Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Series Recap

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(Shortened) Series (Belated) Rrecap: Cubs 1, Braves 1

Two games, twenty-three innings of baseball, two blown leads, one eventual victory.  This affair in Atlanta had a bit of everything, didn't it?  Mostly though the split series has left Cub fans feeling nauseous -- after all, the Cubs had the first game in hand before turning to their two "most reliable" relievers only to watch them squander and then blow the lead.

The team is at a cross-roads, whether they admit it or not.  Some people may blame the immature acts of some of the players -- Carlos, Milton, Lilly, Dempster.  Others might attribute this year's woes to the mass-slumps -- Lee, Soto, Fontenot, Bradley.  Still more might call to blame the series of injuries that have plagued the team -- Zambrano, Harden, Bradley.

Our Rob wants to blame Geo Soto, the QB of the defense.  I don't buy it for a bunch of reasons.  He hasn't been the offensive stud that he once was, but he's hardly an automatic out.  He isn't being the gun behind the plate that the Cubs probably need, but he never really was and I still believe he's nursing a shoulder injury.  I don't believe he's responsible and I'm not even particularly worried about his performance.  But I will say this: Rob has garnered himself a bit of a reputation for being the kind of Cubs fan (and blogger) that another kind of Cubs fan (and blogger) detest.  Apparently I'm forbidden from defending Rob to these people because I am always criticized by them when I do so, but that won't stop me from defending Rob now. 

I've spoken with some very intelligent, unbiased individuals who read this blog (read: they aren't Cub fans per se so they lack the pretty rose-colored glasses that the rest of us wear and they do not swill from the blue koolaid) and the general take I've gotten about Rob is that 1) he's a good writer and 2) his points aren't usually far off.  I happen to agree with those people; it just so happens that Rob's stance on the team is 100% of the time stiffer than mine, regardless of whether things are going good or badly.  Maybe this blog would be better if it was run by like-minded individuals and read by others who share many of the same opinions, but I disagree with that emphatically.  I happen to think that forums in general and GROTA in particular are never better than when people are heatedly disagreeing because it organically drives content and gives people something to read ... even if it's the rubber-neck effect and they just want to see how bad the wreck is. 

That said, let's go back and look at this paragraph:

The team is at a cross-roads, whether they admit it or not.  Some people may blame the immature acts of some of the players -- Carlos, Milton, Lilly, Dempster.  Others might attribute this year's woes to the mass-slumps -- Lee, Soto, Fontenot, Bradley.  Still more might call to blame the series of injuries that have plagued the team -- Zambrano, Harden, Bradley.

It seems to me that Milton Bradley is the only one who fits into all those categories of concern, but I don't really think he's to blame.  As Rob himself would point out, it's Lou Piniella.

Much, much earlier this season I prepped this blog for a Jump The Piniella moment. I think that moment is getting decisively closer.  

I'm not expecting Lou to come storming out of the dugout, spittle a-flyin', in order to rally the troops onward toward victory.  No, what Lou needs to do is something a lot simpler:

Fix the frickin' lineup and the goddamn bullpen.  He won't even need to get out of his chair to do it!

I believe - nay, I insist - that the Cubs already have the components they need to win.  They just have to tinker a bit.  But until that moment occurs we will be victims of offensive blackouts and late-inning blow-outs.  This series with the Braves gave us a little bit of both -- the team's reputed set-up man and especially its closer dropped dookie in their drawers.  Then the next night they slipped away with victory despite their inability to score lots of runs.

It's not too late.  Lou is not too old.  So what the hell is the hold up?

Current Record: 26-25
Position in the NL Central: 4th place, 3.5 games out
Best Possible Record: 137-25
Worst Possible Record: 26-136
Record needed to win 110: 84-27
On Pace For: 83-79

Game & Series Recap: Dodgers 8 (2), Cubs 2 (2)

Cubs lose
I so love Cub fans.  The Cubs can take 2 of 4 from the hottest team in baseball and Cub fans will immediately jump on the negative. 

