Goatriders of the Apocalypse

GameCasts

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Gamecast: June 9th at Astros

Ted Lilly (6-4, 3.28 ERA) vs. Brian Moehler (2-3, 6.37 ERA)

Story Lines

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some baseball. I know the 2009 Chicago Cubs have been far from perfect, but the day just feels better when there is baseball to be watched on TV.

A few stories are making their way through the web. The easiest to pick out is the no-brainer pick of Stephen Strasburg as the No. 1 pick in tonight's first-year player draft. The draft starts at 6 p.m. EST, so I will update the post when the Cubs make their selection. There is no way to predict whom the Cubs might select, but unless 30 teams go crazy and let Strasburg fall, it probably won't get us too excited.

It looks like Rich Harden will make his return to the rotation on Saturday against the Twins. It will be amazing if this is the only DL stint for Rich all season. The currect odds say he makes at least one more trip sometime in late July.

According to reports, Aaron Miles will come off the DL on Wednesday. That means Andres Blanco or Bobby Scales will be sent down most likely, but we will get to that tomorrow.

As for tonight's game, the Cubs will turn to Ted Lilly once again. In you can believe it, Lilly is making his third start in Houston already this season. Too bad, Randy "I can't Win" Wells won't get a chance against the Astro lineup.

Ted has really won me over, and hopefully he will pick up a deserved victory as the Cubs try and avoid extra innings. Is it really possible to play four extra innings games in five games?

Also, tonight should bring the return of Milton Bradley to the lineup. I don't know about many of you, but I'm ready for crazy hot Milton Bradley.

Speaking of hot, it's time to look at some of the hot and not Cubs heading into tonight's game.

Who's Hot

Angel Guzman - Guz picked up his first save of the year when he was thrust into duty on Sunday after every other realible pitcher was used. His ERA is down to 2.28 and is Lou's top bullpen choice right now.

Ryan Theriot - "The Riot" picked up three hits on Sunday, including his 6th HR of the season (It was also his first ever road HR). Theriot scored two runs and has the average over .290 once again.

Who's Not

Kosuke Fukudome - Remember when Fukedome was hitt over .310? Well, all of the sudden he's down to .290. He's current on a 3-for-19 slump. Hopefully this isn't a repeat of last year.

Carlos Marmol - While the bullpen pitched fairly well on Sunday, that wasn't the case for Marmol. He walked two guys before Lou had seen enough. We really need Marmol to get it together.

Conclusions

The Cubs are 3.5 heading into this week, which is where they've been for much of the last couple weeks. It would be nice for the Cubs to make a move on the top of the division in the next two weeks. The Cubs are due for a blowout, and Brian Moehler is the perfect pitcher to give up five or six runs in the first few innings.

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs at Houston Astros

Series Preview
Match-Ups
Overview

Sure, it's easy to look at the Astros 25-30 record and see a bad team.  Not only is it easy, it's fun.  But what about the fact that the Astros have a better record than the Cubs over their last 10 games.  Is that a fun fact?  Or that they've played 14-15 baseball over their last 30 games.

Wait, what?  Huh.  Alright, I take back everything I was about to say.  Any team that can't even manage to play 30 games over 30 games immediately loses my respect.  The Astros suck.

But they're still dangerous (and don't you forget it!).  The heart of the Astros lineup is the Killer B's, er, B, Lance Berkman*.  They also have a killer T, P, and an L, although none of them are able to get HB the P like the B's of lore.  They've got a killer VORP, wOBP, and OPS though.

LMNOP

But enough letters, let's get to some numbers.  If you've got the time, I've got the matchups. 

(* and now I've used up all my commas for the rest of the articles)

The Matchups

Tuesday, June 6th - Ted Lilly vs. Brian Moehler

On paper, this matchup clearly favors the Cubs.  Brian Moehler comes into play with a 6.37 ERA and has been giving out hits like a hit given at a hit given event (what, you expected a Bobby Brown reference?).  However, the game isn't played on paper, it's played on the field.  Luckily for the Cubs, the matchup's even better on the field.

Lilly has not only been the best pitcher on the Cubs, he's been one of the best pitchers in baseball.  When Lilly came to Chicago, his K:BB ratio went from less than two to more than 3, and that's made all the difference.  Ha, and you thought it was taking the road less traveled.  Shows what Frost knows about pitching.

