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

Posted on 14 August 2009 by Lou

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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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This Team Sucks – Pinella Rothschild Out of Ideas

Posted on 11 August 2009 by Lou

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The Cubs wrapped up a dismal 4-6 road trip by losing 3 of 4 to the wild card leading Rockies in Denver.  The Rockies outscored the Cubs 33-18 in the series, as the Cubs fell 3 games behind the Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central and 3 games behind the Rockies for the NL wild card lead.  Can you say “Game Over”!

Manager Lou Pinella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild are out of ideas and probably already thinking about their golf games in October.  To make matters worse, with the still-pending sale of the Cubs, there’s really not much that the Cubs will be able to do in the off-season to turn things around for the 2010 MLB schedule.  The outfield is set – Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukodome and Milton Bradley all have years left on their deals.  The pitching staff is set – Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster all have years left on their deals, as does Randy Wells who is not even arbitration-eligible yet.  The Cubs will have to decide on Rich Harden, but the 5th starter slot could be filled from within – Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny etc.  The infield is also set – Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee at the corners, Ryan Theriot at shortstop and Geovany Soto behind the plate.  Koyie Hill has established himself as a dependable catcher as well.  So the only real question mark in the infield is the 2nd base position, where Mike Fontenot has clearly shown that he is not capable of being a consistent, productive every day player.

Unless the Cubs could pull off a trade to move an outfielder – probably having to assume some of the money that GM Jim Hendry overpaid to each of Soriano, Fukodome and Bradley – the Cubs will be stuck.  And that doesn’t mean good things for 2010.

Sorry Cubs fans – hate to be brutally honest, but we could be in for a rough stretch for a few years to come.

Oh yeah – what about the 11-5 Cubs loss to the Rockies on Monday night?  Aw, who cares anyway.  It was more of the same.  No clutch hitting, poor fielding, and bad pitching.  Sound familiar?!

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Cubs Doing Their Best to Avoid 2009 Post-Season Play

Posted on 10 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Rockies Baseball

I was just way too irritated to even do a post on Sunday.  This could be one of the most frustrating Cubs teams to follow in the last few years.  No clutch hitting, no concentration, no desire to win, no emotion, no nothing.  Unless the Cardinals lose the rest of their games, I don’t see how this team will be able to win a 3rd straight NL Central crown.

The Cubs actually showed some grit in Saturday’s 6-5 win.  The Cubs took a 2-0 lead in the 4th inning on a Kosuke Fukodme double and a Ryan Dempster walk, only to have Dempster give back 4 runs right away in the bottom of the inning.  But the Cubs responded with 4 runs in the next 3 innings to take a 6-4 lead.  As they had done so many times earlier this season – Angel Guzman, Carlos Marmol and Kevin Greeg worked relatively easy scoreless innings of relief to preserve the 6-5 win.

Looking to build off the big win after losing Friday night, the Cubs looked to Randy Wells to put forth another solid start.  Wells had one of his worst outings of the year, and although the Cubs generated numerous scoring chances against Jason Hammel early in the game, they could only push across 3 runs in the game’s 1st 5 innings despite racking up an incredible 11 hits.  No clutch hitting once again, and the Cubs found themselves trailing 8-3 by the end of the 6th inning.  Wells ended up giving up 5 ER on 8 hits and 2 walks in 5 1/3 innings, while Jeff Stevens got lit up for 4 ER on 5 hits and 1 walk in his 1 inning of work that spanned the 6th and 7th innings.  All in all, it was bad day for the Cubs.

The loss pushed the Cubs 3 games behind the Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central.  The Cards took care of business sweeping a weekend series over the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

Carlos Zambrano is back on the DL with lower back soreness that could have been aggravated by over-swinging during batting practice before Friday’s game.  Does Big Z realize he is a pitcher 1st and that the Cubs already have starting pitcher Ted Lilly on the DL?  Obviously not.  Big Z is scheduled to come off the DL on Friday, August 21st and Jeff Samardzija will likely make 2 starts during Big Z’s absence.

Aramis Ramirez has been dealing with right shoulder soreness from his early season dislocated shoulder.  Ramirez left Saturday’s game early and Jake Fox started for Ramirez on Sunday.  It is unclear if Ramirez will miss anymore time.

