Archive | Carlos Zambrano

Big Z’s Big Embarassment – Cubs Lose 15-6 @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 26 August 2009 by Lou

Nationals Cubs Baseball

I really didn’t think that things could get any worse, and then Carlos Zambrano got back on the mound last night after spending time on the DL for the 2nd time during the 2009 MLB schedule.  Aside from a solo home run that tied the game at 1 in the 3rd inning, Big Z was awful.  This was a make-or-break homestand for the Cubs against the lowly Nats, Mets and Astros and the Cubs showed why they don’t have what it takes to qualify for post-season play in 2009.

Zambrano could not have looked more out of sync on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field – makes you wonder if they should have given him another rehab start before bringing him back up to the big league level.  Big Z issued a walk to Ryan Zimmerman in the 1st inning, but no runs.  The Nats touched up Big Z for the 1st run of the game with 2 singles and a sac fly in the 2nd inning to take a 1-0 lead.  The 3rd inning was the only inning in which he had a 1-2-3 effort.  The wheels started coming off in the 4th inning.  After a solo home run by Josh Willingham, the Nats tacked on another run on consecutive hits by Ronnie Belliard and Elijah Dukes.  The Nats may have even scored more runs, but they ran themselves out of the inning on a failed suicide squeeze attempt.  Manager Lou Pinella finally saw enough from Big Z in the 5th inning when his pitch count reached 95 pitches.  A hit batsmen started the rally, followed by 2 singles and 2 walks.  Although Aaron Heilman served up the grand slam that broker the game open to give the Nats a 9-1 lead, 3 of the runs that scored were charged to Zambrano.  In 4 1/3 innings, Big Z gave up 8 ER on 7 hits and 3 walks to one of the NL’s worst hitting teams.  Big Z’s WHIP rose to 1.38 on the 2009 MLB schedule.

You have to expect more from the “ace” of your pitching staff.  The Cubs have invested a lot of money and commitment in Zambrano and he really needs to put together a dominating season like other aces – Josh Beckett, Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Chris Carpenter – have done.  Until then, Big Z is really just an over-paid, over-glorified 2nd or 3rd starter on a club that needs an ace.

The lone positive from Tuesday night – – Milton Bradley went 4 for 4 with a solo home run and 2 runs scored.

I’ve been writing about how good the starting pitching has been, and Big Z just threw that right out the window with one atrocious outing.  The frustration with this 2009 Cubs club continues and it will be a gift to all of us when this year finally comes to an end on Sunday, October 4th…

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It’s Do Or Die for Cubs with Upcoming 10-Game Homestand @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 25 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Milton Bradley Risk 1

It’s do or die time for the Cubs with a HUGE 10-game homestand at Wrigley Field.  As I wrote yesterday, the Cubs are one of the better home teams in the National League (35-22).  The Cubs are 7.5 games back of the Rockies in the NL Wild Card race and 8 games back of the Cards in the NL Central race.  The Cubs have an “easy” 10-game homestand “teed up for them” to crush 350 yards straight down the fairway – 3 games against the Nationals (44-81); 3 games against the Mets (57-68) who will be without ace Johan Santana for the rest of the season; 3 games against the Astros (61-63) and 1 make-up game against the White Sox (63-62).

The Cubs have all 5 starters back and healthy – – Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Randy Wells, Ted Lilly & Ryan Dempster.  Now all they need to do is win – a tough task for this frustrating, struggling 2009 Cubs ball club.

The Cubs have the 5th best team ERA in all of baseball at 3.88 – take out the relievers ERA and the Cubs starting staff has the best ERA in the big leagues.  But when you look at the offensive stats, the numbers are “startlingly” bad…  Tied for 3rd worst with a .253 batting average; 9th worst in runs scored and RBI’s; and 12th worst in slugging percentage and on-base percentage.  This coming from the team that led the National League in run production in 2008.  Awful seasons from Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and Mike Fontenot, and long stints on the DL for Aramis Ramirez and Reed Johnson have contributed to the Cubs futility this year at the plate.  Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee and Kosuke Fukodome are the only 3 players who have had somewhat consistent years at the plate.

