Archive | May, 2010

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Cubs Woes Continue; Lose Another 1-run Game – 2-1 to Rangers

Posted on 22 May 2010 by Lou

This is almost comical – if it’s a 1-run game, the easy bet is that the Cubs are going to lose.  After dropping a 5-4 decision to the Phillies on Thursday, the Cubs dropped a 2-1 decision to the Ranger son Friday night in Texas.  What a joke.  How bad can you get in 1-run games?  The Cubs are now 5-10 in 1-run games, not a good sign for a team that is desperately searching for a post-season spot.  At 19-24, the Cubs continue to play ho-hum baseball.  They are 6 games back of the Cards and 5.5 games back of the Reds in the wild card race.

Ryan Theriot was the only Cubs player with more than 1 hit.  The Cubs squandered another 1st and 3rd, nobody out scoring chance in the 2nd inning.  Although they scored a run on Geovany Soto’s double play, that was the end of the threat.  It would also be the only run that the Cubs scored in the game.  Not good.

Ted Lilly pitched well — 6 2/3 innings – 2 ER on 6 hits and 3 walks with 4 K’s.  He had only 1 bad inning – the 4th – where he gave up a leadoff single to Ian Kinsler who eventually made it to 3rd base on the play after errors by Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot.  Vladmir Guerrero’s double plated Kinsler and then Guerrero came around to score the go-ahead run on Nelson Cruz’s RBI double.  That would be all the scoring in the game.

Carlos Zambrano pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for the Cubs, giving up just 1 hit without any runs.  Using only 2 pitchers helped get the much-maligned Cubs’ bullpen a little extra rest.

Randy Wells looks to snap the Cubs 2-game losing streak tonight in Texas.

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Cubs Fun Fact of the Day — Cubs Sign Bob Howry to Help Struggling Cubs Bullpen?!?!

Posted on 21 May 2010 by Lou

Not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  The Arizona Diamondbacks released Bob Howry on Monday after a disastrous start to the season — 17 runs on 18 hits (including 6 HR’s!) and 6 walks in just 14 1/3 innings.  Ouch!  All good for a 10.67 ERA.  With the imminent return of Carlos Zambrano to the Cubs starting rotation, the Cubs needed some veteran help in the ‘pen.  So the Cubs decided to go with a former player to help fill the void.  Howry pitched for the Cubs from 2006 through 2008.  He had a 3.90 in 234 appearances during that stretch, but the Cubs didn’t re-sign Howry after the 2008 season because of his hefty 5.35 ERA that year.

WOW – if we’re calling on this guy to resurrect the Cubs bullpen, we could be in deeper trouble then I thought.  The Cubs sent down Justin Berg to make room for Howry?!  Come on, let’s let some of these younger guys get some chances out there.  They might fail, but at least we can see what we’ve got in the farm system.  We know that Howry will fail – he served up a ton of HR’s as a Cub in 2008 and it looks like he’s still doing the same thing now.  The season is too much in jeopardy right now – why not go down with some young pitchers trying to make a name for themselves…

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Cubs Begin 2010 Interleague Play with Weekend Series in Texas

Posted on 21 May 2010 by Lou

The Cubs begin interleague play with a visit to the AL West-leading Texas Rangers in Arlington this weekend.

In Game 1 on Friday night, Ted Lilly will take on Colby Lewis.  After his winning his 1st start in 2010 with 6 scoreless innings against the Milwaukee Brewers, Lilly has struggle in his last 4 starts.  He is 0-3 with a no decision during that stretch and he has given up 16 ER’s and 5 HR’s in 25 innings over that span.  Lewis is 2-0 with a 3.54 in 3 home starts in 2010.

In Game 2 on Saturday night, Randy Wells looks to get back in the  win column when he takes on 23-year old Derek Holland.  Wells is 0-2 with a no decision in his last 3 starts.  He only gave up 1 ER in 6+ innings in his last start against the Rockies, but he did not get a decision in the Cubs 4-2 extra innings win.  Holland has won both of his starts this season with a sparkling 2.38 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

In Game 3 on Sunday afternoon, Carlos Silva takes on C.J. Wilson.  Silva is 5-0 with a 3.35 ERA but will be tested against the hot hitting Rangers in Texas.  Despite giving up 7 ER’s in 4 1/3 innings of his last start against the Angels, Wilson still has a miniscule 2.55 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.  Just goes to show you how good he has been in 2010.

