Archive | Carlos Zambrano

Cubs Looking to Put Florida Trip in Rear View Mirror

Posted on 03 August 2009 by Lou

chicago cubs randy wells1

The Cubs are looking to put the disastrous Florida weekend series behind them.  Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol cost the Cubs 2 wins in Miami, and kept the Cubs from taking the 1st place lead in the NL Central back from the Cardinals.

Let’s take a quick look at some numbers.

Starting pitchers:  in Friday’s 5-2 loss, Rich Harden gave up 2 earned runs on 5 hits and 3 walks in 5 innings of work (he also had 11 K’s); in Saturday’s 9-8 extra innings win,  Carlos Zambrano lasted only 3 innings because of a lower back strain, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits and 3 walks; & in Sunday’s 3-2 loss, Ryan Dempster gave up 0 runs on 3 hits and 4 walks in 6 innings of work.

Relief pitchers: in Friday’s 5-2 loss, Carlos Marmol gave up 3 runs on 1 hit, 2 walks and 1 HBP in just 2/3 of an inning of work (the rest of the bullpen held the Marlins scoreless in 2 1/3 innings of work); in Saturday’s 9-8 extra innings win, Kevin Gregg blew the save in the 9th inning by giving up 3 runs on 4 hits in 1 painful inning of work (Jeff Samardzija had a shaky 1 2/3 innings giving up 3 ER, but the rest of the bullpen pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings) ; & in Sunday’s 3-2 loss, the bullpen gave up 3 runs on 4 hits in 2 1/3 innings of work with Gregg blowing the save for a 2nd straight night and taking the loss after giving up back-to-back home runs in the 9th inning.

The starters kept the Cubs in the games, but the bullpen imploded in each of the 3 games.

The Cubs bats weren’t all that hot either – if you take out Saturday’s 9-run, 13-hit barrage, the Cubs mustered only 4 runs and 13 hits combined in the Friday and Sunday losses.  Not good…

Manager Lou Pinella cannot be pleased with what he saw from his club in the 3-game weekend series loss in Florida.

The Cubs are 55-48 and they trail the Cards by 1/2 game in the NL Central race and the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies by 2 games each in the NL Wild Card race.

But now for the good news.  Randy Wells gets the 1st start of the series against the Reds in Cincinnati.  Wells has been one of the most consistents Cubs’ starters all year and he beat the Reds at Wrigley Field on July 24th, allowing just 7 hits and 3 ER in 6 innings of the Cubs 8-5 win.  Overall, Wells is 7-4 with a 2.84 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

The Reds are in a tailspin – they have lost 9 of their last 10 games – and have dropped into a tie for last place in the NL Central with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Reds are 14 games under .500 at 45-59.

And with the Cards idle tonight, a Cubs win over the Reds would mean a tie for 1st place in the NL Central.

Go Cubs!

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Kevin Gregg, Carlos Marmol Unreliable in Cubs Disastrous Weekend in Florida

Posted on 02 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Marlins Baseball

Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg had awful weekends in Miami as the Cubs dropped 2 of 3 to the Florida Marlins.

Marmol took the loss on Friday night, giving up 3 earned runs on 1 hit, 2 walks and 1 HBP in the bottom of the 8th inning.  The game was tied at 2 when Marmol came in, and promptly lost the game for the Cubs with a mere 22 pitches, this after Rich Harden, John Grabow and Aaron Heilman held the Marlins to just 2 runs over the game’s first 7 innings.

In Saturday’s 9-8 extra innings win, Marmol and Gregg each did their best to blow it for the Cubs.  With the Cubs leading 6-5 in the 8th inning, Marmol replaced Angel Guzman and immediately got into trouble by walking the 1st batter and hitting the next.  After a sacrifice bunt moved runners to 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, Marmol intentionally walked Jorge Cantu to set up a force play at any base.  Then Marmol buckled down by striking out Dan Uggla and Jeremy Hermida to end the threat and preserve the tenuous 1-run lead.

The Cubs tacked on 2 much-needed insurance runs in the top of the 9th inning to increase the Cubs lead to 8-5.  Gregg came on for the “easy” save, but after striking out the 1st 2 batters in the inning, Gregg self-destructed.  Gregg surrendered a pinch-hit home run to Ronny Paulino (his 1st career pinch-hit HR), issued back to back singles to Chris Coghlan and Nick Johnson, and then served up the game-tying triple to Emilio Bonifacio that tied the game at 8.