It’s time for Manager Lou Pinella to give some more playing time to some of the Cubs young stars like Sam Fuld and Jake Fox.  Fuld (.283 batting average; .397 on-base percentage) and Fox (.305 batting average; .355 on-base percentage; 9 HR’s; 19 runs & 34 RBI’s) have been hitting the ball well and most importantly, they have been playing hard, unlike some of the efforts we’re seeing from Bradley and Soriano all season long.  If Pinella and the Cubs are serious about making a run before the end of the 2009 MLB schedule, the time is now.

Here’s hoping Pinella wakes up and smells the coffee and that the Cubs can actually mount some sort of offensive attack against the weak-hitting Nats and Mets in the next 6 games at Wrigley Field.  Big Z has a chance to prove why he is the Cubs “ace” – a good start tonight will go a long way in determining whether or not this team has what it takes to make the 2009 post-season…

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Call Me Crazy – But Maybe the Season Isn’t Over?!

Posted on 24 August 2009 by Lou

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Call me crazy, but maybe the 2009 Cubs season isn’t really over…  The Cubs are 62-60 and they trail the Cards by 8 games in the NL Central race and the Rockies by 7 games in the NL Wild Card race.  Now don’t get me wrong – the Cubs are a bad baseball teams as a whole.  After a great start to the post-All-Star Break stretch run in July, they are just 8-13 in August, and they have lost 10 of their last 14 games.

But if you look at their schedule and where they play the vast majority of their games, it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom.  The Cubs have 40 games left on their 2009 MLB schedule – 24 of those games are at home at Wrigley Field where they are 35-22.  The other 16 games are on the road, and 7 of those road games are against 2 teams they are chasing to make the playoffs – the Cardinals (9/18-20) and the Giants (9/24-27).

Take it a step further, and you see that of the 40 games remaining, only 8 games are against team with winning records:

9/3 White Sox 63-61 – home game;

9/18-20 Cards 72-54 – in St. Louis; and

9/24-27 Giants 67-57 – in San Francisco.

The other 32 games breakdown as follows:

Washington Nationals 44-80 – 3 games at Wrigley Field;

New York Mets 57-68 – 3 games at Wrigley Field & 3 games at CITI Field;

Houston Astros 61-63 – 3 games at Wrigley Field;

Pittsburgh Pirates 51-71 – 3 games in Pittsburgh & 4 games at Wrigley Field;

Cincinnati Reds 52-71 – 3 games at Wrigley Field;

Milwaukee Brewers 60-63 – 4 games at Wrigley Field & 3 games at Miller Park; &

Arizona Diamondbacks 55-70 – 3 games at Wrigley Field.

Now don’t get me wrong, do I really think the Cubs have what it takes to pull this off?  No.  But with the schedule and the fact that the Cubs starting pitching – Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Rich Harden, Ryan Dempster & Randy Wells – is still top 5 in the entire major leagues in 2009, anything is possible.  If the joke of a Cubs offense actually puts up 4 or 5 runs every so often, the Cubs might actually put a little streak together.  The Cubs will need a lot of help from the Rockies, Giants, Braves and Marlins to start losing, but if that happens, the last week of the season could be interesting with the Cubs playing 7 games against the struggling Pirates and Diamondbacks at home to end the 2009 campaign…

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Big Z’s Back & He’s Bigger Ummm… Better than Before

Posted on 23 August 2009 by Lou

carlos cubs

The Cubs are anxiously waiting the return of their ace Carlos Zambrano.  Big Z – after admitting he is lazy and doesn’t like to do his ab work – is scheduled to face Garrett Mock and the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.  Hip Hip Hooray!  Big Z needs to focus more on throwing strikes and getting guys out than giving piggyback rides in the dugout and eating bon bons.

Big Z has been dealing with back pain and back spasms since the beginning of August.  Zambrano tossed 5 scoreless innings at Triple-A Peoria on Thursday night and is ready to go against the Nats this week.  Big Z has a 7-4 record with a 1.35 WHIP and a 3.35 ERA – definitely the numbers you’d expect from the ace of your staff.  Mock has a 2-5 record with a 1.83 WHIP and a 5.10 ERA.  Think there was a reason the Cubs held him back to start Tuesday against the Nats and then Sunday against the Mets instead of this past weekend against the Dodgers in L.A.?

