Archive | July, 2009

Cubs Can’t Beat Good Teams, End of Story

Posted on 21 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Phillies Baseball

It’s always amazing how 1 inning can foreshadow the outcome of a game.  Ted Lilly’s 1st inning in Monday night’s 10-1 loss to the Phillies did just that. Lilly was not locating his pitches early on and got into a jam with a leadoff single by Jimmy Rollins and a double by Shane Victorino that put runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out.  Not a good position to be in, especially with the heart of the Phillies lineup coming up in one of the best hitters’ park in baseball – Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia.  But Lilly momentarily found the “right” stuff when he got Chase Utley to ground out to Derrek Lee on a great play by the 1st baseman and Ryan Howard to strikeout without the Phillies scoring any runs.  It looked like Lilly was going to get out of the inning unscathed when he got 2 quick strikes on Raul Ibanez.  But then that lack of focus came through again as Lilly served up a 3-run bomb to Ibanez that gave the Phils an early 3-0 lead.  3 innings later, Lilly had given up a total of 9 runs (7 earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks, and the Cubs found themselves trailing 9-0.

Meanwhile, the Cub offense was lifeless.  The team managed just 6 hits and 3 walks off of starter Rodrigo Lopez and reliever Chad Durbin. Ryan Theriot drove in the only Cubs run with a single in the 5th inning.  Alfonso Soriano continued his hot hitting with 3 hits, but only 1 of them came with another player reaching base in the inning.  Not good.  Lopez has pitched well in his 3 starts in 2009 (he missed the entire 2008 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery).  Lopez is 2-0 with a 2.60 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, but he is a .500 career pitcher with an ERA just under 5.00 (at 4.76) and a WHIP at 1.40.  Give me a break.

We’ve seen this all before with this 2009 Cubs team.  They have stretches where they win ball games that they should win (see the weekend series in DC where they won all 4 games against the worst team in baseball).  But then they seem to play awful on national TV against good MLB teams and they seem to lack that energy and fight that can propel a team to victory even when they don’t play their best.

I’m expecting much of the same in the next 2 games (losses) for the Cubs in Philadelphia.  The Phillies should have a field day with Rich Harden on Tuesday night – Harden has 5.06 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP and has already served up 16 home runs on the season.  And then with the Cubs losing 2 in a row, and the pressure on Carlos Zambrano to shut end the losing streak in Wednesday’s afternoon finale, Big Z will try too hard and be over-juiced at the start.  Something will go wrong – a Milton Bradley or Alfonso Soriano mis-play in the field – and the wheels will start to come off.

The Cubs will lose all 3 games in Philly and they’ll fall back to 47-45 on the season.  Let’s just hope that the Astros can keep beating the Cards the next 2 days – even if the Astros jump the Cubs, at least they won’t fall further behind the Cards for 1st place in the NL Central…

cubs lose to phillies ted lilly ryan theriot2

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Cubs Win 11-3, Complete Sweep over Nationals in DC

Posted on 20 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Nationals Baseball

The Cubs defeated the Nationals 11-3 on Sunday afternoon and swept the Nationals in a 4-game weekend series at Nationals Park in Washington, DC.  In Sunday’s win, the Cubs scored 11 runs, clubbed 16 hits, drew 5 walks and took advantage of 2 Nats errors to complete the 4-game sweep over baseball’s worst team.  Jake Fox and Alfonso Soriano each hit HR’s for the Cubs in the win.  Soriano finished the game with 2 hits, 2 RBI’s and 1 run scored, while Fox finished the game with 3 hits, 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  Cubs clean-up hitter Micah Hoffpauir had 3 hits and 2 runs scored in the win.  Mike Fontenot also had 3 hits on the day.

Kevin Hart pitched 5 innings, working in and out of trouble all day long.  Hart only gave up 2 ER, but he surrendered 5 hits and 5 walks along the way.  Jeff Samardzija had a solid relief outing – 3 innings, 2 hits and 3 K’s, giving up a single run on Adam Dunn’s 24th HR of the year in the 7th inning.  Jeff Stevens pitched a scoreless 9th inning for the Cubs – Stevens has not allowed a run in either of his 2009 appearances.