Gregg picked up right where he left off on Sunday with another atrocious outing.  Jake Fox had just given the Cubs the 2-1 in the top of the 9th inning with a lead-off home run to left field.  In came Gregg for the “easy” save and he even retired the lead off hitter Hanley Ramirez on a popout to 3rd base.  But then Gregg served up home runs to Dan Uggla and Cody Ross on back-to-back pitches, and just like that the Cubs had lost 3-2.

If not for Derrek Lee’s solo home run in the top of the 10th inning on Saturday, we could be talking about a 3-game sweep by the Marlins.

Manager Lou Pinella and the Cubs are going to need more consistent outings from  Marmol and Gregg if they expect to make a run at the playoffs in 2009.  Marmol has more electric stuff than Gregg, so at this point, if Gregg has 1 more bad outing (or if his velocity continues to hover in the high 80’s/low 90’s instead of the mid-90’s), I really think Lou is going to have to make a move.  Marmol should be the Cubs closer, with Angel Guzman moving into the set-up role.  Guzman has a 2.36 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP and if he continues to stay healthy, he is probably the Cubs most reliable reliever at this point.  Sean Marshall has been solid in the pen and the addition of John Grabow gives the Cubs 2 dependable lefties.  Aaron Heilman is serviceable, and the Cubs may want to consider bringing Jeff Stevens back up to replace Jeff Samardzija (who has been average at best).

The Cubs are now 55-48 and 1/2 game behind the St. Louis Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central.

Cubs Marlins Baseball

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

Posted on 28 July 2009 by Lou

Astros Cubs Baseball

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

Cubs Pirates Baseball

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.

Cubs Phillies Baseball

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Aramis Ramirez Gets Hot, Cubs Vault to NL Central Lead

Posted on 26 July 2009 by Lou

Reds Cubs Baseball

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 Keep Getting Bad News on Injury Front

Posted on 25 July 2009 by Lou

Cardinals Cubs Baseball

The hits just keep on coming for the 2009 Cubs.  The Cubs have placed Ted Lilly on the disabled list with a sore left shoulder.  Lilly had an MRI on Friday, and while there is no material structural damage to the arm, there does appear to be some shoulder tendinitis that is casuing the irritation for Lilly.  Lilly has also been bothered by a sore left knee of late.  To deal with that injury, Lilly will undergo artheroscopic surgery on the knee to repair the miniscus issue.  The recovery time will be between 3-4 weeks, so the Cubs should have Lilly back by the week of August 17th or August 24th.  Ted Lilly was the lone Cubs All-Star in 2009 – 3.59 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and a 9-7 record.

The Cubs pitching staff is in disarray right now.  Kevin Hart has taken the place of Ryan Dempster while he dealt with a broken toe.  The Cubs expect to have Dempster back this week, but with the injury to Lilly, Hart will likely stay in the rotation until he can return.  The Cubs have already relied upon rookie Randy Wells to shoulder a bulk of the starting pitching role this season.  He has been one of the Cubs most consistent pitchers, compiling a 6-4 record with a 3.10 ERA and 1.16 WHIP.  The Cubs will call up another rookie from Triple-A Iowa Justin Berg to fill the void in the bullpen.

Manager Lou Pinella says that the rest of the team just needs to step up their games to account for the recent loss of Dempster and Lilly and catcher Goevany Soto:  “There’s never a positive when a player goes on the DL, but in this case, if we can get his knee and shoulder taken care of at once [it’ll be good].  What we need to do is keep hanging in there… We’ll just go with what we have, and hang in there and get healthy and make a run.  We’re in a good position.  These kids are capable of pitching the same way the veterans are.”

Easier said than done, Lou.  This is shaping up NOT to be the Cubs year.  Where have we heard that before?!  Hey Cubs fans – wait until next year!!!

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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

Cubs Phillies Baseball

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?