With Kosuke Fukodome batting great in the lead-off spot, I’m extremely confused as to why Manager Lou Pinella all of a sudden decided to re-jigger the lineup in Colorado.  Pinella had Ryan Theirot leading off, Milton Bradley batting 2nd and Fukodome batting 5th.  The players produced in the new lineup (Ryan Theriot had 3 hits on Saturday and 2 hits on Sunday; Bradley had 2 hits on Saturday and 4 hits on Sunday and his average is up to .266; & Fukodome had 2 hits in each game), but it seemed odd that Pinella would mess with a good thing, especially when the Cubs had already found themselves in so many poor hitting droughts several times during the 2009 MLB schedule.

Pinella did his best to motivate the club by getting thrown out of the game for arguing a horrible call at 2nd base on a double play ball that thwarted a Cubs rally, but in the end, the Cubs players looked like they wanted to join Pinella in the showers early instead of trying to win a baseball game.

The Cubs are still just 2 games behind the Cards and the Giants and Rockies for the wild card race, and they have even played 4 fewer games than the Cards and 2 fewer games than each of the Giants and Rockies, so there is room to gain ground.  But this team is too inconsistent, too prone to give up way too soon, and too apt to follow a 3-game winning streak with a 5-game skid.  I have officially given up – I’ll still root for the Cubs and report on the positives and the negatives, but at the end of the day, this is a middle of the road team, not a division leader…

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Cubs Pitching, Hitting Clicking on All Cylinders

Posted on 30 July 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs pitching and hitting is clicking on all cylinders right now. The Cubs took 3 of 4 games from the Astros at Wrigley Field this week, outscoring the Astros 12-0 on Wednesday and 12-3 today.

The Cubs are now 54-46 and are 8 games over .500 for the 1st time during the 2009 MLB schedule.  The Cubs still trail the 1st place Cards by a half game in the NL Central race and can move into a tie with the San Francisco Giants for teh wild card lead if the Giants lose to the Phillies tonight.  The Cubs have also played 5 fewer games than the Cards with 2 less losses in the Astro Cubs Baseballall-important “L” column.

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Disappointing Dempster – Poor Outing off DL Leads to 11-6 Cubs Loss

Posted on 29 July 2009 by Lou

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Ryan Dempster has been one of the biggest disappointments for the Cubs in 2009.  Coming off of a brilliant 2008 season – 17-6 record, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 206 2/3 innings pitched, 187 K’s v. 76 walks  – Dempster has failed to live up to the high expectations that the Cubs had for him when they signed him to a lucrative deal in the off-season (4 years, $52 million).

After spending a few weeks on the DL with a broken toe that he injured jumping over the Cubs dugout fence after a win, Dempster made his return last night and crapped the bed.  Dempster labored through 86 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 6 runs (5 earned) on 9 hits.  Although he didn’t walk any batters, he had a mental lapse in the 3rd inning when he failed to throw home on a weakly hit groundball right back at him.  Instead of nailing the advancing runner at home, he tried to turn a double play by throwing to 2nd base, and ended up chucking the ball into center field and prolonging the inning.  The Astros scored 3 in the frame and opened up a big 4-0 lead at the time.

Now granted, after the Cubs got back in the game with back-to-back 3-run innings in the 4th and 5th, the Cubs bullpen had a rare off-night, but Dempster dug the team into a deep hole, and has been largely inconsistent all season long.  In 18 starts during the 2009 MLB schedule, Dempster has pitched a full 7 innings only 5 times.  Dempster has won only 2 games since May 14th.  Dempster has given up at least 8 hits in each of his last 4 starts and he has given up 4 earned runs in 7 starts.  A $13 million starting pitcher should have better numbers than these – 5-5 record, 4.31 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 92 K’s v. 44 walks.  If the Cubs expect to compete for a 3rd straight NL Central division title the rest of the way, Dempster will need to step up his performance in his final 12 starts.

