A quality win for the Cubs last night, as everyone pretty much did their job: starter Carlos Silva kept the team in the game for five innings, the bullpen closed up shop while allowing just one run, and the offense scored 4+ runs.
To clarify, I don't give Silva credit for being anything more than a fifth starter, so any time he allows fewer than three runs and pitches five or more innings, he's done his job. And I said "4+" instead of five not just because I'm crazy, but also because I think a major league offense should be expected to score four runs when it wants to win a ball game.
The first four Cub runs came early. Soto doubled in Byrd (who had walked) and Soriano (who had doubled just prior) in the second inning, and in the third, a Byrd ground out brought home Derrek Lee (who had doubled) and a Soriano double brought home Aramis Ramirez (who hit a single to get on base).
Ryan Theriot hit a solo homer for the Cubs' fifth run, doubling his home run output over his last 700 or so at-bats.
Also: double double double double double double double single double double. Double.
Speaking of doubles, guess who else doubled? Starlin Castro! A double!
Darlin' Starlin went 2-for-5, raising his average to .309. He also has an .809 OPS for the year. Did I mention I love him? I mean, if you wanna talk about arbitrarily small sample sizes, look at his numbers since July 10: .463/.473/.704. HE IS BATTING .463 OVER HIS LAST 54 AT-BATS. THIS MEANS HE WILL BE A HALL OF FAMER AND THE CUBS WILL WIN SEVERAL WORLD SERIESES.
That's logic, baby. Go Cubs.
Okay -- I know I'm crazy, but hear me out for a second.
First -- the Cubs are toast. You know it, I know it, even they know it. There's just no way they have the guns to make up a 10 game deficit in 2 months -- nor are they going to catch the Wild Card Giants who have an even better record than the Cardinals do.
That means that trades should happen. Parts should be sent elsewhere. The team should rebuild and reload.
But if you look closely, you'll see that, shockingly, this team isn't so bad. Certainly, with Ramirez hitting the way he's capable of, they're better than a .455 ball club.
With a few young pieces, like Castro and Colvin, along with a few veterans who are actually living up to their abilities, it's conceivable that the Cubs could string together two months of decent baseball. It's possible, then, that they could finish the season with a .500 record or better.
To accomplish this goal, Chicago needs to win 36 of their remaining 63 games. They only need to go 36-25 -- not an impossible feat.
It wouldn't mean much in the long run, but as fans of the Chicago Cubs, I'm sure we could all appreciate that kind of play -- it would be gutsy, it would be fun, and it would be a rare display of a team not quitting just because they're only playing for pride.
So far, the Cubs are off to a good second half start -- they're 6-4, and just finished putting the hammer to the Cardinals. But now they're on the road -- and winning outside of Wrigley has not always been easy for them. Here's how they match up starting tonight:
Monday, July 26th - Carlos Silva (9-6 3.86 ERA) vs. Wesley Wright (0-0, 4.40 ERA)
Much like his bottom, Silva's season has gone pear-shaped. A month ago, he was 8-2 with a 3.01 ERA. Since July 1st, though, he's given up 15 earned runs in 16 innings of work, raising his ERA to 3.86. I knew he was inclined to mid-season blow-ups, but not even I thought it was possible.
Silva's facing 25-year-old Wesley Wright, who made his first start of the season against the Cubs last week. Wright went 4.2 innings of work, surrendering 6 hits and 6 runs, but only 1 was earned. The Cubs will try to whup him again tonight.
Tuesday, July 27th - Ted Lilly (3-8, 3.88 ERA) vs. Brett Myers (7-6, 3.24 ERA)
Hey, who knows -- Lilly may not be around to start this game. His inevitable departure from Chicago is reaching its crucial point -- the trade deadline is less than a week away, and any team who'd want Lilly would want him fresh. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he didn't pitch tomorrow's game.
Lilly -- or whomever -- will be facing Brett Myers, the former Philly who most resembles a less expensive Jason Marquis -- modest numbers, some winning seasons, but nothing to sing to mom about.
Wednesday, July 28th - Randy Wells (5-7, 4.07 ERA) vs. Bud Norris (2-7, 6.08 ERA)
Wells is doing his best to recover from a nearly fatal start to this season. I'll admit it -- he's probably not the one-year-wonder I accused him of being last month, but he's a long ways away from proving without a doubt that I was wrong. Still, his July is a great start -- he's 2-1 with a 1.26 ERA in 4 starts, and he hasn't failed yet to reach the 7th.
