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Big Z Explosion Heard Round the World – Bye Bye Carlos – We Wish You Well! 6/25/10 6/26/10 6/27/10

Posted on 27 June 2010 by Lou

WOW – what a great way to kick of the weekend in the Cubs-Sox south side series.  Carlos Zambrano blowing a gasket, getting in Derrek Lee’s face.  D-Lee not backing down.  Manager Lou Pinella and coaches Larry Rothschild and Alan Trammell having to get in the middle of the near-brawl.  It was classic WWE Raw Madness – all right in your face in a baseball park on a beautiful Friday afternoon.  You couldn’t have asked for anything more.

As for the game, it was a typical Cubs loss – 6-0.  Bad pitching.  Even worse hitting – just 3 hits off of Jake Peavy and another number in the “L” column.  Yippee!  Let the sell-off begin…

The Cubs kept up their losing ways on Saturday – 3-2.  Carlos Silva pitched well — 2 ER on 3 hits and 1 walk.  But the Cubs bats didn’t get it done.  They only scored 2 runs off of Fast Freddy Garcia (a Derrek Lee single and an Aramis Ramirez opposite field home run that tied the game at 2 – did you even realize that those 2 guys were still in the Cubs lineup?!).  And Paul Konerko’s solo home run off of Andrew Cashner (who had been pitching so well) proved to be the game-winner in the 8th inning.

The Cubs managed to avoid the sweep with an 8-6 win on Sunday.  Ryan Dempster picked up the win – 3 ER on 9 hits and 1 walk in 7 innings.  Tyler Colvin batted lead-off for the 1st time in his major league career and he came through with 3 hits, 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored, including a 3-run bomb that gave the Cubs the lead for good at 3-2 in the 3rd inning.  Derrek Lee also had 2 hits and 2 RBI’s.  Geovany Soto had 3 hits, 1 RBI and 1 run scored.  Alfonso Soriano clubbed his 11th homer of the season.  And Starlin Castro got back on track with 2 hits and 2 runs scored.

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Cubs Top Pirates 6-1 – 1st Win in Pittsburgh in 2010

Posted on 08 June 2010 by Lou

It was a rare win for the Cubs over the Pirates on Monday afternoon – a makeup game from the game rained out last week.  Carlos Silva won his 8th game of the season without a loss, tossing 7 scoreless innings despite battling a flu all game long.  Silva scattered 4 hits and 1 walk during the outing and needed just 102 pitches on the day.  Sean Marshall earned a 2-inning save – his 1st of the season.

Marlon Byrd went 3 for 4 with 2 RBI’s and 1 run scored.  Byrd has a 4-game hitting streak going – going 10 for 17 with 4 RBI’s and 4 runs scored during that hot stretch.  Ryan Theriot reached base 5 times with a double, single, 2 walks, and on a force play.  He scored a career-high 4 runs in the win.

With Reds and Cards losses, the Cubs cut their lead in the NL Central to 6.5 games.  Now the Cubs head to Milwaukee to face the Brewers where the Cubs pulled off a 3-game sweep back in late April.

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Oh What Might Have Been — 5-4 Loss to Phillies Ends Win Streak at 4

