Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Series Recap

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Game & Series Recap - Nationals 5, Cubs 4 (1 game to 2)

Game Recap
The Cubs managed to score 4 unanswered runs yesterday, but it was too little, too late as the Nationals had already run up 5 against Randy Wells. 

I'm too lazy to look, but it's a fair guess that Wells has probably never thrown so many innings in his career.  Then again, he's in his mid 20's and while endurance/conditioning might be an issue, his arm should be able to handle the load.  Nevertheless, the last month of the season will be interesting if only because he might be getting gassed out.  But at least the Cubs bullpen managed to pitch 2.2 innings of scoreless baseball.  Small victories, folks.  That's what we're left with.

Offensively, the Cubs saw homeruns from Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee, the two of whom were responsible for 5 of the team's 6 hits.  Kosuke Fukudome, Alfonso Soriano, and yes, Milton Bradley combined to go 0 for 13.

Speaking of Bradley, since he's a hot topic of debate these days...

When he signed with the Cubs last winter, like a lot of fans I was supportive of the idea.  I was impressed with his offensive production in Texas, and knowing full-well that he'd struggle to ever play at 100% for a full season I believed that he would give the Cubs more offense in the time he was healthy than any other option on the market.  And yes, I knew that he was volatile and fragile, but my argument was that if he started the year out well then the fans would never turn on him and it would be a good situation.

Of course, he started the year something like 1 for his first 23.  But even before then, the story-hungry press had already written plenty about whether or not Bradley would be able to handle the fans in Chicago.  It's kind of like if you started a new job and from the first day there were people in the office reminding you not to lose your temper when the paper jams.  You could be a very well-constructed individual, and yet, after a few months the steady warnings to not lose your temper when the paper jams, you might be inclined to do just that.  It's called a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the media made this an issue long before it was one.  I like a lot of the guys who cover the Cubs clubhouse, but they need to owe up and acknowledge that while they didn't build the car they certainly turned the ignition.

Anyway, all of that said, Milton Bradley is a prick.  He is a giant, turgid dildo (and I would love to be quoted saying that in a venue he might read -- c'mon, Paul Sullivan, Bruce Miles, don't let me down).  He is, quite frankly, a chip-on-his-shoulder idiot

Milton, sir, the fans have booed you and treated you with hostility because you have sucked.  It has nothing to do with the color of your skin or where you come from.  I speak as a person whose all-time favorite player is Andre Dawson, whose first baseball jerseys were those of Ernie Banks and Sammy Sosa, whose current favorite pitcher is the tempromental Carlos Zambrano, whose wife would probably leave him for smooth-looking Derrek Lee.  I don't think you're an asshole because you're black.  I think you're an asshole because you're an asshole. 

Like Todd Hundley before you, and Will Ohman after Todd Hundley, and yes, like LaTroy Hawkins and Jacque Jones, you are an excuse-making jackass who has come nowhere near earning the contract you've signed.  And like Hawkins and Jones, you would rather play the race card than acknowledge that we can't stand you because you are a miserable person.

As somebody who supported Bradley and defended his signing, I recognized at the time that this could be an issue but I was hopeful his play would prevent that from happening.  I was wrong.  And if I should happen to find myself in the right field bleachers anytime over the next two seasons where Milton remains a Cub, so long as he continues to complain, pity himself, and cast off the blame, I will boo the ever loving shit out of him.  He will be the first Cub I have ever actively booed at a game, and he has earned it.

Game & Series Recap - Cubs 3, Dodgers 1 (1 game to 3)


Game Recap
Earlier this morning I did a guest spot on Jon Miller's show on KXNO 1460 in Iowa. He asked me if I was ready to throw in the towel on the season, and my response was "in baseball anything can happen, but I don't think a Cubs playoff appearance is high up on the probability list this season." The problem -- well, one big problem -- has been their total inability to defeat good teams. The Dodgers are an example of that -- Los Angeles took 3 of 4 from the Cubs, whose offense evaporated this past weekend.

