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Cubs Offense, Defense Wastes Another Good Start in 5-0 Loss to White Sox

Posted on 04 September 2009 by Lou

White Sox Cubs Baseball

Can it get any uglier?  Well, yes.  Although Ryan Dempster did not have his best stuff, he still should have come away with nothing worse than a no decision.  Instead, because of shoddy defense and the continued inability of the Cubs to manufacture any offense whatsoever, Dempster dropped his 8th game of the year.  Dempster gave up 9 hits and 1 walk, and all 3 runs scored off of Dempster were unearned.

In the 2nd inning, Jake Fox failed to catch an easy pick off attempt from Dempster, allowing a runner to reach 2nd base with 2 outs.  That runner scored on the next pitch on a single by Alexei Ramirez. One unearned run.

In the 8th inning, the disaster that is Alfonso Soriano strck again.  With Gordon Beckham on 1st base, A.J. Pierzynski hit a lazy fly ball down the left field line.  Soriano got to the right spot and was about to make the catch, but for some reason, he just slipped.  Beckham scored all the way from 1st base and Pierzynski reached 3rd base on the Soriano error.  Pierzynski then came around to score on Paul Konerko’s soft single to left field.  2 more unearned runs.

Bad, bad, bad…

Dempster lowered his ERA under 4 with the 7 “scoreless” innings to 3.96 – giving the Cubs starting rotation with 2 pitchers under a 4.00 ERA and 1 pitcher under a 3.00 ERA.  Good, good, good.

But more bad please – the Cubs offense.  The Cubs squared off against Carlos Torres.  In his only 2 previous major league starts (in July & August of this year), Torres was lit up for 7 ER on 9 hits and 9 walks in just 7 1/3 innings of work – good for a 6.75 ERA and a 2.50 WHIP! Any other team would tee off on this guy, or at least work the count to make him throw more pitches and potentially get himself into trouble.  But not the Cubs.  Torres pitched 7 scoreless innings, giving up just 5 hits and no walks.  Jake Fox had 2 of the Cubs hits, but was thrown out at home in the bottom of the 7th inning on a great throw by DeWayne Wise on Jeff Baker’s single to right field.  3rd base coach Quade probably should not have sent the slow-running Fox home on the single to right field, but in any event, the Cubs can never seem to do anything right in 2009.

Not that anyone probably cares anymore, but:

The Cubs trails the Cardinals by 10.5 games in the NL Central race and the Rockies by 6 games in the NL Wild Card race.  Technically not out of it, but really not any closer than the Nationals who are “technically” 28 games behind the Rockies in the NL Wild Card race…

White Sox Cubs Baseball

White Sox Cubs Baseball

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Chicago Cubs Almost Done with August – It’s About Time!

Posted on 31 August 2009 by Lou

Mets Cubs Baseball

The Cubs have one more game left in a dreadful month of August – it’s about time. Let’s take a look back at what transpired.  On August 1st, the Cubs were 7 games over .500 with a 54-47 record.  The Cardinals were just 8 games over .500 with a 57-49 record.  The Cubs only trailed the Cards by 1/2 game in the NL Central race!

The Cubs split the first 4 games of the month, but then fell into a downward spiral quickly and painfully.  Heading into tonight’s game against the Astros in what will be the final game of August, the Cubs have an 11-16 record.  The Cubs are just 2 games over .500 and at 65-63, they trail the Cardinals by 10 games in the NL Central race.  While the Cubs were floundering away, the Cards were riding Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday on a 4-man wrecking crew, annhilating anything that stood in their path.  The Cards finished the month with a 20-6 record, and are 22 games over .500 with a 77-55 record.  During the month of August, the Cards never had a 2-game losing streak and lost twice in a week only once.  They are just a 1/2 game behind the Dodgers for the best record in the NL.  Talk about 2 teams heading in different directions.

Bad, bad, bad on the north side.

Carlos Zambrano suffered his 2nd straight loss since coming off the DL with a sore back.  He looked awful early and often – laboring through 75 pitches in just 3 1/3 innings of work.  Big Z gave up 3 ER (4 total) on 11 hits.  The one positive – he didn’t walk anyone.

