Archive | April, 2010

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Cubs Crush Brewers 8-1 @ Miller Park in Milwaukee on Friday Night

Posted on 24 April 2010 by Lou

The Cubs seemed to put their hitting and pitching woes from NY behind them with a convincing 8-1 win over the Brewers on Friday night in Milwaukee.  Ryan Dempster tossed 1-run ball for 7 2/3 innings, scattering 7 hits and 1 walk.  Ryan Theriot, Kosuke Fukudome, Marlon Byrd, Tyler Colvin and Koyie Hill each had 2 hits in the win.  Fukudome and Colvin stroked home runs in the hitter-friendly Miller Park.

The Cubs are leading the Brewers 5-1 in the 9th inning tonight.  Two good pitching signs for the Cubs.  Ted Lilly made his 2010 debut tossing 6 shutout innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 walks.  Carlos Zambrano also made his 2010 debut – out of the bullpen – and he did well.  He recorded the final out of the 7th inning and then worked the 8th inning as well.  He did give up a run on 2 hits and a walk in the 8th.  But it looks like Lilly is back on track and ready to compete in 2010 and it looks like Big Z is capable and able out of the bullpen.

Go Cubs!  Let’s hope Randy Wells can spark a Brew Crew sweep in Sunday’s contest.

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Cubs Lose 5-2; Drop 3 of 4 to Mets @ CITI Field in New York

Posted on 23 April 2010 by Lou

How much worse can it get?  During the last 7 games, the Cubs played 2 of the worst teams in the National League (the 1-8 Houston Astros and the 4-8 New York Mets).  How did they fare?  Not good – they dropped 2 of 3 to the Astros at Wrigley Field and then 3 of 4 to the Mets at CITI Field.  The Cubs are now 6-10 overall, they trail the 1st place St. Louis Cardinals by 4.5 games in the NL Central already, and they have to play the red-hot Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee this weekend.  Ouch.

The Cubs managed to score just 3 runs in the 3 losses against the Mets in NY.  They are going to need to step up their offensive game if they expect to get back on track in Milwaukee. In Thursday night’s 5-2 loss, Tom Gorzelanny turned in another solid outing.  He did not allow a hit until the 5th inning and got into trouble in the 6th inning in which he allowed 2 earned runs.  Mike Fontenot’s error on a groundball that should have ended the inning allowed 2 more unearned runs to score.  Overall, Gorzelanny has a 1.07 WHIP and a 2.40 ERA in 3 starts.  And while the offense did have 10 hits in the game, they never came through with any clutch hits that could have turned the game around.  Same old story, just a different night.

Ryan Dempster takes the hill against Jeff Suppan and the Brewers on Friday night.  Ted Lilly will make his 1st start of the 2010 on Saturday night against Doug Davis.  The Sunday afternoon series finale will feature Randy Wells against Dave Bush.  The match-ups work in favor of the Cubs, so let’s hope some positive things happen in Milwaukee this weekend…

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Carlos Zambrano to Cubs Bullpen?!?!

Posted on 22 April 2010 by Lou

This crazy Cubs season gets even crazier as the Cubs opt to send ace starter Carlos Zambrano to the Cubs bullpen.  What are GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella thinking?!?!

Granted the bullpen has been brutal early in the season – 1-6 record with a 6.15 ERA – costing the club at least 4 or 5 games in which they held the lead in the 7th inning or later.  And granted, Carlos Silva (2-0, 0.95 ERA and 0.63 WHIP in 3 starts) and Tom Gorzelanny (0-1, 1.93 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 3 starts) – the 2 pitchers who earned starting rotation spots until Ted Lilly could return from injury – have pitched well beyond expectations.  But is moving the “ace” of your staff – the highest paid starting pitcher on the team – into the right-handed throwing, 8th inning SET-UP role really the answer?  This astounds me.

Pinella had this to say about the move — “We’ll have a Carlos setup guy and a Carlos closer… I talked to Carlos today and told him we really needed him in the bullpen, and that we felt he could do a nice job for us.  He said he’d do what’s best for the team.  I’m very appreciative.  He talked about maturing.  This proves it to me.”

Big Z for his part said the right things too — “I told Lou I wanted to help this team until you find somebody.  I told him I want to be back for the playoffs.  If we go to the playoffs, I want to go back to the rotation… I don’t like to be a reliever.  I don’t want to be a reliever.  This team needs somebody to step up and help the bullpen.”

