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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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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?!

Cubs Rockies Baseball

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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.

Cubs Rockies Baseball

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Geovany Soto to Re-Join Cubs on Friday in Colorado

Posted on 05 August 2009 by Lou

soto back 2

Geovany Soto is set to rejoin the Cubs for Friday’s game against the Rockies in Colorado.  Soto has been on the disabled list since July 7th with a mild strain of his left oblique muscle.  Soto will play in 3 minor league games at Double-A Tennessee this week and then head out to Denver.

Manager Lou Pinella is excited to have Soto back.  Koyie Hill has started 25 straight games behind the plate for the Cubs (including starting both ends of a day-night double-header against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 12th at Wrigley Field).  During that stretch, Hill caught 207 innings – almost 27 innings more than the next catcher – Russell Martin with 181 2/3 innings.  Jake Fox did catch a few innings late in games to give Hill a break here and there.  Pinella had this to say: “Wednesday wouldn’t be soon enough for me…  It gives us a chance to rest Hill on Thursday, and he’ll have from Tuesday to Friday off, and then maybe we can alternate them so both can catch… He’s done a nice job.  Give him credit.”

While it will be great to have Soto back, Hill has done a great job.  Since the All-Star Break, the Cubs are 14-5, and their nice run catapulted the Cubs back into a 1st place tie with the Cardinals in the NL Central race.  While Hill’s offense has been average at best, Hill has provided much needed consistency for the pitching staff, especially with Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly each spending time on the DL during that stretch.  Randy Wells has thrived with Hill behind the plate and even recently traded Kevin Hart picked up 3 wins as a starter in July.  Kudos to Hill and let’s hope the winning ways keep coming on the north side of Chicago.

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Geovany Soto Headed to Disbaled List – Not Good

Posted on 11 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs White Sox Baseball

Geovany Soto is headed to the disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle.  Soto injured the left oblique during batting practice before Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field.  Oblique strains tend to take a while to heal, so the Cubs are anticipating that Soto will need at least a month to recover from the injury.  Soto will go to the Cubs facility in Mesa, Arizona to begin rehabbing the injury.

After winning the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year Award, Soto has endured a disappointing 2009.  He missed time at the beginning of the season with a right shoulder strain and is only hitting .230 with 8 HR’s and 27 RBI’s on the year.  Koyie Hill will start for the Cubs at catcher during Soto’s absence and Jake Fox will be the primary back-up during the weekend series against the Cards ay Wrigley.  Mark Johnson is the only other Cubs catcher will major league experience, but he is on the disabled list at Triple-A Iowa.  GM Jim Hendry will likely have to look outside the organization to pick up a back-up catcher until Soto returns.

The hits just keep on coming for the Cubs.  It is going to be a long 2009 MLB schedule on the North Side of Chicago…

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Finally – Lou Pinella Moves Alfonso Soriano Down in Order!

Posted on 04 July 2009 by Lou

alfonso soriano 1

It’s about time!  Manager Lou Pinella has finally moved Alfonso Soriano down in the lineup for today’s game against the Brewers at Wrigley Field.  Soriano has been awful in 2009 after a decent start – .226 batting average; .291 on-base percentage; 26 walks, 77 K’s.  From June 24th-28th, Soriano actually had 2 hits in each of 4 of 5 Cubs games, but he has gone hitless in his last 3 games.  Soriano will bat 6th in the lineup in today’s game, with Kosuke Fukodome assuming the lead-off role for the Cubs.  The rest of the Cubs lineup looks like Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley, Jake Fox – 2-5 – and then Geovany Soto and Mike Fontenot 7th and 8th in the lineup.

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Cubs Top Brewers 2-1 with Walkoff Walk; Bradley a Disaster in Right Field

Posted on 04 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Milton Bradley Risk 1

The Cubs defeated the Brewers 2-1 in 10 innings on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.  Jake Fox’s bases loaded walk with 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th inning forced in the winning run.  The Cubs may have caught a break as Mark DiFelice’s pitch appeared to get much of the plate despite being a tad high.  DiFelice was shocked that the home plate umpire called the pitch a ball, but it is what it is and the Cubs have taken the first 2 games of this big weekend series.

Jeff Suppan and Carlos Zambrano dueled for much of the game.  Zambrano lasted 7 innings, giving up just 1 ER on 5 hits and 3 walks.  The lone run scored when Big Z walked Corey Hart with the bases loaded in the 4th inning.  Zambrano also hit Prince Fielder with a pitch.  Suppan also pitched 7 innings, giving up just 1ER on 4 hits and 2 walks.  His lone run scored on a Carlos Zambrano single to center field.  Suppan also hit Derrek Lee and Jake Fox.