Take a look at Sean Marshall for example.  In his first full season as a starter, he's taken the mound in the first inning 8 different times.  In each of those 8 appearances, he's thrown 5 or more innings and he's only allowed more than 3 earned runs twice -- on May 5th, when he pitched 7 innings in a loss to San Francisco and yesterday, when he was rocked by the Dodgers.

In other words, Marshall has consistently delivered acceptable performances from the mound.  His record for the month of May before yesterday?  3-2, 4.05 ERA.  That's good for any 5th starter anywhere in baseball.  But because Sean Marshall got beat yesterday, these are the comments of a couple - well, one -- of our readers:

Cubsfanky: Sean Marshall is TRASH!! 

So, is this the way it's going to be all year long?  A player has an ugly performance and we jump him?  Ryan Dempster alternates between good, bad, and ugly outings and we label him a juicer?  Milton Bradley begins the year 1 for 23 and we call him selfish?  Derrek Lee slumps while he battles a sore neck and we call him washed up?  This is how it is now?

On the bright side, the Cubs offense accounted for 9 more hits yesterday but they were only able to draw a solitary walk.  Reed Johnson, who is apparently on fire, had another 3-hit game and suddenly finds himself batting .295. 

The bullpen also threw 4.2 innings of shutout relief, stopping the Dodgers offense cold.  They struck out 8 over that span too.

As for Sean Marshall, fans of Randy Wells couldn't have asked for a different performance.  It should be a tough decision for Lou to make once Rich Harden comes back as to whether or not Wells stays in the rotation and Marshall shores up the pen or vice versa. A few more strong outings from Wells, coupled with a few more bad or ugly outings from Marshall and Lou's decision will be easy.

Current Record: 25-24
Position in the NL Central: 4th place, 4.5 games out
Best Possible Record: 138-24
Worst Possible Record: 25-137
Record needed to win 110: 85-28
On Pace For: 83-79

Game & Series Recap: Cubs 5 (2), Pirates 2 (1)

Cubs win
In the early months of the 2009 baseball season, a crack baseball team was sentenced to numerous ejections by the MLB disciplinary committee for infractions they didn't commit.  These men promptly escaped from their maximum suspension sentences to the Chicago underground.  Today, still wanted by baseball's authorities, they survive as athletes for hire.  If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire ... the C-Team. 

The C-Team
These Cubs.  If you're not a fan of them to begin with they seem awfully hard to love.  When Milton Bradley isn't "bumping" umpires and complaining about a conspiracy against him, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, and Carlos Zambrano are all trying like hell to get themselves ejected and suspended.  Today was Zambrano's turn.

After arguing angrily with an umpire in the 7th inning, the Moose was ejected for "bumping" the ump -- who, based on the footage I saw, stepped into Carlos.  Upset by the obvious ruse to get him tossed, Carlos promptly did the only sensible thing: he ejected the umpire, returned to the dugout, and beat the holy hell out of a gatorade cooler.

Apart from the likelihood that Mr. Z is looking at probably a 7 to 10 game suspension, I have to admit ... that was pretty freaking cool.  Sorry, I know, he needs to start acting like an adult and all, but c'mon.  Can you blame him?

I respectfully direct you to early June, 2007.  An angry Carlos Zambrano pummels his teammate and catcher.  The team's manager has a legendary fit with an umpire and gets ejected.  And that was when a team 9 games under .500 started to roll.  Carlos must be sick of waiting on Lou Piniella because after his amazing flip-out the Cubs -- who had been offensively inadequate -- scored 3 runs in the 8th and won the game and the series against the Pirates.

Speaking of the offense, maybe I'm wrong but it seems to me that Reed Johnson is perhaps stepping up and filling the leadership role the Cubs have lacked the past few years.  He apparently told Milton Bradley the other day that M.B. doesn't have to shut down his at bat just because the umpire blows a call -- resulting in a resurgent Don't Wake Daddy (who went 1 for 3 today with a walk and a triple) -- and he hit a clutch go-ahead homer after Zambrano's ejection.