WOW – I am still in shock.  I can’t see the club keeping Big Z in the bullpen for long.  How do you justify paying a set-up guy $17 million per year?  It doesn’t make any sense.  I guess this might help stabilize things for a little while until the younger players can get their feet on the ground in the bullpen or until Hendry can make a move to bring in a veteran reliever into the mix for the late innings.  In addition to the money issue, who knows how effective Big Z will be out of the ‘pen.  Being a reliever, you have to get warmed up differently, you come into the game in different situations and you might have to start throwing out of the stretch right away.  Can Big Z really adjust to this new role in 3 days?  Guess we’ll see very very soon.  Zambrano could make a relief appearance as early as this Friday against the Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee…

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Cubs Anemic Offense Leads to 4-0 Shutout Loss to Mets @ CITI Field in New York

Posted on 21 April 2010 by Lou

So much for righting the ship against the lowly New York Mets – Carlos Zambrano took the loss in the Cubs 4-0 loss against the Mets on Tuesday night.  But this wasn’t all Zambrano’s fault.  Sure, he had trouble with his control early on.  And his walk to the pitcher with 2 outs in the bottom of the 2nd inning kept the inning alive for the next batter – Jose Reyes – to stroke a 2-run triple to left center field to give the Mets the early lead.  But Big Z found a way to work 6 strong innings, giving up just those 2 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks.  He racked up 9 K’s.  It was the Cubs 4th quality start in the last 6 games, but the Cubs have a 1-5 record during that stretch. During the team’s current 4-game losing streak, they have scored just 6 total runs.  That is completely unacceptable, especially when you are playing the worst team in the NL Central – the Astros – and the worst team in the NL East – the Mets.

Pretty much every Cubs batter is in a funk, but no one is struggling more than clean-up hitter Aramis Ramirez.  Ramirez is hitting .145 with a .213 on-base percentage.  He leads the team with 19 strikeouts in just 14 games.  Ouch.  Ramirez is frustrated with his effort thus far — “I’m not seeing the ball good right now.  I’m swinging at too many bad pitches… I just have to stay focused and get some better pitches to hit… I'[m trying to do too much and trying to hit a four-run home run with nobody on base… I haven’t gotten the job done.  No excuses.  I’m 100 percent.  I just have to keep working and try to get out of it.”

Manager Lou Pinella is also frustrated as even his tinkering with the batting order each night in New York hasn’t worked — “I don’t think anybody is too pleased… We had chances.  We just don’t seem to get base hits with men on base or men in scoring position.”

I feel like I am writing a bunch of similar posts to the ones I wrote during the Cubs 2009 atrocious season.  See  my thoughts on how good the Cubs starting pitching was in 2009 and how well the pitching staff did down the stretch despite limited run support.  My biggest fear is that the Cubs hitters get on track only to have the starting pitching go down the drain.  Guess we have to be patient – it is only April 21st, but if the Cubs continue to under-perform with the highest payroll in the National League, look for the Ricketts Family to make some changes (hear that Jim Hendry, Lou Pinella?) this off-season.

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Cubs Struggles Continue in New York — Bad Bullpen & Lack of Hitting Leads to 6-1 Loss

Posted on 20 April 2010 by Lou

The Cubs struggles continued in the Big Apple as the Cubs dropped the opener of a 4-game set at Citi Field in New York 6-1.  Randy Wells pitched another solid game – 6 innings of 1-run ball scattering 6 hits and 2 walks during his outing.  He also had 5 strike outs and lowered his ERA to 2.45.  But with the game tied at 1 in the 7th inning, the bullpen had another atrocious showing as the Mets opened up the game with a 5-run 7th.  James Russell hit Jose Reyes and then gave up Angel Pagan’s game winning 2-run home run 1 batter later.  Jeff Samardzija tried to keep the game close, but he faced 3 batters and didn’t even retire one of them.  Sure Aramis Ramirez’ error kept the inning alive, but these guys have to do better.  Then Sean Marshall came in and allowed 2 of Samardzija’s runs to score on a base hit and a wild pitch.  Not good, not good at all…

The Cubs offense wasn’t much better.  The Cubs had 9 hits, 5 walks and 1 hit batsman, but still only scored 1 lousy run.  How bad is that?  Ramirez’s batting average is down to an awful .157?!  They don’t even have one regular starter hitting above .300 anymore.  Ouch.  It is last year all over again.  No clutch hitting and no patient hitting.