Norris, who has decided to go with the name "Bud" rather than "David," looks like a Bud. Seriously -- go look at his sneering photo. The guy looks like fat white trash. He also pitches like trash -- he's rocking a 6.08 ERA this season, on the tail of his rookie effort which was a 4.53 ERA. Not great.
The Cubs need to take 2 of 3, and the Astros are bad enough that they just might. In baseball, momentum is everything -- don't believe me, just think back to the last two post seasons in which the Cubs were vigorously stomped.
Well, folks, it's time for the Cubs to do some stomping. And the Astros are primed to get flattened.
Last night's game was the quintessential example of why it's so hard to sweep a three-game series against a major league team.
The Cubs managed to score three runs against Cardinal starter Chris Carpenter, which is at least two more runs than I expected them to get. And Cub starter Ryan Dempster was equally effective at keeping the Cardinal offense at bay -- even though Albert Pujols went yard again (third time in his last, like, four at-bats against Demp).
This one came down to the bullpens, and when you've won two games in a row, you probably have fewer relief options than you did two days earlier. That was indeed the case for the Cubs last night, as Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol were each limited to one inning, while Andrew Cashner was completely unavailable.
Let me tell ya -- Cashner/Marshall/Marmol is a super end-game trio (and their last names are eerily similar; should we call them Carshol?). But beyond those three, the Cubs don't have many options. Of course, it'd be a different story if Angel Guzman were healthy, and likewise if Jim Hendry had signed Matt Capps instead of John Grabow. But instead, we have Bob Howry and Brian Schlitter, who took the loss last night, allowing the home run to Felipe Lopez in the 11th that would decide the game.
Anybody wanna try and guess what my favorite moment from last night's game was?
Editor's Note: This article was originally written way back on January 8th of this year. In light of Andre Dawson's admission into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, we thought it might be appropriate to republish it -- especially since we know that about half of you don't read the blogs every day in the winter time, and could have missed it
As he stood before the throng of reporters and flashing cameras, Andre Dawson said something yesterday that I'd never known about him. He spoke of his mother, who died in 2006.
From the article: She would have been 71, but she died in May 2006.
"I just wanted to thank her," Dawson said Thursday. "I went to her grave site. I prayed and thanked her for the job she did as a mother, father and big sister to me. She probably was my best friend."
Dawson was born in 1954 to Mattie Brown, then a single, 16-year-old girl who, along with his grandmother, went on to raise him into the person he is today. Probably no baseball fan truly knows the player he's cheering (or booing), and I certainly wasn't aware of that part of the Hawk's story. But what I do know about him is this: he was a cherished man in Chicago, a consummate professional admired by his teammates and worshiped by his fans. It seems then that, like Dawson, we owe Mattie Brown a debt of gratitude.
Contrast that with Milton Bradley, who shares more than a few incidental similarities with Dawson. According to Alan Schwartz of ESPN, Bradley was born in 1978 to Charlina Rector, who by then was already a single mother of four. Bradley's father Milton Sr. -- whose name he passed onto his son while Rector was still unconscious from having given birth -- was a cocaine addict who'd left Rector several months previous. Bradley's mother raised and tried to protect him from the world and from his abusive father, and like Dawson the circumstances of his birth directed him to become the person he is today. Perhaps at home, away from the scrutinizing baseball fans who have heckled him, Bradley is a good husband and father -- i.e. everything his father wasn't -- but on the field he is an antagonistic, confrontational player despised by the fans and ambivalent to his teammates.
Dawson's grandmother -- who died before he reached the majors -- convinced him to go to university. Bradley went into the draft straight from high school. Both men were selected by the same team -- the Expos picked Dawson in the 11th round of the 1975 draft, Bradley was chosen in the 2nd round of the 1996 draft. Dawson kept his nose down and excelled with a focus "that was never seen for somebody (his) age," (hence his nickname, "The Hawk"), Bradley grew to mistrust authority figures and was suspended multiple times for antics like poking umpires and spitting on them.
By the time Dawson was 22 years old, he was playing in Montreal full-time. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1977, for having slugged 19 homeruns and batted .282 while stealing 21 bases. Bradley struggled in his early years in Montreal, resulting in his first of many trades. He was sent to the Indians at 23, and he didn't really start to light it up until 2003 when he batted .321 in 101 games played.