The Cubs bullpen actually pitched well, and kept the Cubs in the 4-a game from the 4th through the 9th innings.  Tom Gorzelanny pitched 1 2/3 innings of perfect relief.  Sean Marshall retired 6 of the 7 batters that he faced, giving up just a lone single.  John Grabow pitched a perfect 8th inning and Angel Guzman did the same in the 9th inning.  With the year all but hopeless – in terms of playoffs – it’s nice to see guys still putting forth a solid effort, trying to build some momentum for 2010.  But that is certainly hard to do when you start a big 10-game home stand by losing 3 of 6 games to the 2 worst teams in the National League – the Nationals and Mets.  Bad, bad, bad.

Oh yeah, the Cubs managed just 7 hits and 2 walks off of Nelson Figueroa (1.66 WHIP and 4.50 ERA after the game) and 2 Mets relievers.  Bad, bad, bad…

Mets Cubs Baseball

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Harden Serves Up Another Good Start – Should Cubs Re-Sign Him?

Posted on 27 August 2009 by Lou

Nationals Cubs Baseball

Although Rich Harden took a no decision in Wednesday night’s 9-4 win over the Nationals at Wrigley Field, he turned in another stellar start in a very impressive 2nd half of 2009.  Harden worked through a shaky 1st inning and held the Nats to just 2 ER on 5 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings.  His pitch count was a bit high – 96 pitches – but it was his 8th straight since the all-star break in which he has not allowed more than 2 ER in an outing.  Very impressive for someone that entered the 2009 MLB schedule with a lot of question marks.

Harden now has 22 starts on the season and if he stays healthy the rest of the way, he should get at least another 7 starts before the season ends.  I remember most Cubs critics and fans saying that if Harden made 25 starts for the Cubs in 2009, that would be a huge success.  Harden has 8 wins and his ERA is under 4.00 (at 3.99) for the 1st time since April 26th after he held the Cardinals to just 2 ER in a 10-3 Cubs win in St. Louis.  Harden has made at least 22 starts in a season only 2 other times – back in 2004 (31 starts) and 2005 (22 starts).  With his 2009 performance, and his ability to prove to all other MLB clubs that he can stay healthy for a good portion of the year, he will likely be pursued hard in the off-season.  And that’s when the question becomes – should the Cubs sign him to a long-term deal?

A few things work against the Cubs on this one.  With the tenuous ownership situation, who knows when the new ownership team will be in place to determine a course of action for the off-season free agency period.  The Cubs will likely be at a disadvantage against other clubs as a new team might not be able to give GM Jim Hendry adequate guidance as to whom he can and cannot pursue this off-season.  Further, with close to $150 million already committed to athletes locked in for the 2010 MLB schedule, there will be little room to add significant payroll this off-season, especially with the new ownership group getting adjusted to life as a MLB team owner.  Lastly, there still has to be some concern with Harden’s health as a major league starter.  Harden spent some time on the DL at the end of 2008 with a “tired arm” and he had a stint on the DL again this past May-June and missed about 5 starts over a 3-week period.  Given past problems with pitchers with histories of arm woes – Mark Prior, Kerry Wood – I have a feeling that the Cubs won’t gamble on signing Harden to a long-term deal.

Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly are all locked in for 2010.  Randy Wells has emerged as a legitimate major league pitcher – 19 starts, 120 1/3 innings pitched, 1.20 WHIP, 2.84 ERA and will likely serve as the team’s 4th starter in 2010.  Sean Marshall can also return to a starting role and Jeff Samardzija, despite his struggles in 2009, is also seen as a viable starting pitcher down the line.

As for the 9-4 win, Koyie Hill was the Cubs offensive hero, going 3 for 3 with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  Hill scored the go-ahead run on Milton Bardley’s fielder’s choice groundout in the 7th inning and he broke the game open with a 2-out, 2-run double in the 8th inning that gave the Cubs a 5-2 lead.  The Cubs went on to score 6 insurance runs in the 8th inning.  Milton Bradley went 1 for 3 with a 2-run home run that gave the Cubs their 1st lead of the game in the 3rd inning.  Bradley had 3 RBI’s and 2 runs scored on the night.

