Series Preview: Pirates vs. Cubs, the bloodening continues
If you are superstitious, then I'm to blame for the way the Cubs been mangled by the Pirates so far this year. I wrote at the beginning of their first meet-up about how the Cubs owe so much to the Pirates for their winning ways in the past few seasons. (And it's true -- the Cubs wouldn't have even remotely been a .500 team last year were it not for Pittsburgh taking it for our team)
Maybe the great karmic wheel noticed too, because Pittsburgh has PWN'd the Cubs all year long. So far, in 6 games, the Cubs are 1-5 against the Pirates, and have been outscored 35-17. 35 to 17! Chicago has its problems, sure, but they cannot possibly be that bad -- can they? Let's take a look at the matchups.
Monday, May 31st - Randy Wells vs. Ross Ohlendorf
Randy Wells, Randy Wells. He started the year looking like Greg Maddux. Now he looks more like Jeremi Gonzalez, pre-electrocution. Wells got smoked in his last start, lasting nary an inning against the Cardinals. But cheer up, Cub fans - the last time Wells faced the Pirates, he lasted 2 innings and gave up 6 earned runs - that's like half as many runs in twice as many innings!
Ross Ohlendorf, meanwhile, almost beat the Cubs in his last outing against them. He went 6 innings and gave up 2 runs, which is - so far - the best he's done this year.
Tuesday, June 1st - Ted Lilly vs. Jeff Karstens
Theodore Roosevelt Lilly is not trying very hard to get traded in this, the walk year of his contract. Since coming back from surgery, he's posted a respectable 3.63 ERA, but he's also lost 4 decisions in 7 starts. Ugh. Either he's as bad as his record, or he's as good as his ERA -- guess we'll find out soon.
Jeff Karstens is 27, he's 1-1 this year, and he's 10-18 in his career. He gives up lots of hits, a modest amount of walks, and if he manages to strike out more than a handful of Cubs then they're doing it wrong. If ever there was a game in which Lilly should dominate and the Cubs should explode offensively, it's this one.
Wednesday, June 2nd - Carlos Zambrano vs. Zach Duke
Carlos Zambrano? Scheduled to return to the rotation on Wednesday? Really?! Woo-hoo!
Not that he's got anything in the tank right now -- he's done nothing as a starter or a reliever to convince me that he's reliable. But sweet fancy Krishna, it's about time he returned to where he belongs. What a stupid experiment!
There was a time when Zach Duke was a promising young starter who owned the Cubs. Six years later, he's a run-of-the mill guy with moments of brilliance who's still only 27. It seemed back in the olden days that he was pretty much guaranteed a win against Chicago... it's not like that anymore, but the Cubs are 1 and freakin' 5 against these guys.
The Pirates remain the doormat of the National League, but the Cubs are playing as though they intend to give them some competition for that title in 2010. As Rob might point out, good teams beat teams like the Pirates. The Cubs haven't even come close to beating the Pirates this year. (Okay, fine, they won a game. Big freakin' deal.)
But as the Cubs have made certain moves -- promoting guys like Castro, DLing losers like Grabow, reclaiming projects like Howry -- then they are coming closer and closer to resembling the team we'll probably see for the last three months-or-so of the season. This is pretty much the time to start winning big. If they can't manhandle the Pirates, they might as well cancel Christmas and close the kitchen. 'Nuff said.