Goatriders of the Apocalypse

GameCast: August 11th vs. Phillies

GameCastRich Harden (7-7, 4.41 ERA) vs. J.A. Happ (8-2, 2.74 ERA)

Story-lines
We've got a former National League phenom (if you can give a veteran of the major leagues that title) against the '09 equivalent -- Harden battles to justify his season, Happ battles for Rookie of the Year consideration.

We've got one of the nastiest teams in the N.L. -- the defending World Champions -- against a team struggling to stay in playoff contention, coming off a road series in which "pummeled" less than describes just how badly they were beaten. 

We've got an offense full of false starts -- the Cubs collected 44 hits in their 4 game series vs. Colorado, leaving 41 men on base as a team and squandering 76 total scoring opportunities -- against a team coming off a sweep against a division rival.

In short, we've got a very interesting series that I would characterize as being considerably more important than the last one, even if the Phillies aren't direct rivals with the Cubs for the Wild Card.

Who's Hot
Hits-wise, a lot of guys.  In the past week the Cubs have five players batting .348 or better: Milton Bradley (.529), Ryan Theriot (.348), Kosuke Fukudome (.350), Koyie Hill (.417), and Jeff Baker (.444).  And yet, only one player on the team -- Fukudome has more than 3 RBI in the past 6 games.

Who's Not

Mike Fontenot -- batting .154 in his last 13 at bats -- actually has Cub fans expressing their fondest wishes for Jim Hendry to pursue Mark Grudzielanek.  It's gotten that bad.  Joining him in the cesspool of suck this week is Derrek Lee, who's batting .227  with 8 strikeouts, perhaps a significant reason why the Cubs left so many guys on base this past week. 

Conclusions
Contrary to what one reader suggested, the Cubs did not look over-matched against the Phillies last month on the road.  Still, against Happ and the mysteries of Pedro Martinez -- especially considering that Pedro's squaring off against the biggest waste of a roster space in the pitching staff this year (Jeff Samardzija) -- this series is no easy win for the Cubs.  Wouldn't it be nice for them to start off on the right foot tonight?

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