Archive | May, 2010

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Cubs Salvage Weekend Series with 4-3 Come-From-Behind Win Over Pirates @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 17 May 2010 by Lou

For 7 innings, it looked like it was going to be another frustrating, disappointing loss for the Cubs on Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field.  The Cubs trailed the Pirates 3-1 and despite numerous scoring chances they could never seem to come through with the clutch hit – as had happened so many times this season.  It all turned around in the bottom of the 7th inning after a lead-off walk to Mike Fontenot.  After reliever Evan Meek quickly recorded 2 outs on fly balls by Geovany Soto and Tyler Colvin, the Cubs finally got the clutch hitting they so desperately needed.  Kosuke Fukudome single to right sending Fontenot scampering to 3rd base.  Meek then threw a wild pitch allowing Fontenot to score and Fukudome to move to 2nd and into scoring position.  Starlin Castro kept the inning alive as he hustled to 1st base safely after Ronny Cedeno’s fielding error. Derrek Lee – who had failed in this situation countless times before this season – finally delivered a hit that plated Fukudome with the tying run.

The Cubs then took full advantage in the bottom of the 8th inning.  Alfonso Soriano singled and stole 2nd base with 2 outs to get into scoring position (he was even able to advance to 3rd base on the wild throw).  The Pirates then walked Geovany Soto to force the Cubs to use a pinch-hitter.  Xavier Nady was 0 for 9 as a pinch-hitter since July 2008, but he delivered the game winning single that scored Soriano with the winning run.

Kudos to the Cubs pitchers too.  Ted Lilly hung in there after giving up 3 runs in the 2nd inning.  He ended up going 7 innings, allowing just those 3 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks.  It wasn’t his best game, but he did what he had to do to give his club a shot at the end.  Sean Marshall delivered again with another scoreless inning of relief.  His 0.87 WHIP and 2.45 ERA are simply amazing.  And then Carlos Marmol came through with one of the biggest saves of his career – seriously.  Just think if he had gotten into trouble in the 9th inning.  The Cubs offense finally came through with 3 runs to take the lead at the end of the game.  It would have been the perfect time for the Cubs bullpen to do something wrong to blow the game once again.  But Marmol did the exact opposite – throwing a perfect inning with 2 K’s.

Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t think that this is going to send the Cubs on a 10-game winning streak.  They still are too inconsistent at this point in the season to get my hopes up too much.  But this NL Central division is up for grabs.  No one is going to run away with this.  The Reds are now in 1st place, and the Cubs are still just 5.5 games out of the division lead.  Anything is possible – they just need to hang in there and stay as positive as possible.  It’s not easy, but you never know.  As Manager Lou Pinella said — “I’d like to see people get hot and stay hot and win games, and everything will take care of itself.  I wouldn’t be getting asked these questions day in and day out, OK?  And having to make excuses and everything else, OK?  So, if we start doing the things that we’re capable of doing, I won’t have to answer these questions all the time…If the talent that we had was playing up to [expectations], I’d tell you I didn’t think it would happen.  We’re confident that we’ll get it going but we’ve got to score more runs consistently and we’ve got to keep [opponents] from scoring, especially late, because you can’t come back from those things… Everybody’s trying.  Nobody’s going through the motions.  It’s just a question of being more consistent.  Once we do that, we’ll win more baseball games.  And then everybody will be happy.  The media will be happy.  The manager will be happy.  Tghe players will be happy.  The fans will be happy.”

Amen to that…

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Cubs Lose 4-3 on Saturday; Ted Lilly Looks to Thwart Pirates Bid for 2nd Straight 3-Game Sweep

Posted on 16 May 2010 by Lou

This is such a joke.  The Cubs lost to the Pirates 4-3 at home on Saturday afternoon.  They have now dropped 8 of their last 10 games and they are just 8-10 at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in 2010.  In short, this season is only 37 games old and it is already turning into a comedy of errors.  Whether it be horrible relief pitching…  Whether it be the lack of ANY clutch hitting when the game is on the line or when the Cubs have a chance to blow games open in the early innings… Or whether it be poor starting pitching when the Cubs offense actually comes through with some runs…  This team simply does not know how to win.