Still, Ryan Dempster managed to stop the slide, as he pitched 7 solid innings of 3-hit, 1 walk ball, surrendering only 1 run (unearned). He was successfully relieved by John Grabow and Carlos Marmol, who sealed the deal. Marmol pitched a flawless, 2 strikeout 9th inning for the save, but I would respectfully suggest that we maybe give him a few chances to eat ass before he becomes the deserved, defacto closer for 2010.

Offensively the Cubs collected 12 hits and 2 walks, including a dominating 4 for 4 day from Jake Fox. Fox now has 9 homeruns in his rookie season, and like Hoffpauir before him has earned the right to be a part of the team's roster next year. But before we get too excited about his future as a Cub All Star, let's not forget that he's already 27, he's defensively inept everywhere, and like Hoffpauir I'm not sold on him having as successful a follow-up year. Still, just for kicks I think the Cubs should send him to Winter Ball and ask him to learn how to play second base. At this point, why not?

Anyway, the Cubs have off today before returning home to Wrigley Field where they'll host the Nationals. They have 40 more games remaining, including 32 games against teams currently under .500. Their remaing 8 games against good teams include 1 against the 63-61 White Sox, 3 against the Cardinals, and 4 against the Giants. I'm not suggesting at this point that they can pull a miracle out of their asses and win their way into wild card supremacy, but with a schedule like that the Cubs would have to absolutely blow to not finish the year with a winning season.

Current Record: 62-60
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 8 games out
Best Possible Record: 102-60
Worst Possible Record: 62-100
Record needed to win 90: 28-12
On Pace For: 82-80

Game and Series Recap: Cubs 7, Padres 1 (1-2) -- Wait, they won?

Game Recap
What if I told you that my team has a pitcher with a 1.64 ERA, a WHIP of 0.77, and 55 strikeouts in 44 innings, to go along with just 14 walks? Is that something you would be interested in?

Ladies and gentlemen, gimme somma' dat Post All-Star Break Rich Harden!

Showing up just in time to earn himself a few extra million bucks as he heads toward the free agent market, Rich has been on fire in the second half of the season. Is it too little too late? Maybe kinda sorta, but I'll take it while we've got him.

Speaking of awesome Post All-Star splits, allow me to present Exhibit B: with a .367 batting average, .406 on-base, and .617 slugging, ladies and gentlemen, Jeffy B. Baker!

(Having said that, anyone wanna guess which of those two gets overpaid by the Cubs in negotiating an extension?)

With last night's game, the Cubs save some face as they depart from the home of Ron Burgundy and head straight for Mannywood. Now that the Cubs have saved themselves from a sweep, it's about time I dispense with the standard "impact of one game" speech.

Usually when the Cubs end up on the losing side of a 1-2 three-gamer, I talk about how different Cub fans would feel this morning if things were just a tinge different--specifically, what might have been if the Cubs went 2-1 instead of 1-2. We'd have a series win on our hands, and we wouldn't mind that one "L" given the two wins.

However, at this point in the season, every game is pretty damn huge. We're six back in our division, and five back in the Wild Card. These "one game" differences are really starting to add up.

And now we're headed to Dodgertown. This should be fun!

Current Record: 61-57
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 6.0 games back of the Cardinals
Magic Number: 51 (thanks to cubsmagicnumber.com)
Best Possible Record: 105-57
Worst Possible Record: 61-101
Record needed to win 90: 29-15
On Pace For: 85-78

Series Recap: Cubs beat Pirates 2 games to 0 -- Cheap Sweep


And so it came to pass that, in the face of a small window of rain, the Cubs were denied their chance to sweep the lowly Pirates at home.

Chances are this game will get made up at the tail end of the season in October, assuming the Cubs need it. But considering that they had to fly to San Diego yesterday for a late game tonight, it's probably not hard to understand why the game was cancelled quickly. Either that or the multi-million dollar draining system they built last year is working out about as often as Carlos Zambrano. (Aw, snap)

Rob wrote an article yesterday lambasting the Cubs for their lazy, willy-nilly attitude. I say to you: fantastic. A team that isn't hungry is a team that's not anxious. Perhaps this newly loose -- and fattened -- team can sloth their way uncouthly through the playoffs should they get there. Still, I remain reminded about the '02 version of Moises Alou, who signed his fat contract, came to Chicago, sucked golf balls through garden hoses, and then returned in '03 and '04 to deliever two seasons of mass-production unlike anything we'd seen from left field in decades.