Cubs Phillies Baseball

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Cubs Can’t Beat Good Teams, End of Story

Posted on 21 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Phillies Baseball

It’s always amazing how 1 inning can foreshadow the outcome of a game.  Ted Lilly’s 1st inning in Monday night’s 10-1 loss to the Phillies did just that. Lilly was not locating his pitches early on and got into a jam with a leadoff single by Jimmy Rollins and a double by Shane Victorino that put runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out.  Not a good position to be in, especially with the heart of the Phillies lineup coming up in one of the best hitters’ park in baseball – Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia.  But Lilly momentarily found the “right” stuff when he got Chase Utley to ground out to Derrek Lee on a great play by the 1st baseman and Ryan Howard to strikeout without the Phillies scoring any runs.  It looked like Lilly was going to get out of the inning unscathed when he got 2 quick strikes on Raul Ibanez.  But then that lack of focus came through again as Lilly served up a 3-run bomb to Ibanez that gave the Phils an early 3-0 lead.  3 innings later, Lilly had given up a total of 9 runs (7 earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks, and the Cubs found themselves trailing 9-0.

Meanwhile, the Cub offense was lifeless.  The team managed just 6 hits and 3 walks off of starter Rodrigo Lopez and reliever Chad Durbin. Ryan Theriot drove in the only Cubs run with a single in the 5th inning.  Alfonso Soriano continued his hot hitting with 3 hits, but only 1 of them came with another player reaching base in the inning.  Not good.  Lopez has pitched well in his 3 starts in 2009 (he missed the entire 2008 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery).  Lopez is 2-0 with a 2.60 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, but he is a .500 career pitcher with an ERA just under 5.00 (at 4.76) and a WHIP at 1.40.  Give me a break.

We’ve seen this all before with this 2009 Cubs team.  They have stretches where they win ball games that they should win (see the weekend series in DC where they won all 4 games against the worst team in baseball).  But then they seem to play awful on national TV against good MLB teams and they seem to lack that energy and fight that can propel a team to victory even when they don’t play their best.

I’m expecting much of the same in the next 2 games (losses) for the Cubs in Philadelphia.  The Phillies should have a field day with Rich Harden on Tuesday night – Harden has 5.06 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP and has already served up 16 home runs on the season.  And then with the Cubs losing 2 in a row, and the pressure on Carlos Zambrano to shut end the losing streak in Wednesday’s afternoon finale, Big Z will try too hard and be over-juiced at the start.  Something will go wrong – a Milton Bradley or Alfonso Soriano mis-play in the field – and the wheels will start to come off.

The Cubs will lose all 3 games in Philly and they’ll fall back to 47-45 on the season.  Let’s just hope that the Astros can keep beating the Cards the next 2 days – even if the Astros jump the Cubs, at least they won’t fall further behind the Cards for 1st place in the NL Central…

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Cubs Win 11-3, Complete Sweep over Nationals in DC

Posted on 20 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Nationals Baseball

The Cubs defeated the Nationals 11-3 on Sunday afternoon and swept the Nationals in a 4-game weekend series at Nationals Park in Washington, DC.  In Sunday’s win, the Cubs scored 11 runs, clubbed 16 hits, drew 5 walks and took advantage of 2 Nats errors to complete the 4-game sweep over baseball’s worst team.  Jake Fox and Alfonso Soriano each hit HR’s for the Cubs in the win.  Soriano finished the game with 2 hits, 2 RBI’s and 1 run scored, while Fox finished the game with 3 hits, 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  Cubs clean-up hitter Micah Hoffpauir had 3 hits and 2 runs scored in the win.  Mike Fontenot also had 3 hits on the day.

Kevin Hart pitched 5 innings, working in and out of trouble all day long.  Hart only gave up 2 ER, but he surrendered 5 hits and 5 walks along the way.  Jeff Samardzija had a solid relief outing – 3 innings, 2 hits and 3 K’s, giving up a single run on Adam Dunn’s 24th HR of the year in the 7th inning.  Jeff Stevens pitched a scoreless 9th inning for the Cubs – Stevens has not allowed a run in either of his 2009 appearances.

