Series Preview: Orioles at Chicago
A long, long time ago, the Cubs were helmed by a sweater-vest wearing, smug-looking, third generation baseball man who spent a decade raising expectations while failing to deliver results. When the Cubs became a hotly-rumored sale commodity, this sweater-vested jackass departed the North Side for oranger pastures - the horse-shiz town known as Baltimore.
The Cubs have had an interesting relationship with the Orioles these past few years - even before Andy MacPhail took over. Baltimore has become the dumping ground for Cub failures. Sammy Sosa spent a year there, striking out miserably. Corey Patterson did a little bit of time in Baltimore as well. Baltimore has also recently been home to ex Cubs like Steve Traschel, Scott Moore, Paul Bako, Freddy Bynum, Jon Leicester, Rocky Cherry, and Scott Williamson. It's like a who's who of Wrigleyville Rejects down in Baltimore. Shockingly, since the last Baltimore playoff appearance, youngsters have been born and now stand on the brink of puberty. Even shockinglier - if you will pretend with me that that's a word* - the Cubs have seen the playoffs in three separate seasons since the O's last tanked against the Yankees.
(*Oranger? Shockinglier? I've often been told that I'm not allowed to make up words until I'm a famous writer, but screw it.)
That said, Baltimore now travels to the North Side of Chicago. I may be wrong, but it would appear to be their first-ever series against the Cubs. Here's what we can expect:
The Pitching Match-ups:
Tuesday, June 24th - Sean Marshall vs. Jeremy Guthrie
Before you get too excited and note that Mr. Guthrie is currently 3-7 and doctors his fastballs with the lubrication from his tears (y'know, for playing miserably in Baltimore), you should know that he's got a 3.51 ERA on the season. Additionally, Guthrie has a 3.78 ERA on the road and a 3.91 ERA in his career. But before you panic, remember two things - 1. he throws righty, and 2. he's pitching in Wrigley tonight. Boo-yah.
Sean Marshall has joined the travelling show also known as The Trade Bait Extravaganza. (Photoshop waiting to happen.) He's never going to get a crack with the Cubs. He's also unlikely to be as good as he's been when he's pitched at his best - yes, I know, that's a mouthful. Marshall may get one or two starts with the Big Team before Carlos returns in a blaze of sound and fury, and should the Cubs make a serious move for C.C. Sabathia, a couple of dominating performances might go a long way toward making the Cubs the flat out favorites to win the World Series. If they're not the favorites already.
Wednesday, June 25th - Ted Lilly vs. Brian Burres
Ted Lilly started the season 1-4. Since then, he's gone 6-1. In four starts this June, Lilly has an ERA of 2.70 and he's struck out 30 batters to 13 walks in 26.2 innings of work. No matter how you slice it, that's awesome. And while Lilly has a long, hard road to travel before he gets his ERA below 4 this season - something that likely won't happen - he very well might finish the year with respectable numbers and an October chip on his shoulder.
Brian Burres, meanwhile, has a 5.54 ERA in 209.2 career innings of work. So far this season, his ERA is 5.24. He's struck out 39 and walked 27 in 80.2 innings of work - while surrendering 96 hits. And, while he's a lefty with a good road record (2-3, 3.86 ERA), there's just something about this kid which leads me to believe that the Cubs will tee off on him with force and power.
Thursday, June 26th - Jason Marquis vs. Radhames Liz
Finally, a pitching match-up in which Marquis is the favorite! Even if Marquis wasn't 4-0 this month with a 3.20 ERA, it'd take a lot of trickery to convince me into thinking that Radhames Liz had a shot of beating the Cubs. Liz is 25, and he has a 6.65 career ERA. I mean, c'mon.
Although the Cubs are using two of their weakest pitchers in this series; hell, they're using the bottom run of the rotation in all honesty, they still have to be breakaway favorites to win and win big. A sweep isn't out of the question, and 2 of 3 wins would give the Cubs 15 on the month with 4 more to play.
It won't be entirely easy, though. There are issues that need to be addressed - what will the 25-man roster look like by the weekend? Will Marmol find his way back? Kerry Wood - is he awesome or only super incredible? These are all huge issues that will need answering in the immediate future. But one thing remains certain - the 2008 Cubs = the best Cubs team of my lifetime.