As for the Cubs themselves, and my current outlook on the season, I remain where I was a week ago -- for that matter, where I've been all season long. But because I really don't want to alienate anybody on either side, let's see if we can agree on the following statement:

If the Cubs fail to reach the playoffs -- or if they fail to win in the playoffs should they get there -- it will not be because they are the Cubs with their 101 year burden. It will be because they are either poorly assembled, poorly motivated, or poorly managed -- or perhaps a poor combination of the three. I have no qualms with anybody who thinks that the Cubs cannot reach or win in the post season based on their play in 2009. However I have serious problems with anybody who thinks that they cannot reach or win because they're the effing Cubs. That attitude needs to be chased away with pitchforks and torches. That's a Cardinals-fan attitude, expressed at games solely to bust our balls. Believing it is stupid, and wrong, and nihilistic. Believing the Cubs can't rattle off 20 wins in a row in a September Surge because they're the Cubs is idiotic. Believing they can't win 20 straight because they suck this year, however, is far easier for me to understand and possibly even agree with.

Game Recap: Cubs 1, Phillies 6 -- Enough already.

Game Recap
The Cubs suck, blah blah blah.

Cliff Lee went eight innings for the Phils, we only scored once. Lame.

Ryan Dempster went seven innings, got hit with a crooked number in the 4th, gave up a couple bombs. That sucked.

Hey, Jeff Baker is hitting .275 all of a sudden! That's cool!

Geovany Soto has been worthless. You nailed that one, Rob. I'm sorry we ever doubted you.

Justin Berg looked great, huh? Ninth rookie pitcher the Cubs have used this year. That's great.

Mike Fontenot is hitting .229 this year.

K, that's all I wanna say. Bring on the Pirates.

Kurt
The Cubs got swept at home by the Phillies.  Yay?

Much as the toughest part of the minor league manager's job is cutting players who just can't hack it, the hardest part of a Cubs blogger's job is writing about the team when they suck serious ass.  In that sense, the last couple of seasons have been a blessing, almost making up for 2005 and 2006.  But while nobody - and I mean nobody - expected much from the '06 Cubs, we obviously had some high hopes for this team.

They have responded so far by crapping in our Cheerios.  This leaves us with a bit of a conundrum.  After all, many of these under-performing players are aging, expensive, and quite possibly untradeable.  On top of that, the Cubs still aren't sold -- and we haven't heard about the sale in weeks -- and for so long as the team lingers in limbo we are stuck with Jim Hendry helming and Lou Piniella managing.  Except everybody loves Lou, so it's only half a problem.

Well, my friends, it doesn't get much worse-feeling than this.  I invite you all, then, to consider this season a bust.  Let your feelings of despair out.  Overturn a car.  Throw baseballs at rare seagulls.  And when it's over, make your way back to the team and pick a player, any player.  From here on until October, root for that guy, cheer for him whenever he does well, and if he ends the season with a good performance between now and then consider it a small consolation.

But, hey, stop freaking out about the Cubs.  If you know the season is done for, you shouldn't be upset anymore when they lose.  It's as simple as that.

Game and Series Recap: Cubs 5, Rockies 11 (1-3) -- Moving on!

Recap
The Cubs did not look very good this weekend.

A lot of that had to do with injuries. Carlos Zambrano was unable to take the mound for his scheduled start; perhaps more detrimental was the fact that he was unable to inform the team of that fact until moments before the first pitch was scheduled.

Tom Gorzelanny was hit in the foot with a comebacker that ended his start prematurely. Actually, maybe that Caridad guy pitched better than Gorgonzola would have, but still, injuries suck.

Also, Aramis Ramirez' shoulder is acting up again. I've even seen rumors that he might be headed to the DL. That would really suck, although perhaps this time around we'd see more Jake Fox at 3B, and less Mike Fontenot.

Having said all that, I think the real head scratcher (that's a technical term) from this past series was Sunday's game.