Highlights from the weekend:

Friday night – Carlos Zambrano led the Cubs on the mound and at the plate.  Big Z pitched 5 innings of 1 run ball, and although he did not have his best stuff (4 hits and 4 walks), he had 6 K’s and did just enough to keep the Nats away from the big inning.  The only run allowed was unearned and came courtesy of a Ryan Theriot fielding error in the 1st inning.  Zambrano also hit a 2-run double in the bottom of the 2nd inning to give the Cubs their 1st lead at 2-1.  Aramis Ramirez hit his 1st HR since coming back of the DL – a solo shot in the 3rd inning to increase the Cubs lead to 3-1.  The Cubs bullpen did a solid job the final 4 innings of the game – no runs, only 2 hits and a combined 6 strikeouts from Aaron Heilman, Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg.

Saturday night – The Cubs rallied from a 4-0 deficit after 2 innings to win 6-5.  Alfonso Soriano hit a go-ahead 3-run HR in the 6th inning to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead.  Mike Fontenot’s solo HR in the 8th inning gave the Cubs a much-needed insurance run.  In the bottom of the 8th inning, after Aaron Heilman got into trouble, closer Kevin Gregg ended a threat by getting through the heart of the Nationals order.  Although Ryan Zimmerman hit a run-scoring sacrifice fly that cut the Cubs lead to 1, Gregg got out of the jam and then pitched a 1-2-3 9th inning to record his 1st 5-out save of the 2009 MLB schedule.  Randy Wells did not pitch his best game – 5 innings, 4ER, 7 hits and 1 walk – but it was enough to pick up his 5th win of the season and keep the Cubs in the game to get the big win over the Nats.

The Cubs increased the record to 47-43 on the season.  With the Cards winning 2 of 3 games in their weekend series against the Diamondbacks in St. Louis, the Cubs gained ground and now trail the Cards by only 2 games in the NL Central race.  The Cubs now occupy sole possession of 2nd place, ahead of both the Brewers and Astros.

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Tribune Co. Mulling Over Bankruptcy Options for Cubs Organization

Posted on 18 July 2009 by Lou

cubs win2

The Tribune Co. is mulling over whether or not to file Chapter 11 Bankruptcy for the Chicago Cubs Organization.  The bankruptcy would be a short-term filing that would potentially facilitate a faster consummation to the sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family by giving the new owner as “clean” a title to the Cubs assets as possible. The bankruptcy filing would protect the Ricketts family from potential lawsuits brought by Tribune Co. creditors.

Although the Cubs and the Ricketts family have agreed to a sale of the club and other assets for approximately $900 million, no formal agreement has been signed.

Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney has not commented on the sale of the team or on the potential bankruptcy filing in recent days.

Rumors of other bidders getting back involved in the sale of the club are unsubstantiated.

With the sale of the team dragging on and on, it is unlikely that the Cubs will be big buyers before the July trading deadline.  That’s probably a good thing – this team has shown little resolve in 2009, and giving away young talent to acquire medicore talent that might help a mediocre Cubs team reach the playoffs would probably not be worth it.  At this point, GM Jim Hendry and the Cubs should just sit pat unless they receive an offer to get a high-end difference maker that would likely stay with the club after the season ends.  Other than that, I would rather the Cubs keep their young prospects in-house to use in a potential deal for someone in the off-season or before the 2010 trading deadline.

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Cubs Beat Nationals 6-3 to Open 2nd Half on High Note

Posted on 17 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Nationals Baseball

The Cubs defeated the Nats 6-3 at Nationals Park in Washington DC on Thursday night.  The win moved the Cubs within 3 games of the idle Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central. Rich Harden evened his record at 6-6 with a solid outing – 6 innings,  3 hits, 7 K’s and most importantly no walks.  The only run Harden allowed was an unearned run in the 6th inning.  Angel Guzman and Carlos Mamrol each worked scoreless innings of relief and Kevin Gregg closed out the game despite giving up a solo home run to Ryan Zimmerman in the 9th inning.

Derrek Lee kept up his hot hitting.  He went 3 for 4 with a solo home run.  Reed Johnson had 2 hits and an RBI in the leadoff spot.  Ryan Theriot had only 1 hit, but 2 RBI’s.

Let’s hope the Cubs can pull off 3 more wins against the lowly Nats the rest of the weekend.

