Archive | April, 2009

Cubs Cherish Sunday Night Rain Out v. Cards

Posted on 20 April 2009 by Lou

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The Cubs cherished the Sunday night rain out with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Instead of waiting around for a chance to play the game, the Cubs, Cards and MLB agreed to cancel the game and make it up as part of a day – night doubleheader on Sunday July 12th.

The Cubs (7-4) and the Cards (8-5) are tied for 1st place in the NL Central.  With the Cubs having a scheduled off-day on Monday, the Cubs will get a nice 2-day break from playing baseball.  This will allow little aches and pains that typically develop over the 1st few weeks of the season a little extra time to heal.

Next up for the Cubs – a Tuesday night contest against former Cubs Manager Dusty Baker and his Cincinnati Reds.  Rich Harden is set to face off against Micah Owings.

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Geovany Soto Update – Easing Back Into Everyday Action

Posted on 19 April 2009 by Lou

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Geovany Soto is off to a slow start for the Cubs in 2009.  Soto has only 2 hits in 17 at-bats, good for a .118 batting average.  After missing a week to rest his ailing sore right shoulder, it looks like Soto could be back in the lineup for good after playing 2 straight games against the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend.  He still looks like he is getting comfortable at the plate and has swung at some poor pitches that he likely won’t be swinging out within a couple of weeks.  Let’s hope Soto can break out in nationally televised games this weekend – Saturday on Fox and Sunday night on ESPN.

Manager Lou Pinella had this to say about his NL Rookie of the Year player.  “Soto just [has] to go up the middle and to right-center for awhile to get his stroke down.  You get the adrenaline of a regular-season game.  You get the fact that he’s missed a few games.  You get the fact that you’re stronger because it’s cooler weather, [and] you get a little anxious and you want to do more.  [And] all of a sudden the strike zone starts expanding on you.”

Patience, patience, patience.  The hits will come for Soto very soon, and with that will come a lot of runs, and hopefully a lot of Cubs wins…

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Milton Bradley Injury & Umpire Update

Posted on 18 April 2009 by Lou

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No word yet on whether Major League Baseball will suspend Milton Bradley for making contact with home plate umpire Larry Vanover after he was ejected in the 6th inning for arguing a called 3rd strike.  With the score tied at 4, the Cubs were threatening with the bases loaded and only 1 out.  Manger Lou Pinella sent Bradley in as a pinch-hitter for the pitcher.  After Adam Wainright started Bradely off with 3 straight balls for a 3-0 count, it looked like Bradley would be able to help the Cubs take at least a 5-4 lead over the Cardinals.  Instead, Vanover ended up calling Bradley out on strikes and after he banged his bat on the ground in disgust, Bradley had words for Vanover.  Vanover immediately tossed Bradley and as Bradley approached him, it appeared that the brim of Bradley’s helmet touched the brim of Vannover’s cap.

Pinella had this to say about any pending action from the league:  “No, I haven’t heard anything.  I haven’t heard a word one way or another [about] the ejection or anything else.”

Bradley is still nursing a sore groin.  Bradley has not played since leaving last Saturday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers.  Pinella did say that Bradley is available to pinch-hit during the remainder of the Cards series this weekend.

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Soriano, Cubs Pull Off Dramatic 9-8 Win Over Cards

Posted on 17 April 2009 by Lou

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If ever there was a BIG win in April, this was it.  The Cubs pulled off the improbably come-from-behind 9-8 win over the Cards on Friday afternoon, courtesy of Alfonso Soriano’s 2-run home run in the bottom of the 8th inning.

After taking an early 3-0 lead, the Cubs played catch up all day long.  Carlos Zambrano lost his cool in a frustrating 3rd inning.  After a leadoff walk to Brian Barden, Scott Schumaker hit a weak line drive over Mike Fontenot’s head for a cheap single.  Then Derrek Lee couldn’t hold onto a hard hit ball by Colby Rasmus and the Cards had the bases loaded with only 1 out.  After Zambrano got Albert Pujols out on a sac fly to left, it looked like Zambrano might be able to get out of the jam by allowing only 1 run to score.  But Zambrano promptly served up a gopher ball to Ryan Ludwick which gave the Cards the 4-3 lead.