The Cubs also saw 3 more hits from Ryan Theriot and they were greeted by Jake Fox who hit a pinch hit, run-scoring double.  Fox is going to be interesting.  He can't play defense but he can hit the ball a mile.

All told, it was a harder win than it looked and a more interesting and entertaining game than we could have expected.  The Cubs head tomorrow into a match-up against the Dodgers who have been hot as hell despite missing their star slugger.

And am I concerned about Zambrano's meltdown?  Nope.  I've been to this party before.  The last time it happened, it was Lou doing the flip-out.  I misread the situation, thought he'd lost the team and the season was over and immediately found myself proven wrong.  So no worries here with Carlos ... even if he misses a little bit of time and grows a mo-hawk.

Current Record: 23-22
Position in the NL Central: 4th place, 4 games out
Best Possible Record: 140-22
Worst Possible Record: 23-139
Record needed to win 110: 87-30
On Pace For: 83-79

Game & Series Recap: Padres 7 (3), Cubs 2 (0); oh noooos

Cubs lose
If the Cubs are the team we follow then we are Ron Santo forever living that horrible moment in 1998 when Brant Brown dropped the lazy fly ball.  We moan, we lament our torturous lives, and there is such despair in our fandom that any clinical observer would look upon us and see living proof of a contradiction.  Maybe that's why we so fiercely defend him against his detractors.  For good or bad he's us.

Tonight -- and lately -- Ron Santo has not been alone.  This isn't the way it was supposed to be.  42 games into the season -- just over a full quarter of the campaign -- and the Cubs are a .500 ball team riding a 7 game losing streak in which they averaged 1.43 runs per game during that time.

Everybody but one man has gone cold, and that one man is playing with something you can't really get by on scott free -- a damaged neck.  But I suppose that I remain shockingly calm and amazingly unworried because looking at the Cubs lineup I see a team that is way, way, way better than 1.43 runs per game. 

So if your plan is to go cliff-jumping based on the past week of play, based on basically an anomoly of team-wide offensive slumber, then you must also be the kind of person to assume that significant others are dumping you just because they didn't call you when they usually do.  (Or worse, perhaps they're dead.  That's the kind of worry train that you're rolling on.)

That isn't to say that there aren't reasons to be concerned.  There are reasons.  We'll talk about that on Monday or Tuesday.  But before I actually, y'know, recap the loss, I'll leave you with this one thought.

We spent 2007 with butterflies and damaged nerves because they played down to the wire and snuck in at the end of the season.  The entire time, we -- or at least I -- complained loudly about how the Cubs never make it easy.

Then we watched in awe in 2008 when they locked it up basically in August as they surged toward the best team record since 1945.  Finally, we had our easy season.  Still, they were swept in October.

There is no mathematical formula to winning in the playoffs and there is no such thing as a superlative season.  I don't know if teams need rough patches in order to know how to win under pressure later on, but that idea is ludicrous and implies that 25 grown men who've all been there before 2009 somehow forgot between past seasons and this one.  But I do know that rough patches are a part of the game and it seems like the best team rarely wins the World Series.  So let the Cubs be underdogs, scrambling, fighting, and climbing their way up.  Let them scrap for it. 

The Game
Subtract the "s" from "scrap" and that's what we had on Sunday.  Ted Lilly got hammered, Aaron Heilman helped, the Cubs offense walked not once and nobody had more than 1 hit. 

Maybe it's time for a classic Lou Piniella Wake Up! moment.  I suspect it's coming.

The New Recap Logo
I'm just tinkering, in case you were wondering.  I frankly like the previous logo better but I've got big plans and if they turn out to be possible then the Cubs scoreboard as we've been 'chopping it would look confusing on the site.  You'll see what I mean soon enough.