Eventually, the Hawk wore himself down in Montreal. He spent a decade in the French-Canadian city, destroying his knees on the hard artificial turf even as he collected 6 Gold Gloves, 3 All Star appearances, and 2 runner-up MVP finishes. Then, at the age of 32, in order to preserve his career, Dawson landed in Chicago for a pittance - a 1-year contract for $500,000.
Bradley, meanwhile, suffered a variety of leg injuries as well, although he more wore out his welcome than wore himself down. After 2 full seasons in Cleveland -- which including incidents in which he was scolded by Cleveland manager Charlie Manuel for a lack of professionalism -- he finally exhausted the Indians' patience in the Spring Training of 2004 and was dealt to Los Angeles.
He played there for two turbulent seasons -- which included even more tantrums and suspensions -- before being dealt to the Athletics. Then Oakland designated him for assignment on July 21st, 2007, and the Padres picked him up. With the Padres, Bradley provided a brief jolt to the San Diego offense before blowing out an ACL in the final week of the season while being restrained from confronting an umpire. He then signed a one-year-deal with the Texas Rangers, where he reportedly informed the team late in the 2008 season that he'd be sitting out games so as to not risk injury and deflate his chances of receiving an impressive contract offer that winter. Then, at the age of 31, Bradley landed in Chicago for an exorbitant sum of money -- $30 million for 3 years.
Dawson's time in Chicago was nothing short of glorious. In his first year with the Cubs, the Hawk won the MVP award for a last place team while slugging 49 homeruns and driving in 137 RBI -- all for $500,000, a sum that would have insulted most stars. He did it on two bad knees -- for which he'd have more than 20 operations on over the span of his life -- and without complaint. As a result, the fans loved him. They bowed to him in the outfield, chanting "Awesome Dawson" whenever he made an outstanding offensive or defensive play. They wore his jersey. They worshiped him.
At his Hall of Fame press conference, Dawson said this about Cub fans, and in light of recent seasons and recent accusations by various acquisitions, one can't help but wonder if his comments were directed at some people:
"I'll tell you, going to Wrigley Field, playing in the Friendly Confines amongst the Cubs fans, that was amazing in itself.
"That really rejuvenated my career, I think, and put me at a point in time where I was unsure about myself in the game, and how much longer I was going to stay in the game. The way the Cubs fan embraced me that first year pretty much propelled me on to win the National League MVP award and I owe that organization a lot for believing in me.
"They didn't really meet the demands initially, but I just felt that since I played in a media center, I played somewhere where the fans really took a hold and adored me, and made me really want to go out and want to be, not a crowd-pleaser, but to not embarrass them and just give it what they expect day-in and day-out."
Bradley's time in Chicago was nothing more than tumultuous. He started out slowly and was booed for his effort -- or lack thereof. In the first year of his contract (in which he'd signed with the expectation of delivering a run-producing bat in the middle of the order) Bradley batted .257 and hit 12 homeruns while driving in 40. He described his experience with Cub fans as this:
"It's just not a positive environment. I need a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment. There's too many people everywhere in your face with a microphone asking the same questions repeatedly. Everyone is just bashing you. You go out there and play harder than anybody on the field and never get credit for it. It's just negativity. ... And you understand why they haven't won in 100 years here, because it's negative. It's what it is."
It turns out, according to Bradley, that Cub fans are not welcoming. They are not the loving group of fans that cheered for Andre Dawson two decades earlier. They are instead racist:
"I'm talking about hatred, period. I'm talking about when I go to eat at a restaurant, I have to listen to the waiters bad-mouthing me at another table, sitting in a restaurant, that's what I'm talking about -- everything."
As a result of a season of confrontations, harsh words, and disrespectful actions, Bradley was suspended on September 20th by Jim Hendry and dealt to the Mariners in the off-season. He wasn't even able to last a single year with the Cubs.
It's doubtful that they've ever met, but I wonder what Andre Dawson and Milton Bradley would make of each other if they did. Would Bradley see in Dawson a sell-out, a man who submerged his well-justified rage in order to get along with people who couldn't possibly understand the past that drives him? Would Dawson see in Bradley a lost cause, a talented athlete who was never able to overcome his greater demons despite the support of a loving wife and the love of a doting mother?
Whatever would happen, Cub fans have now experienced polar opposites. We've had the talented hitting right fielder who played hurt and was a consummate professional, and we've seen the talented hitting right fielder who lived his life hurt and was consumed by his anger. If possible, Bradley may have served in at least one positive role -- he's helped us remember and appreciate Dawson even more.