As for the Cubs game action on Saturday and Sunday…

About the only thing Cubs fans have to look forward to in 2010 is good starting pitching…

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

Posted on 17 August 2009 by Lou

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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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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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This Team Sucks – Pinella Rothschild Out of Ideas

Posted on 11 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Rockies Baseball

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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Carlos Zambrano Screws Team Over in 6-2 Loss @ Colorado

Posted on 08 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Rockies Baseball

Carlos Zambrano should have a locker room full of teammates pissed off at him right now.  Slated to start the opener of a big weekend series at Coors Field on Friday night, Big Z told Manager Lou Pinella that he couldn’t go 15 minutes before the start of the game.  Big Z left his start in the 3rd inning last Saturday because of a mild back strain.  He didn’t receive any special back treatment all week, and he told the team that it was nothing to be worried about.  But during pre-game warm-ups, Zambrano experienced some back spasms and then told Pinella he couldn’t go.  Pinella had this to say about the situation: “When he went out there to warm up, he says after he threw two or three pitches, his back tightened up and he started getting spasms.  This is something that happened right before the ball game.  If he had been complaining about anything, obviously, we wouldn’t have scheduled him to pitch.”

Not a smart move from Zambrano.  Especially since the Cubs had an off-day on Thursday, and the club could have moved Ryan Dempster up a day to start with his normal 4 days’ rest on Friday night.  Then Wells, Gorzelanny and Harden could have each moved up a day too, allowing Big Z a few more days off, or giving the Cubs an opportunity to call someone up from the minor leagues.  Instead, Zambrano gave the team no indication that his back might be a long-term issue, and forced the Cubs to go with Sean Marshall on no notice to make the start.  As it turned out, Marshall did not have his good stuff – 3 ER on 5 hits and 1 walk in 2 innings of work.  Jeff Samardzija then had to do a little bit off long-relief work, pitching 4 innings and allowing 2 ER on 5 hits and 1 walk.  Not a good way to start a 4-game series in hitter-friendly Coors Field.

The Cubs offense didn’t do much to help out the Cubs pitching staff.  The Cubs managed just 2 runs and 5 hits off of Ubaldo Jimenez and 3 Rockies’ relievers.  Alfonso Soriano was the only Cubs player with more than 1 hit and he also had the only Cubs RBI of the game.  The Cubs did draw 6 walks, but never seemed to come through with a big hit to break an inning open.  The Cubs had 2 runners on in the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 6th innings, but could only push across 1 run in the 1st and 6th innings.  Not good.

The only good news – sort of – catcher Geovany Soto returned to the Cubs lineup after a month stint on the DL.  Soto hit in the 5-spot, however, going 0 for 4 with 3 K’s.  Not the kind of spark we were looking for.

At 57-50, the Cubs trail the Cardinals by 1 game in the NL Central race and the San Francisco Giants and the Rockies by 2 games in the NL Wild Card race.

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Big Z on Big Stage Against Rockies in Colorado

Posted on 07 August 2009 by Lou

carlos zambrano cubs

Carlos Zambrano makes one of his biggest starts of the 2009 MLB schedule tonight against the Rockies at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado.  The Cubs are in a virtual tie with the St. Louis Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central.  In the NL Wild Card race, the Cubs are 2 games behind the San Francisco Giants and 1 game behind the Rockies.  Given how bottled-up everything is, it would be great if the Cubs could put some much-needed distance between the Cubs and the Rockies right now in August.

Zambrano left his last start after just 3 innings in Florida because of back tightness.  He is 2-0 with a 3.07 ERA in his last 3 starts, but he has never won at Coors Field – he has a career 0-2 record with a 4.12 ERA.  Big Z and the Cubs will face Ubaldo Jimenez on Friday night.  Jimenez has won 2 straight games, but is 0-3 with a 7.27 ERA lifetime against the Cubs.

Should be a topsy-turvy series in the hitter-friendly Coors Field.  Buckle your seat belts and root for the Pirates to win a game or two against the Cardinals back in Pittsburgh…

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