Posted on 20 May 2010 by Lou

It was almost a perfect end to a 2-game road trip in Philly, but then the Cubs woes with runners on 3rd base and less than 2 outs re-surfaced as the Cubs squandered a golden scoring opportunity against Jose Contreras in the top of the 9th inning.  The Cubs trailed most of the day today, but kept battling back to tie the game up on 2 different occasions.  But it wasn’t meant to be despite getting runners on 1st and 3rd with nobody out against Contreras (who is subbing for injured closer Brad Lidge) in the 9th inning.  With the game tied at 4, Alfonso Soriano had a GREAT at-bat, fouling off pitch after pitch on a 3-2 count to eventually work a walk.  Mike Fontenot then singled up the middle sending Soriano hustling to 3rd base.  1st and 3rd, nobody out — easy run, right?  Not for this Cubs team.  Contreras made Starlin Castro look silly, striking him out with ease.  Aramis Ramirez then worked the count full after falling behind early, but swung at a pitch that my 3-year old would have known not to swing at.  The pitch was at least 2 feet wide of the plate and the Phillies catcher had to lunge to make sure it wasn’t a wild pitch, but Ramirez somehow tried to swing at the pitch at the last second.  Even with a 10 foot bat in his hands he probably would have missed it.  Then it was Geovany Soto’s turn to make Contreras look good.  He hit a lazy foul pop up that Ryan Howard snared for the final out, and instead of talking about another great come-from-behind win, we’re talking about how this team seems to lay an egg whenever they get a good scoring chance.  It is so painful.

This is an EXCELLENT Phillies team with an amazingly deep offensive lineup, so I’ll give the Cubs for being in both games of the series.  Holding the Phils to just 6 runs in 2 home games at the sand lot that is Citizens Bank Ballpark is a feat in and of itself.  But when you get chances like this, good teams win.  The Cubs are clearly just an average team at best.  The Cubs made it interesting.  After falling behind in the 1st inning on a Chase Utley home run, the Cubs answered with a Starlin Castro RBI single that scored Soriano in the 5th inning.  Ryan Dempster couldn’t fully get out of a 2-out jam in the 6th inning and eventually served up Jimmy Rollins 3-run jack to deep right field that gave the Phillies a 4-1 lead.  The Cubs could have mailed it in, but Derrek Lee immediately answered with a solo home run to lead off the 7th inning.  Then with only 1 out, the Cubs loaded the bases with a walk and 2 singles, but once again, the Cubs failed to take full advantage of the scoring opportunity.  Sure Tyler Colvin drove in a run with a sac fly, but someone needs to come through with a hit to break the game open in that situation.  Xavier Nady who has been so hot as a pinch-hitter lunged at the 1st pitch he saw, and just like that, the threat was over again.  Kosuke Fukudome forced the 4-4 tie with his lead-off solo home run to right field in the top of the 8th inning.  But then John Grabow had another poor outing and gave the lead right back to the Phillies.  He walked 2 of the 1st three batters that he faced and gave up Raul Ibanez’s game-winning single to right.  Fukudome did his best to throw out Utley at home, but his throw was just off the line towards the 1st base line and Utley slid in ahead of Koyie Hill’s tag.

Then it was time for disappointment in the 9th.

Ryan Dempster pitched well, but not well enough.  I feel like I say that for just about every start he has made during the last month. It’s gotta be frustrating for him being 2-5 with a 1.10 WHIP and a 3.73.  At the same time, he has already given up 8 home runs this year in 62+ innings pitched – that is simply too many.  If he cuts that home run number in half, Dempster is 5-2 and the Cubs are only 3 games out of 1st place in the NL Central.

Today’s loss was that much more painful given the near-perfect game that the Cubs played on Wednesday night in Philly.  Tom Gorzelanny threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings (just 3 hits and 2 walks) in the 4-1 win, but left after getting hit with a line drive.  The Cubs took an early 2-0 lead on an RBI single by Castro in the 3rd inning and an RBI single by Jeff Baker in the 7th inning.  John Grabow gave up a run in the 8th inning, but Carlos Zambrano saved the day by getting Jayson Werth to ground out on a sensational play by Castro to end the threat with the tying run on 2nd base.  Then Xavier Nady came through with another HUGE pinch-hit single that gave the Cubs 2 insurance runs with the bases loaded out 2 outs in the 9th inning.  That made the save chance for Carlos Marmol a little easier in the bottom of the inning.  Although Marmol walked Ibanez and hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch, he struck out Ross Gload and Shane Victorino to pick up his 7th save of the season.

