Posted on 29 July 2009 by Lou
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…
Posted on 28 July 2009 by Lou
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…
Posted on 26 July 2009 by Lou
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.
Posted on 24 July 2009 by Lou
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.
Posted on 23 July 2009 by Lou
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?
Posted on 22 July 2009 by Lou
Where did it all go wrong for GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella with this frustrating 2009 Cubs ball club? The Cubs lost to the Phillies 4-1 in 13 innings on Tuesday night as Jayson Werth’s 3-run HR off of Jeff Samardzija gave the Phillies their 10th straight win. That wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was how good Rich Harden looked and how bad the Cubs bats are on a daily basis.
First Harden – as I wrote yesterday, I expected the Phillies to knock Harden around, but he threw a season high 117 pitches in 7 solid innings. Harden gave up only 1 ER on 4 hits and 2 walks and the lone run scored on a Jimmy Rollins solo home run way back in the 3rd inning. Harden also had 6 K’s. The rest of the bullpen was up to the challenge too – Carlos Marmol worked 2 scoreless innings, Angel Guzman tossed a scoreless inning and Sean Marshall and Aaron Heilman combined for a scoreless 11th inning. Jeff Samardzija even looked good – he retired the 1st 5 batters he faced over the 12th and 13th innings, but got into trouble when he walked both Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez with 2 outs in the 13th. Not a good move – because walks always come back to haunt you. Then Samardzija served up the game-winning HR to Werth and the Cubs had dropped the 1st 2 games to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark.
But the big issue is the Cubs hitting. After knocking around one of baseball’s worst pitching staff’s against the Nats in DC over the weekend, it was back to the “real-world” for the Cubs. The Cubs should have felt good as Citizens Bank Ballpark is one of the best hitter park in the big leagues. Batters improves their statistics each night they get to play in the ball park. But not the Cubs hitters. In 22 innings, the Cubs have managed just 2 runs off of the mediocre Phillies pitching. Worse than that, they managed only 6 hits in Monday’s loss and only 5 hits in Tuesday’s loss. After drawing only 3 walks on Monday, the Cubs didn’t walk once on Tuesday night. Not 1 walk in 13 innings!? How can that be? Only 3 Cubs players had hits in both games – Alfonso Soriano had 3 hits on Monday and 1 hit on Tuesday, while Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukodome each had 1 hit in each game. Derrek Lee is a combined 1 for 8 while Aramis Ramirez is a combined 0 for 7 in the series. What makes it even worse is the fact that the Cubs seem to waste good pitching outings with horrible hitting performances. Rich Harden’s Tuesday night start was another quality start for the Cubs starting rotation. The Cubs now have 57 quality starts on the season, but only 47 wins to show for it. When you don’t win quality starts, you are not going to be near the top of your division.
This team is only still in contention because the rest of the NL Central is so bad. The Cubs are 47-45 and are tied with the Brewers and Astros for 2nd place behind the Cardinals. I feel like I’ve given the team (and Hendry and Pinella) the benefit of the doubt in 2009, but after 92 games, it’s time to step up and take accountability for your play on the field. Stay tuned for some more critical posts about the state of the Cubs and what they need to do to make sure the team can stay competitive for the forseable future…
Posted on 21 July 2009 by Lou
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…
Posted on 20 July 2009 by Lou
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.
Posted on 17 July 2009 by Lou
The Cubs defeated the Nats 6-3 at Nationals Park in Washington DC on Thursday night. The win moved the Cubs within 3 games of the idle Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central. Rich Harden evened his record at 6-6 with a solid outing – 6 innings, 3 hits, 7 K’s and most importantly no walks. The only run Harden allowed was an unearned run in the 6th inning. Angel Guzman and Carlos Mamrol each worked scoreless innings of relief and Kevin Gregg closed out the game despite giving up a solo home run to Ryan Zimmerman in the 9th inning.
Derrek Lee kept up his hot hitting. He went 3 for 4 with a solo home run. Reed Johnson had 2 hits and an RBI in the leadoff spot. Ryan Theriot had only 1 hit, but 2 RBI’s.
Let’s hope the Cubs can pull off 3 more wins against the lowly Nats the rest of the weekend.
Posted on 13 July 2009 by Lou
The Cubs and Cards split Sunday afternoon’s Day-Night Double-Header on Wrigley Field. It could have been better, but I guess it could have been worse too. The Cubs trailed the 1st place Cards by 2.5 games in the NL Central when the 2 teams started the 4-game weekend series on Friday, and after 4 games, nothing had changed. At least they didn’t get swept.
Carlos Zambrano picked up the win in the early game as the Cubs won 7-3.
Randy Wells suffered the loss in the nightcap as the Cubs lost 4-2.
The most interesting play of the day-night, came in the 9th inning of Game 2.
We’ll have a mid-year report in the next couple of days as we have a few days off for the All-Star Break.