Archive | August, 2009

Wheels Quickly Falling Off Cubs Wagon on West Coast Trip

Posted on 21 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Dodgers Baseball

The Cubs went back to their losing ways in Los Angeles, dropping the opener of a 4-game series to Dodgers 7-2.  A disastrous 4-run 6th off of Angel Guzman brought a slow end to the night.  Guzman replaced Tom Gorzelanny who had allowed 2 earned runs on 5 hits over 5 innings of work.  Guzman gave up back-to-back singles to Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake to start the inning.  After a sacrifice bunt moved runners to 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out, Manager Lou Pinella decided to intentionally walk James Loney to pitch to Russell Martin with the bases loaded.  Boy did that move backfire – Martin crushed a grand slam to deep center field and the game was basically over.

One pitching positive – demoted closer Kevin Gregg pitched a perfect 8th inning.  Yeah!

The Cubs managed 8 hits off of 4 Dodgers pitchers – Kosuke Fukodome was the big start, going 3 for 3 with a solo home run, 2 singles and a walk.  Derrek Lee had 2 hits in defeat, but his batting average is now all the way up to .295.

Not really sure what else to say about this Cubs team.  It just gets uglier and uglier.  Cubs get good pitching, the Cubs offense goes quiet and they lose 2-1.  Cubs pitchers struggle and the offense either mails it in after a few innings or hits well, but not enough to win.  The Cubs are creeping backwards towards the .500 mark again – 61-58 – and trail the Cards by 7 games in the NL Central race and the Rockies by 6 games in the NL Wild Card race.  Technically they still have a pulse, but it is definitely getting harder and harder to feel and hear…

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Cubs Finally Win in San Diego, Top Padres 7-1 behind Dominant Harden

Posted on 20 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Padres Baseball

The Cubs got their 1st victory against the Padres at Petco Park in San Diego in 2009 last night behind a dominant performance from Rich Harden.  Harden threw 7 scoreless innings, holding the Padres to just 1 hit and 3 walks.  The Padres had 3 batters reach base in the 1st inning but didn’t score, and Harden was “lights-out” after that.  Harden struck out 8 batters on the night and improved his record to 8-7.  He is 3-1 after the All-Star Break with 3 no decisions, and he has not allowed more than 2 ER in the 7 starts.

The Cubs will have a big decision to make with respect to Harden in the off-season.  Harden has already made 21 starts during the 2009 MLB schedule and should get at least another 7 starts before the end of the year.  That would put him at 28 starts.  Health has always been a concern with Harden and except for a brief stint on the DL from May 17th – June 13th, has not missed any time because of injury.  That being said, he has made 30 starts only once in his career – that was back in 2004 when he threw 189 2/3 innings in 31 starts.  The following season he pitched 128 innings in 19 starts (22 appearances) and he missed good portions of the 2 seasons after that with arm issues.  It will be interesting to see how he feels in the off-season.  When Harden is on – like he was last night and in the 2nd half of the year so far – he is a dominating pitcher that can win a lot of games.  It could be worth signing him to a 2-3 year deal, but more than that could be risky.  Harden’s off-season regimen in Arizona seems to have paid off big time in 2009.  Assuming he continues to work hard in the off-season, it may be worth the shot to try to sign Harden to a long-term deal before he hits the free agent market…

The Cubs offense finally showed up last night as well.  Milton Bradley and Aramis Ramirez each hit home runs.  Ramirez also had a 2-run double in the 3rd inning and had 3 total RBI’s.  Bradley also walked 3 times and scored twice.  Ryan Theriot had 2 hits, 2 runs scored and a stolen base.  They did strike out 13 times as a team, however, leaving 14 runners on base.

The Cubs have their work cut out for them over the next 4 games against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.  The 1st place Cards took 2 out of 3 games from the Dodgers this week and now move on to the lowly Padres.  Not taking advantage of winning the Padres series has put them 6 games behind the Cards and 5 games behind the Rockies for the NL Wild Card lead.  It is going to be an uphill climb, as Tom Gorzelanny looks to get the Cubs off to a good start tonight against Jeff Weaver and the Dodgers.  The Cubs will finish the 4-game weekend series with Randy Wells, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster.