On the one hand, the Cubs had to be disappointed by the untimeliness of Randy Wells' first failure as the team's most recently anointed stopper. After having allowed just one earned run in his last 15.1 innings pitched, Wells was decidedly less-than-shutdown against the Rox, allowing five runs in 5.1 innings pitched.

Then again, there's also the flat out astounding issue of the hit column in that game.

If I told you the Cubs outhit their opponent, 17 to 14, and lost, you may have been a bit surprised. But how do those numbers translate to an 11-5 rout?

Let's look specifically at some of the missed opportunities from that game.

  • 1st inning: men on 2nd and 3rd, 2 out, Kosuke K's.
  • 2nd inning: men on 1st and 3rd, 1 out, Wells grounds into a DP (instead of bunting...?).
  • 3rd inning: men on 2nd and 3rd, 1 out, Soriano flies out softly and Baker K's (after MB failed to score from 2nd on a Kosuke single).
  • 6th inning: man on 2nd, 1 out, Theriot and MB both strike out.
  • 7th inning: men on 1st and 2nd, no outs, K-flyout-flyout.

That's not even a comprehensive list of every time the Cubs had runners in scoring position. It's just an arbitrary selection from a simply staggering number of opportunities that the Cubs had to turn Sunday's game into something a bit more interesting.

As it happened, though, the Cubs lost the game on Sunday. And they lost the series, which gave them a losing record for the road trip (4-6).

As a Cub fan, would you have been having a better Tuesday morning if, after last night's loss, the Cubs had ended up splitting the series, and the road trip? That one game difference has a bigger psychological impact than it deserves to make, I think. It's just one game, after all--one game out of what's getting to be a smaller and smaller number of chances to get back into this playoff race, unfortunately.

Kurt
I give AJ credit for all the detail -- it's not easy writing about suck.

Just a couple of extra thoughts to bridge the gap between now and tonight...

One of the reasons I believe this blog is a pretty good place to get your Cubs content is because we do not all agree.  In fact, sometimes we disagree with each other into the point of ridiculousness.  Despite what detractors would tell you, we do not stifle contrary opinions as long as they are constructive.  Hating Milton Bradley or Alfonso Soriano because they aren't earning their salary is an opinion I cannot contest -- although I'll probably never think of Soriano as being "selfish."  I got to see selfish patrol in right field for the Cubs for a decade, and Sori's not that.  But calling Cub players epithets will get you banned from GROTA; just ask the douchebag who keeps trying to come back.  You can even tell me I'm an idiot, or a hater, or a moron, none of that will get you in trouble... probably because I am too much of an idiot to prevent people from trying to chip away at my ego.  (This again is something that marks us as being different from most places.  I have a feeling that if you headed over to BCB and started calling Al names, you wouldn't be allowed to do so for very long.)

When it comes to our expectations -- and our hopes -- for the '09 season, at this point my personal take is very, very different from Rob's.  I believe first and foremost that the Cubs are capable of making the playoffs -- which isn't the same as an expectation.  I wouldn't be surprised if they did, I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't.  They've shown me enough good and bad to leave me thinking that they might be an 83 win team or an 87 win team, and in the NL Central 87 wins might be enough to get them into the dance.

I'm not 100% sure if Rob has completely ruled out a playoff appearance at this point, but I suspect he expects them to not get there.  That's cool, I can understand that.

But this is where we differ strongly in opinion -- I believe that history has taught us that great teams do not win championships, although winning a championship can make a team great.  I have seen in my lifetime no-name teams win, poor teams beat rich teams, 83-win teams collect titles, 116-win teams fail to even get there to lose, and so-on.  I've seen enough to know that the playoffs are unpredictable, at least to a layman like me.  Therefore, I have concluded that if the Cubs reach the playoffs, then they are capable -- again, not the same as expected, or even anticipated -- of winning the whole she-bang. 

Rob, on the other hand, believes that this is impossible.  Why?  Because they're the Cubs.  Their long history of losing, mixed with their long season of underperforming, sprinkled on top of by the immense pressure a playoff appearance would bring, leaves them as being absolutely, undeniably sad participants should they waste our time and theirs by reaching the playoffs.