Kosuke Fukodome had a game-saving play in the 7th inning with the score tied at 1.  On Prince Fielder’s line drive single to center field, Kosuke came up firing and nailed Suppan at the plate to prevent the Brewers from taking a 2-1 lead.

The Cubs left 2 runners on base in each of the 8th and 9th innings, but finally got the winning run in the 10th.  Ryan Theriot got a 1-out single and advanced to 2nd base on a wild pitch.  After Derrek Lee flew out to right field, the Brewers intentionally walked Milton Bradley to get to Geovany Soto.  DiFelice threw 3 straight balls and ultimately intentionally walked him to get to rookie Jake Fox.  With the count 3-2, Fox fought off pitch after pitch and eventually took ball 4 to win the game.

Kevin Gregg pitched 2 scoreless innings in the 9th and 10th to pick up his 3rd win of the season.  Gregg has now held the other team scoreless in 24 of his last 27 appearances.  He has issued only 8 walks in the last 28 appearances as well (he had walked 8 batters in his 1st 10 appearances on the season).  The lone hit charged to Gregg was a pop up that Milton Bradely lost in the sun in the 9th inning that would have ended the inning.  This is not the 1st time that Bradley has lost a ball in the sun this year and luckily it didn’t cost the Cubs the game on Friday.  Bradley is a complete disaster this year – one of GM Jim Hendry’s worst signings ever.  Rumor has it that Bradely and Manager Lou Pinella exchanged wors after the game.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything.

The Cubs and Brewers play Game 3 of the weekend series today at 12 noon at Wrigley Field.  Rich Harden will battle Braden Looper – both pitchers have a 1.40 WHIP and ERA’s over 4.50, so it should be a slugfest at the Friendly Confines today!

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Lee Leads Cubs to 9-5 Win Over Brewers @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 03 July 2009 by Lou

Brewers Cubs Baseball

Derrek Lee powered the Cubs to a 9-5 victory over the 1st place Brewers with 2 home runs on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.  Lee’s 3-run HR gave the Cubs an early 3-0 lead inthe 1st inning.  Lee’s 2nd home run of the game was a grand slam in the 4th inning, capping off a 5-run inning that gave the Cubs a 9-2 lead.  Lee went 2 for 4 on the night and had a career-best 7 RBI’s.  Lee now leads the Cubs in HR’s (14) and RBI’s (48).  Jake Fox and Geovany Soto also each hit solo home runs for the Cubs, as the Cubs scored all of their runs via the long ball.  Sam Fuld continued to swing a hot bat getting 2 hits and scoring 2 runs.  Ryan Theriot was the 3rd Cub batter with 2 hits on the night.

Ryan Dempster did the job to protect the Cubs early lead. Dempster went 6 2/3 innings giving up 3 ER on 8 hits and 2 walks.  Dempster struck out 9 Brewers batters in picking up his 1st win since the end of May.  Carlos Marmol worked a scoreless 9th inning despite issuing a walk (his 39th free pass in 38 1/3 innings) to slugger Prince Fielder.  Marmol has now worked 3 straight scoreless innings after struggling against the White Sox last weekend.

It was a big win for the Cubs as they needed to get off to a good start in this big 4-game weekend series with the 1st place Brewers.  The offensive explosion is a good sign that the Cubs are primed and ready to contend for a 3rd straight division title.  The Cubs have their work cut out for them as they still need to jump 2 other teams (the Cards and Reds) in order to achieve that 1st place goal.  Stay tuned as Carlos Zambrano battles Jeff Suppan in Game 2 of the exciting 4th of July weekend series with the Brewers…

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Randy to the Rescue – Cubs Top Pirates 4-1

Posted on 02 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Pirates Baseball

Randy Wells helped the Cubs get back on track with a 7-inning gem that helped the Cubs beat the Pirates 4-1.  Wells needed only 97 pitches, giving up only 1 ER on 6 hits and 1 walk.  He struck out 4 and did not allow a run after giving up a 1st inning run. The rookie Wells has turned into the Cubs most dependable starter right now, lowering his ERA 2.43 to and his WHIP to 1.08.  Wells had this to say about his quality 2009 start: “I like to think I’ve been consistent.  When I was called up to make my first start, I said, ‘Just be who you are. Go out, throw strikes, mix speeds and keep the flow of the game going.'”  Wells has certainly done that in his 10 starts – he has given up more than 2 runs in only 2 of his starts.