At 63-61, the Cubs still trail the Cards by 9 games in the NL Central race and the Rockies by 7.5 games in the NL Wild Card race.  Not good…

Nationals Cubs Baseball

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Call Me Crazy – But Maybe the Season Isn’t Over?!

Posted on 24 August 2009 by Lou

cubs

Call me crazy, but maybe the 2009 Cubs season isn’t really over…  The Cubs are 62-60 and they trail the Cards by 8 games in the NL Central race and the Rockies by 7 games in the NL Wild Card race.  Now don’t get me wrong – the Cubs are a bad baseball teams as a whole.  After a great start to the post-All-Star Break stretch run in July, they are just 8-13 in August, and they have lost 10 of their last 14 games.

But if you look at their schedule and where they play the vast majority of their games, it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom.  The Cubs have 40 games left on their 2009 MLB schedule – 24 of those games are at home at Wrigley Field where they are 35-22.  The other 16 games are on the road, and 7 of those road games are against 2 teams they are chasing to make the playoffs – the Cardinals (9/18-20) and the Giants (9/24-27).

Take it a step further, and you see that of the 40 games remaining, only 8 games are against team with winning records:

9/3 White Sox 63-61 – home game;

9/18-20 Cards 72-54 – in St. Louis; and

9/24-27 Giants 67-57 – in San Francisco.

The other 32 games breakdown as follows:

Washington Nationals 44-80 – 3 games at Wrigley Field;

New York Mets 57-68 – 3 games at Wrigley Field & 3 games at CITI Field;

Houston Astros 61-63 – 3 games at Wrigley Field;

Pittsburgh Pirates 51-71 – 3 games in Pittsburgh & 4 games at Wrigley Field;

Cincinnati Reds 52-71 – 3 games at Wrigley Field;

Milwaukee Brewers 60-63 – 4 games at Wrigley Field & 3 games at Miller Park; &

Arizona Diamondbacks 55-70 – 3 games at Wrigley Field.

Now don’t get me wrong, do I really think the Cubs have what it takes to pull this off?  No.  But with the schedule and the fact that the Cubs starting pitching – Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Rich Harden, Ryan Dempster & Randy Wells – is still top 5 in the entire major leagues in 2009, anything is possible.  If the joke of a Cubs offense actually puts up 4 or 5 runs every so often, the Cubs might actually put a little streak together.  The Cubs will need a lot of help from the Rockies, Giants, Braves and Marlins to start losing, but if that happens, the last week of the season could be interesting with the Cubs playing 7 games against the struggling Pirates and Diamondbacks at home to end the 2009 campaign…

chicago cubs win scoreboard

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Cubs Dealing with Injury Bug – - Aramis Ramirez, Ted Lilly & Carlos Zambrano Updates

Posted on 14 August 2009 by Lou

aramis ramirez

The Cubs are still dealing with the injury bug here in 2009.  Aramis Ramirez received a cortisone shot in his right shoulder on Tuesday to deal with the continued soreness caused by his dislocated shoulder in May.  The shot should reduce the inflammation in the shoulder, but won’t take away pain.  Ramirez is still trying to determine whether or not he will have off-season surgery to clean up the shoulder – he has dislocated the shoulder 3 times in his career.  Ramirez was expected to play in Friday’s day game against the Pirates at Wrigley Field, but a severe head cold that worsened as the week went on caused Manager Lou Pinella to scratch him right before the game.  Jake Fox started in his place at 3rd base.

Ted Lilly has been on the DL since July 21st – resting his sore left throwing arm and recovering from knee surgery.  Lilly pitched 5 scoreless innings on Wednesday at Class-A Peoria.  He gave up only 2 hits and 1 walk and said it was great to get back into a game situation.  Lilly is expected to come off the DL on Monday and start against the Padres in San Diego.

Carlos Zambrano is still dealing with a sore back and back spasms.  Pinella had this to say about Big Z’s condition:  “He had been doing his strength work with our strength guy Tim Buss and we’re going to make sure he’s on a nice program so he gets back out there as soon as possible and he’ll do his work.”  Zambrano will likely start at some point next week against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Tom Gorzellany is nursing a sore foot when he was hit by a line drive in Colorado over the weekend.  And Reed Johnson is still wearing a boot on his broken foot.  Gorzellany is not expected to miss any starts, while Johnson should be back at the start of September.