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Cubs Open 2nd Half Against Lowly Nats in DC

Posted on 16 July 2009 by Lou

harden beats reds1

The 1st 4 games of the 2nd half of the 2009 MLB schedule should tell-all for the Chicago Cubs.  The Cubs are 43-43 and are within striking distance of the 1st place St. Louis Cardinals whom they do not play again until September.  What better way to open up the 2nd half than to play 4 games against the worst team in baseball – the Washington Nationals.  Although the games are on the road where the Cubs have struggled (the Cubs are 27-18 at Wrigley Field, but just 16-25 away from home), the Nats have won only 26 total games in 2009 and are 10 games under .500 at home at Nationals Park.

If the Cubs are going to show that they are capable of making a run at a 3rd straight NL Central crown, they need to show it by sweeping the Nationals during the long weekend series.  The Cards host the Arizona Diamondbacks (who have been playing better) in a 3-game weekend set in St. Louis, while the 2nd place Brewers are on the road at the Reds in Cincinnati, so there could be room to make up some ground if they can win all 4 (or at least 3) games in DC.

Rich Harden has a lot to prove in the Thursday night opener against John Lannan (6-6; 3.70 ERA).  Since coming off the disabled list on June 13th, Harden has a 1-4 record and has lasted more than 6 innings only once.  Even in his lone win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh, Harden gave up 9 hits and 1 walk and was constantly working in and out of jams.  He has given up at least 7 hits in each of his last 3 starts, so hopefully the extra time off over the All-Star Break will give him an extra burst of energy to take out on the lowly Nats.

The rest of the series shapes up like this:

Friday night – Carlos Zambrano (5-4; 3.53 ERA) v. Seth Olsen (2-4; 6.03 ERA)

Saturday night – All-Star Ted Lilly (9-6; 3.18 ERA) v. Jordan Zimmerman (3-4; 4.50 ERA)

Sunday afternoon – Randy Wells (4-4; 2.72 ERA) v. Garrett Mock (0-2; 6.92 ERA)

Ryan Dempster will be on the disabled list for a few more weeks, so it is still unclear who Manager Lou Pinella will tap to be the Cubs 5th starter until Dempster’s return.

Looking at the numbers, the Cubs better win at least 3 of the 4 games against the Nats.  Keep your fingers crossed – things have not gone the Cubs way in 2009 and we don’t expect things to change simply because the Cubs are playing the worst team in baseball..

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Manager Lou Pinella Confident That Cubs Can Win NL Central

Posted on 15 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Milton Bradley Risk 1

The 1st half of the 2009 MLB schedule had an anti-climactic ending on Sunday, as the Cubs split a day-night double-header with the 1st place Cardinals.  After winning the 1st game 7-3, the Cubs were in perfect position to sweep the double-header and move ahead into 2nd place, just 1.5 games behind the Cards.  But it wasn’t meant to be – - Randy Wells served up 2 2-run home runs to Ryan Ludwick and the Cubs offense couldn’t muster more than 2 runs against Cards starter Adam Wainwright.  With the loss, the Cubs fell back to .500 – 43-43 – and into a 3rd place tie with the surging Astros.

That being said, Manager Lou Pinella still likes his team’s chances of making a strong showing in the 2nd half of the season.  “We have to swing the bats better in the second half than we did in the first half…  We swing the bats, stay healthy, we have a good chance to win the division.  We’ve been through a lot this summer.  If we don’t we’ll see what happens.  I’m curious myself.”

Key components of the Cubs offense have been missing for good portions of the 2009 MLB season.

Aramis Ramirez missed 2 months with a dislocated right shoulder – he had been the Cubs best hitter up until the injury.

Alfonso Soriano has been a disaster after starting off the season on a tear.  Although Soriano has had 9 game-winning hits for the Cubs this season – the most on the team – his batting average is down to .233 and his on-base percentage is down to .298.  He has 14 HR’s, 33 RBI’s and 50 runs scored, but he has not hit a home run since June 7th.  Soriano has struck out 82 times and walked only 29 times.  Because of his miserable numbers, Pinella recently dropped Soriano down in the lineup and will likely hit 5th or 6th the rest of the way.