On a bright note, the Cubs offense drew 10 walks.  All 3 batters that walked in the 4th inning came around to score and Derrek Lee (who walked in the 5th inning) came around to score on Aramis Ramirez’ 3-run home run.  And while the Cubs only had 5 total hits in the game, the patience at the plate created scoring opportunities for the Cubs.  Another Ramirez is always nice to see as well.

With the 11-6 loss, the Cubs dropped a half game behind the St. Louis Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central race.  It will likely be an up-and-down roller coaster ride for the Cubs and Cubs fans all across the nation the rest of the pennat race…

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It’s Never Too Late to Develop a Winning Formula!

Posted on 28 July 2009 by Lou

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Hey Cubs Fans – - it’s never too late to develop a winning formula.  Good pitching and timely hitting usually results in numerous wins.  The Cubs – at least since the All-Star Break – can attest to that.  Except for Ted Lilly’s debacle against the Phillies in Philadelphia on July 20th, the Cubs have had excellent pitching and solid, often-clutch hitting, and the results show.  Since the All-Star Break, the Cubs have put together a solid 9-2 record to take over 1st place from the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central race.  Great pitching, coupled with excellent hitting from Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano has catapulted the Cubs into the lead.

In last night’s 5-1 win in 13 innings over the 2nd place Astros, pitching took center stage for much of the game.  Carlos Zambrano put together another solid outing – 7 innings, 1 ER, 7 hits and 4 walks.  The lone run scored on Carlos Lee’s home run in the 2nd inning.  Aaron Heilman, Carlos Marmol, Jeff Stevens and Sean Marshall combined to pitch 4 straight scoreless innings from the 8th throught the 11th innings.  And Jeff Samardzija threw 2 scoreless innings and picked up his 1st win of the 2009 MLB schedule when Alfonso Soriano stroked his walk-off game-winning Grand Slam off of Chris Sampson to the delight of the Wrigley faithful.

That’s a perfect lead-in to the Cubs offense.  Although it wasn’t all good (Reed Johnson and Ryan Theriot were a combined 0 for 12 in the 1-2 spot at the top of the order, while Soriano was 0 for 5 heading into his 13th inning at-bat), Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez continued their hot hitting.  Lee hit a solo home run off of Wandy Rodriguez in the 4th inning to tie the game at 1 and also drew 3 walks, 1 of which started the Cubs rally in the 13th.  Ramirez notched 3 hits and raised his batting average to .338.  Ramirez’s single in the 13th moved Lee to 3rd base and forced Astros’ Manager Cecil Cooper’s hands to intentionally walk Milton Bradley to load the bases to face Soriano.  The move back-fired in a hurry as Soriano launched the game-winning shot deep to center field to give the Cubs the dramatic 5-1 win.  It was Soriano’s 4th career Grand Slam and he had this to say about the swing – - “I think that’s my best swing I made in the second half.”  Id’ agree.

The Cubs increased their winning streak to 5 games and they increased their lead over the Astros to 3 games and the Brewers to 4 games.  How long will the streak go – guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

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Wells, Hart, Harden Lead Weekend Sweep Over Reds

Posted on 27 July 2009 by Lou

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With the Cubs continuing to get good starting pitching on an-almost daily basis, the rest of the NL Central better be on notice about the Chicago Cubs.  The stellar Cubs pitching has kept the Cubs within striking distance of the NL Central leaders throughout the 2009 MLB schedule.  The lack of offense has kept the number of wins down, but with the bats starting to come alive with the resurgence of Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano, the wins have started piling up as the pitchng continues to excel.

This weekend was a perfect example.

Randy Wells has been one of the Cubs most consistent pitchers in 2009.  Wells has made 14 starts in 2009, pitching at least 5 innings in all but 1 starts.  He has not allowed more than 4 earned runs in any of his starts, and even then, he has done that only 3 times.  Wells has a fantastic strikeout to walk ratio (59 to 19) and his low WHIP (1.16) demonstrates that.  In Friday’s win over the Reds (his 6th of the season), Wells pitched 6 innings, giving up just 3 earned runs on one bad pitch – a 3-run HR to the Reds pitcher. Wells has won 6 of his last 7 decisions.  It would be hard to imagine the Cubs being where they are without the solid pitching of Wells this year.  Having Wells in the starting rotation has allowed Manger Lou Pinella to move Sean Marshall back to the bullpen as the Cubs lone lefty in the pen.