The Cubs were able to tie game at 5 in the bottom of the 5th inning on an Aramis Ramirez double and a Geovany Soto single, but the Cards quickly re-took the lead on Brian Barden homer, and they increased the lead to 7-5 on another Ryan Ludwick homer.  Zambrano ended the day with a horrible line – 7 innings pitched (109 pitches), 7 earned runs, 9 hits (3 home runs), 3 walks and 7 K’s.

The Cubs never gave up, however, as Aramis Ramirez cut the lead to 1 with an RBI single in the 7th.  That set the stage for Alfonso Soriano in the 8th.  With 1 out, pinch-hitter Aaron Miles coaxed out a walk from Carlos Perez.  Then Soriano launched a good pitch into the left field bleachers.

Carlos Marmol made it interesting in the 9th inning with a leadoff walk to Colby Rasmus and then hitting Albert Pujols with a pitch.  But Marmol rebounded by striking out the lethal Ludwick and getting Khalil Greene to hit into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.

Cubs Win Cubs Win! Hey Chicago Whadda Ya Say!!!

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Cards Top Cubs 7-4 in Ugly Game

Posted on 16 April 2009 by Lou

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The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 7-4 at Wrigley Field today.  It was an ugly affair – 3 Cardinals errors and 1 Cubs error.  Milton Bradley gettng ejected from the game by the home plate umpire.  With the score tied at 4 in the bottom of the 6th inning, Bradley let a 3-0 count slip away with the bases loaded and only 1 out.  He took a called 3rd strike on an off-speed pitch from Adam Wainright and was ejected for arguing the call and getting too close for comfort.

Next up is a Friday matinee at Wrigley Field.  Carlos Zambrano will face off against P.J. Walters who has been called up to replace the injured Chris Carpenter.

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Rich Harden – Tale of 2 Starts

Posted on 15 April 2009 by Lou

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Welcome to the Rich Harden enigma.  After a rough spring training in which Rich Harden was coddled through a cautious spring regimen, rumors abounded that Harden was injured again and wouldn’t be up to the task during the 2009 MLB season.

Harden answered the call in his 1st start against the Milwaukee Brewers last Friday  – 6 innings, 2 runs (only 1 earned), 3 hits, 2 walks and 10 strikeouts.  Although the Cubs eventually lost to the Brewers 4-3 in the 9th inning, Harden had put the Cubs in a position to win with his effective outing.

Fast forward 5 days, and we’re sure to hear the skeptics again.  In the Cubs 5-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies, Harden struggled through 3 painful innings – 92 pitches, 4 earned runs, 5 hits, 4 walks and 8 strikeouts.  Ouch.

To make matters worse, the Cubs lost to Jason Marquis, the former Cubs pitcher whom the Cubs traded to the Rockies during the off-season for Luis Vizcaino and to free up some salary cap.  Marquis allowed only 1 run in 7 innings and is now 2-0 on the season with a 1.93 ERA.

One bright spot – David Patton pitched 2 scoreless innings of relief – giving up 1 hit and 1 walk, while striking out 3 batters.

Michael J. Fox attended the game and sang Take Me Out To The Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field.

Big weekend series against the Cardinals starting on Thursday.  The Cards already have a 1-game lead in the division, so the Cubs need to at least split the series in order to stay close to the current NL Central division leaders.

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Cubs Blank Rockies 4-0 in Wrigley Field Home Opener

Posted on 14 April 2009 by Lou

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The horrible cold, rainy weather didn’t have any negative affect on the the hometown Cubs during their opening day contest against the Colorado Rockies on Monday at Wrigley Field.