Should be a fun weekend of interleague play for the Cubs in Texas.  At 19-23, they still have their work cut out for them if they expect to get back in the NL Central hunt.  They trail the 1st place Cards by 5 games and the 2nd place Reds by 4.5 games.  Let’s hope for Cards losses against the Angels in St. Louis and Reds losses against the Indians in Cleveland over the weekend.

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Cubs Fun Fact of the Day — Cubs Defense Getting Better

Posted on 20 May 2010 by Lou

A week ago, the Chicago Cubs had committed at least 1 error in 7 straight games.  Since last Friday’s loss against the Pirates at Wrigley Field, however, the Cubs have committed just 1 total error in those 7 games.  That is a major improvement for a club that has already committed 32 errors on the season – good for a .979 fielding percentage.

The one glaring problem, Starlin Castro is 2nd on the team in errors with 5, just 1 behind 3rd baseman Aramis Ramirez.  Castro was supposed to provide stellar defense for the middle of the Cubs defense, but so far, it has been a bit suspect.  Sure 3 of those errors came in his 1st game in front of the home town fans at Wrigley Field, but we need him to remember about the routine plays and not just the spectacular ones.  Hopefully as he gets more comfortable in his new surroundings at the major league level we’ll see more consistency in his defense.

Kudos to Ryan Theriot who hasn’t skipped a beat despite moving over to 2nd base to make room for Castro at shortstop.  Theriot has just 3 errors in 153 chances good for a .980 fielding percentage.

Derrek Lee is having another solid year – just 1 error in 335 chances, good for a .997 fielding percentage.

Lastly, let’s hear it for catchers Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill – not one single error during the 1st 42 games of the season – pretty damn impressive.

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Oh What Might Have Been — 5-4 Loss to Phillies Ends Win Streak at 4

Posted on 20 May 2010 by Lou

It was almost a perfect end to a 2-game road trip in Philly, but then the Cubs woes with runners on 3rd base and less than 2 outs re-surfaced as the Cubs squandered a golden scoring opportunity against Jose Contreras in the top of the 9th inning.  The Cubs trailed most of the day today, but kept battling back to tie the game up on 2 different occasions.  But it wasn’t meant to be despite getting runners on 1st and 3rd with nobody out against Contreras (who is subbing for injured closer Brad Lidge) in the 9th inning.  With the game tied at 4, Alfonso Soriano had a GREAT at-bat, fouling off pitch after pitch on a 3-2 count to eventually work a walk.  Mike Fontenot then singled up the middle sending Soriano hustling to 3rd base.  1st and 3rd, nobody out — easy run, right?  Not for this Cubs team.  Contreras made Starlin Castro look silly, striking him out with ease.  Aramis Ramirez then worked the count full after falling behind early, but swung at a pitch that my 3-year old would have known not to swing at.  The pitch was at least 2 feet wide of the plate and the Phillies catcher had to lunge to make sure it wasn’t a wild pitch, but Ramirez somehow tried to swing at the pitch at the last second.  Even with a 10 foot bat in his hands he probably would have missed it.  Then it was Geovany Soto’s turn to make Contreras look good.  He hit a lazy foul pop up that Ryan Howard snared for the final out, and instead of talking about another great come-from-behind win, we’re talking about how this team seems to lay an egg whenever they get a good scoring chance.  It is so painful.