Manager Lou Pinella is reaching his limits and tinkering with his lineup just about every day.  He had this to say about his team’s performance: “The last three ballgames have been the same story.  We don’t score many, and we have to go to our bullpen, and we don’t get it done… We’d like to see a nice double in the gap or something.  They’re trying.  Nobody’s trying to make outs.  You have to score runs.  When you don’t, you have to hold the opposition.”  Despite the negative attitude right now, I’ve never seen Pinella panic this much.  He’s already dropped Ryan Theriot from the lead-off spot after just 2 weeks into the season — he went with Marlon Byrd there last night against lefty Niese.  Tonight, he’s tinkered with his lineup again, entirely removing Theriot from the lineup and putting Mike Fontenot at shortstop against the righty Mike Pelfrey.  The lineup looks like this — Kosuke Fukudome, Jeff Baker, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramrez, Marlon Byrd, Alfonso Soriano, Mike Fontenot, Koyie Hill and Carlos Zambrano.  Crazy – and why even keep Soriano in there?  Not only is he a defensive liability, he doesn’t even hussle anymore.  Why not throw the lefty Tyler Colvin in there?

Guess we’ll see how it all plays out.  But if Zambrano has another bad outing and the Cubs fail to swing the bat in a productive way, look for Lou to lose it really really soon.

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Frustrating End to Frustrating Home Stand, Cubs Lose to Astros 3-2 in 10

Posted on 19 April 2010 by Lou

It was a frustrating end to a frustrating homestand for the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.  The bullpen wasted another good start from Ryan Dempster (see season game 2 in 3-2 loss to Braves in Atlanta) as Carlos Marmol blew his 1st save of the season.  Dempster worked 7 2/3 amazing innings until he ran into a little trouble in the 8th inning.  After walking Michael Bourn to put 2 men on the 8th inning with 2 out (after 120 pitches), Manager Lou Pinella opted to go with closer Carlos Marmol to end the threat in the 8th.  Despite giving up an RBI single to Jeff Keppinger, he did strike out Pedro Feliz to preserve the 2-1 Cubs lead.  But Marmol had a mental lapse in the 9th inning giving up a single to Hunter Pence and a game-tying double to Geoff Blum that sent the game into extra innings.  In the 10th inning, Sean Marshall allowed the winning run to score after a lead-off double by Jason Michaels and a sacrifice fly by Pedro Feliz.

Just like that, the Astros – who came into the series against the Cubs with 1 win in 9 tries – had scored 1 run in each of the 8th, 9th and 10th innings to pull off the improbable road win and clinch their first series win in 2010.  Not good, not good at all.

Seems like the same old story through 2 weeks of the season.  Good starting pitching wasted by bad bullpen work and poor hitting.  The Cubs offense managed just 2 runs and 7 hits and 3 walks off of Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez and 3 relievers.  Marlon Byrd had 3 of the Cubs hits, but is still hitting just .244 early on.  Geovany Soto seems to have found his groove a little bit, notching 2 hits to increase his batting average to .308.  But the team is still not getting any clutch hitting and very little production from the middle of the lineup.

With the 3-3 homestand, the Cubs have started the season with a 5-7 record.  They are already 3 full games behind the 1st place St. Louis Cardinals and they have already lost 4 games in which they held the lead in the 7th inning or later.  Until this team can figure out how to win the close games, it is going to continue to be a long and frustrating year for Cubs fans all around the country.  GM Jim Hendry really needs to figure out a more veteran option for the bullpen very soon because the season could get away from this squad in a hurry.

The only good thing – the Cubs visit the 4-8 Mets for a 4-game series at CITI Field this week.  The Mets even had to play a 20-inning game on Saturday, taxing their bullpen and having to use starter Mike Pelfrey to close the game (Pelfrey is still scheduled to start Tuesday’s game against the Cubs).  If ever there was a team that the Cubs could find their way against, it would be the Mets.  Randy Wells looks to help the Cubs stop their 2-game losing streak.  He will square off against young lefty John Niese for the Mets.  Stay tuned Cubs fans – a bad showing in New York could mean a Lou Pinella explosion very soon…

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Roy Oswalt Stymies Cubs Thru 7 Innings, Cubs Lose 4-3

Posted on 18 April 2010 by Lou

It wasn’t meant to be as Roy Oswalt stymied the Cubs through 7 innings as the Cubs lost 4-3 at Wrigley Field on Saturday.  The Cubs managed just 5 hits against Oswalt, and although the team rallied for 3 ER on 4 hits against Astros’ closer Brandon Lyon in the 8th inning, it was too little too late.