Current Record: 21-21
Position in the NL Central: 4th place, 4 games out
Best Possible Record: 141-21
Worst Possible Record: 21-141
Record needed to win 110: 89-31
On Pace For: 81-81

Game & Series Recap: Cubs 11 (3), Padres 3 (0)

Cubs win!
Wow.  Now that was an awesome game which will hopefully leave the boo-birds silent for a while.  First of all, Chad Gaudin was up to his old tricks.  He proved tough to hit, but for him so did the catcher's mitt.  The former Cub allowed only 1 hit in 4.1 innings of work but he also walked 7.  Amazingly enough he appeared as if he'd get away with his wild streak until the hitters erupted in the 5th. 

The Hitters
We actually saw this often enough last year that it wasn't surprising.  The 1-4 hitters in the Cubs lineup failed to drive in a single run and yet the team exploded for 11.  But unlike those incidents from '08, the 1-4 hitters got the job done -- it's just that they spent the day setting the table rather than clearing it.

Impressively Theriot, Fukudome, and Hoffpauir drew 2 walks a piece - accounting for 6 of the day's 10 walks - and consequently they also made up for 5 of the Cubs 11 runs.  Dusty Baker is shocked that the patient, disciplined route worked but Cub fans have always known better.

The first big inning came in the previously mentioned 5th, when Gaudin managed to walk the bases loaded.  He was then relieved by Luis Perdomo who continued the party by walking Geovany Soto (scoring a run) and then through surrendering back-to-back doubles to Reed Johnson and Bobby Scales!  (The act of coming in to relieve a difficult situation only to fail to get a single out while being beaten like Tina during one of Ike's coke benders is what we like to call "crapping one's pants on the mound.")  Turdomo was then relieved by Duaner Sanchez who surrendered an RBI single to the pitcher, walked Soriano, and finally escaped the inning by inducing a ground out from Theriot.

But wait!  There was a second big inning!  The Padres trotted Sanshiz out there for a second inning of "effective relief," and he proceeded to surrender a hit to Fukudome before he got the first two outs of the inning, at which point Reed Johnson singled and Bobby Scales! doubled home both base runners.  Then Aaron Miles doubled home Scales! and Ryan Dempster completed the Trifecta Double scoring Miles.

In other words, Sanchez pitched 1.2 innings, surrendered 6 hits, gave up 4 runs, and walked 1 batter.  So much for "relief."

Incidentally Mr. Bobby Scales! went 2 for 4, giving him hits in his first 6 games at the Major League level.  As I keep saying Scales really wants to stay in the majors for a while.

The Pitchers
Dempster has been a hard-luck ace this year evoking serious doubts from the faithful about his fat contract.  He's still got a ways to go before we feel better about things but today he pitched 7 innings, allowed only 3 hits, 2 walks, struck out 5 and lowered his ERA to 4.65.  Not to mention he went all Zambrano on the Padres as previously mentioned.  His stellar 2 for 4 day raises his batting average to an impressive .105 on the season -- Milton Bradley territory.

Dempster was relieved by Jose Ascanio, marking his 2009 debut.  The Ass-Can threw 2 innings of relief, struck out 3, and surrendered an irrelevant homerun.  But hey -- no walks.  We'll take it!

Series Wrap-Up
I'll never forget what the Padres did to the Cubs back in '06 when they brutally crushed the team and effectively ended the season.  They evoked this photoshop from me at the time:

Cubs Padres
It brings warm feelings to my blackened heart to see the Cubs deliver a similar blow to the Padres just over 3 years later.  This series wasn't even remotely close for San Diego and the Cubs at this moment sit half a game out of first place in the Central.

And still I'm sure that there will be plenty of ledge-jumping moments to come, but that warm feeling you have right now is the right one to have.  For all their nagging injuries, and bizarrely bad performances, and heart breaking losses these Cubs are the real deal.  Lower the white flag of defeat, raise the white flag of blue victory and bring on Houston!