Ted Lilly took a no hitter through 6 2/3 innings before Garrett Atkins singled to left field to break up the no-no.  After Lilly walked the next batter, Manger Lou Pinella took him out and the brave fans at Wrigley Field cheered him on to a standing ovation for his remarkable effort.  Angel Guzman retired Brad Hawpe to end the threat and Aaron Heilman and Kevin Gregg took care of the rest.  Although Heilman and Gregg each walked a batter in their scoreless innings of work, neither relief pitcher gave up a hit and Gregg struck out the side in the 9th inning to preserve the Cubs 4-0 win.

Cubs hitters did an excellent job of working counts again – racking up 9 hits and 9 walks.  They never seemed to get the big hit, however, scoring their 1st run in the 2nd inning on a Koyie Hill bases loaded walk.  The Cubs scored 2 more runs in the 4th inning on a Ryan Theriot ground out and a Derrek Lee single.  Kosuke Fukodome’s single in the bottom of the 8th inning drove in Alfonso Soriano with an insurance run.  Soriano, Lee and Hill each had 2 hits for the Cubs.

The 1-hitter marked Lilly’s 2nd 4-pitcher, 1-hitter in less than 8 months.  He, Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry 1-hit the Houston Astros in Miller Park on September 15, 2008 – a day after Carlos Zambrano no-hit the Astros in the same ballpark.  Lilly had this to say about the outing:  “It’s definitely challenging when you’re trying to pitch in weather like this.  I think, fortunately, it never got to where it was raining hard.  When you can’t see and the hitter can’t see, then it’s really tough.  I enjoy this weather, too.  I understand the weather isn’t going to be perfect all the time.  It makes it a little more fun when you have conditions like this, and it makes it a little more challenging.”

Wednesday’s forecast looks a little better for the Cubs and Rockies – sunny weather with temps in he mid 50′s – not great but for Cubs fans used to April and May weather, it couldn’t be any better.  Let’s hope the Cubs can pull of the 2-game sweep over the Rockies and head into the big 4-game weekend series against the 1st place St. Louis Cardinals on a positive note…

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Did Bradley Groin Injury Help Save Game for Cubs?!

Posted on 13 April 2009 by Lou

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Sunday’s 8-5 Cubs win over the Brewers at Miller Park could have been a lot different if Milton Bradley did not injure his groin while running the bases in the 4th inning.  Just 1 inning later, Bradley’s replacement, Reed Johnson, made a game-saving catch when he leaped over the right center wall to rob Prince Fielder of what would have been a grand slam that would have tied the game at 6.  Instead, the Brewers scored just 2 runs that inning and the Cubs still led 6-4.  The Cubs tacked on single insurance runs in the 8th and 9th innings to give the Cubs a little more breathing room, and Kevin Gregg tiptoed through another rocky 9th inning to preserve the win.  Greg gave up 1 earned run on 2 hits and a walk, but did strike out Prince Fielder with the tying runs on base to preserve the win.

Couple of key notes:

Gregg now has a 12.00 ERA.  After blowing the attempted 1 1/3 inning save on Friday, Manager Lou Pinella assured everyone that Gregg was still the Cubs closer, but that he would only work 1-inning saves.  Because his right knee is still getting used to the regular workload, Gregg informed Pinella and the Cubs that his right knee tightens up while sitting in the dugout between innings, so he will only be effective in 9th inning/extra inning save situations.  Carlos Marmol picked up the save on Saturday and has not given up a run yet.  We’ll see how long Pinella sticks with Gregg in the closer role.  If we see more shaky outings from Gregg, we could see a shift to Marmol.

As for Marmol, he has already appeared in 5 of the Cubs 1st 6 games.  Look for Marmol to get an off-day in the Cubs home opener on Monday at Wrigley Field – that will give him 2 full days off with the Cubs having a scheduled day-off on Tuesday.

Several Cubs players have gotten off to good starts in 2009:

Ryan Theriot is hitting .550 with a .615 on-base percentage.  He has 4 runs scored, 3 RBI’s and 2 stolen bases.