Cubs Padres Baseball

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Carlos Marmol Replaces Kevin Gregg as Cubs Closer

Posted on 19 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Padres Baseball

Manager Lou Pinella finally made the switch – Carlos Marmol will be the Cubs closer the rest of the year.  Kevin Gregg will serve as a late inning reliever.  Pinella probably would have made the switch sooner if he had a more viable option from within.  While Marmol has electric stuff, he has struggled with his control all season long – in 56 1/3 innings, Marmol has issued 52 walks!  With a .163 batting average against, Marmol really just needs to throw strikes.  Marmol has a 3.51 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP.  He has a 2-2 record with 4 saves, 27 holds  and 4 blown saves.  He also has 67 K’s.

Gregg finally forced Pinella’s hand after a disastrous August.  In 8 August appearances, Gregg has a horrendous 11.25 ERA.  Gregg blew 3 of his 5 save chances in the month and took the loss in 3 games by issuing game-winning home runs to the opposite team.  Not good.

Pinella had these comments about the move:  “We needed to try a different approach.  We’ve been very patient, if you want to use that word.  We’ve lost some tough, tough ballgames.  M<armol deserves an opportunity, so we’re going to give him that chance…This wasn’t something that just cropped up overnight.  That’s a tough job for anybody and he’s had some success, obviously, but lately he’s been struggling.  We decided to make a change and hopefully it worls out best for our ballclub.”

Gregg took the demotion like a true diplomat: “I don’t blame them.  We have to go with the hot hand right now.  That’s the life of my job.”

It’s probably too little too late right now.  The Cubs are 6 games behind the Cards in the NL Central race and 5 games behind the Rockies in the NL Wild Card race.  The Cubs offense is average at best, but more often inconsistent and “non-clutch”.  It has been a brutal, frustrating year for the Cubs and Cubs fans, and I’m sure Marmol will have some rocky moments along the way during the final 40 games of the 2009 MLB schedule.

Cubs Marlins Baseball

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Cubs Hitting Rock Bottom in San Diego – Lose to Padres Again

Posted on 19 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Padres Baseball

Ouch – how the “mighty” have fallen.  It looks like the Cubs – the best team in the NL in 2008 –  have given up on the 2009 campaign.  In a lackluster effort, the Cubs fell to the Padres 6-3.  They are now 60-57 and they trail the Cards by 6 games in the NL Central race and the Rockies by 5 games in the NL Wild Card race.  These leads are by no means insurmountable, but when you look at the Cubs body language these days, you know it’s over.  Wait until next year Cubs fans!

A telling sign – the Cubs faced a rookie pitcher – Cesar Carrillo – in his 2nd major league start.  Carrillo had given up 8 ER on 4 hits (3 HR’s) and 2 walks in his 1st major league start just 6 days ago in Milwaukee.  Just the type of pitcher the Cubs needed to break out of their offensive woes on the west coast.  But it wasn’t meant to be.  The Cubs managed 7 hits and 4 walks against Carrillo but never got the big hit that blew an inning wide open.  The Cubs had 2 runners on in 4 of the 6 innings Carrillo pitched, but they never scored more than 1 run in an inning.  Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster had 2 of the Cubs 7 hits on the night and one of the Cubs RBI’s.  Gimme a break! Derrek Lee and Jeff Baker each had 2 hits, which means that only 1 other Cub player had a hit – that was Alfonso Soriano who got lucky on a bloop single to left field that scored a run in the 5th inning.  Talk about futile.  After the Padres took a 4-3 lead on Adrian Gonzalez’ solo home run in the bottom of the 5th inning, you could just see the wind get sucked out of the Cubs’ sails.  From the 6th through the 9th innings, the Cubs managed just 1 base runner – a Milton Bradley walk to lead off the 7th inning.  Not good.

Ryan Dempster didn’t help matters with another sub-par outing – 4 ER on 8 hits and 3 walks in 7 innings.  He did have 10 K’s, but when you lose your 7th game against only 6 wins, does it really matter?  Angel Guzman gave up 2 insurance runs to the Padres in his 1 inning of work – on an inside the park home run off the bat of Kyle Blanks that hit off the top of the center field fence and bounced away from center fielder Kosuke Fukodome.  Of course, Milton Bradley did a poor job of backing up the play, and Blanks scored easily to give the Padres a commanding 6-3 lead.

