Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Phillies

Series Previews

Oh August, you are a cruel mother this year. The defending champs are up next for the Cubs, and we can only thank our lucky stars that this series in Chicago.

We all know the Cubs had a tough time in Colorado this last weekend, but the Phillies aren’t exactly rolling either. They were recently swept by the Marlins and their division lead is now down to 3.5 games.

After the Cubs pitching gave up 6, 5, 11, and 11 runs against the Rockies, it will be interesting to see how they matchup against a Phillies offense that has only scored more than 3 runs twice in August.

Speaking of matchups, the Cubs are sending three guys to the mound who have either been the closer, competed for the closer’s role, or have been speculated as a closer during their time with the Cubs. One of the best qualities of a closer is his ability to get strikeouts and the Cubs will need them against a Phillies team that leads the NL in homers.

The Matchups
August 11th - J.A. Happ vs. Rich Harden
Northwestern alum J.A. Happ returns to pitch in Chicago blah blah blah. Northwestern can suck it. Nothing but a bunch of trust-funding suckling, crewneck wearing nerds (Sorry, can’t help myself. State school baby). In his last start, Happ struck out 10 and threw a shutout…against a Rockies offense that embarrassed the Cubs. Although Happ has an identical record pitching at home and on the road (4-1), his numbers are considerably better away from Citizen’s Bank. Opponents are hitting .190/.241/.327 against Happ in their home parks. On the plus side, Happ threw 127 pitches in his last start, so fatigue could be a factor.

Harden was decent in his last start striking out 9 and giving up only 2 earned runs to the Reds. Lefties (and the Phillies have a lot of quality lefties) hit Harden well, but Rich’s SO/BB ratio is better against left-handers (3.56) than it is against righties (2.31). Harden has a career 0.90 against the Phillies, even though he’s only pitched 20 innings against them.

August 12th – Pedro Martinez vs. Jeff Samardzija
Neither of these guys has started a game in 2009, so who knows what to expect. In many ways, The Shark could be seen as a young Pedro. Samardzijaizjaijza is a hard throwing right-hander with a dynamic personality (although not quite as dynamic as Pedro’s) and tons of fan appeal. I’d like to give you some statistical analysis or something, but there isn’t much to talk about. The Shark has been a suckfest out of the bullpen and Pedro was knocked around a bit in the minors. Both bullpens should be ready to pitch a lot of innings.

August 13th – Cliff Lee vs. Ryan Dempster
A pitcher from the Cleveland Indians comes to the National League in a midseason trade and dominates. Sounds familiar, right? Since leaving the powerhouse division that is the AL Central, Lee is 2-0 with a 1.12 ERA and 5.00 SO/BB ratio. On the plus side, the Cubs have already seen Lee this season (June 19) and the lineup did a decent job on him. Lee pitched 7.0 innings in that game giving up 2 homers, 3 earned runs, 6 hits, and 3 walks.

Although the Rockies scored 5 runs against Dempster in his last start, only 2 of them were earned runs. Depending on what happens in the Pedro/Shark matchup, Dempster might need to eat some innings to give the bullpen a break. It was good to see Dempster go walk-free in his last start, but he has given up at least 8 hits in 5 of his last 6 starts.

Things have sucked lately for the Cubs and they aren’t getting any easier. The World Series champs are in town and the Cardinals open up a series with the Reds at home. There is a distinct possibility that the Cubs could find themselves 5-6 games out of first place after this series, especially when the Phillies are sending two of their hottest pitchers to the mound.

Players, coaches, and columnists all say that every game is the most important one during this time of the year, but I sincerely believe this series is more important than any other the Cubs will face this month. I believe this only because of what recently happened in Colorado and who the Cardinals are currently facing.

But as I always say, “When life gives you lemons, use them to pelt Cardinals fans.”

Go Cubs.

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