For a 2nd straight day, a Cubs starting pitcher put his team in an early hole with a 3-run 1st inning deficit.  And just like on Friday with Tom Gorzelanny, Ryan Dempster recovered after the shaky 1st inning and kept his team in the ball game.  Dempster ended up pitching 7 innings giving up just those 3 1st inning runs on 4 hits and 5 walks.  Dempster did ring up 9 K’s and he has a solid ERA (3.49) and WHIP (1.09) despite a 2-4 record.

But once again, the Cubs bats managed just 2 runs through the games 1st 8 innings.  Not good.  The Cubs had more than 2 runners on base only once during that stretch — in the 3rd inning.  After Dempster doubled and Ryan Theriot singled to put 1st and 3rd with nobody out, Marlon Byrd lined out and Derrek Lee popped out to put pressure on Aramis Ramirez to drive in runs with a hit with 2 outs.  Granted, Ramirez did come through with a clutch 2-run double, but the Cubs should have scored more than 2 runs with the middle of their lineup coming up in that situation.  If Ramirez didn’t get that hit, it likely would have been a shutout on the north side on Saturday.  Then there was the missed opportunity in the 9th  inning (Carlos Marmol serving up a home run to Jeff Clement in the top of the inning proved costly as it gave the Pirates a 2-run lead).  Starlin Castro walked with 1 out and came around to score on Kosuke Fukudome’s triple to right field.  All Ryan Theriot had to do was hit a fly ball deep enough to score Fukudome from 3rd base with only 1 out, but he struck out and Marlon Byrd followed suit to end the threat.

This is getting pretty ridiculous for the Cubs.  They clearly have NO confidence that they can win close games down the stretch.  They are in 5th placed in the NL Central with an awful 15-22 record – this from the highest payrolled team in the National League.  Talk about under-performing?!  Don’t look now, but the Cubs are just 1.5 games ahead of the Houston Astros who have the worst record in the NL.  If we hit that low-water mark, look for major moves on the north side – namely a Lou Pinella or JiM Hendry firing.

Can Ted Lilly break the slide today at Wrigley.  My bet is a big fat NO!

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Caridad, Zambrano Blow Game as Cubs Lose 10-6; Big Z to Stay in ‘Pen

Posted on 15 May 2010 by Lou

The Cubs bullpen blew it again.  Handed a 6-5 lead after 5 innings, Esmailin Caridad and Carlos Zambrano couldn’t shut the door on the Pirates who have now won all 4 meetings with the Cubs this season.  Ouch.

Caridad got into trouble by walking Andrew McCutchen who then stole second to get into scoring position.  Garrett Jones drove him in with an RBI double to tie the game at 6.

Carlos Zambrano entered the game with the score still tied at 6 in the 8th inning.  He struggled right off the bat.  He hit Andy LaRoche and then gave up a single to McCutchen.  Garrett Jones broke the tie with a long home run to right field to give the Pirates the 9-6 lead, a lead they would not relinquish.  Big Z finished out the ugly inning – 4 hits, 1 HBP and 3 ER.  You would think an outing like this would force the Cubs to re-consider the Zambrano experiment in the bullpen as we discussed the other day.  But unfortunately, it looks Manager Lou Pinella is staying pat.  Here was his quote after the game — “We don’t have many options.  Outside of Marmol, we haven’t had a right-hander here that gets hitters out with any consistency at all… Right now, that’s where Zambrano is going to be… Carlos can do that job very well if he gets his mind totally set on it.  He helps me in so many areas by being out there.  It frees me to use other pitchers a lot differently than I would if he weren’t there.”  Problem is, I don’t think Carlos is really on board.  Check out these statements — “To get this clear, I was unhappy the first day that they told me.  I wasn’t sure that it was going to work.  But now, I accept it.  I’m a reliever now, and I have to do my job as a reliever, as a setup man.. I’ll be here until they need me to be here, and I’ll be the eighth-inning guy until they say ‘That’s enough, we want you to start’… If tomorrow they decide to bring me back to the rotation, I’ll be there.  I’ll be more than happy to come back to the rotation.”  Does that really sound like a guy that wants to be in the bullpen?  I don’t think so, and it’s about time GM Jim Hendry and Pinella figure that out.