Mattie Brown has been dead for more than three years. She never had the chance to see her son honored by the Hall of Fame, but she surely knew it was coming. She raised her son right. Charlina Rector probably did everything in her power to raise her son right, too. Rather than condemning Rector for failing, let's instead praise Brown for succeeding. It's never easy to be a single parent, whether you are 16 when your child is born as Brown was, or already a mother of four as Rector was. For the unlikely success that he's had over the span of his life and baseball career, we should appreciate Dawson even more. He was clearly deserving of our adoration, whether he was trying to be a crowd-pleaser or not.
The Cubs go for the sweep against the Cardinals. I hope the Cubs beat the Cardinals every time they play them this year but I have a personal animase towards the Reds based mostly on the personalities of the current team. Johnny Gomes, more than anyone else, just rubs me the wrong way. I don't want to see Dusty Baker win again either. For that reason, alone, I hope the Cardinals beat the Reds... but if the Reds do beat the Cardinals, I hope it's partly because the Cubs beat down the Cardinals every time they played them! Let's see the Cubs sweep today's series and turn a good home stand into a great one!
Today's Matchup: Chris Carpenter (141.2IP, 3.05ERA, 3.72xFIP) vs Ryan Dempster (133.2IP, 3.70ERA, 3.85xFIP)
One of the reasons why the Cardinals have not fallen from grace is the relative health of Chris Carpenter over the last two years. Carpenter seems to have gotten a little more wild this year than he has been in the past. That being said, he is still very good and with Wainwright and Jaime Garcia doing their part, the Cardinals have a nice 1-3. Still, Ryan Dempster has been almost as good as Carpenter this year. His great gift is the ability to strike people out, but he is more wild than Carpenter even.
Given the relative closeness of the two starting pitchers, this will turn into a question of who has the better offense, bullpen and luck. Here's hoping the Cubs win those factors.
Who's Hot: Starlin Castro is now sporting a snazzy .343 wOBA as a 20 year old shortstop. Not half bad. To put into context, Aramis Ramirez has a career wOBA of .357. Castro, as a 20 year old, is performing not that far below an average Aram season. His season is mildly BABIP influenced, as Castro has a BABIP of .348 but as a guy with decent speed who hits a ton of line drives and ground balls, he likely to maintain a BABIP well over .320 for his career, making his .348 BABIP this year only slightly above his eventual average. I'd have been happy with him if he were hitting .270 with an SLG of .360 or so but this .308/.358/.449 stuff is exciting beyond belief.
Who's Not: Well, speaking of Aramis, ever since his 3 HR game, he has gone 3 for 12 with 2 walks and no Xtra base hits. I know that would count as a good stretch throughout most of the season, but after Tuesday's performance, I figured we'd see him keep it up. He has a five game hitting streak so I guess I shouldn't be complaining but hey, come on Aramis! You spoiled us the last couple of weeks!
Conclusion: Dempster pitched in that same game where Aram hit his 3 jacks and he wasn't great. I hope he can limit the Cardinals and especially Albert Pujols tonight. Including the last game against the Phillies, Pujols has gone 0 for 10 with 2 walks in his last 3 games. Let's keep him off the scoreboard again tonight, enjoy the sweep and move on to Houston.
It seems like everything but the product on the field has been unbearble for the past two days at the Friendly Confines. Despite oppressive heat and humidity, the Cubs have found a way to take the first two games of the series against the division rival and spawn of satan Cardinals. Let's break it down.
In an opening game that is sure to spawn another book by Tony LaRussa about how much he hates Mark Prior, the Cubs toyed with Jeff Suppan while getting a much needed performance out of Randy Wells. While Dave Duncan is usually the King Midas of reclaimation projects, I think he bit off more than he could chew in the re-signing of Jeff Suppan. The six-inning outing by Suppan was a tie for his longest outing of the year, despite giving up 5 ER and 3 HR. There is just a certain point where a "crafty veteran" loses the craftiness and his stuff just hangs over the plate. If this season between Milwaukee and St. Louis is any indication, Suppan has reached that point.
Tyler Colvin, Geo Soto, and Alfonso Soriano didn't seem to mind the fact that Suppan was toeing the rubber on Friday. In the leadoff role (10 games), Colvin has flourished with a .302/.375/.651 line, accumulating 5 HR and 13 RBI's out of that spot. Those numbers are hard to argue with, but I still stand by my earlier statement that I'd rather see Starlin Castro in the leadoff role due to the speed he brings to the table. Perhaps a flip-flop of Castro and Colvin in the lineup would give us an even more potent 1-2 punch.