The Cubs needed to sweep the Padres this week.  The Padres are 51-70 and in last place in the AL West.  On paper, the Cubs are clearly better than the Padres, but when you don’t produce on the field, you’re not going to win.  The Padres swept the Cubs at Petco Park in a 3 game series back in May, and it looks like they’re going to do the same in August unless Rich Harden throws a complete game shutout tonight against the Padres.  I won’t hold my breath…

Cubs Padres Baseball

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Shocking – Gregg Blows Another Save & Pinella Actually Does Something About It!

Posted on 18 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Padres Baseball

Cubs closer Kevin Gregg blew his 3rd game in his last 5 save chances, as the Cubs opened their big 7-game west coast road trip with a costly 4-1 loss to the Padres in San Diego.  Ted Lilly, John Grabow and Carlos Marmol kept the Padres offense scoreless for a good 2 hours and 15 minutes on Monday night, but in only took Kevin Gregg about 10 minutes to lose the game for the Cubs.  David Eckstein drew a 1-out walk off of Gregg and came around with the tying run 2 batters later when Chase Headley doubled to left center.  Pinella and Gregg intentionally walked Kevin Kouzmanoff to get to 22-year old Kyle Blanks, but the move back-fired when Blanks crushed a walk-off 3-run home run to deep left center field that gave the Padres the 4-1 win.  Brutal – just brutal.

Gregg is just not a good closer.  In limited time as a closer last year – he blew 9 SAVES! for the Marlins.  Gregg has blown 6 total saves during the 2009 MLB schedule and already 3 in the month of August.  Gregg has a 4.47 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP and he only has 58 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings.  It is clear that Gregg does not have what it takes to be a closer, and Pinella indicated that he will likely make some changes in the back-end of the rotation.  Finally!!!

There were some positives from Monday’s game.  Ted Lilly came off the DL and looked phenomenal.  Lilly threw 6 scoreless innings (70 efficient pitches), allowing just 4 hits and 1 walk.  Lilly struck out 4.  John Grabow and Carlos Marmol set the table for Gregg with perfect 7th and 8th innings.  Derrek Lee had 2 hits and scored the Cubs lone run.  Aramis Ramirez was back in the Cubs lineup as the clean-up hitter, and he had 2 hits including the lone RBI that drove in Lee.

The bad news – the Cardinals rallied against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, so the Cubs now trail the Cards by 6 games in the NL Central race.  Gregg’s blown save also cost the Cubs a chance to pick up a 1/2 game on the idle Rockies in the NL wild card race.  Ryan Dempster looks to get the Cubs back on track in San Diego as he takes on Cesar Carrillo.  Carrillo gave up 8 ER on 4 hits and 2 walks (including 3 HR’s) in his major league debut on August 13th.  If the Cubs can’t find a way to generate runs off of this guy, they might as well just cash it in now and save us all a lot of time.

APTOPIX Cubs Padres Baseball

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Cubs Began West Coast Road Trip; Lilly & Ramirez Back, Zambrano Close

Posted on 17 August 2009 by Lou

carlos cubs

The Cubs begin a HUGE 7-game west coast road trip on Monday night in San Diego.  The Cubs will play 3 games against the Padres and 4 games against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.  The Cubs are optimistic that the imminent return of key starters will help spark a much-needed winning streak that will bring them back into playoff contention.

Ted Lilly will start against Kevin Correja and the Padres on Monday night in San Diego.  Lilly has been on the DL since July 21st and Manager Lou Pinella has indicated that Lilly will be good for 85-90 pitches.  If Lilly can give the Cubs a quality start and pick up a win, the Cubs would be feeling good with Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells going the next 2 games against a weak-hitting Padres lineup.  A 3-game sweep of the Padres is almost a must for the Cubs right now.

Aramis Ramirez will get the start on Monday night in San Diego as well.  Ramirez was set to play in Sunday’s game before it was rained out.  Ramirez has not played since last Saturday because of soreness in his right shoulder from his May shoulder dislocation.

