Posted on 08 August 2009 by Lou
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.
Posted on 06 August 2009 by Lou
The Cubs were hoping to finish off a sweep of the Reds on Wednesday night – Rich Harden had had 3 straight good starts, while Reds’ starter Justin Lehr (age 32) was making only his 2nd start at the major league level, so it looked like a forgone conclusion that the Cubs would win and take over sole possession of 1st place in the NL Central over the St. Louis Cardinals who had lost to the Mets earlier in the day. But it wasn’t meant to be, as Lehr pitched his 1st ever shutout on any professional level, limiting the Cubs to just 4 hits and 1 walks over the 9 frames. It was Lehr’s 1st win since May 2006. Not good Cubs fans.
Rich Harden, meanwhile, got into trouble in the 3rd inning when he gave up a single to Brandon Phillips and then a 2-run bomb to the recently-acquired Scott Rolen, his 1st hit as a Reds player. Harden prolonged the inning by trying to force out a runner at 3rd base with the pitcher at the plate, but he threw the ball away allowing a 3rd run to score. Fortunately, Harden was able to strike out Willy Taveras and Joey Votto without any further damage, but the 3 runs would be all that Lehr and the Reds would need.
At the plate, the Cubs looked clueless. Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano each had singles off of Lehr, and Harden had the Cubs only extra base hit – a double with 2 outs in the 5th inning.
Jeff Samardzija had a rough 7th inning – giving up a leadoff single to Willy Taveras who stole 2nd and 3rd bases easily and scored on Alex Gonzalez’ sacrifice fly.
The loss denied the Cubs the chance to reach 10 games over .500 for the 1st time all season. Oh well. At least they are still tied with the Cardinals for 1st place. The only bad news – the Cards next 6 games are at home against the lowly Pirates and Reds, while the Cubs are on the road for 4 games against the Rockies in Colorado (the wild card leader) and then at Wrigley Field for 3 games against the Philadelphia Phillies (the NL East leader).
The lone bright spot, Closer Kevin Gregg pitched a perfect 8th inning with 1 strikeout. Gregg had been nursing a “tired arm” after blowing save chances in his last 2 appearances by giving up 5 ER and 6 hits in his last 1 1/3 innings of work.
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 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 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 05 July 2009 by Lou
The Brewers crushed the Cubs 11-2 on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Former Cubs player Casey McGehee had a career day going 4 for 5 with 5 RBI’s and 3 runs scored. McGehee was a double shy of hitting for the cycle. Rich Harden took the loss – going 2+ innings, giving up 7ER on 8 hits and 1 walk. Batting 6th in the lineup for the 1st time all season, Alfonso Soriano went 0 for 4 with 2 K’s. David Patton and Jeff Samardzija each gave up 2 ER in relief outings. Ouch.
With the Reds beating the Cards, the Cubs stayed 2.5 games behind each of the Brewers and Cards for 1st place in the NL Central.
Posted on 07 May 2009 by Lou
Not sure if GM Jim Hendry and Manger Lou Pinella really know what they want to do with Jeff Samardzija. As spring training broke, the Cubs decided to send Jeff Samardzija down to the minor leagues to develop a 3rd pitch and work on his starting pitching. Instead of keeping Samardzija at the major league level, they elected to go with Angel Guzman (who was out of options) and David Patton (who the Cubs had to keep in the big leagues or release without compensation).
Within 2 weeks, however, the Cubs released Luis Vizcaino (who had not allowed a run in his 4 2009 appearances) and called up Samardzija who had pitched well in 3 starts at Triple-A Iowa. And with no room in the starting rotation, the Cubs moved Samardzija into the bullpen. Does this make any sense at all, given what Hendry and Pinella had said just 2 weeks earlier? No.
Samardzija struggled in the Cubs bullpen – 5 appearances, only 3 1/3 innings, 3 earned runs, 7 hits, 2 walks, 5 K’s and a hefty 8.10 ERA. Now I’m not making excuses for Samardzija – he did not pitch well – but you have to have a plan with a young player. And it seemed like Hendry and the Cubs were comfortable with Samardzija going back to the minor leagues to get stretched out again to work on pitches as a starter. To change that plan within 2 weeks just doesn’t make any sense at all and could ultimately hurt Samardzija in the long run. One would think that Samardzija is a guy that the Cubs want to use as a starter in the future. Let him grow and learn and get more innings in at the Triple A level. Let him work on new pitches and get comfortable throwing those pitches. Having Samardzija on a carousel back and forth to Iowa just doesn’t make sense – let’s hope it doesn’t hurt him in the long run.
Chad Fox appeared in 3 games for the Cubs in 2008. He was 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP. The Cubs plan to use Fox in the 6th and 7th innings of ball games.
Posted on 05 May 2009 by Lou
The Chicago Cubs split the 2-game series with the San Francisco Giants on Monday and Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
In Monday night’s 4-2 win, Ryan Dempster defeated Jonathan Sanchez with 7 strong innings. Dempster needed only 102 pitches – giving up 2 earned runs on 5 hits and 2 walks. Dempster recorded 7 K’s. Carlos Marmol worked a scoreless 8th inning, giving up 1 hit and striking out 2. While Kevin Gregg worked a scoreless 9th inning for his 4th save on the season. Although Gregg did issue another walk, he struck out 2 and recorded the final out of the game on a great catch by Reed Johnson in center field. The Cubs scored early and often to take a commanding 4-0 lead. Geovany Soto’s walk with the bases loaded plated the Cubs first run in the 1st. Ryan Theriot’s 2-run home run in the 2nd inning – his 3rd homer in 4 games – increased the Cubs lead to 3-0. The Cubs added an insurance in the 5th inning on Reed Johnson’s sacrifice fly.