This is an EXCELLENT Phillies team with an amazingly deep offensive lineup, so I’ll give the Cubs for being in both games of the series.  Holding the Phils to just 6 runs in 2 home games at the sand lot that is Citizens Bank Ballpark is a feat in and of itself.  But when you get chances like this, good teams win.  The Cubs are clearly just an average team at best.  The Cubs made it interesting.  After falling behind in the 1st inning on a Chase Utley home run, the Cubs answered with a Starlin Castro RBI single that scored Soriano in the 5th inning.  Ryan Dempster couldn’t fully get out of a 2-out jam in the 6th inning and eventually served up Jimmy Rollins 3-run jack to deep right field that gave the Phillies a 4-1 lead.  The Cubs could have mailed it in, but Derrek Lee immediately answered with a solo home run to lead off the 7th inning.  Then with only 1 out, the Cubs loaded the bases with a walk and 2 singles, but once again, the Cubs failed to take full advantage of the scoring opportunity.  Sure Tyler Colvin drove in a run with a sac fly, but someone needs to come through with a hit to break the game open in that situation.  Xavier Nady who has been so hot as a pinch-hitter lunged at the 1st pitch he saw, and just like that, the threat was over again.  Kosuke Fukudome forced the 4-4 tie with his lead-off solo home run to right field in the top of the 8th inning.  But then John Grabow had another poor outing and gave the lead right back to the Phillies.  He walked 2 of the 1st three batters that he faced and gave up Raul Ibanez’s game-winning single to right.  Fukudome did his best to throw out Utley at home, but his throw was just off the line towards the 1st base line and Utley slid in ahead of Koyie Hill’s tag.

Then it was time for disappointment in the 9th.

Ryan Dempster pitched well, but not well enough.  I feel like I say that for just about every start he has made during the last month. It’s gotta be frustrating for him being 2-5 with a 1.10 WHIP and a 3.73.  At the same time, he has already given up 8 home runs this year in 62+ innings pitched – that is simply too many.  If he cuts that home run number in half, Dempster is 5-2 and the Cubs are only 3 games out of 1st place in the NL Central.

Today’s loss was that much more painful given the near-perfect game that the Cubs played on Wednesday night in Philly.  Tom Gorzelanny threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings (just 3 hits and 2 walks) in the 4-1 win, but left after getting hit with a line drive.  The Cubs took an early 2-0 lead on an RBI single by Castro in the 3rd inning and an RBI single by Jeff Baker in the 7th inning.  John Grabow gave up a run in the 8th inning, but Carlos Zambrano saved the day by getting Jayson Werth to ground out on a sensational play by Castro to end the threat with the tying run on 2nd base.  Then Xavier Nady came through with another HUGE pinch-hit single that gave the Cubs 2 insurance runs with the bases loaded out 2 outs in the 9th inning.  That made the save chance for Carlos Marmol a little easier in the bottom of the inning.  Although Marmol walked Ibanez and hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch, he struck out Ross Gload and Shane Victorino to pick up his 7th save of the season.

I know we should be happy that the Cubs split with the Phillies, but the same trends that keep occurring just don’t make me feel confident about this team.  Poor clutch hitting is killing this team and preventing the club from taking bigger leads or any leads at all.  If the Cubs took advantage of some of these scoring chances, that would take a lot of heat off of the pitching staff.  And while the starters have been good, they must feel like they have to pitch a perfect game in order to get a win.  The close games is taking its toll on a young bullpen that has under-performed.  If Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol could pitch every day, it would be a different story.  But since they can’t, Manager Lou Pinella has to go to some of his other options.  Grabow is not getting it done and he has been a huge factor in the bullpen’s struggles.  After the last 2 days, Grabow now has 3 losses with a 2.12 WHIP and an 8.44 ERA.  If he wasn’t a veteran getting paid big bucks for a set-up man, he would have been sent down to Triple-A Iowa 2 weeks ago.

Ugghhh – I could go on and on.  Let’s hope the Cubs can nip this losing streak in the bud and get things going again in Texas over the weekend.  It won’t be easy, but it should be nice to be able to put Soriano in the DH spot and get a better defensive team out there with Tyler Colvin in the lineup for 3 straight days in left.  Can’t wait…

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Cubs Fun Fact of the Day — Can Cubs Survive Upcoming 11-Game Stretch?