And Carlos Zambrano is set to begin a minor league rehabilitation stint this week.  Zambrano has been out with back soreness and back spasms and the team’s medical staff has implored Zambrano to maintain the strength in his core by strengthening his abdominal muscles and his hamstrings.  Big Z had this to say about his conditioning:  “There’s things in life you don’t like that you have to do.  I don’t like to do abs, but I’ll have to start doing my abs every day…  Like the doctors say, I’m a strong man, a big man, and that’s what big men do.  Wherever they are weak, they get stronger.”  Really?!  Wow – a professional athlete actually has to work out and keep his body in shape during the course of an MLB season?  Unbelievable…  Zambrano was able to throw all of his pitches in a productive bullpen session on Sunday and is scheduled to pitch for Class A Peoria on Thursday.  If all goes well, Zambrano will start against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, August 25th.

The Cubs are 5 games over .500 at 60-55.  They trail the Cardinals by 5 games in the NL Central race and the Rockies by 3.5 games in the NL Wild Card race.  The Cubs also have to jump over the Giants, Marlins and Braves to catch the Rockies in the wild card race.  It’s definitely a long shot, but there’s still 47 games left and anything can happen during the next 50 days…

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Rich Harden Looks to Continue Solid Pitching against Lowly Pirates @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 16 August 2009 by Lou

rich harden spring

Rich Harden has been one of the Cubs most reliable pitchers in the 2nd half of the 2009 MLB schedule and he looks to keep that going against the last-place Pirates in Sunday’s series finale at Wrigley Field.  Harden has not allowed more than 2 earned runs in any of his 6 post-All-Star Break starts.  Unfortunately, he is only 2-1 in the 6 starts and the Cubs have actually lost 4 of the starts – – pretty indicative of how bad things have gone for the Cubs in 2009.  Harden beat the Pirates in his only start against them on June 29th in Pittsburgh.  Harden gave up 9 hits, but only 1 ER in 7 innings of that game as he continually worked out of jams by striking out 9 batters.

Harden will square off against Ross Ohlendorf on Sunday.  Despite having a 1.32 WHIP and 4.32 ERA, Ohlendorf actually shut down the Cubs offense by tossing 7 scoreless innings against them in a 3-0 win back on June 30th.  Ohlendorf gave up just 4 hits while striking out 8 in the game.

The Cubs free-fall continued last week with 6 losses in 7 games against the Rockies and Phillies.  The Cubs continue to trail the Cardinals in the NL Central race and the Rockies and Giants in the NL wild card race.  Time is beginning to become a factor as the Cubs only have 47 games in which to make up ground.  A weekend series sweep of the Pirates would go a long way to making the ride a little less bumpy…

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Give the Cubs a Bad Team to Play & the Cubs Will Give You a Victory

Posted on 15 August 2009 by Lou

Pirates Cubs Baseball

The Cubs can’t seem to beat the good teams in 2009, but at least they’ve been taking it to the bad teams.  The Cubs crushed the Pirates 17-2 on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.  During the then-current 5 game losing streak, the Cubs had only scored a TOTAL of 19 runs – not good.  The Cubs busted out with 18 hits and 6 walks in the 17-run attack against 3 Pirates’ pitchers. The Cubs scored 4 runs in the 1st inning on a Derrek Lee RBI single and a 3-run Kosuke Fukodome home run.  Then the Cubs tacked on 10 runs in the 2nd inning – all without a HR.  The Cubs batted around – 9 straight batters – without recording an out.  Derrek Lee led the club going 3 for 3 with 7 RBI’s and 2 runs scored, before being removed in the 5th inning.  Ryan Theriot also had 3 hits, driving in 1 while scoring twice.  Sam Fuld had 2 hits and 2 walks and scored 3 times.  Jake Fox was 2 for 4 with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  Koyie Hill and pitcher Randy Wells each had 2 hits and 2 runs scored as well.

Randy Wells was the biggest beneficiary of the offensive output on Friday.  Wells picked up his 9th win of the season – throwing 86 pitches in 6 innings.  He gave up 2ER on 7 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 3.  Wells now has a season WHIP of 1.20 and a season ERA of 3.01.