Current Record: 20-14
Position in the NL Central: Tied for 2nd place, 0.5 games out of 1st
Best Possible Record: 148-14
Worst Possible Record: 20-142
Record needed to win 110: 90-38
On Pace For: 95-67

Quick Links

Series Preview: Padres vs. Cubs
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Padres 2
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Padres 4 Theriot Unquieted
GameCast: May 14th - Padres vs. Cubs Sweep Edition

Game & Series Recap: Cubs 4 (1), Brewers 2 (2) - "break out the blue kool-aid"

Cubs 4, Brewers 2
There are Cub fans out there who want you to know that if you haven't given up on the team as of today - May 10th, 2009, with 132 games remaining on the season - then you're swilling the blue kool-aid.  (heimiedog, I'm not saying that that's your take on it, I'm just borrowing from your venacular)

But back here in reality, where there are 132 games remaining and it's only the 10th of May, a Chicago Cubs team with two key players on the DL and with 4 more key players struggling to heat up their bats are 17-14, 2.5 games out of first place.  They've won 7 of their last 10 and exit their most recent road trip with a 3-2 record.

Anybody who wants to quit on a team that's 2.5 games out of first place in the early part of May can leave.  Here's the door

But let's be fair.  This team has problems that they need to work on which can thankfully be fixed.  I'd say that the offensive woes, for example - which are a bit overrated anyway* - will fix themselves for the most part when the Cub regulars get healthy.  It's easy to jump to conclusions but so far most of the key guys who have been tanking have been playing with sore necks, shoulders, and groins.

(*since the start of May, the Cubs have scored 52 runs ... that's an average of 5.2 runs per game which probably won't be much off their pace anyway once this ugly spot is behind them)

The bullpen woes - which were very clearly exploited this series, especially yesterday - will require a little more help.  Chad Fox is done for as he has hurt his elbow again.  Neal Cotts and Dave Patton need to go.  There are thankfully players in the system who might be able to step in and replace them admirably - including a couple of the talented young arms acquired for Mark DeRosa - and the Cubs need to turn to them immediately.  Meanwhile Jim Hendry needs to consider pursuing another setup guy at first opportunity.

Offensively, the Cubs had just enough today to get the positive result.  Soriano selfishly hit his 10th homerun of the season, Kosuke Fukudome collected 2 hits (including a triple), and Bobby Scales! went 2 for 3 - he's gotten at least one hit in every game he's played in so far. 

The result is that the Cubs are now returning to Wrigley having gone - as previously mentioned - 3-2 on a difficult road trip including 3 games against a team that's been on fire.  (Raise the white flags, they only went 3-2!)

They now have a day off tomorrow before they begin a 6 game homestand against the Padres and Astros.  Neither San Diego nor Houston are world beaters and I'd expect the Cubs to continue to win in the face of controversy and injuries.

But since I've taken the time to note their winning road trip and their .700 winning perecentage in May, then I must be swilling the blue kool-aid.  Sorry about that everybody.

Current Record: A white-flag-raising 17-14
Position in the NL Central: A loserish 3rd place, 2.5 games out of first
Best Possible Record: An impossibly unlikely 148-14
Worst Possible Record: A much likelier 17-145
Record needed to win 110: A won't-happen 93-38
On Pace For: A swill-the-kool-aid-if-you-think-it's-gonna-happen 89-73

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Brewers
Game Recap: Brewers 3, Cubs 2
Game Recap: Brewers 12, Cubs 6
GameCast: May 10th - Cubs vs. Brewers

Game & Series Recap - Cubs 11 (2) Astros 5 (0)

Cubs 8, Astros 5
The Cubs get the cheap sweep -- with authority!

