit.  Cotts’ poor outing forced Manger Lou Pinella to bring in Marmol in the 8th inning to quell the Reds’ mini rally.

Good news for the Cubs keeps rolling in.  The Cubs are now 8-4 on the season and looking strong.

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Kevin Gregg Looking Good @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 21 April 2009 by Lou

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After starting the season with 4 straight games in which the opposing team scored a run while Kevin Gregg was on the mound, Gregg has looked like a new pitcher since making his Cubs debut at Wrigley Field.  On opening day at Wrigley Field, Gregg came into the game in a non-save situation in the 9th inning.  Despite giving up a walk, Gregg struck out the side to preserve the Cubs opening day win against the Rockies.

Over the weekend against the St. Louis Cardinals, Manager Lou Pinella opted to go with Carlos Marmol to close out Friday’s 8-7 come from behind win.  Alfonso Soriano gave the Cubs the 8-7 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning with a 2-run home run.  Since Marmol, not Gregg, had been warming up at the time since the Cubs were trailing 8-7, Pinella elected to stick with Marmol instead of trying to get Gregg to warm up quickly.  Marmol got the job done and recorded his 2nd save of the season.

The next day, however, when Marmol gave up the tying run to the Cards in the 8th inning (after quelling a Cards rally against Neal Cotts in the 7th inning), Pinella called on Gregg to get the Cubs out of Marmol’s jam.  And boy did Gregg respond.  Gregg struck out Joe Thurston and Colby Rasmus and then got Skip Schumaker to ground out to end the inning.  Pinella also relied upon Gregg to work a scoreless 9th inning – retiring the heart of the Cards lineup – Rick Ankiel, Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick – in order.

This is a good sign for Pinella, the Cubs and Cubs fans all across the country.  Pinella had already started using Marmol way too much this year.  With Gregg emerging as a reliable reliever, that will make Pinella’s life a lot easier.  With Marmol and Gregg being ready to pitch the Cubs out of any jam, that should take a lot of the pressure off other Cubs relievers and hopefully mean good things for the Cubs in 2009.  Plus, Gregg cherishes the atmosphere at Wrigley Field:  “I love it.  The fans are into the game.  There’s an intensity in the air that you can’t explain.”

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