The Cubs are 59-55 and still trail the Cards by 4.5 games in the NL Central race.  The Cubs trail the Rockies by 4 games in the NL wild card race, but also have the Giants, Marlins and Braves to jump over in the wild card race, so they have their work cut out for them…

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Cubs Dealing with Injury Bug – – Aramis Ramirez, Ted Lilly & Carlos Zambrano Updates

Posted on 14 August 2009 by Lou

aramis ramirez

The Cubs are still dealing with the injury bug here in 2009.  Aramis Ramirez received a cortisone shot in his right shoulder on Tuesday to deal with the continued soreness caused by his dislocated shoulder in May.  The shot should reduce the inflammation in the shoulder, but won’t take away pain.  Ramirez is still trying to determine whether or not he will have off-season surgery to clean up the shoulder – he has dislocated the shoulder 3 times in his career.  Ramirez was expected to play in Friday’s day game against the Pirates at Wrigley Field, but a severe head cold that worsened as the week went on caused Manager Lou Pinella to scratch him right before the game.  Jake Fox started in his place at 3rd base.

Ted Lilly has been on the DL since July 21st – resting his sore left throwing arm and recovering from knee surgery.  Lilly pitched 5 scoreless innings on Wednesday at Class-A Peoria.  He gave up only 2 hits and 1 walk and said it was great to get back into a game situation.  Lilly is expected to come off the DL on Monday and start against the Padres in San Diego.

Carlos Zambrano is still dealing with a sore back and back spasms.  Pinella had this to say about Big Z’s condition:  “He had been doing his strength work with our strength guy Tim Buss and we’re going to make sure he’s on a nice program so he gets back out there as soon as possible and he’ll do his work.”  Zambrano will likely start at some point next week against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Tom Gorzellany is nursing a sore foot when he was hit by a line drive in Colorado over the weekend.  And Reed Johnson is still wearing a boot on his broken foot.  Gorzellany is not expected to miss any starts, while Johnson should be back at the start of September.

The Cubs have been dealing with injuries all season long, but at this point, it doesn’t look like it’s really going to matter.  The club is slowly falling out of playoff contention…

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Phillies Sweep Cubs @ Wrigley Field – – This is Getting Ugly Fast

Posted on 13 August 2009 by Lou

Phillies Cubs Baseball

Wow – how a season can turn.  Heading into last Friday’s game against the Rockies, the Cubs were tied for 1st place in the NL Central and just 2 games out of the NL Wild Card race.  6 losses in 7 game later, and the Cubs find themsleves in a very difficult situation.

On Wednesday night, the Phillies crushed the Cubs 12-5, behind a solid outing by Pedro Martinez.  Martinez made his 1st start of the 2009 MLB schedule and pitched 5 innings, allowing 3 ER on 7 hits and 1 walk.  He struck out 5.  Once again, the Cubs had scoring chances early, but failed to take advantage of the situations – they left 13 runners on base. Ryan Theriot was the only Cub player with more than 1 hit and he raised his batting average to .300 even.  Theriot and Derrek Lee have been the only consistent hitters for the Cubs all season long.  Starter Jeff Samardzija -3 1/3 innings, 7 ER on 8 hits (1 HR) – and Sean Marshall – 3 1/3 innings, 5 ER on 6 hits (2 HR’s) and 3 walks – were downright awful.  The Cubs sent Samardzija down to Triple-A Iowa after the loss.

In Thursday afternoon’s series finale, Cliff Lee shut the Cubs down with ease.  Lee won his 3rd straight since coming over in a trade from the Cleveland Indians.  Lee hasn’t allowed more than 1 ER in any of the 3 starts.  Not too shabby.  The Cubs did have 6 hits and 3 walks against Lee, but struck out 8 times and left 16 runners on base.  Jeff Baker had 2 hits and 2 walks and scored the only run for the Cubs on Ryan Theriot’s RBI single in the 5th inning.  Ryan Dempster lost his 6th game for the Cubs this season.  He pitched 7 innings which gave the Cubs bullpen a welcome rest.  He gave up 6 ER on 8 hits and 2 walks, and he struck out 8 Phillies hitters.  Justin Berg who was called up from Triple-A Iowa to take the place of Samardzija pitched the games final 2 innings.  In his major league debut, Berg allowed 2 hits and a walk but did not allow a run.

With the sweep, the Cubs are now 4.5 games behind the Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central and 5.0 games behind the Colorado Rockies in the NL Wild Card race.  There’s always next year Cubs fans – although with essentially the same team locked in for 2010, it’s hard to imagine much better results in 2010…

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