Carlos Marmol worked a scoreless 8th inning although he did hit the leadoff hitter with a pitch.  Kevin Gregg worked a 1-2-3 9th inning to preserve the win and pick up his 14th save of the season.

Derrek Lee got the Cubs off to a good start with a 2-run HR to deep right center field in the 1st inning.  Kosuke Fukodome’s solo HR in the 6th inning gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead and Geovany Soto’s RBI single in the 8th inning tacked on another insurance run for the Cubs.  Sam Fuld, recently called up to take the place of the injured Aaron Miles, had 2 hits and scored a run.  Ryan Theriot, Fukodome and Soto also each had 2 hits.

Manager Lou Pinella was ejected from the game in the 6th inning for arguing a call made by 1st base umpire Chad Fairchild who called Wells out.  The play ended a Cubs threat that would have scored a run.

The Cubs start the month of July with a win – good news.  The potential bad news – they start the most important home stand of the 2009 MLB schedule on Thursday night against the Brewers at Wrigley Field and it’s unclear if they are ready for it.  At 37-38, the Cubs trail the Brewers by 3.5 games, the Cards by 2.5 games and the Reds by .5 games.  The Cubs need to win at least 2 of the games against the Brewers this weekend.  Anything less than that and the season could be over.  Ryan Dempster (4-5. 4.09 ERA) takes the bump against Seth McClung (3-1, 3.55 ERA) in the Thursday night opener.

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Cubs – Have they hit Rock Bottom Yet – We Think Not!

Posted on 01 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Pirates Baseball

When will the tides turn for the 2009 Cubs?  And if it does turn, how long will it last?  2 frustrating questions for Manager Lou Pinella.

Pinella finally had something to smile about as the Cubs defeated the Pirates 3-1 on Monday night.  Rich Harden picked up the win (his 1st win in 6 starts), despite constantly working in and out of jams in his 7 innings of work.  Harden gave up 9 hits and 1 walk, but only 1 ER, while striking out 9.  The Cubs finally had a team fail to come through in the clutch, as the Pirates left the bases loaded in the 5th inning and 2 runners on base in each of the 6th and 7th innings.  Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg – 2 of the Cubs most inconsistent relievers all season long – worked perfect innings in the 8th and 9th to preserve the win.

The Cubs scored their runs on an Andres Blanco single in the 2nd inning; a Ryan Theriot HR in the 3rd inning and a Milton Bradley double in the 4th inning.

But the optimistism didnt last long for the Cubs, as .500 pitcher Ross Ohlendorf shutout out the Cubs on Tuesday night in a 3-0 embarassing loss for the north siders.  3 miscues summed up this game, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.

1 – The Pirates scored their 1st run of the game when Ted Lilly struck out Brandon Moss on what should have been an inning-ending strikeout.  Instead, it turned into a wild pitch and Freddy Sanchez scored on a heads-up play all the way from 2nd base when Lilly couldn’t field Geovany Soto’s low throw at home plate.  Bonehead play #1 for the Cubs.

2 -The Cubs managed only 2 hits off Olendorf through 6 innings, so the Cubs should have been careful when they got on base.  With 2 outs in the 7th inning, Soto singled and Mike Fontenot followed up with a single to left field.  Instead of staying at 2nd base for Ryan Theriot, Soto tried to advance to 3rd with the play right in front of him and he was easily thrown out to end the inning.  Bonehead play #2 for the Cubs.

3 – Ryan Theriot and Milton Bradley led off the 8th with singles and they each  advanced a base on Jack Wilson’s throwing error.  2nd and 3rd, nobody out, top of the order coming to the plate – great situation, right?  Maybe not.  Alfonso Soriano strike out, Kosuke Fukodome strike out and a weak Derrek Lee groundout to 2nd base – end of threat – end of ball game.  Bonehead play #3 for the Cubs.  Here’s your 3-0 loss Cubs fans…

This team really sucks…  The Brewers beat up on Johan Santana and the Mets to increase their lead over the Cubs to 4.5 games.  Not good.

The Cubs-Pirates Wednesday night finale will feature Randy Wells (winner of 2 straight) and Virgil Vasquez (who won his 1st start of 2009 last week against the Kansas City Royals).

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