The few positives from the loss – Marlon Byrd had 2 hits including his 7th homer of the season.  Aramis Ramirez stroked 2 hits as did Alfonso Soriano who also had 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.

Ryan Dempster was hoping to the get the Cubs off to a good start today, but 2 walks set up an RBI single by Andrew McCutchen and a 2-run double by Ryan Church.  The Cubs are down 3-0 once again.  Unbelievable…

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Cubs Fun (Sad) Fact of the Day — Will the Real John Grabow Please Stand Up!

Posted on 14 May 2010 by Lou

Where o’ where is the real John Grabow.  After a productive 2nd half of the season after a midseason trade to the Cubs (30 games, 7 holds, 3.24 ERA and 1.24 WHIP), the Cubs made Grabow a priority as the veteran lefty presence in the Cubs bullpen for 2010.  Grabow eventually agreed to a 2-year, $7 million deal to remain a Cub and Cubs brass was so thrilled to have the lefty back in the mix as the primary lefty set-up man for Closer Carlos Marmol.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, Grabow’s 2010 has started off on a major down note and he recently underwent an MRI to make sure that nothing was seriously wrong with his sore left knee.  Grabow has made 15 appearances for the Cubs in 2010, but he has thrown just 11 2/3 innings.  He is 0-2 with just 4 holds and 1 blown save.  He has given up a whopping 19 hits and 6 walks (2 home runs) in the 11+ innings, and his ERA and WHIP have ballooned to 9.26 and 2.14, respectively.  Ouch.  He has given up at least 3 hits and 3 ER in 2 of his last 3 starts and he just can’t seem to find the right mix of pitches.   The Cubs have decided to give the lefty a week off to rest his knee and the MRI revealed that there is no structural damage to the knee.

One positive to this “sad” story — Grabow made his 1st appearance this afternoon (since his May 7th appearance in which he gave up 3 ER) and he struck out the side in his 1 inning of work on just 13 pitches.  We need some more outings like that from Grabow if the Cubs expect to make a push in 2010.

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Cubs Host Pirates in 3-Day Weekend Series @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 14 May 2010 by Lou

Tom Gorzelanny and the Cubs host the Pittsburgh Pirates @ Wrigley Field this weekend in a 3-game set.  The Pirates swept the Cubs in Pittsburgh last week, outscoring the Cubs

Friday’s game has been pretty ugly so far — the Pirates scored 3 runs off of Gorzelanny in the 1st inning, but the Cubs answered with 4 of their own in the bottom of the inning.  The Cubs have also had leads of 5-4 and 6-4, but the Pirates kept chipping away with single runs in the 5th and 6th innings to tie the game at 6.  Marlon Byrd has 2 hits, 1 RBI and 2 runs scored, while Alfonso has 2 hits with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.

The rest of the weekend shapes up like this —

Saturday @ 12:05PM – Paul Malholm v. Ryan Dempster (looking to avoid his 4th straight loss).

Sunday @ 1:20PM – Ross Ohlendorf v. Ted Lilly (looking to avoid his 3rd straight loss).

Anything short of a sweep over the Pirates will certainly be a major disappointment for the Cubs this weekend at Wrigley…

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Cubs Fun (Sad) Fact of the Day — Is the Carlos Zambrano Bullpen Experiment Over?