That I have disagreed with Rob on this point makes me guilty of "shouting your false hopes into the cruel winds."  But I think we all know the difference between an expectation and being free of them, and I definitely fall into the latter category.  And so long as I have a pulpit here, anybody who wants to prematurely stick a fork into the Cubs will learn that their wielded implement is double-edged. 

Odds are, the Cubs will prove Rob right.  If they even make the playoffs, they are likely to get their asses handed to them by whichever opponent they face.  The same is true of pretty much all post season teams ... the playoffs favor nobody but the team with the most momentum and the greatest amount of luck.  Even the Cubs -- yes, even the Cubs -- can fall into that category if they get there.  We've seen it before with the '04 Red Sox, and the '06 Cardinals, just to name two recent examples -- two examples that cannot be countered by any facsimile of reason or logic.

And if the statement I've just made is in contrast to your opinion of baseball, if you honestly believe that Christmas has been canceled and the kitchen has been closed here on August 11th, with a month and a half of baseball left to be played, then do yourself a favor and pretend the season is over.  You're just causing yourself anxiety by following along in this season of unavoidable woe.  Get geared up for football, or hell, soccer.  The CFL is already in full swing and it's a pretty exciting league.  The NFL promises many storylines this season.  And if the Cubs should shock you and make the playoffs, do yourself a favor and don't watch -- you've already written them off for dead.  And if they should happen to win the first series they play -- which you know won't happen -- then continue your avoidance of the post season.  Keep it to overhearing hallway talk and cubical chatter.  And if they should happen to reach the World Series -- a truly ridiculous proposition that you already know can't possibly happen -- then whether you enjoy it or not, whether you are excited or not, I hope you never forget that you quit on an under-performing team long before they were ruled out of anything.  May the words "I always knew" never escape your mouth.  But I won't wish guilt upon you because I get why you would've given up so soon. 

Anyway.  Strong words from me honestly not directed at Rob but at anybody who thinks that way -- and there are plenty of Cub fans out there who do.  But to go back to the very first thing I said, this blog kicks ass because we do not all agree, we do not all subscribe, we do not all swill, and no matter how frustrating it is, or how angry we make one another, GROTA is better because of the debate.  Besides, if Dave Kaplan has taught us anything it's that controversy drives readership.  So, consider this my open plea to Rob to continue disagreeing and debating on this topic openly and, if necessary viciously -- because we're all better because of it.  Not to mention the fact that he's probably right... even if for the wrong reasons.

Current Record: 58-52
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 3 games back of the Cardinals
Magic Number: 54 (thanks to cubsmagicnumber.com)
Best Possible Record: 110-52
Worst Possible Record: 58-104
Record needed to win 90: 32-20
On Pace For: 85-78

Game & Series Recap: Reds 4, Cubs 0 (Cubs win 2 games to 1)

Recap

No brooms tonight, as the Cub's offense was shut down again. How is this team going to hit the opponents best couple starters if they do make the post season, if they can't manage to score against number 3-4 guys?
-Dan

I know you probably didn't mean it the way it sounded, Dan, but that's the sort of comment that will drive me to stand atop tall buildings and look longingly down at the concrete sidewalk far below. Despite the butt-kicking they received last night, the Cubs have been one of the winningest teams in baseball since the All Star Break. Rather than look negatively at how they failed "to score against number 3-4 guys," I think we should call it what it was -- Reds pitcher Justin Lehr pitched a hell of a game. Expecting any team, be they the Dodgers, or Cubs, or Cardinals, to always beat the 3-4 pitchers in a rotation is a mistake. Teams like the Cubs will surely smack around the Justin Lehrs of the world more often than the Justlin Lehrs smack them around, but not always.

Meanwhile, Cub fans are anxious to give Rich Harden's job to Grozelanny, because Rich has been below-average this year while Gorzo had one solid start. I'd suggest that this might be a case of jumping the ol' gun a bit. Harden suffered from One Bad Inning syndrome last night (the pathos of which were explored in detail by Kerry Wood and Mark Prior several years ago) but if he manages to pitch 6 innings while surrendering only 2 earned runs and striking out 9 every time he's out there, I don't think the Cubs would be justified in taking him out of the rotation.