Posted on 19 May 2010 by Lou

Our Cubs Fun Fact of the Day gets us really excited for the upcoming schedule for the Cubs – a brutal 11-game stretch against Phillies, Rangers, Dodgers & Cardinals.

The Cubs finally get a chance to take on the 2-time defending National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies on the road today and tomorrow.  The Phillies lead the NL East by 4 games over the Florida Marlins.

Then it’s off to Arlington, Texas to take on the Rangers for a weekend series against the AL-West leading Rangers.

After an off-day on Monday, the Cubs return home to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field to play the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Dodgers have used a 9-game winning streak to pull within 1 game of the NL-West leading San Diego Padres.

Then it’s time to bring out all the stops with the 1st series against the hated-St. Louis Cardinals in 2010.  The Cardinals had been leading the NL Central for most of the season until they dropped a 1/2 game behind the Cincinnati Reds.  The Cards are still 6 games over .500 and will be a force to deal with in the NL Central all season long.

The Cubs will have their work cut out for them over this stretch.  At 18-22 and still 5.5 games behind the Reds, the Cubs cannot afford to lose anymore ground in the NL Central race or in the wild card race.  The Cubs look to build off a current-3-game winning streak.  Can they make it 9-in-a-row like the Dodgers?  Let’s hope so.  Go Cubs!!!

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Cubs Ride Hot Bats and Carlos Silva en Route to 2-Game Sweep of Colorado Rockies @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 19 May 2010 by Lou

Carlos Silva pitched 6+ strong innings for his 5th win as the Cubs beat the Rockies 6-2 at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night.

After blowing a great scoring chance in the 1st inning – 1st and 3rd and nobody out after singles by Kosuke Fukudome and Ryan Theriot to start the game – I thought here we go again.  But my prayers were answered in the bottom of the 4th inning as the same situation presented itself.  Tyler Colvin had struck out on 3 pitches with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the 1st inning, but this time he came through with a clutch line drive single to center field that plated Aramis Ramirez.  The Cubs got 2 more runs in the inning on a Starlin Castro fielder’s choice play and a 2-out single from Kosuke Fukudome, and just like that, the Cubs had a 3-0 lead.  That seemed to relax everyone in Wrigley Field and it seemed to give some confidence to this struggling Cubs team.

Silva pitched well until he ran out of juice in the 7th inning.  He issued his only walk of the game to Troy Tulowitzki to lead off the inning and then he served up Todd Helton’s 2-run bomb to deep right field.  That was all Manager Lou Pinella wanted to see as he turned to trusted lefty James Russell (after Esmailin Caridad walked the only batter he faced) to get the Cubs out of the jam.  Russell notched 2 K’s and a weak fly ball out and the Cubs still had a 3-2 lead.

Then the Cubs tacked on some insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th inning on a Starlin Castro single and a 2-run Ryan Theriot single.  That increased the Cubs lead to 6-2 which allowed Pinella to use Zambrano in the 9th instead of closer Carlos Marmol.  Zambrano pitched a perfect 9th inning with 2K’s – think he’s happy to know he’s going back to the starting rotation sometime soon?

The Cubs have won 3 straight and embark on a quick 5-game road trip to take on the Phillies in Phialdelphia on Wednesday and Thursday and the Rangers in Texas over the weekend.  Stay tuned Cubs fans…

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Cubs Fun Fact of the Day — Carlos Zambrano Back to Starting Rotation – Hip Hip Hooray

Posted on 18 May 2010 by Lou

Wow – was I glad to hear about this Cubs Fun Fact of the Day.  OK, I know it’s not really a “fun fact” but I thought it was significant enough to warrant its own post.  As we discussed a few days ago, the Big Z bullpen experiment was not working.  He simply didn’t get it done in the ‘pen – - and when you’re paying someone $18+ million per season to be your ace starting pitcher, he should be in the starting rotation, not in the bullpen pitching in the 7th or 8th innings of ball games.

Manager Lou Pinella just recently made this announcement public — “We’re going to stretch him out to get him back in the rotation.  We’ll see exactly when he’s ready.  I don’t know how long it’s going to be.  Let’s see how long he needs.  We’d like to get him two or three appearances out of the bullpen stretched out…  We’ll look at the situation and make a determination [as to which current starter will get moved to the bullpen]… Let’s hope it’s a real, real tough choice.”