It wasn't as close as the final score indicated. Ted Lilly and the Cubs did exactly what we thought they would - beat on Russ Ortiz with a Brick the way an Army drill sargeant might beat on a recruit. That's right, the Cubs were Rocking the Suburbs, and the suburbs happened to be the baseball when pitched by Russ Ortiz. Ortiz's undefeated record was forced to Evaporate, and that's the last Ben Folds reference I'll make this article. Although I will point out that the last "hit" by Folds was the song "You Don't Know Me" which eventually landed on #28 of the Adult Alternative chart. Just saying.

Regardless, the Cubs managed 14 hits yesterday along with 5 walks. Every regular starter but Fontenot got at least one hit (and Mikey still managed 2 RBI) with Alfonso Soriano hitting 2 homeruns and making one awesome glove save in the outfield. The Fonz now has 9 homers and, should he manage to avoid the freak injuries that derailed him in '07 and '08, may finally be on the brink of the kind of season he was signed to produce.

Theodore Roosevelt Lilly pitched 6 innings, winning his 4th of the year and reducing his ERA to 3.11. The Cubs bullpen then delivered scoreless relief, not counting Chad Fox whose 2009 ERA is now 81.00. For the record, when all future discussions of the bullpen are made, Chad Fox will not count as being a member of the pen regardless of his status on the roster.

It appears as if the Cubs are finally - FINALLY - starting to click. They've won 6 of their last 7 and enter tonight's series against Milwaukee with the chance to gain some distance from the rest of the division, the Cardinals excluded.

The planned article about Marmol and Gregg remains pending, but I'll get to it eventually.

Current Record: 16-12
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 2.5 games out of first
Best Possible Record: 150-12
Worst Possible Record: 16-146
Record needed to win 110: 94-40
On Pace For: 93-69

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Astros
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Astros 3
GameCast: May 7th Cubs at Astros

Series & Game Recap: Giants 6, Cubs 2

Giants 6, Cubs 2
You can tell that Lou Piniella likes Tim Lincecum on account of how he apparently tried to give him a good chance of tossing a no-hitter today.  Here was the lineup the Cubs trotted out there against the Giants:

CF Joey "GONNA LOSE HIS GIG" Gathright
SS Aaron Miles
RF Fukudome
1B D.Lee (went 1 for 4, which is a mild improvement on going "0 for suck")
LF Micah Hoffpauir
3B Mike Fontenot
2B BOBBY SCALES (went 1 for 4, collecting his first ever big league hit)
C Koyie Hill

In other words, five of the eight Cubs weren't typical starters and today's game resembled more of a split-squad Spring Training game than anything else.  Naturally, the Cubs lost.

The positives were that a) this isn't a lineup that was indicative of how the Cubs will perform this year on account of how the majority of those players aren't meant to be big league starters and b) Bobby Scales played and performed decently, although I was somewhat befuddled to see Fontenot start at third and Scales at second. 

The negatives were that Jeff Samardzija continues to leave us baffled as to why he was called up to pitch out of the pen as he has yet to display in 2009 the ability to get out major league hitters.  This time the consequence was that Sean Marshall's ERA took an unecessary hit, after the lefty had given 7 innings of decent baseball. 

Oh, and on the day in which I note that Neal Cotts hasn't faced the minimum but once, he did it again.  Go figure.

Current Record: 14-12
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 3 games out of first
Best Possible Record: 150-12
Worst Possible Record: 14-148
Record needed to win 110: 96-40
On Pace For: 87-75

Quick Links
Series Preview: Giants vs. Cubs
Game Recap: Cubs 4, Giants 2
Just a brief word prior to the GameCast
GameCast: May 5th, Giants vs. Cubs

Series Recap: Cubs 3, Marlins 1

A big thanks to Yarbage for kindly covering for me while I was away.  Naturally the Cubs took advantage of my absence by playing some of their best baseball this season.  I'm not going to take a deep look into things because that would be redundant, but I'll give a few quick spins on the games played this weekend.

Game One
Cubs lose
Cubs lose, yadda yadda, season over, etc. etc., more of the same old tailspin rhetoric that feeds so much content into this blog.