Tom Gorzelanny gave up 2 ER in his 3 innings of work.  He had to leave after his 3 innings after getting struck with a Pedro Feliz line drive in the top of the 3rd inning.  He was able to finish out the inning, but the Cubs staff decided to pull Gorzelanny as a precautionary measure.  Gorzelanny is expected to make his next scheduled start against the Mets in New York on Thursday.

The bullpen did fairly well in emergency duty.  Jeff Gray and Justin Berg each gave up 1 ER in their 2 innings of work.  James Russell worked a perfect 8th inning and Sean Marshall struck out the side in the 9th inning.  Both Russell and Russell have been the Cubs best relievers thus far this season.

Ryan Dempster squares off against Wandy Rodriguez in the rubber match of the series today at 1:20 at Wrigley Field.  Let’s hope the Cubs can win and finish off a successful 1st homestand with a 4-2 record as they embark on their road trip to New York and Milwaukee this week.

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Carlos Silva Gets 1st Win, Cubs Rally for 7-2 Victory

Posted on 17 April 2010 by Lou

Carlos Silva pitched well again and the Cubs rallied with 6 runs in the bottom of the 7th inning to pull off their 3rd win in 4 games at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon.  The Cubs are now back at .500 with a 3-3 record.

Carlos Silva picked up his 1st win in a Cubs uniform.  He went 7 innings giving up just 2 unearned on 5 hits and no hits.  He also had 5 K’s. For the season Silva has miniscule 0.62 WHIP and 0.69 ERA.  John Grabow and Carlos Marmol worked 2 scoreless innings of relief to preserve the win.

Alfonso Soriano and Koyie Hill each had 2 hits for the Cubs in the win.  Derrek Lee also hit a 3-run home run to break the game open in the 7th inning.

The Cubs have now won 3 out of 4 games at Wrigley Field.

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Ted Lilly Set to Return to Cubs Rotation Next Weekend

Posted on 16 April 2010 by Lou

We should see Ted Lilly back in the Cubs rotation pretty soon — he will make his final “tune-up” start at Class A Peoria on Monday.

In his previous outing at Triple-A Iowa this past Wednesday, Lilly gave up just 1 run and 1 hit in 4 innings of work.  He walked one batter and struck out 4.  Lilly was pleased with the start — “Everything went pretty well.  I would’ve liked to have thrown a few more pitches.  It was fun to get back out there in front of a crowd and compete and face some hitters.  I had a good time.”

Manager Lou Pinella had this to say about Lilly’s upcoming minor league start on Monday — “We’ll let him go 75-80 pitches.  If he’s fine after that one, we’ll get him back in the rotation either over the weekend in Milwaukee or when we get back home.”

Look for Lilly to start on the of the weekend games against the Brewers at Miller Park.  Lilly has had success there in the past, and with the Cubs playing “average” baseball these days, they really need to get all their hogs in there as soon as possible…

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Zambrano Sub-par Again; Cubs Lose to Brewers 8-6

Posted on 15 April 2010 by Lou

Carlos Zambrano had another sub-par outing as the Cubs couldn’t complete the sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday afternoon.  Zambrano needed 123 pitches as he struggled mightily to make it through 5 innings – ouch!  He gave up 4 runs (3 earned) on 8 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 7.  The Cubs bats helped him by tying the game up in the bottom of the 4th inning on Marlon Byrd’s 2-run shot to deep center field.  Byrd’s 3rd home run of the season has him tied with Aramis Ramirez for the club lead.  Tyler Colvin started in place of Alfonso Soriano and had 2 hits for the Cubs.

The Cubs bullpen was not very good. Jeff Samardzija took the loss giving up 2 ER on 2 hits and 2 walks in 2 innings of work.  Sean Marshall also gave up his 1st ER on the season in his 1 inning of work.  And John Grabow also allowed a run – unearned – in an inning of work.  Big Z’s ERA now sits at 9.45, Samardzija at 16.20 and Grabow at 9.82.  Something’s gotta give.

The 1-win Houston Astros come into town for the weekend on Friday.  Tom Gorzelanny takes the hill in search of his 1st win of the season.  Felipe Paulino will pitch for the Astros – he gave up 4 ER on 4 hits and 4 walks in just 5 innings pitched in his only other start this year.  Look for the Cubs bats to keep up the hot hitting against Paulino at Wrigley Field…

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