GM Jim Hendry supported the decision — “He gave it a good whirl, but the last couple of times out he said he wasn’t able to throw as hard as he’s used to or wanted to.”

As for Big Z, he is publicly saying all the right things, but I think he will be happy with the switch — “I’m happy.  As long as this team is happy, I’m happy for this team.  Like I said, whatever this team wants me to do, I’ll do.  This is a business. They’re the boss.  If the boss wants me to go close games, I’ll close games.  If the boss wants me to start games, I’ll start games.  It’s their choice.”

Now, don’t get me wrong – Big Z is not going to all of a sudden go out and win 20 games.  He may not even win 12 games this year.  But he gives the club a better chance to win on a regular basis and his comfort zone is as a starting pitcher.  It was a creative idea, and it wasn’t like Carlos Silva or Tom Gorzelanny pitched poorly while the Cubs conducted the Big  Z bullpen experiment.  But it is definitely time to make the switch back for Big Z…

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Ramirez’s 11th Inning Homer Lifts Cubs to 4-2 Win Over Rockies @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 18 May 2010 by Lou

From disappointment to joy — that’s what Aramis Ramirez’s line drive walk-off home run to left field did for the Cubs in the 4-2 11th inning win at Wrigley Field.  It was Ramirez’s 1st home run since April 15th.  Ramirez had 2 hits and 3 RBI’s in the win, but he is still only hitting .175 with 4 home runs and 20 RBI’s.  His .239 on-base percentage is worse than most average hitters batting averages, but at least he came through in the clutch on Monday night.

Starlin Castro batted in the 2nd spot behind Kosuke Fukudome and the combined for 5 hits and 2 runs scored.  Castros is batting .361 with a .439 on-base percentage and Fukudome is batting .315 with a .411 on-base percentage.

Randy Wells was in position for the win, leaving the game in the 7th inning with a 2-1 lead.  Wells worked 1-run ball through 6 2/3 innings giving up just 7 hits and 1 walk with 3 K’s.  John Grabow’s struggles in the 8th inning, however, cost him the win.  Grabow gave up a single and 2 walks to load the bases with just 1 out.  Manager Lou Pinella called on closer Carlos Marmol to pick up his 1st 5-out save in 2010, but the closer messed up right off the bat by walking Miguel Olivo to allow the tyinjg run to score.  Fortunately, Marmol limited the damage by inducing Ian Stewart to hit into an unassisted double play by Castro.  Marmol struck out the side in the 9th inning and then Sean Marshall worked 2 perfect innings in the 10th and 11th innings to set up Ramirez’s big home run.  Marshall picked up his 3rd win of the season with his clutch effort.

Carlos Silva looks to help the Cubs sweep the Rockies in the 2-game series at Wrigley.  Let’s hope the Cubs can make it 3-in-a-row.

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Cubs Fun Fact of the Day — Starlin Castro – Memorable 1st 9 Games

Posted on 17 May 2010 by Lou

Forget about all the “sad” facts of the day from last week, let’s shine the spotlight on our star of the future – Shortstop Starlin Castro.  Castro has now played 9 major league games.  Castro has been on fire at the plate, but yesterday’s 4-3 win marked the 1st game in which Castro did not reach base via a hit or a walk.  He did reach base, but it came courtesy of former Cubs Ronny Cedeno’s error which kept the inning alive for the Cubs to tie the game in the 7th inning.  Prior to that, Castro had a hit in 7 of his 1st 8 games and in the other game, he walked twice to get on base.

Overall, Castro is still hitting .323 with a .417 on-base percentage.  Castro has 3 multi-hit games, he has scored 4 runs and drive in 6 runs.  He was walked 5 times and struck out just twice in 31 at-bats.  Not bad, not bad at all for a rookie with all the pressure in the world on his shoulders.

Let’s hope the light continues to shine on the 20-year old rookie phenom.

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