I know we should be happy that the Cubs split with the Phillies, but the same trends that keep occurring just don’t make me feel confident about this team.  Poor clutch hitting is killing this team and preventing the club from taking bigger leads or any leads at all.  If the Cubs took advantage of some of these scoring chances, that would take a lot of heat off of the pitching staff.  And while the starters have been good, they must feel like they have to pitch a perfect game in order to get a win.  The close games is taking its toll on a young bullpen that has under-performed.  If Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol could pitch every day, it would be a different story.  But since they can’t, Manager Lou Pinella has to go to some of his other options.  Grabow is not getting it done and he has been a huge factor in the bullpen’s struggles.  After the last 2 days, Grabow now has 3 losses with a 2.12 WHIP and an 8.44 ERA.  If he wasn’t a veteran getting paid big bucks for a set-up man, he would have been sent down to Triple-A Iowa 2 weeks ago.

Ugghhh – I could go on and on.  Let’s hope the Cubs can nip this losing streak in the bud and get things going again in Texas over the weekend.  It won’t be easy, but it should be nice to be able to put Soriano in the DH spot and get a better defensive team out there with Tyler Colvin in the lineup for 3 straight days in left.  Can’t wait…

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Different Day, Same Old Story as Cubs Lose Again…

Posted on 12 May 2010 by Lou

It was a different day on the calendar for the Cubs, but the results were the same – another close loss as the Cubs offense could not deliver any clutch hits.  Randy Wells was the tough-luck loser this time around as the Cubs fell to the Marlins for a 2nd straight night, this time by just 1 run.

Let’s look at the numbers:

The Cubs have lost 7 of their last 8 games.  In 1 of the losses, the Cubs scored just 1 run.  In 5 of the losses, the Cubs managed to score 2 runs.  And in the 7th loss, the Cubs broke out and scored a whopping 3 runs.  What is going on with this team.  Right now, the Cubs have 5 starters who are hitting above the .300 mark — Ryan Theriot, Kosuke Fukudome, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and Starlin Castro.  But no one ever seems to come through with the clutch hit that breaks a game open.  The last time that happened was in the Cubs 14-7 win over the Reds 5 days ago when the rookie Castro had 2 big hits – a 3-run HR and a 3-run triple – to spark the win.  What makes it worse, the Cubs have been getting good pitching, but it seems like the starters and relievers have to be perfect or else the team will lose.  In the 7 losses, 2 have come by 1 run and 3 have come by just 2 runs.  That means a play here or a bounce that goes another way could result in a Cubs win instead of a Cubs loss.

But back to last night’s debacle.  Although Randy Wells served up early home runs to Cody Ross and Gaby Sanchez that gave the Marlins a 3-0 lead by the end of the 3rd inning, he rallied to keep his club in the game.  He ended up pitching 8 solid innings (save for the 2 home runs) and allowed just 1 walk and 1 hit from the 4th through the 8th innings.  He racked up 8 K’s and actually lowered his WHIP to 1.33 and his ERA to 4.57.

But for the 2nd straight night, the Cubs racked up more hits than the Marlins but couldn’t push across more runs as the Cubs didn’t score until the 6th inning.  Derrek Lee finally “broke out” with 2 doubles which drove in the Cubs first run in the 6th.  Marlon Byrd didn’t get a hit, but he did drive in the Cubs 2nd run in the 8th inning to pull the Cubs within 1 run of the lead.  Starlin Castro had 2 more hits in the loss and is still hitting .333.

Carlos Silva takes the bump today in the series finale hoping that he can do enough to help avoid a series sweep at the hands of the Marlins.