Also, I think it's pretty ironic that Justin Lehr kicks the team's ass and people are ready to question the team's ability to win, while Gorzelanny kicks the Reds ass and people are ready to prop him up and give him a role in the rotation. Guys, dudes, bros, Lehr and Gorzelanny are essentially the same guy right now -- number 3-4 pitchers who had great games and nothing more until they prove otherwise!

Anyway, at least the Cardinals lost again, keeping the Cubs propped in first place for the time being. It's interesting to note that they were essentially shut down by not one but two "3-4 guys" on the Mets roster -- Jonathon Niese, who left the game in the second inning and Nelson Figueroa, who pitched 4.1 scoreless innings in relief lowering his ERA to 6.75 on the season. I can't help but wonder how the Cardinals can win in the post season against good teams' best couple starters if they can't manage to score against number 3-4 guys?

Also: today is an off-day, so along with Cubs 101 we will probably have a Roster Thoughts article sometime in the afternoon. I'll probably use the opportunity to dispell the continuing misconception of Jeff Samardzija and his remaining options while waxing hypothetical about what moves need to be made.

Current Record: 57-49
Position in the NL Central: 1st place, .002 percentage points ahead of the Cardinals
Magic Number: 55 (thanks to cubsmagicnumber.com)
Best Possible Record: 113-49
Worst Possible Record: 57-105
Record needed to win 90: 33-23
On Pace For: 87-75

Game and Series Recap: Cubs 2, Marlins 3 (1 games to 2) -- Funk dat.

Game Recap
This one's gonna be short, because I enjoy writing about embarrassing Cub performances about as much as you like reading about them.

Which is to say, not very much at all.

This weekend would have been a lot more fun if our bullpen could have gotten outs every time they took the mound. On Friday, Marmol stunk it up. On Saturday, Samardzija and Gregg coughed up leads. On Sunday, Gregg was at it again.

Before we all start hooting and hollering about who the Cubs closer should be, I just want to point out two things.

---

1) Kevin Gregg's June/July numbers.

His April was pretty shitty, and his May was pretty meh-diocre. But let's look at the groove Gregg had been in before this past weekend.

In 27 innings pitched between June and July, Gregg had allowed just 17 hits, 8 walks, and collected 25 strikeouts. With only seven earned runs allowed, that gave him a 2.33 ERA for the J months.

Clearly, he's a capable reliever. And he's gotten a ton of saves already. So what gives with the last two outings?

Saturday is hard to account for. Two outs, two strikes--you gotta close that out, man. Maybe pitching in Florida made him nervous; maybe the opposing staff knew what he was going to throw (did we have that advantage against Wood?); maybe he's an idiot.

But Sunday was a little more surprising.

2) Kevin Gregg threw 38 pitches on Saturday.

We love Lou Piniella. We've given him various amounts of grief throughout his Cubs tenure, depending on the latest performance of our team. We may or may not have had an "axe Lou" series earlier this season, but we realize that, for the most part, he's better than the rest.

At the same time, there's one thing Lou has never been good at, and that's managing a bullpen. Bob Howry and Carlos Marmol are two quick examples of Lou inexplicably overworking arms, often to the detriment of the team.

Does Lou take the blame for Sunday's crap outing from Kevin Gregg? I'd be willing to pin a sliver of it on him. In my recap from the previous game, I mentioned that I expected to see Jeff Stevens and Sean Marshall used in today's game, since everyone else had been worked pretty hard the night before. Of course, Lou didn't use either of those relievers, and stuck with his main 'pen rotation.

---

Maybe I'm making crap excuses for a crap closer. But really, what else can we do? He's our guy. Hopefully, it's not close against the Reds, and we get another outstanding performance from a starter like we did in Sunday's game with Dempster.

If you don't buy my excuses with Gregg, please let me know. Regardless, I have a feeling he's still gonna be the closer this month. And I'd say I'm OK with that.

Go Cubs.