In Tuesday’s loss, Tim Lincecum outdeuled Sean Marshall 6-2. The Giants jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on a 3-run home run by Bengie Molina in the 1st inning. The Cubs chipped away at the lead with a run in the 2nd inning on a Mike Fontenot ground out and a run in the 5th inning on a Marshall single. In the meantime, Marshall settled down and kept the Giants without another run until the 8th inning. Marshall walked Edgar Renteria and gave up a hit to Rich Aurilia before being replaced by Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija self-destructed hitting the 1st batter he faced and then giving up a 2-RBI double to Aaron Rowand and an RBI single to Randy Winn. That gave the Giants the cushion that they needed to preserve the 6-2 win. Marshall fell to 0-2 as his ERA rose to 4.15. Samardzija’s struggles continued in 2009 as his ERA rose to 8.10.
The Cubs went 4-2 on this short 6-game home stand at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are 14-12 on the young 2009 schedule.
Posted on 02 May 2009 by Lou
It wasn’t pretty, but the Cubs defeated the Marlins 8-6 on Friday afternoon at a rainy Wrigley Field. The Cubs trailed for much of the day, even by as much as 5-1 in the 4th inning. But the Cubs rallied to take the lead in the 6th inning on an Aaron Miles walk and a Mike Fontenot single. With 2 outs, the Marlins decided to pitch carefully to Alfonso Soriano who ended up walking to load the bases for Ryan Theriot. Theriot hit his 1st career grand slam to the bleachers in left field to put the Cubs ahead for good with a 6-5 lead. The Cubs added some insurance runs in the 7th inning on a Geovany Soto single and a Mike Fontenot sacrifice fly.
The pitching was a tale of 2 stories for the Cubs. Rich Harden was atrocious – 3 2/3 innings – 86 pitches, 5 earned runs, 6 hits, 4 walks and 1 hit batter. He only had 2 strikeouts – the 1st time he did not strike out at least 8 batters in a game.
The bullpen did a great job of keeping the Cubs in the game after Harden’s departure. Jeff Samardzija got the Cubs out of Harden’s 4th inning jam, David Patton worked 2 innings of hotless and scoreless relief and Neal Cotts works a scoreless / hitless inning as well. Carlos Marmol had an interesting inning – after walking the first 2 batters he faced like he did on Thursday night, Marmol struck out the side to end the threat and received a standing ovation for his tremendous, frustrating effort. And Kevin Gregg picked up his 2nd save of the year, despite giving up a run on 2 hits in another frustrating inning for the Cubs closer.
The weather summed up the day at Wrigley – rainy early with a lot of clouds, but sunny by the time everyone left the friendly confines for the evening. The Cubs trailed for much of the day, but after Theriot’s first ever grand slam, there was nothing but smiles to go around the park.
Let’s hope the Cubs can keep up the momentum with an afternoon win today at Wrigley. Ted Lilly will face off against Anabel Sanchez.
Posted on 24 April 2009 by Lou
Maybe another road trip will be good for the Cubs. After the Reds took 2 of 3 games from the Cubs this week at Wrigley Field, the Cubs home record fell to 4-4. On the road, the Cubs are a mighty 4-2. At 8-6, the Cubs trail the Cards by 2 games in the NL Central race, as the 2 teams play 3 games in St. Louis in another big weekend series. Ryan Dempster, Sean Marshall and Rich Harden will pitch for the Cubs, while the Cards will counter with Adam Wainright, Mitchell Boggs and Todd Wellemeyer.
The Reds Johnny Cueto bested Ted Lilly in Wednesday night’s 3-0 loss. Although Lilly allowed only 1 unearned in his 7 innings of work, he was on the short end of the stick as Cueto had the Cubs hitters off-balance all night long. Cueto gave up only 4 hits and no walks as the Cubs never really mounted any serious threat against the youngster. Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips each had 2 hits for the Reds, and Bruce’s solo shot in the top of the 9th inning off of Kevin Gregg gave the Reds a little cushion for closer Francisco Cordero. Milton Bradley was in the Cubs lineup, but went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts. He still has only 1 hit on the season and his batting average is down to .043.
On Thursday afternoon, the Reds Aaron Harang out-dueled Carlos Zambrano as the Reds beat the Cubs 7-1. Joey Votto was a one man wrecking crew – going 4 for 5 with a home run and 2 doubles. Votto drove in 2 runs and scored 1 run. Harang pitched 7 strong innings giving up only 1 unearned run on 7 hits and 1 walk. Zambrano, meanwhile, gave up 3 earned runs on 7 hits and 2 walks. He did have 7 strikeouts. He is now 1-1 on the year with a hefty 4.85 ERA. Neal Cotts gave up a run in his 1 inning of work, while newly-called-up reliever Jeff Samardzija gave up 2 earned runs on 4 hits in the 9th inning. Not good all-around.
Let’s hope the Cubs can get back on track on the road. Although it’s early, the team has played uninspired ball so far this season. If they think they have the NL Central wrapped up just because they have won it the last 2 seasons, they have another thing coming. Time for Pinella to light a fire under these guys and see if a change in lineup can spark the lackluster club.