Posted on 13 May 2010 by Lou

Say it isn’t so Lou – Is the Carlos Zambrano bullpen experiment over already?  Dare we say it – should the Cubs try to unload the “troubled” righty – the one-time ace of the staff?  Wow – I never thought it would come down to this…

Big Z has made 7 appearances out of the bullpen since the move was made back on April 24th.  During that stretch, he has given up 3 ER on 11 hits and 2 walks over 7 2/3 innings.  He also has 2 holds – nothing great, nothing awful.  Just so-so.  Is this really what the Cubs truly want with their $18 million dollar man?  The guy who has been the Cubs opening day starter for each of the last 6 seasons?  The guy who the team still considers its ace?  As we said before, this move never seemed to make any sense from the start.  How can you really justify giving your 8th inning set-up guy $18 million dollars a year?  He clearly isn’t happy.  In yesterday’s 4-3 win over the Marlins, Manager Lou Pinella yanked Big Z when he walked Jorge Cantu and gave up a single to Dan Uggla after Zambrano had recorded the 1st 2 outs of the inning.  Big Z didn’t even look at Pinella as he walked off the mound and it was clear that Big Z disagreed with his manager’s decision.  Big Z has barely said a word to the media since the move to the bullpen and we’re starting to wonder if Zambrano really embraces the role.

Wouldn’t it be better to nip this in the bud before it becomes a clubhouse problem.  We know Big Z has a bit of a temper and we finally got things right in the locker room by getting rid of Milton Bradley.  With the club already struggling to win games with a 15-20 record, do we really want to try to create a distraction that could make things even worse for this desperate Cubs club?  I don’t think so and most Cubs fans probably don’t think so.

It’s about time we ended this experiment.  Let’s get Big Z back where he belongs as a starter.  If we really want to win this NL Central Division (after the Astros swept the Cards in St. Louis this week, we’re still only 5 games out of 1st), at some point this season, the Cubs are going to need Zambrano to start and win ball games down the stretch.  Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelanny have been great – we couldn’t ask for anything more – but it’s time to send Gorzelanny into the pen and bring back Big as a starter right now.  Come on Lou and Jim [Hendry] – let’s do the right thing here and give our team the best shot at turning this season around – I can taste the champagne already…

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Cubs Salvage Series with 4-3 Win over Marlins

Posted on 13 May 2010 by Lou

It wasn’t pretty once again, but at least this time the Cubs came out on top with a 4-3 win over the Florida Marlins at Wrigley Field on Wednesday afternoon to avoid the sweep.  Carlos Silva notched another quality start pitching into the 7th inning and earning hie 4th win of the season without a loss.  Although he did give up 7 hits and 2 walks, he managed to stay out of too much trouble allowing just a total of 2 ER.  He was helped by 2 unassisted double plays turned by shortstop Starlin Castro in each of the 1st 2 innings.  Sean Marshall helped Silva get out of a jam in the 7th inning by inducing an inning-ending double play to preserve the 4-2 lead.  Carlos Zambrano —  see our Cubs Fun (Sad) Fact of the Day today — had trouble staying out of trouble in the 8th inning.  After retiring the 1st 2 batters he faced, Big Z walked Jorge Cantu and then gave up a single to Dan Uggla.  That prompted Manager Lou Pinella to pull Zambrano for his closer Carlos Marmol who quickly disposed of pinch-hitter John Baker with a strikeout to end the threat.  Marmol allowed a run in the 9th inning to make things interesting, but was able to strike out Hanley Ramirez with runners on 1st and 2nd to pick up the save for the Cubs.  It was Marmol’s 5th save in 6 tries this season.

The Cubs put runners on base for a 3rd straight game with 8 hits and 4 walks.  But they only scored 4 runs, failing to come through with clutch hits on several occasions.  Mike Fontenot had a 2-RBI double in the 2nd inning and Marlon Byrd had an RBI double in the 5th inning to put the Cubs head for good.