Kosuke Fukodome is hitting .409 with a .480 on-base percentage.  He has hit 2 home runs, scored 5 runs and driven in 4 runs.

Alfonso Soriano is hitting .286 with a .355 on-base percentage.  He leads the team with 4 home runs, and has scored 7 runs and driven in 7 runs.  Soriano has also walked 3 times.

Milton Bradley is listed as day-to-day with a strained groin injury.

Aramis Ramirez will likely miss the Cubs home opener with a stiff back.

The Cubs have opened the season with a 4-2 record in 6 road games against intra-division rivals.  Can’t complain about that.  The bullpen has been very shaky and the Cubs have lacked that big hit in certain situations, but overall, it is a great start to the season.  The Cubs starters have pitched great, and the Cubs batters have showed a lot of patience at the plate.  Sunday was a perfect example of this – the Cubs worked 10 walks out of Brewers pitchers and even scored all 4 runs in the 4th inning on bases loaded walks.

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Soto Has Inflammation in Throwing Shoulder

Posted on 12 April 2009 by Lou

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Geovany Soto underwent an MRI and was examined by orthopedist specialist Dr. Stephen Gryzlo in Chicago on Thursday.  The results revealed inflammation in the right throwing shoulder of Soto.  There is not set timetable for his return, although it is unlikely that Soto will be able to play against the Brewers in this weekend’s series in Milwaukee.  Soto had this to say about the results:  I’m so glad it’s just a little bit of inflammation.  We can take care of it and move on.  I want to get out there as quick as I can and play for the club.  I enjoy playing.  I just want to  get out there.

Koyie Hill will start in place of Soto behind the plate.  Aaron Miles warmed up pitchers in between innings in Houston on Tuesday, and Cubs Manager Lou Pinella indicated that Miles would serve as the team’s emergency back-up catcher if Hill should get hurt during a game.  The Cubs will not put Soto on the disabled list.

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Kevin Gregg Not Good In 1st Week With Cubs

Posted on 12 April 2009 by Lou

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There is a bad omen brewing on the north side of Chicago after Kevin Gregg’s horrible first week with the Cubs.

Here are the numbers:

April 6th at Houston – Gregg did pick up his 1st save as a Cub on opening day, but he gave up 1 run on 2 hits in the 9th inning.

April 7th at Houston – Gregg recorded 1 out in the 10th inning, but he gave up a walk and the game-winning single in the Cubs 3-2 loss in extra innings.  Although Gregg didn’t take the loss (that went to Neal Cotts who allowed the 1st 2 Astros to reach base in the 10th inning, he didn’t look good).

April 10th at Houston – Gregg’s 1st blown save of the 2009 season.  Will there be many more?  Manager Lou Pinella did call on Gregg in the bottom of the 8th inning with 2 outs and the bases loaded and the Cubs holding on to a 1 run lead.  Gregg answered the call by striking out Bill Hall on 3 pitches.  The 9th inning should have been a breeze for Gregg facing the 8, 9 and 1 batters, but Gregg lost control in the 9th and the Cubs lost 4-3.  After retiring Jason Kendall on a groundout, Gregg walked pinch-hitter Chris Duffy.  Rickie Weeks tied the game with a double to deep left that scored Duffy.  After issuing his second walk of the inning to Corey Hart, Ryan Braun stroked a groundball between short and third that was good enough to plate Weeks with the winning run.

Given the fact that there was a closer competition between Gregg and Carlos Marmol this spring, Gregg really needed to get off to a good start with his new mates.  It has not turned out that way.  Marmol has looked great so far – 2 2/3 innings pitched – 1 hit, 1 walk and 2 holds.  Marmol has not allowed a run.  It will be interesting to see how Pinella handles the situation.  He obviously has to give Gregg ample time to prove his worth, but if the blown saves start racking up, look for Marmol to assume the closer’s role sooner rather than later.

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