I’m at a loss right now.  I feel like I’ve written this type of post a thousand times already this year.  Couple that with the thousand times I wrote this similar post last year, and I’m starting to get a little sick of it.  Some teams know how to win.  Other teams don’t.  Until this team gets some confidence to know that they can win close games, we’re going to have a lot of these frustrating 1 and 2 run losses this year as the Cardinals continue to expand their lead in the NL Central.  Let’s just hope that Marlon Byrd and Castro keep up their good seasons so that we have something to cheer about…

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Cubs Fun Fact of the Day — Aramis Ramirez Struggling

Posted on 06 May 2010 by Lou

Ouch – this is not a pleasant Cubs Fun Fact of the Day – Boy is Aramis Ramirez Really struggling.  He has really hurt the team, and Manager Lou Pinella finally dropped him to 6th in the batting order.  In Wednesday night’s 4-2 loss, Ramirez went 1 for 3 from the 6-hole, with 1 RBI on a sacrifice fly.  In Thursday’s night’s 11-1 loss, Ramirez went 0 for 4 in the 5th spot.  Ramirez s now hitting just .148 with an on-base percentage a tad over .200.  Ouch.  He has just 3 HR’s and 15 RBI’s on the season, but he has not clubbed a long ball since April 15th.  What is going on with the big fella?  I usually think of Ramirez as the Cubs most consistent offensive run-producer, but something is clearly off with Ramirez in 2010.  Ramirez opted not to have off-season surgery to repair his separated shoulder that sidelined him for 2 months in 2009.  Should he have?  Did the rehab he did in the off-season not work?

Whatever the case, the Cubs offense clearly depends on a healthy, productive cog in the middle of the lineup like Ramirez.  If that Ramirez does not show up sometime soon, we’re going to be very disappointed with another down year from the Cubs in 2010.

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Cubs Lose Another Close One to Pirates — 4-2

Posted on 06 May 2010 by Lou

The Cubs lost another close game to the Pirates in Pittsburgh – 4-2 – on Wednesday night.  They look to avoid the sweep tonight as Randy Wells takes the hill.

Ted Lilly had another poor start – 6 innings pitched – 4 ER on 9 hits.  He now has a 1.35 WHIP and a 5.29 ERA.  Not good.

This time, however, the Cubs bats were limited by Charlie Morton who held the Cubs to just 5 hits and no walks in his 6 innings.  The Cubs scored their 2 runs in the 4th inning on a sacrifice fly by Aramis Ramirez and an RBI single by Mike Fontenot.  3 relievers then held the Cubs hitless from the 7th through the 9th innings.

Manager Lou Pinella has gotta be getting frustrated again – look for another Lou outburst if the Cubs get swept tonight…

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Cubs Fun Fact of the Day — Alfonso Soriano Amazing Against Pittsburgh Pirates

Posted on 05 May 2010 by Lou

We’re going with Alfonso Soriano again for our Cubs Fun Fact of the Day.  Soriano has feasted on Pittsburgh Pirates pitching since 2007 when he was with the Washington Nationals and in the 3+ years following that as a Chicago Cub.  Since 2007, Soriano has clubbed 15 home runs against the Pirates.  Pretty amazing.  Even better than that, Soriano has loved hitting against Paul Malholm – last night’s starter.  Event though the Cubs lost, Soriano gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead with his solo home run in the 6th inning off of Malholm.  In just 21 at-bats against Malholm, Soriano has stroked 4 home runs off the lefty.  Ya think he has his number?

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Cubs Drop Frustrating 3-2 Loss to Pirates on Tuesday Night

Posted on 05 May 2010 by Lou

It was another frustrating road loss for the Cubs as the bats went dead and the pitching wasn’t “perfect” enough to win the close 3-2 ball game against the Pirates.

Ryan Dempster lost 3-2 for the 2nd start in a row.  He pitched well again, but a 1st inning home run to Andy LaRoche and a 6th inning 2-run home run to Ryan Church ended up being just enough for the Pirates to pick up the W.  Dempster ended up pitching 7 innings of 3-run, giving up 8 hits and 1 walk with 7 strike outs.  He lowered his WHIP to 1.03 and his ERA to 2.95, but he has just 2 wins on the season, mainly because of poor run support.