Derrek Lee seems to have responded to Pinella’s move to the 4th spot.  Lee had 2 doubles in Tuesday night’s loss and 2 more singles in Wednesday’s win.  Castro keeps swinging a hot bat too – adding 2 more singles to increase his batting average to .364.

Tom Gorzelanny kicks things off for the Cubs against his former team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.  After sweeping the Cubs in Pittsburgh last week, the Pirates have dropped 5 of their last 6 games and haven’t scored a single run in their last 2 games.  Let’s hope their struggles keep up against the Cubs this weekend at Wrigley.  It will be a MAJOR disappointment for the Cubs if they can’t win this series this weekend…

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Cubs Fun (Sad) Fact of the Day – Derrek Lee & Aramis Ramirez Killing Cubs Offense

Posted on 12 May 2010 by Lou

Not sure if you caught onto the theme for this week.  Although the facts that I’m providing are pretty damn interesting, they are also pretty “sad” if you’re a Cubs fan.  Seeing as how the Cubs have dropped 7 of their last 8 games, I figured this would be a good theme for the week for a “sad” Cubs team.

Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez have been killing the Cubs with limited offensive output in the middle of the lineup.  With 5 starters hitting over .300 – Kosuke Fukudome, Ryan Theriot, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and now Starlin Castro – it is amazing that this team has not won more games.  Then you look at Lee’s and Ramirez’s horrid numbers and you can see why the Cubs have struggled so much early in the season.  When you don’t get consistent production out of your #3 and # 4 hitters, your not going to win a lot of games.

Derrek Lee — .220 batting average with a .333 on-base percentage.  Lee only has 28 hits in 127 at-bats and he only has 4 doubles and 4 home runs with 16 RBI’s.  Throw in 28 K’s and it has been a horrible start to the season for Lee.  Since April 16th, he has hit only 1 home run.

Aramis Ramirez — .159 batting average with a .227 on-base percentage.  Ouch!  If you thought Lee’s numbers were bad, check out these stats – Ramirez only has 20 hits in 126 at-bats and he only has 3 doubles and 3 home runs with 15 RBI’s.  Throw in 31 K’s and it has been an even worse start for Ramirez than Lee.  Ramirez’s last homer came on tax day – April 15th.

Manager Lou Pinella has tried to juggle things around, moving Lee down to 4 and Ramirez down to 5th and 6th in the order.  But nothing seems to be working for either player.  Let’s hope things turn around soon.  The Cubs have the 2nd to worst record in the National League (at 14-20) and they already trail the 1st place Cardinals by 6 1/2 games in the NL Central race.  I know it’s only May 12th, but things can get out of hand pretty quickly – you’d hate to be 10+ games out of 1st place by the end of May, so unless Lee and Ramirez both turn it around, it looks like that’s the direction this team is headed in in 2010.

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Different Day, Same Old Story as Cubs Lose Again…

Posted on 12 May 2010 by Lou

It was a different day on the calendar for the Cubs, but the results were the same – another close loss as the Cubs offense could not deliver any clutch hits.  Randy Wells was the tough-luck loser this time around as the Cubs fell to the Marlins for a 2nd straight night, this time by just 1 run.

Let’s look at the numbers:

The Cubs have lost 7 of their last 8 games.  In 1 of the losses, the Cubs scored just 1 run.  In 5 of the losses, the Cubs managed to score 2 runs.  And in the 7th loss, the Cubs broke out and scored a whopping 3 runs.  What is going on with this team.  Right now, the Cubs have 5 starters who are hitting above the .300 mark — Ryan Theriot, Kosuke Fukudome, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and Starlin Castro.  But no one ever seems to come through with the clutch hit that breaks a game open.  The last time that happened was in the Cubs 14-7 win over the Reds 5 days ago when the rookie Castro had 2 big hits – a 3-run HR and a 3-run triple – to spark the win.  What makes it worse, the Cubs have been getting good pitching, but it seems like the starters and relievers have to be perfect or else the team will lose.  In the 7 losses, 2 have come by 1 run and 3 have come by just 2 runs.  That means a play here or a bounce that goes another way could result in a Cubs win instead of a Cubs loss.