Lastly, GM Jim Hendry’s big off-season signing – switch-hitting right fielder Milton Bradley – has been a complete bust.  Bradley is batting just .243 with 6 HR’s, 21 RBI’s and 28 runs scored.  Although his on-base percentage is above his career average – .379 – he has not been the run producer that the Cubs need him to be.  Plus, because of injuries, he has registered only 210 at-bats while playing in 210 games – not a great average for a starting outfielder.  Bradley recently declared that he is back and will have a far better 2nd half than the 1st three months of the season.  This after going 0 for 1 with 3 walks in the 1st game of Sunday’s double-header and 2 for 3 with an RBI and a walk in the 2nd game of the double-header.  Woohoo – Milton is back.  He had this to say about why he thinks he will be ready to break out in the 2nd half:  “I’ve been working ever so hard to get my stroke, get my rhythm, get my eye, and to end it like that was disappointing [referring to being called out on strikes to lead off the 9th inning on Sunday night]…  I walked about 37 times today.  Suddenly, I’m going to take a thrid strike right there?  I got my rhythm, I feel good… It’s disappointing, but what can you do?  You move on.  It ain’t the first time, it won’t be the last… Don’t read the newspapers, don’t watch TV, just play.  We’ve got everything we need right here.  If we stay together in here, cut out all the outside stuff, we’ll be fine.  There’s way too much hoopla, there’s way too much talk, there’s way too much speculation.”

I like the optimism, but the Cubs have not shown any real fire this season, and I’m not sure what we should expect that to change over night.  The team seems resigned to the fact that it will lose close ball games, and when you don’t have that confidence, it’s hard to put together big winning streaks.  Last year, the Cubs played like they could win any game, even if they were losing in the 7th, 8th or 9th innings.  This year, if they’re down after 6 innings, you might as well write off the game.

Pinella had 1 more quote that summed it up best.  It also doesn’t seem like he’s really that confident that his team will be able to pull off a 3rd straight NL Central title.  Guess we’ll have to wait and see.  “I feel we’re in good position to win this division.  Two things – - stay healthy, get healthy and swing the bats.  That’s it.  We do those 2 things, we can win the second half.  Those are two big ‘ifs’ though.”

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Cubs Ted Lilly Looking Forward to All-Star Appearance in St. Louis Tonight

Posted on 14 July 2009 by Lou

ted lilly chicago cubs 1

The Cubs Ted Lilly is looking forward to his All-Star appearance for the National League in St. Louis tonight.  It is Lilly’s 2nd All-Star appearance – he last appeared as the lone representative for the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2004.  Lilly has made 18 starts in 2009 and has compiled a nice 9-6 record with a sparkling 3.18 ERA.  He has a 6-1 record with a 1.86 ERA at Wrigley Field this year.  He is also riding a great wave right now – in his last 54 2/3 innings, he has struck out 49 batters while walking only 7 – pretty incredible numbers.

Lilly had this to say about representing the Cubs:  “The whole objective is to try to do what I can to help us get into 1st place.  I think when I look at my first half, it’s nice and it’s one of the better 1st halves I’ve had at least statistically.  But you still know there’s a  lot of pitching to do, and a lot of really important pitching coming up in the second half of the season, more so than the first half.  It’s nice to get off to a good start but more important to finish strong. ”

Manager Lou Pinella had this to say about Lilly:  “Being the All-Star representative from this team says it all.  He’s been our best pitcher.”

Lilly has been one of the Cubs most consistent pitchers during the last 3 seasons and has been one of GM Jim Hendry’s best signings.  He played in the tough-hitting AL East (Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays) for 6 out of 8 years from 2000-2006, so facing tough lineups day in and day out really prepared Lilly for his MLB career.  He has made 34 starts in each of his 1st 2 seasons with the Cubs and is on pace to hit at least that in 2009.  In 2007, Lilly pitched 207 innings and went 15-8 with a 3.83 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.     In 2008, Lilly pitched 204 2/3 innings and went 17-9 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. IN 2009, he has already pitched 119 innings and has lowered his ERA (3.18) and WHIP (1.11).  He has 101 strikeouts on the season against just 24 walks and has clearly been “Mr. Dependable” for the Cubs in 2009.

Congrats Ted – go out and help the NL get home field advantage for the 2009 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago!