The Cubs have been dealing with injuries all season long, but at this point, it doesn’t look like it’s really going to matter.  The club is slowly falling out of playoff contention…

Astros Cubs Baseball

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Phillies Sweep Cubs @ Wrigley Field – - This is Getting Ugly Fast

Posted on 13 August 2009 by Lou

Phillies Cubs Baseball

Wow – how a season can turn.  Heading into last Friday’s game against the Rockies, the Cubs were tied for 1st place in the NL Central and just 2 games out of the NL Wild Card race.  6 losses in 7 game later, and the Cubs find themsleves in a very difficult situation.

On Wednesday night, the Phillies crushed the Cubs 12-5, behind a solid outing by Pedro Martinez.  Martinez made his 1st start of the 2009 MLB schedule and pitched 5 innings, allowing 3 ER on 7 hits and 1 walk.  He struck out 5.  Once again, the Cubs had scoring chances early, but failed to take advantage of the situations – they left 13 runners on base. Ryan Theriot was the only Cub player with more than 1 hit and he raised his batting average to .300 even.  Theriot and Derrek Lee have been the only consistent hitters for the Cubs all season long.  Starter Jeff Samardzija -3 1/3 innings, 7 ER on 8 hits (1 HR) – and Sean Marshall – 3 1/3 innings, 5 ER on 6 hits (2 HR’s) and 3 walks – were downright awful.  The Cubs sent Samardzija down to Triple-A Iowa after the loss.

In Thursday afternoon’s series finale, Cliff Lee shut the Cubs down with ease.  Lee won his 3rd straight since coming over in a trade from the Cleveland Indians.  Lee hasn’t allowed more than 1 ER in any of the 3 starts.  Not too shabby.  The Cubs did have 6 hits and 3 walks against Lee, but struck out 8 times and left 16 runners on base.  Jeff Baker had 2 hits and 2 walks and scored the only run for the Cubs on Ryan Theriot’s RBI single in the 5th inning.  Ryan Dempster lost his 6th game for the Cubs this season.  He pitched 7 innings which gave the Cubs bullpen a welcome rest.  He gave up 6 ER on 8 hits and 2 walks, and he struck out 8 Phillies hitters.  Justin Berg who was called up from Triple-A Iowa to take the place of Samardzija pitched the games final 2 innings.  In his major league debut, Berg allowed 2 hits and a walk but did not allow a run.

With the sweep, the Cubs are now 4.5 games behind the Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central and 5.0 games behind the Colorado Rockies in the NL Wild Card race.  There’s always next year Cubs fans – although with essentially the same team locked in for 2010, it’s hard to imagine much better results in 2010…

Phillies Cubs Baseball

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Cubs Looking to Put Florida Trip in Rear View Mirror

Posted on 03 August 2009 by Lou

chicago cubs randy wells1

The Cubs are looking to put the disastrous Florida weekend series behind them.  Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol cost the Cubs 2 wins in Miami, and kept the Cubs from taking the 1st place lead in the NL Central back from the Cardinals.

Let’s take a quick look at some numbers.

Starting pitchers:  in Friday’s 5-2 loss, Rich Harden gave up 2 earned runs on 5 hits and 3 walks in 5 innings of work (he also had 11 K’s); in Saturday’s 9-8 extra innings win,  Carlos Zambrano lasted only 3 innings because of a lower back strain, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits and 3 walks; & in Sunday’s 3-2 loss, Ryan Dempster gave up 0 runs on 3 hits and 4 walks in 6 innings of work.

Relief pitchers: in Friday’s 5-2 loss, Carlos Marmol gave up 3 runs on 1 hit, 2 walks and 1 HBP in just 2/3 of an inning of work (the rest of the bullpen held the Marlins scoreless in 2 1/3 innings of work); in Saturday’s 9-8 extra innings win, Kevin Gregg blew the save in the 9th inning by giving up 3 runs on 4 hits in 1 painful inning of work (Jeff Samardzija had a shaky 1 2/3 innings giving up 3 ER, but the rest of the bullpen pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings) ; & in Sunday’s 3-2 loss, the bullpen gave up 3 runs on 4 hits in 2 1/3 innings of work with Gregg blowing the save for a 2nd straight night and taking the loss after giving up back-to-back home runs in the 9th inning.