Against Paul Malholm, the Cubs managed 8 hits and 3 walks in 6 innings.  But the lack of clutch hitting meant that the Cubs would only score twice – on solo home runs from Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto.  Other than that, it was the same old story – getting guys in scoring position with 1 out or no outs, and not coming away with any runs at all.  Even plating one run in those situations would mean a tie ball game and extra innings, but it seems like the Cubs go into these funks where no one comes through with the clutch hit.

Ted Lilly looks to bounce back tonight against the Pirates after a rough 2nd start to his 2010 season.  He served up 7 ER to the DBacks last Thursday at Wrigley Field.

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Cubs Fun Fact of the Day — Kosuke Fukudome — Can he Keep it Up?

Posted on 04 May 2010 by Lou

Following up yesterday’s Alfonso Soriano facts/stats with a Kosuke Fukudome sighting seemed like the appropriate thing to do.  Back in 2008 (Fukudome’s 1st year in the United States with the Cubs), he started off hot by hitting a game-tying 3-run home run in the 9th inning against the Brewers on Opening Day and staying hot all through the month of April with a batting average over .300.  But by the end of the season, Fukudome had a batting average of only .257 hitting just 10 home runs and driving in 58 RBI’s.  2009 brought a similar stat line — .259 batting average, 11 HR’s, 54 RBI’s.  Sure his on-base percentage was solid – .359 and .375, respectively, but was he really worth $12 million a year for 4 years?

Well we’re seeing the same hot start for Kosuke in 2010, but I must admit, he seems a lot more relaxed and confident at the plate.  Is it having 2 years under his belt in the U.S.? Is it something new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo noticed in his swing and Kosuke’s willingness to listen to his American coaches now?  Whatever it is, I have been seriously impressed with the results.  Kosuke already has 5 HR’s and 17 RBI’s in the 2-hole.  He has a .342 batting average and a .438 on-base percentage.  Most importantly, he already has 14 walks and just 11 K’s in 73 at-bats – that is an excellent ratio.  He seems a lot more patient at the plate and is really making pitchers work the count so that he sees a lot more pitches.  That makes the pitcher throw more pitches so you can get to the bullpen earlier, and it helps the sluggers behind him – Derrek Lee, Marlon Byrd, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano – see more pitches as they prepare for their at-bats.  It becomes a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Now don’t get me wrong, if he ends up hitting in the .250’s with similar offensive output as in his 1st 2 major league seasons, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.  But I’m really seeing a different Fukudome this year and believe he has a great shot at sustaining this output for the entire season.  Maybe not 30 HR’s and 100 RBI’s, but definitely close to 20 HR’s and 75 RBI’s with a lot of hits.  Guess we’ll have to wait and see – but I hope Kosuke keeps it up!

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Cubs Fun Fact of the Day — Alfonso Soriano is on Fire

Posted on 03 May 2010 by Lou

This is a big surprise for me, but we’re going with Alfonso Soriano as our Cubs Fun Fact of the Day.  Soriano has been on fire of late and he helped lead the Cubs to 2 big wins over the DBacks on Saturday and Sunday at Wrigley Field.

Soriano has hit a home run in each of his last 3 games, including 2 2-run bombs in Sunday’s 10-5 win.  Soriano is hitting .325 with a stellar .382 on-base percentage.  He already has 6 home runs and 17 RBI’s on the season, and we’re just 26 games in.  Considering Soriano hit only 20 home runs and drove in 55 runs in 117 games in 2009, he is well ahead of pace (he also had an atrocious .241 batting average and .303 on-base percentage?!).  Now I know, he hasn’t gotten hurt yet, but who knows, maybe getting a few extra days off here and there with Tyler Colvin playing more will be a blessing in disguise.  Maybe getting reunited with Rudy Jaramillo – his old hitting coach in Texas – has helped.  Maybe the unusually warm weather has helped too.

Whatever it is, something is clearly clicking with Soriano in 2010 – let’s hope he can keep it up…

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