Speaking of Castro, he flashed some rare power in the game on Saturday. The fact that we don't see him hit "for power" very often is something that both shocks me and, at the same time, makes me happy. The shock comes from the fact that the swing he put on the ball yesterday was smooth and gorgeous, and it looks like something he could repeat. On the other hand, the lack of power numbers combined with Castro's recent success at the plate show that he is really doing a lot with what is given to him, and not forcing anything.
Cub pitching has also taken center stage with great starting performances by Tommy G and Randy Wells. Moreover, the bullpen, specifically Sean Marshall, has impressed me. As serviceable of a starter Marshall has/could be, the repetoire he brings out of the bullpen is unlike most relievers. The way he can change a hitter's eye level is vital in late game situations.
Overall, it has been a good two days. I'd love to see us take the sweep later tonight. However, our attention should be turned to more important matters right now. One of my childhood idols, and I'm sure many of the readers here feel the same, is being inducted into the Hall of Fame today. While he may not don a hat with a big red "C" upon entry, he will always be a Cub to me, to the game of baseball, and in his own view. Congrats, Hawk: you gave your heart, soul and body to the game of baseball and because of that, you will forever be able to call Chicago home.
This was from the gamecast comments from yesterday:
" I'm sure we annoy you Cubs fans plenty, but I believe it has to do with the fact that we (Cardinals) have had such great success over the years, and especially in the last decade, whereas you Cubs have had huge disappointments even in your best recent years, and of course the whole 102-year drought thing. Those two very different histories make us Cards fans sound smug and obnoxious when we think we are only teasing you guys; and conversely even your actual angry talk doesn't bother us much because your team hasn't been able to back up your talk. It's like the little brother that hates the big brother's teasing, whereas nothing the little guy says even phases big brother.
I suppose my pointing this out sounds smug and obnoxious to most of you, but I actually don't mean it to. It would be a LOT more fun if the Cubs were in the position of the Reds this year. Even though I generally pull for whoever is playing the Cubs, I simultaneously dream of the possibility of the Cards and Cubs playing for the pennant some year. THAT would be putting all the chips in the pot, eh?
As I post this, the Cubs are beating the Cards 5-zip in the opener, so my smugness is currently in check..."
Here's the deal, Token, I don't give a flying f&ck about the Cubs' 102 year "failure" as you guys like to throw in our face daily. That "history" has zero to do with this team and this organization. The Cubs may be playing somewhat poorly right now but this isn't your father's Cub organization. This team has zero connection to, for instance, the 1978 team that was the first team I followed as a young bright eyed eight year old. The truth is, going forward, the Cubs are going to be winning more championships than your Cardinals. Why? Because the Cubs can spend money you guys can't and at the moment, we also have a better farm system. This has more to do with reality than some stupid curse that only people like you like to perpetuate. Very few Cub fans actually believe in the "curse" or like to talk to about 100+ years of losing. That just has nothing to do with us today or our team. You may as well be teasing our team for playing in a stadium with vines on the walls. That is why I am annoyed by you guys. It's tired. We've heard it. We don't enjoy the losing. Your opinion of both the current Cubs organization and Cubs fans is just wrong. Find a new way to "tease" us.
Today's Matchup: Blake Hawskworth (59.1IP, 4.85ERA, 4.41xFIP) vs Tom Gorzelanny (80.2IP, 3.12ERA, 4.02xFIP)
Whew, after that rant, let's preview this game. It's already going but I will pretend it hasn't started yet. Gorz has been very good since coming back into the rotation. The key to his game is not to walk more than a batter or so every three innings and keep blowing people away. Hawksworth is nothing more than a mediocre middle reliever. Mediocre middle relievers rarely become decent starting pitchers. Dave Duncan, after Suppan yesterday, and Hawksworth today, doesn't look like such a miracle worker.
Who's Hot: Alfonso Soriano hasn't had too many of his patented hot streaks this year but so far, he's producing at a .380 wOBA, which would be a career high, and he's stayed healthy. Like Soto, he probably should be moved up in the order but it's kind of amazing to me how much better the Cubs' offense would be had Ramirez and Lee just had normal seasons this year.