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Cubs Split With Cards – Still Trail by 3.5 Games

Posted on 13 July 2009 by Lou

Cardinals Cubs Baseball

Cardinals Cubs Baseball

The Cubs and Cards split Sunday afternoon’s Day-Night Double-Header on Wrigley Field.  It could have been better, but I guess it could have been worse too.  The Cubs trailed the 1st place Cards by 2.5 games in the NL Central when the 2 teams started the 4-game weekend series on Friday, and after 4 games, nothing had changed.  At least they didn’t get swept.

Carlos Zambrano picked up the win in the early game as the Cubs won 7-3.

Randy Wells suffered the loss in the nightcap as the Cubs lost 4-2.

The most interesting play of the day-night, came in the 9th inning of Game 2.

We’ll have a mid-year report in the next couple of days as we have a few days off for the All-Star Break.

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Cardinals Cubs Baseball

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Cubs Get 5-2 Must-Win Over Cards on Saturday @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 12 July 2009 by Lou

Cardinals Cubs Baseball

The Cubs had their backs up against the wall, and they came out fighting “like cats” to earn a 5-2 must-win victory over the 1st place Cards on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.  The Cubs struck 1st with a 3-run 1st inning – courtesy of a Milton Bardley HBP with the bases loaded and a 2-run single by newly acquired infielder Jeff Baker – and Ted Lilly did the rest.  Lilly threw 103 efficient pitches in 8 innings of work, giving up just a single run on 4 hits and 1 walk.  He struck out 4, picking up his 9th win of the 2009 MLB schedule and his 100th career-win.  Lilly will serve as the Cubs’ sole representative in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in St. Louis.  Carlos Zambrano earned his 100th career victory earlier this year.  Lilly had this to say about the win:  “It’s pretty special.  I was thinking today about the first one in New York against Oakland (2001).  Just getting that one I hadn’t even been thinking about trying to get 99 more… It’s really a cool thing.  And then you come into the clubhouse and talk to your buddies in there and they’re telling you, ‘You only got 200 more to go’”.

It got interesting in the 9th inning as Carlos Marmol only recorded 2 outs while giving up 2 hits and a walk.  After Marmol threw a wild pitch that allowed 2 base runners to move up to 2nd and 3rd base, Manager Lou Pinella yanked Marmol and brought in Kevin Gregg to close out the game.  Gregg struck out Skip Schumacher to end the threat and Gregg picked up his 16th save of the 2009 MLB schedule.

In addition to Ted Lilly, newly acquired Jeff Baker was the Cubs star.  baker had 2 hits and 2 RBI’s and turned a nifty double-play with Ryan Theriot to end a Cards threat in the 8th inning.

One bad side note – Derrek Lee left Saturday’s game in the 5th inning with neck spasms.  Lee has experienced trouble with neck spasms this year and has missed some time already.  Lee was expected to play on Sunday, but he is not in the lineup for the 12:05PM game.

The Cubs and Cards play a day-night double header at Wrigley Field on Sunday.  Zambrano will face Kyle Lohse in the 12:05PM opener, while Randy Wells will take on Adam Wainwright in the nightcap.  Go Cubs!!!

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Geovany Soto Headed to Disbaled List – Not Good

Posted on 11 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs White Sox Baseball

Geovany Soto is headed to the disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle.  Soto injured the left oblique during batting practice before Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field.  Oblique strains tend to take a while to heal, so the Cubs are anticipating that Soto will need at least a month to recover from the injury.  Soto will go to the Cubs facility in Mesa, Arizona to begin rehabbing the injury.

After winning the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year Award, Soto has endured a disappointing 2009.  He missed time at the beginning of the season with a right shoulder strain and is only hitting .230 with 8 HR’s and 27 RBI’s on the year.  Koyie Hill will start for the Cubs at catcher during Soto’s absence and Jake Fox will be the primary back-up during the weekend series against the Cards ay Wrigley.  Mark Johnson is the only other Cubs catcher will major league experience, but he is on the disabled list at Triple-A Iowa.  GM Jim Hendry will likely have to look outside the organization to pick up a back-up catcher until Soto returns.

The hits just keep on coming for the Cubs.  It is going to be a long 2009 MLB schedule on the North Side of Chicago…

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