But back to last night’s debacle.  Although Randy Wells served up early home runs to Cody Ross and Gaby Sanchez that gave the Marlins a 3-0 lead by the end of the 3rd inning, he rallied to keep his club in the game.  He ended up pitching 8 solid innings (save for the 2 home runs) and allowed just 1 walk and 1 hit from the 4th through the 8th innings.  He racked up 8 K’s and actually lowered his WHIP to 1.33 and his ERA to 4.57.

But for the 2nd straight night, the Cubs racked up more hits than the Marlins but couldn’t push across more runs as the Cubs didn’t score until the 6th inning.  Derrek Lee finally “broke out” with 2 doubles which drove in the Cubs first run in the 6th.  Marlon Byrd didn’t get a hit, but he did drive in the Cubs 2nd run in the 8th inning to pull the Cubs within 1 run of the lead.  Starlin Castro had 2 more hits in the loss and is still hitting .333.

Carlos Silva takes the bump today in the series finale hoping that he can do enough to help avoid a series sweep at the hands of the Marlins.

I’m at a loss right now.  I feel like I’ve written this type of post a thousand times already this year.  Couple that with the thousand times I wrote this similar post last year, and I’m starting to get a little sick of it.  Some teams know how to win.  Other teams don’t.  Until this team gets some confidence to know that they can win close games, we’re going to have a lot of these frustrating 1 and 2 run losses this year as the Cardinals continue to expand their lead in the NL Central.  Let’s just hope that Marlon Byrd and Castro keep up their good seasons so that we have something to cheer about…

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Cubs Fun (Sad) Fact of the Day — Starlin Castro’s Awful Debut @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 11 May 2010 by Lou

This was not the way he drew it up – 3 errors in Starlin Castro’s debut at Wrigley Field.  Ouch!

Castro committed his 1st error in the 3rd inning on an errant throw hit by Cody Ross to lead-off the inning.  Bad, but as I like to tell my 3 1/2 year old daughter when she “accidentally” spills her drink – “No big deal, it happens.”

The 2nd error of the game proved very costly, however.  Castro’s throwing error allowed Brett Carroll to reach base and he came around to score with the tying run on Chris Coglan’s RBI double.  That tied the game up at 1.

His 3rd error of the game proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Castro allowed a Hanley Ramirez grounder to skip under his glove into shallow left field for a hit.  Instead of hustling after the ball, Castro took his time, which allowed Ramirez to get into 2nd base.  The Cubs faithful at Wrigley Field did not appreciate that, and I don’t blame them.  Everyone makes mistakes, but if you’re going to pout about or not give your all, than you have no one to blame but yourself.  There is no excuse for Castro’s actions, especially for a rookie who is supposed to be showing the rest of his teammates that he isn’t one of those “prima donna” superstars who expects everything to be handed to him on a silver platter.

In 14 chances in his 4 games, Castro has 7 assists and 4 errors with 1 double play turned.  You don’t need to be a baseball expert who knows what OBP and WHIP are in order to understand that that is pretty bad – especially for your shortstop who is supposed to be your best defensive player up the middle.

The big thing here is that the Cubs (and Castro) don’t let this fester.  Castro needs to endear himself to the rest of his teammates and to the fans at Wrigley Field.  I’m not saying that he is another Milton Bradley – I don’t think there is any other professional ballplayer as gutless and self-centered as Bradley is, and that’s saying a lot – but Castro needs to show that he is a team player.  He needs to show that he will hustle on every play, even if he makes a mistake.  He needs to run out every groundball and flyball that he hits.  And he can’t simply rely on his minor league stats or his MLB-record breaking 6 RBI’s in his first big league game.  The longer it takes for Castro to understand this, the longer it’s going to take for Cubs fans to get behind the future star of the Cubs franchise.

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