Posted on 27 July 2009 by Lou
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.
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 25 July 2009 by Lou
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!!!
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 16 July 2009 by Lou
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..
Posted on 14 July 2009 by Lou
The Cubs Ted Lilly is looking forward to his All-Star appearance for the National League in St. Louis tonight. It is Lilly’s 2nd All-Star appearance – he last appeared as the lone representative for the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2004. Lilly has made 18 starts in 2009 and has compiled a nice 9-6 record with a sparkling 3.18 ERA. He has a 6-1 record with a 1.86 ERA at Wrigley Field this year. He is also riding a great wave right now – in his last 54 2/3 innings, he has struck out 49 batters while walking only 7 – pretty incredible numbers.
Lilly had this to say about representing the Cubs: “The whole objective is to try to do what I can to help us get into 1st place. I think when I look at my first half, it’s nice and it’s one of the better 1st halves I’ve had at least statistically. But you still know there’s a lot of pitching to do, and a lot of really important pitching coming up in the second half of the season, more so than the first half. It’s nice to get off to a good start but more important to finish strong. ”
Manager Lou Pinella had this to say about Lilly: “Being the All-Star representative from this team says it all. He’s been our best pitcher.”
Lilly has been one of the Cubs most consistent pitchers during the last 3 seasons and has been one of GM Jim Hendry’s best signings. He played in the tough-hitting AL East (Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays) for 6 out of 8 years from 2000-2006, so facing tough lineups day in and day out really prepared Lilly for his MLB career. He has made 34 starts in each of his 1st 2 seasons with the Cubs and is on pace to hit at least that in 2009. In 2007, Lilly pitched 207 innings and went 15-8 with a 3.83 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. In 2008, Lilly pitched 204 2/3 innings and went 17-9 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. IN 2009, he has already pitched 119 innings and has lowered his ERA (3.18) and WHIP (1.11). He has 101 strikeouts on the season against just 24 walks and has clearly been “Mr. Dependable” for the Cubs in 2009.
Congrats Ted – go out and help the NL get home field advantage for the 2009 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago!
Posted on 12 July 2009 by Lou
The Cubs had their backs up against the wall, and they came out fighting “like cats” to earn a 5-2 must-win victory over the 1st place Cards on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field. The Cubs struck 1st with a 3-run 1st inning – courtesy of a Milton Bardley HBP with the bases loaded and a 2-run single by newly acquired infielder Jeff Baker – and Ted Lilly did the rest. Lilly threw 103 efficient pitches in 8 innings of work, giving up just a single run on 4 hits and 1 walk. He struck out 4, picking up his 9th win of the 2009 MLB schedule and his 100th career-win. Lilly will serve as the Cubs’ sole representative in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in St. Louis. Carlos Zambrano earned his 100th career victory earlier this year. Lilly had this to say about the win: “It’s pretty special. I was thinking today about the first one in New York against Oakland (2001). Just getting that one I hadn’t even been thinking about trying to get 99 more… It’s really a cool thing. And then you come into the clubhouse and talk to your buddies in there and they’re telling you, ‘You only got 200 more to go'”.
It got interesting in the 9th inning as Carlos Marmol only recorded 2 outs while giving up 2 hits and a walk. After Marmol threw a wild pitch that allowed 2 base runners to move up to 2nd and 3rd base, Manager Lou Pinella yanked Marmol and brought in Kevin Gregg to close out the game. Gregg struck out Skip Schumacher to end the threat and Gregg picked up his 16th save of the 2009 MLB schedule.
In addition to Ted Lilly, newly acquired Jeff Baker was the Cubs star. baker had 2 hits and 2 RBI’s and turned a nifty double-play with Ryan Theriot to end a Cards threat in the 8th inning.
One bad side note – Derrek Lee left Saturday’s game in the 5th inning with neck spasms. Lee has experienced trouble with neck spasms this year and has missed some time already. Lee was expected to play on Sunday, but he is not in the lineup for the 12:05PM game.
The Cubs and Cards play a day-night double header at Wrigley Field on Sunday. Zambrano will face Kyle Lohse in the 12:05PM opener, while Randy Wells will take on Adam Wainwright in the nightcap. Go Cubs!!!
Posted on 10 July 2009 by Lou
The Cubs dropped the 1st game of the big weekend series against the Cardinals on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field 8-3. Not a good way to start of the weekend. Entering the game, the Cubs trailed the 1st place Cards by 3.5 games in the NL Central. At worst, the Cubs needed to split the 4-game series with the Cards to remain 3.5 games out of 1st place. Now that means they must win 2 of 3 the rest of the way before next week’s All-Star Break. A tall task for a team that just can’t seem to buy a clutch hit.
After scoring just 1 run in each of their previous 2 losses to the Braves at Wrigley Field, the Cubs managed just 3 runs against the Cards – all on Derrek Lee’s 3-run HR in the 3rd inning that tied the game at 3. The Cubs did manage 9 hits in today’s loss, but they left 13 men on base. Just awful.
Rich Harden had another atrocious start but did manage to get 2 hits off Cards’ starter Chris Carpenter. Harden struggled through 101 pitches in 5 innings. Harden gave up 4 ER on 7 hits and 4 walks, but did strike out 6 Cards hitters to minimize the damage. Reliever Aaron Heilman was a train-wreck in his one inning of work. Heilman gave up 4 ER on 3 walks and 2 hits and saw his ERA rise to 4.35 and his WHIP rise to 1.65. Heilman has been a major disappointment for Manager Lou Pinella, GM Jim Hendry and the Cubs in 2009.
One positive – Jeff Stevens – acquired from the Indians in the off-season trade that sent beloved Mark DeRosa to Cleveland – made his major league debut and pitched a 1-2-3- 9th inning.
Here’s how the rest of the weekend looks:
Saturday – 3:10PM – Ted Lilly v. Brad Thompson
Sunday – 12:05PM – Randy Wells v. Kyle Lohse
Sunday – 7:05PM – Carlos Zambrano v. Adam Wainwright
Saturday’s game almost becomes a must-win for Lilly and the Cubs…
Posted on 06 July 2009 by Lou
Cubs defeated the Brewers 8-2 on Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Ted Lilly improved to 8-6 on the season, going 6 1/3 innings, allowing just 2ER on 9 hits and no walks. Lilly fanned 9 Brewers players. Carlos Marmol worked a scoreless 9th inning with 2K’s and seems to be back on track.
Derrek Lee and Jake Fox were the hitting heroes for the Cubs. Derrek Lee went 2 for 4 with 3 RBI’s and 1 run scored, including a 2-run HR in the 1st inning. Fox went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored, including a 2-run HR in a 3-run 4th inning. Kosuke Fukodome, Ryan Theriot, Alfonso Soriano and Mike Fontenot each had 2 hits for the Cubs.
The Cubs trail the Cards by 2.5 games and the Brewers by 1.5 games in the NL Cental race. The Cubs have a 3-game seies against the Braves before opening up a huge 4-game weekend series against the Cards at Wrigley before the All-Star Break.
Posted on 04 July 2009 by Lou
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!