Who's Not: Coming into today the Cardinals offense has gone two straight games without scoring a run. That's the first time in 15 years that has happened. That that occured after an eight game winning streak is beyond unlikely. I doubt this continues but it would be nice if Gorz could put another big zero on the board today.
Conclusion: A win would be nice. I ranted above and mostly about the Cubs but I wanted to point something out. In the last 3 years, the Cubs have won 2 division titles, the Cardinals have won 1. Just saying.....
I try not to harbor the irrational, emotional hatred of teams like the Cardinals that is so common among Cub fans all over the web. The Cardinals are just another team. Their fans are annoying as heck, but still, I respect and even like certain members of their team. I actually covet Adam Wainwright (who we will not be facing this weekend) and see him a future Cub after the 2012 season. I do think this is a series that the Cubs could win. In order to do that, they need to win today.
Today's Matchup: Jeff Suppan (61IP, 6.05ERA, 5.25 xFIP) vs Randy Wells (4.33ERA, 3.72 xFIP)
Holy crap. You know this team the Cubs and their fans are so scared of? They are extremely top heavy. They have 3 really good starters and then dreck at the back end of the rotation. They got damn lucky with Jaime Garcia (who the Cubs also won't be facing this year) because other wise, they'd be Wainwright/Carpenter and pray for a Tornado. Jeff Suppan is terrible. He's extremely hittable and he shouldn't be in the majors anymore. The Cubs have so much more depth at starting pitcher than the Cardinals, it isn't even funny.
As for Wells, he's been very very good this year. How good? He's 11th in the NL in xFIP. The pitchers in front of him encompass a who's who of #1 starters in the NL (and Hiroki Kuroda, who knew?). He has a better xFIP than Chris Carpenter. Also Ryan Dempster, Cole Hamels, Jaime Garcia, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsly and so on. He's a well above average pitcher who has had an awesome sophomore season. We should appreciate him more than most of us do.
Who's Hot: I see no reason why Geovanny Soto should be sat in this weekend's series. There are no day games after night games and he got most of Wednesday's game's off along with an off day on Thursday. Soto has a .408 wOBA at the moment. He doesn't qualify for the percentage leader boards but there are only 5 players who do qualify that have a higher wOBA than Soto. Five. Here they are:
That's it. Soto should be hitting cleanup or third on the Cubs. He is not just one of our better hitters, he has been our best hitter this year. By a lot. The Cubs should be looking for a spot in the lineup when he's not catching. He should be playing first base or thid base, whichever. He is all the way back and in a just world, he'd be a very serious MVP candidate.
Who's Not: Ryan Theriot has stopped walking and while he never really had much power, he is taking singles hitting to a new and amazing level. Theriot now only adds value to the Cubs if he's hitting .320. I'm totally serious, Theriot at .300 is rather mediocre. So far, in July, he's hitting .268. I'd rather have Darwin Barney. If I were the Cubs, I'd be strictly platooning Fontenot and Baker. It's a perfect platoon and I'm shocked that the Cubs haven't employed it this year.
Conclusion: There are no "must win" games this year but I want this series. I want the Cubs to crush the Cardinals this weekend. I know they aren't going to sneak back into the race but I don't care. I root for the Cubs to win and I think they can beat the bejesus out of Jeff Suppan. I also don't believe a sweep will preclude the trade of Ted Lilly, who is the #1 trade chip the Cubs have. So let's get it done boys!
The Redbirds return to Wrigley Field this weekend, their 2nd trip to Wrigley this year, to drive the final nails in the coffin of the Cubs 2010 season. Despite being 1-hit yesterday at the hands of a filthy Cole Hamels, the Cards have been red hot, and go into play 11 games ahead of the hometown nine in the standings. An optimist would look at the situation and say, "Well if we get a horseshoe up our ass and sweep them and are then only 8 out...", but I think we're all smarter than that. For me, the last good chance to turn the season around came when we had the then-first place Reds in town for 4 games the 4th of July weekend and dropped 3 or 4. That was it for me. I expect the Cubs to at best win 2 of 3 this weekend, but likely only 1, and then the firesale starts. That's the only thing we fans truly have to look forward to: What young prospects will we get for veterans like Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee, and perhaps guys like Ryan Theriot and Xavier Nady. Let's take a look at the weekend's pitching matchups..