Game Two
Cubs ... win?
Ryan Theriot.  I told my best buddy - not a Cubs fan - about the unlikelihood of Theriot's granny and his response was this:

If you look up "due" in the dictionary, they've got a picture of Ryan Theriot hitting that grand slam below the definition.  Probably my favorite part of this game was that the Cubs were down at various points by a lot of runs.  They were down 3-0 when they scored their first run of the game, and were down 5-1 when they went on their rampage, scoring 7 times before the Marlins were able to tack on a garbage run in the 9th.

Impressive events of this game - Theriot's granny, and Lee, Soto, and Fontenot - three of the now-legendary Questionable Quartet - combined for 2 hits each and went 6 for 10.  The team as a whole also drew 5 more walks, and while Rich Harden was chased the Succeptible Seven - also known as the bullpen - allowed only 1 earned run in 5.1 innings of work.  Cudos to Neal Cotts for almost succeeding in facing the minimum.

Game Three
Cubs ... win again?!
Speaking of due, Ryan Theriot apparently decided that he likes the taste of the longball and hadn't had enough.  So, he hit his second homerun in as many days - doubling his total for last year - leading the way to an easy romp in Game Three. Wherever he's vanished to, Pseudo-Goat Rider Colin must be scratching his head over the sheer improbability of Theriot's offensive outburst.  (Consequently, we at GROTA will now refer to Theriot as "Juice" for obvious reasons.)

Every playing member of the Questionable Quartet got hits in this game as well, including Derrek who went yard.  The offense drew 5 additional walks, and Ted Lilly (who also hit a double) went 8 innings, striking out 10, and taking the lead for the title of Most Reliable Pitcher on the staff.  Oh, and Aaron Heilman struck out all 3 batters he faced in the 9th.  He's turning out to be shockingly good.

Game Four
And finally we have the decisive game.  On the plus side, Carlos Zambrano threw 5 innings of decent baseball before - on the down side - exiting with a sore hammy.  The Cubs are apparently going to shut him down, but I haven't read anywhere if he'll be taking a trip to the DL or just having a turn skipped in the rotation.

Regardless, the Cubs collected 6 runs from 9 hits and a Bakeresque 0 walks, including homeruns from two members of the Questionable Quartet - Derrek Lee and Mike Fontenot.  In this series, Fontenot's seen his AVG go from being around .230 to .266, and he now has 5 homeruns on the season.  Not bad for a guy who  some of our readers had given up on after about a week into the season.

The Cubs did what they needed to do - they beat the crap out of a first place team who I happen to hate with a hot, fiery passion.  Again a big thanks to Chris for covering for me while I was away

Maybe the Cubs will build on this play and hammer away at the Giants tonight.  After a week or so of harping about consistency, though, it's nice to see 3 games won by 6 runs or more in which different players contributed every night toward the offensive barrage.  That's what good teams do.  That's what the Cubs will do this year.

Current Record: 13-11
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 3.5 games out of first
Best Possible Record: 151-11
Worst Possible Record: 13-149
Record needed to win 110: 97-41
On Pace For: 88-74

Quick Links
Series Preview: Marlins at Cubs
Game Recap: Marlins 8, Cubs 2
Game Recap: Cubs 8, Marlins 6
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Marlins 1
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Marlins 4

P.S. The Carlos Zambran-0-Meter desperately needs to be updated.  It's at the very top of my to do list when I get home from work tonight.  Apologies for those who enjoy seeing the meter rise.

Series & Game Recap: Diamondbacks 10, Cubs 0

D-Backs 10, Cubs 0

There's a downside to having a Cubs blog that actively covers the Cubs. That downside is this - if we are writing Series Previews, GameCasts, and Game Recaps to every game - and so far it's usually been me with a sprinkle of Jason and a dash of Yarbage doing all that - then we're essentially committing around 1,000 words daily to the team. If they suck, that means we're writing 3 pages a day about a team that sucks. If I instead chose to dedicate my life to writing 3 pages of fiction every day for the duration of the baseball season, then I would roughly have a Stephen King-sized book written by the time October rolls around.