On Saturday, Kevin Hart delivered another solid start filling in for the injured Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly.  His 6-inning, 1-run, 5-hit performance helped him notch his 2nd consecutive victory.  More importantly, Hart walked only 1 batter – in each of his previous 5-inning starts, Hart had walked 5 batters.  This is a good sign for the Cubs as Ted Lilly will continue to be on the DL for at least 3 more weeks after undergoing surgery on his left knee today.

On Sunday, Rich Harden had one of  his best starts of the year.  Harden gave up a solo home run to the 3rd batter of the game – Joey Votto – but retired the other 18 batters he faced, including the final 16 batters in a row.  Harden needed only 90 pitches to notch his 7th win of the season.  Harden has given up only 1 run in each of his last 3 starts.  This outing was even more special because of the struggles he has had this year during the day (1-5; 7.38 ERA) and at home at Wrigley Field (2-5; 7.59 ERA).

Carlos Zambrano has been a mainstay in the rotation as well (7-4; 3.48 ERA; 1.35 WHIP), while the Cubs expect to get Ryan Dempster back on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.  Good news for Cubs fans all across the nation.

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Aramis Ramirez Gets Hot, Cubs Vault to NL Central Lead

Posted on 26 July 2009 by Lou

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So Aramis Ramirez goes, so the Cubs go.  It took a couple of weeks for Aramis Ramirez to get back into the “swing” of things after his 2+ month stint on the DL, but he is “back and better than ever” to quote “Mike & Mike” in the morning.  Ramirez’ hot hitting has coincided with the Cubs catapult into 1st place in the NL Central race with a 1/2 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.  Who knows how long they will be there, but it must have come as a welcome relief to know that they have it in there despite all of the poor play and injuries that have plagued the Cubs ball club during the 2009 MLB schedule.

Aramis Ramirez has been on fire since Wednesday’s win in Philadelphia.  In that game, Ramirez went 2 for 4 with 2 walks, 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  He had home runs in Friday’s and Saturday’s wins and 2 more hits in Sunday’s sweep of the Reds.  Overall, in his last 4 games, Ramirez is 9 for 16 with 2 home runs, 4 doubles, 7 RBI’s and 4 runs scored.  His batting average is back up over .330 and his on-base percentage is just under .400 at .394.    When Ramirez starts hitting, it seems like the rest of the team starts hitting and developing more scoring chances.

Alfonso Soriano has really turned it on as of late.  Soriano has a modest 9-game hitting streak, and his batting average is back above .250.  Soriano has 5 multi-hit games during that stretch, with 3 home runs, 8 RBI’s and 5 runs scored.  If the Cubs can get a more consistent and productive Soriano down the stretch in the 6-hole, the Cubs should be able to stay in the NL Central race for the duration of the 2009 MLB schedule.

The Cubs open a big 4-game series against the 3rd place Houston Astros on Monday night at Wrigley Field.  Carlos Zambrano will start the opener against Wandy Rodriguez.

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Cubs Counter Cards Acquisition of Matt Holliday with 8-5 Win Over Reds

Posted on 24 July 2009 by Lou

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The Cubs countered the Cards’ Friday acquisition of A’s slugger Matt Holliday by slugging out a big 8-5 home win over the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.  Randy Wells picked up his 6th win of the season – 6 innings, 7 hits, 1 walk and 5 K’s.  The Reds scored their lone runs off of Wells on pitcher Aaron Harang’s 1st career home run – a 3-run shot in the 2nd inning that gave the Reds a 3-1 lead.  But Wells settled down after that and Aaron Heilman and Carlos Marmol each worked perfect innings to get the Cubs to a 4-3 lead in the 8th.

The Cubs bats added 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to blow the game open – but it was good that happened because closer Kevin Gregg struggled in a no-save situation in the 9th by giving up 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk.