Friday @ 1:20: Jeff Suppan (0-3, 4.20) vs. Randy Wells (4-7, 4.33) - I'm excited that the Cubs get to face Suppan, mostly because I know he's awful. He's a 5 inning pitcher at this point - a slug that can maybe if he's lucky keep the Cardinals in the game, but isn't going to shut anyone down. He's been very average since the Cardinals picked him up - and average is twice as good as he was with the Brewers. If the wind is blowing out today - Soup could be in trouble. Wells has been pretty average this year, but he's seemed to solve his early-season bouts of awfulness in the first inning. He's got a 1.66 ERA in his 3 starts this month, including last time out versus the Phightin Phils where he threw 7 shutout innings. Having grown up a Cardinals fan near St. Louis, I wonder if Wells remembers his last start @ Wrigley vs. the Cards.. a gem on May 28th where he didnt get one out before being pulled. I'm hoping that won't be the case today.
Saturday @ 12:05: Blake Hawksworth (4-5, 4.85) vs. Tom Gorzellany (5-5, 3.12) - Hawksworth is a guy who seemed to be a perpetual prospect who never got his chance with the big club until late last year when he was added to the scuffling Cardinals bullpen and he thrived, allowing 29 hits in 40 relief innings. This year has been the opposite. His ERA doesnt tell the story of how many baserunners he's allowed. In 59 1/3 innings, he's allowed 80 hits, 8 HR, and 25 walks. That's a lot of runners reaching base. His last time out he got the win against Philly despite allowing 13 batters to reach in 6 innings. Opposing him will be the magnificent Gorzo, who has proven himself to be quite steady since being re-inserted into the Cubs rotation. In those three starts, he's allowed just 6 ER in 17 2/3 innings. He's had off and on problems with wildness though, so that's something to watch.
Sunday @ 7:05: Chris Carpenter (11-3, 3.05) vs. Ryan Dempster (8-7, 3.70) - This was supposed to be Carlos Silva's start, but he was pushed back another day by Lou Piniella. Something's amiss with that guy, and I'm starting to think maybe a 15-day DL stint wouldnt be the worst idea. He's been struggling of late leading up to last Monday's start against the Astros when, to borrow a phrase from my buddy Brad, Silva got his tits lit on fire. So taking his place is Ryan Dempster, who scuffled himself against HOU. But he stuck it out for 5 innings and saved an overworked bullpen in a game the Cubs ended up winnning 14-7. He's been our steadiest starting pitcher, in my opinion. Carp will be starting for the Cards, obviously the best pitcher they'll throw this series. He's death on the Cubs, and under the lights on national TV, there's no reason to expect anything different this time. This should be the best pitched game of the series.
Cubs/Cardinals @ Wrigley on what should be a gorgeous summer weekend. Should be a good time, regardless of how bad the Cubs are struggling. Go Cubs!
Ted Lilly got his first hit of the season in the bottom of the fifth inning yesterday, and Darlin' Starlin Castro (oh, he is just so darlin' indeed) drove him in with a double to left field to give the Cubs the game's first run. Unfortunately, Pedro Feliz would later tie the game, on a solo shot in the top of the eighth. The Cubs' failure to score in the bottom of the eighth suggested the game could be headed for some late inning drama.
Then this happened:
Bottom 9, man on 2nd, no outs; K, 1B, pop fly to center, K.
Bottom 10, bases loaded, one out; K, fly out to left.
Bottom 11, 1st and 2nd with one out; fly out, fly out.
Bob Howry came in to pitch the 12th, allowed two singles to lead off, and had to be relieved by James Russell, who got Michael Bourn out, and then Jeff Stevens, who gave up a double to Jason Michaels which drove in two runs. Then other things happened, but that's the important stuff.
Here's a thought: without a hit from Ted Lilly, the Cubs may have been shut out by the Astros yesterday.
Who's the goat on offense? There are plenty of candidates, but Tyler Colvin went 0-for-6 overall, and looked over-matched at times. He struck out to end the ninth, and flied out to end the game.
Colvin's a mistake hitter with great bat speed and excellent power -- not a lead-off man. You know, it's not his fault the team lost yesterday, but putting him in the spot in the lineup that gets the most plate appearances in a game might be pushing it. Furthermore, the only argument I've heard against putting Castro in the leadoff spot is that he's too young, and should be coddled and allowed to develop. Along those same lines, are there any reasons why Tyler Colvin should be leading off?
First we're not playing Colvin enough, then we're playing him too much. I dunno, maybe I'm just a whiner. Anyways, go Cubs, etc.!