The starters kept the Cubs in the games, but the bullpen imploded in each of the 3 games.

The Cubs bats weren’t all that hot either – if you take out Saturday’s 9-run, 13-hit barrage, the Cubs mustered only 4 runs and 13 hits combined in the Friday and Sunday losses.  Not good…

Manager Lou Pinella cannot be pleased with what he saw from his club in the 3-game weekend series loss in Florida.

The Cubs are 55-48 and they trail the Cards by 1/2 game in the NL Central race and the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies by 2 games each in the NL Wild Card race.

But now for the good news.  Randy Wells gets the 1st start of the series against the Reds in Cincinnati.  Wells has been one of the most consistents Cubs’ starters all year and he beat the Reds at Wrigley Field on July 24th, allowing just 7 hits and 3 ER in 6 innings of the Cubs 8-5 win.  Overall, Wells is 7-4 with a 2.84 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

The Reds are in a tailspin – they have lost 9 of their last 10 games – and have dropped into a tie for last place in the NL Central with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Reds are 14 games under .500 at 45-59.

And with the Cards idle tonight, a Cubs win over the Reds would mean a tie for 1st place in the NL Central.

Go Cubs!

chicago cubs randy wells2

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Cubs Acquire John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny from Pirates

Posted on 01 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs GM Jim Hendry did not sit pat leading up to the July 31st trading deadline.  And although he didn’t land a big splash like Matt Holliday, Victor Martinez or Jake Peavy, he did add a much-needed lefty to the Cubs bullpen.

John Grabow has been a solid left-handed reliever for the Pirates the last 2 seasons.  During the 2009 MLB schedule, Grabow appeared in 45 games for the Pirates, going 3-0 with a 3.42 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP.  He had 41 K’s against 28 walks.  In 2008, Grabow appeared in 74 games, going 6-3 with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP.  He had 62 K’s and only 37 walks.  For much of the season since Neal Cotts’ season-ending injury, the Cubs have relied upon just 1 lefty in the bullpen – Sean Marshall.  Marshall has been a rock since moving from the 5th starter into the bullpen role, but it’s nice for Marshall to have some company back there. Grabow made his Cubs debut against the Marlins in Florida on Friday night.  After walking Jeremy Hermida to lead off the 6th inning, Grabow retired the next 3 batters to work a successful scoreless inning.

The Cubs also acquired Tom Gorzelanny in the deal.  Gorzelanny has made 15 starts at the Triple-A level in 2009, going 4-3 with a 2.48 ERA.  Gorzelanny has made 65 career starts the major league level, going 25-26 with a 4.79 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.  With the departure of Kevin Hart in the deal, Gorzelanny could find himself in the Cubs rotation until Ted Lilly returns from the DL.

Kevin Hart pitched well for the Cubs in 2009, especially as a starter the last 4 starts.  Hart was 3-1 overall, winning each of his last 3 starts.  He had compiled a 2.60 ERA with a 1.48 WHIP.  The Cubs also dealt Jose Ascansio to the Pirates along with Single-A infielder Josh Harrison.

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Cubs Road Woes Continue – Lose to Marlins 5-2

Posted on 31 July 2009 by Lou

The Cubs road woes continued as they fell to the Marlins 5-2 in Florida, falling to 21-28 on the road during the 2009 MLB schedule.  Carlos Marmol took the loss, giving up 3 runs with 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th inning with the game tied at 2.  Rich Harden had pitched 5 solid innings, giving up just 2 ER while striking out 11.  The Cubs were held to just 7 hits and 2 runs after scoring 12 runs in each of the last 2 games.  Jake Fox accounted for the Cubs onoly runs of the game with a 2-run game-tying home run in the 7th inning.

The Cubs started the big 10-game road trip with a 54-46 record and a 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals for 1st place in the NL central.  After 2 more games in Florida, the Cubs play 3 against the Reds in Cincinnati and 4 against the Rockies in Colorado.

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Cubs Can’t Beat Good Teams, End of Story

Posted on 21 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Phillies Baseball

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…

cubs lose to phillies ted lilly ryan theriot2

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