The Cubs offense had a productive day 8 runs on 14 hits, including 4 home runs.  Aramis Ramirez was the star – 4 for 5 with 3 RBI’s and 1 run scored, including the go-ahead solo HR in the 6th inning that gave the Cubs the lead for good.  Derrek Lee and Kosuke Fukodome each had 2 hits.  Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker each hit solo home runs.  Could this be a sign of good things to come?  One think I’ve leanred with this Cubs team – you have to take it day-by-day.

The St. Louis Cardinals now have a 1.0 game lead over the Cubs pending their game against the Phillies Friday night in Philadelphia.  The Cards are hoping to make a big splash with the Holliday acquisition, but gave up 3 young prospects, one of whom was considered to be the Cards best minor league player – power-hitting 3rd baseman Brett Wallace – to acquire Holliday.  Plus with Holliday becoming a free agent in the off-season, there is no guarantee that the tight-spending Cards will be able to sign Holliday to a long-term deal with slugger Albert Pujols becoming a free agent following the 2010 MLB schedule.

The Cubs fended off the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 after the Brewers landed prized ace C.C. Sabathia in early July for the stretch pennant run, and the Cubs hope that they will be able to overtake the Cards in 2009 during the last 2+ months of the season despite the Holliday acquisition.

Although the Cubs won’t be making any big moves themselves because of the tenuous sale/ownership situation, having certain players perform at higher levels will serve as “mid-year” acquisitions in 2009.  Aramis Ramirez getting back on track after his shoulder injury and Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano hitting closer to their career numbers will certainly go a long way.  Getting Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto back from their injury stints on the disabled list will also help.  It’s not the ideal situation for the Cubs, but it is what it is.  Should be a fun, but rocky ride in August and September – let’s just hope they have enough in the tank to win a 3rd straight NL Central division title.

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Will Cubs be able to Build off Momentum from 10-5 Win over Phillies?

Posted on 23 July 2009 by Lou

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Will the Cubs be able to build off the momentum of Wednesday’s 10-5 win over the Phillies in Philadelphia?  That is the $50,000 question.  The Cubs avoided the sweep with the win, and although it wasn’t always pretty, a win is a win.  Carlos Zambrano came up with a big start in a must-win situation to avoid the sweep at Citizens Bank Ballpark, and although he got tagged for 4 ER on 10 hits and 3 walks in 6 2/3 innings, he did his job and gave the bullpen an 8-5 lead at the time of his departure.  The bullpen struggled a little bit as well as Angel Guzman and Kevin Gregg had some control issues, but each pitcher got the Cubs out of a bases loaded jam in the 7th and 8th innings and the rest was history.

The Cubs bats finally lit up in one of the friendliest ballparks in the big leagues.  The Cubs scored 10 runs on 13 hits.  After drawing just 1 walk in the 1st 2 games of the series, the Cubs drew 9 walks on Wednesday.  It’s about time.  Milton Bradley was back in the lineup after getting a few days off, and he responded by going 2 for 4 with an RBI, a run scored and a walk.  It was great to see Aramis Ramirez back in the lineup in a day game after a late night game – maybe his shoulder is OK?!  ramirez went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI’s, 2 runs scored and 2 walks.  Ryan Theriot had 3 hits, 2 runs scored and 3 stolen bases, Derrek Lee went 1 for 3 with an RBI, 2 runs scored and 3 walks, while Alfonso Soriano stroked 2 hits to bring his batting average back up to .245!  Hip hip hooray!!!

As the Cards got swept in Houston, the Cubs find themselves just 1 game out of 1st place in the NL Central.  For as bad as they have looked this 2009 MLB schedule, the division is still there for the taking.  How will they respond?  Will they take it to the Reds (44-50) and Astros (also just 1 game behind the Cards) on the upcoming 7-game home stand at Wrigley Field?  Or will they revert to their losing ways after showing some (little) signs of getting their act together?  I’ve seen too much bad baseball from this club in 2009 to think that they will get it together.  Don’t get me wrong, I hope they can string together a good stretch of wins to put some pressure on the Cards, Astros and Brewers to have to perform well on a daily basis.  But if recent history is any indication, we’ll probably see a mediocre 4-3 or 3-4 homestand with the Cubs trailing the mediocre Cards by a game or two in the mediocre NL Central…  Anyone see a mediocre pattern here?

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