So maybe I have something invested in the Cubs not being a bad team, which would explain why I stubbornly have been ignoring the signs.

Yesterday's theme was basically: the Cubs need to get consistent! Yesterday's game exemplified that theme - a day after blowing the D-Backs out of the water with an offensive barrage, the Cubs promptly got shut down and gave up 10 runs. But much as the Yankees were recently slammed by the Indians - who scored better than 20 runs against New York - whether the Cubs lost by 1 run yesterday or 10, it still only counts as one loss in the standings.

In my mind, here are the relevant issues with the consistency problems.

1. Poor ability to adapt. Most teams are built to handle a number of scenarios. It's not uncommon in a National League game to see Team A call on a lefty reliever, only for Team B to respond with a righty hitter, only for Team A to respond with a righty pitcher and so-on. But on a team that has a recent history now of carrying an extra pitcher, the team's adaptability is excessively poor - especially if some of your regulars are hurt, or slumping, and the majority of your backup hitters only know how to play outfield. I blame Jim Hendry for his continued obsessive-compulsive desire to load up on one position each winter and Lou Piniella for chosing those players to fill out the 25-man roster at the start of the season.

2. Poor performance. Yesterday's keen example was Ryan Dempster. As a paragon of patience, a warrior of waiting, a courier of caution, an example of etcetera., of all the players on the Cubs Dempster has me the most worried. Generally a player who has a ridiculous career year like his in '08, who then gets a huge contract extension for 4 years ... well, these guys aren't necessarily always going to pay off. Last year Dempster had the tremendous ability to get himself into and out of numerous situations via walks, ground-outs, and so-on. This year his walks have been hurting him and he's been lit up more than a cigarette lighter at a Metallica concert. On the surface 6 hits and 3 walks in 6 innings of work don't appear to be the worst numbers in the world, but 5 earned runs in those 6 innings? Do I need to say how NOT GOOD that is?

Last night, Carlos Marmol also joined the ranks of inconsistent performance. In his first game back from the leg injury he gave up 4 earned runs and managed to get only 1 out. My Caustic Cubdar (kind of like gaydar, but not about my keen ability to identify homosexuals) leads me to think that his leg is affecting his delivery which is affecting his performance which is affecting the suicidal tendencies of high-strung Cub fans. A crazy thought I'd like to implant in the mind of Lou Piniella: Caution Is Not Bad. Exclamation point! Your best reliever sprains his knee? Disabled list! Your injury-prone right fielder has a sore groin? Disabled list! Your third baseman hurts his leg? Disabled list!!!!

(Note: The Cubs are actually thinking about doing that with Rammy, placing him on the DL. I wonder who they'd call up to replace him ... maybe Jake Fox?)

A few days ago one pessemist asked, what happens if all the underperformers never perform in '09? Well, if that happens it would be historic. I'm hardly a probability expert, but mathematically speaking if something is possible it will happen given enough time and space. Since space and time are both essentially infinite, then that means that anything that could happen will happen eventually. But I'm not sold on 2009 being the year where half the Cubs lineup mysteriously gives up the ghost at the same time.

In other words, things will get better. Maybe they'll sort themselves out, or maybe they will require active puzzle-placement by Hendry and Piniella, but a little bit of tinkering to get the "sorting" portion started would not be a bad thing in my opinion.

Tonight the Cubs take on the Fish. Jason says he'll do the Series Preview, but the graphics might be a little late since I've got to go try on tuxedos.

Current Record: 10-10
Position in the NL Central: 5th place, 4 games out of first
Best Possible Record: 152-10
Worst Possible Record: 10-152
Record needed to win 110: 100-42
On Pace For: 81-81

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