Highlights from the weekend:

Friday night – Carlos Zambrano led the Cubs on the mound and at the plate.  Big Z pitched 5 innings of 1 run ball, and although he did not have his best stuff (4 hits and 4 walks), he had 6 K’s and did just enough to keep the Nats away from the big inning.  The only run allowed was unearned and came courtesy of a Ryan Theriot fielding error in the 1st inning.  Zambrano also hit a 2-run double in the bottom of the 2nd inning to give the Cubs their 1st lead at 2-1.  Aramis Ramirez hit his 1st HR since coming back of the DL – a solo shot in the 3rd inning to increase the Cubs lead to 3-1.  The Cubs bullpen did a solid job the final 4 innings of the game – no runs, only 2 hits and a combined 6 strikeouts from Aaron Heilman, Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg.

Saturday night – The Cubs rallied from a 4-0 deficit after 2 innings to win 6-5.  Alfonso Soriano hit a go-ahead 3-run HR in the 6th inning to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead.  Mike Fontenot’s solo HR in the 8th inning gave the Cubs a much-needed insurance run.  In the bottom of the 8th inning, after Aaron Heilman got into trouble, closer Kevin Gregg ended a threat by getting through the heart of the Nationals order.  Although Ryan Zimmerman hit a run-scoring sacrifice fly that cut the Cubs lead to 1, Gregg got out of the jam and then pitched a 1-2-3 9th inning to record his 1st 5-out save of the 2009 MLB schedule.  Randy Wells did not pitch his best game – 5 innings, 4ER, 7 hits and 1 walk – but it was enough to pick up his 5th win of the season and keep the Cubs in the game to get the big win over the Nats.

The Cubs increased the record to 47-43 on the season.  With the Cards winning 2 of 3 games in their weekend series against the Diamondbacks in St. Louis, the Cubs gained ground and now trail the Cards by only 2 games in the NL Central race.  The Cubs now occupy sole possession of 2nd place, ahead of both the Brewers and Astros.

Cubs Nationals Baseball

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Cubs Open 2nd Half Against Lowly Nats in DC

Posted on 16 July 2009 by Lou

harden beats reds1

The 1st 4 games of the 2nd half of the 2009 MLB schedule should tell-all for the Chicago Cubs.  The Cubs are 43-43 and are within striking distance of the 1st place St. Louis Cardinals whom they do not play again until September.  What better way to open up the 2nd half than to play 4 games against the worst team in baseball – the Washington Nationals.  Although the games are on the road where the Cubs have struggled (the Cubs are 27-18 at Wrigley Field, but just 16-25 away from home), the Nats have won only 26 total games in 2009 and are 10 games under .500 at home at Nationals Park.

If the Cubs are going to show that they are capable of making a run at a 3rd straight NL Central crown, they need to show it by sweeping the Nationals during the long weekend series.  The Cards host the Arizona Diamondbacks (who have been playing better) in a 3-game weekend set in St. Louis, while the 2nd place Brewers are on the road at the Reds in Cincinnati, so there could be room to make up some ground if they can win all 4 (or at least 3) games in DC.

Rich Harden has a lot to prove in the Thursday night opener against John Lannan (6-6; 3.70 ERA).  Since coming off the disabled list on June 13th, Harden has a 1-4 record and has lasted more than 6 innings only once.  Even in his lone win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh, Harden gave up 9 hits and 1 walk and was constantly working in and out of jams.  He has given up at least 7 hits in each of his last 3 starts, so hopefully the extra time off over the All-Star Break will give him an extra burst of energy to take out on the lowly Nats.

The rest of the series shapes up like this:

Friday night – Carlos Zambrano (5-4; 3.53 ERA) v. Seth Olsen (2-4; 6.03 ERA)

Saturday night – All-Star Ted Lilly (9-6; 3.18 ERA) v. Jordan Zimmerman (3-4; 4.50 ERA)

Sunday afternoon – Randy Wells (4-4; 2.72 ERA) v. Garrett Mock (0-2; 6.92 ERA)

Ryan Dempster will be on the disabled list for a few more weeks, so it is still unclear who Manager Lou Pinella will tap to be the Cubs 5th starter until Dempster’s return.

Looking at the numbers, the Cubs better win at least 3 of the 4 games against the Nats.  Keep your fingers crossed – things have not gone the Cubs way in 2009 and we don’t expect things to change simply because the Cubs are playing the worst team in baseball..

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