Current Record: 55-48
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, .5 games behind St. Louis
Magic Number: 58 (thanks to cubsmagicnumber.com)
Best Possible Record: 114-48
Worst Possible Record: 55-107
Record needed to win 90: 35-24
On Pace For: 86-76

Game & Series Recap: Cubs 5, Reds 2 (3 games to 0)

Recap
Their newly-extended ace has been on the disabled list with a stupidly broken toe.

Their star lefty pitcher is also on the DL and will miss at least three weeks with knee surgery.

Their star slugging left fielder is batting .253 and got dropped 5 spots in the lineup this season.

Their star center fielder is worth perhaps a quarter of his 12-million-dollar-per-year contract.

Their star slugging right fielder is batting .248 and, four months into his first season, has already been the subject of trade rumors.

Their star slugging third baseman missed two months with a shoulder injury that will require surgery.

Their new second baseman?  Couldn't hit lefties if somebody held them up for him. 

Their ace setup man is as wild as a drunken Lindsay Lohan and as consistent as an amateur's souffle.

All of that, and, after a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago Cubs are the first place team in the NL Central.  Go figure.

They did it this series by just beating the hell out of Reds pitchers.  The Cubs collected 33 hits and 11 walks this series, including 15 extra bases (7 of which were homeruns). 

The Cubs starters, meanwhile, all went 6 innings, all held the Reds down, and all benefited from good relief pitching -- the bane of the Cubs so far in 2009.  In 9 innings of relief this series, Cubs relievers held the Reds to 8 hits, 3 walks, and 5 earned runs while striking out 9.  (Okay, fine, so the bullpen bled runs, but only, it seems, when it didn't matter.)

Chicago now holds a half game lead in the Central, but they lead by 3 games in the loss column.  They've knocked the Reds back to 7.5 games out of first (and 9 games under .500) and their next challenge is the 3rd place Astros, who are 50-48, 2.0 games out. 

Current Record: 51-45
Position in the NL Central: 1st place, .5 games ahead of St. Louis
Magic Number: 65 (thanks to cubsmagicnumber.com)
Best Possible Record: 117-45
Worst Possible Record: 51-111
Record needed to win 110: 59-7
On Pace For: 86-76

Game and Series Recap: Cubs 10, Phillies 5 (1-2)-- Should we get off the ledge?

GameRecap
I guess all it takes to wake up the Cubs' bats (other than two days of suck) is an ancient lefty soft-tosser. Something about the line-up being predominantly right-handed, need a lefty power bat, can't get it? Whatever.

Anyways, the Cubs won today! Woo hoo!

Lots of Cubs had multiple hits today (Theriot, A-Ram, Bradley, and Soriano). Also, Ryan Theriot stole three bases. I guess that means he'll get picked off twice tomorrow.

Despite the offensive onslaught, only two of our 13 hits went for extra bases (both doubles), and only one of our runs scored with two outs. So, still no soul-crushing big hits, still no clutch performances, but 11 singles and 9 walks should get you somewhere.

Z was actually really hittable today, giving up 10 hits in his start, along with three walks. But it was good enough for today, thanks to all the Cubs that got themselves safely to first over and over.

---

As far as the series goes, I for one think these three games were pretty indicative of what we can expect from the team here on out.

Some days they'll slap a bunch of singles off a crap starter having a bad day, and some days all those pokes will roll right to infielders and will mostly turn into outs. Against top line starting pitching (guys like Rodrigo Lopez and Joe Blanton), the Cubs will have trouble scoring runs. And the whole time, the pitching will be more or less good enough to give the team a chance to win.

We will continue to hold out hope for this offense. It'd be great if Soto could heal up by, say, tomorrow. The Baker/Fontenot platoon at second base looks pretty alright. If Bradley can get better, and Soriano can stay hot... well, then, who knows what might happen.

Getting Dempster back soon will make the pitching that much better. I hope the Cubs quit jerking Samardzija around and just stash him in Iowa for the rest of the season when Demp does come back (we need him to start, not handle mop-up).

Beyond those things, what else can you really do?

Current Record: 48-45
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 1.5 games out
Best Possible Record: 117-45
Worst Possible Record: 48-114
Record needed to win 110: 52-5
On Pace For: 83-79

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