Wednesday, June 7th - Carlos Zambrano vs. Wandy Rodriguez

You know why Carlos hasn't moved into the upper echelon of pitchers, a la Roy Halliday or even Roy Oswalt?  It's not because of the occasional emotional outburst.  And it's also not because he prefers to fly Southwest instead of ride the team's charter (he's just keepin' it real, people).  It's because his control's not that great.  While he probably has better stuff than any of those other pitchers, his control is not consistently good and that's why his ERA is generally higher and he hasn't become the best pitcher in the NL. 

Good Carlos is not the Carlos that quietly goes about his business.  Bad Carlos is not the Carlos that beats the hell out of Gatorade machines.   Here's the real Good/Bad breakdown:

  • Good Carlos: Carlos throwing strikes
  • Bad Carlos: Carlos not throwing strikes

Simple.  So Carlos, go out there and throw strikes.

You all know my opinions of Wandy Rodriguez.  He's become a very nice pitcher.  He has a name that sounds suspiciously like a burger joint.  And so while his numbers may evoke thoughts of one Theodore Roosevelt Lilly, he shall never compare.

Thurday, June 8th - Ryan Dempster vs. Roy Oswalt

While Dempster's overall numbers are only middling (4.12 ERA, 4-3 record), he's been great since the calendar turned.  In the last four weeks, Dempster has a 2.90 ERA and has really improved his control.  Given what he's been dealing with regarding his daughter, the numbers are doubly impressive.  Perhaps his recent bout of inspired baseball...really is inspired.  So far, Ryan's done nothing but live up to his contract (some might say two months into a four year contract is too soon to judge...not me).  Here's hoping he continues his recent trend of pitching and that his daughter continues to inspire him as she overcomes her own obstacles.

Oswalt has definitely been less than good so far this year, but looking at his peripherals, it's hard to see why.  His K:BB numbers are slightly on the bad side of his usual line, but not any worse than in 2007.  Same with his WHIP.   In fact, the only thing that he's clearly been worse at is giving up the extra base hits; his homer rate is way up (12 already, usually a season's worth for him).  Looking at his Ground ball to fly ball ratio (0.67), hitters are getting the ball into the air far more often on him and it's proceeding to leave the park a bit more often.  Also, a greater percentage of contract against him has been line drives than ever before (20%), suggesting all the hits he's been giving up have been earned.  Looks like Oswalts's having a down year, stuff-wise.  Okay, I guess that wasn't so hard to figure out after all.  Nevermind.  Here's hoping the trend continues.

Conclusion

Nothing to conclude because whatever I type here affects the Cubs outcome.  Because I'm magic.  I think I might be a witch.

Although, I will say that the MLB Draft is today!  Bring on the prospects!  I will be live blogging the event, although not in any kind of written format.  However, if you happen to be around me this afternoon, you can watch my lips move as I maintain a running inner monologue (or "monoblog").

Go Cubs.

Gamecast: June 7th at Reds

Randy Wells (0-1, 1.69 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (7-4, 5.37 ERA)

Story-lines

I saw Randy Wells pitch in person on Tuesday in Atlanta, and I thought that he was finally going to get his first victory.

I had an internal debate whether or not that I should pull out the camera to shoot the final couple innings. That debate was ended when Chipper Jones slapped a single to left. In the end, Wells was once again the unluckiest pitcher in Major League Baseball History as Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg blew the game.

As for Bronson Arroyo, he might be the luckiest pitcher in the NL. Somehow he's won 7 games with a 5.37 ERA. What gives? Wells has been almost perfect and can't buy a win, while Bronson's won 7. It just doesn't seem fair.

Last night the Cubs defense allowed 3 unearned runs, and now they find themselves 4.5 games behind the Brewers. The Cubs still have a chance to win the series.

Who's Hot

Derrek Lee - Lee had two more hits yesterday as his average moved closer to .270.

Geovanny Soto - Ok, it's a stretch that he's really hot, but he hit a home run. That's good in my book.

Angel Guzman - After years of frustration, Guzman has gotten his act together. In my book, he's been the biggest surprise this year.

Who's Not

The Cub Defense - Two errors and a bad route by Mike Fontenot in the 11th caused the Cubs to drop a game they could've really won.

Conclusions

This has been an up and down week for the Cubs. So, they might as well end on a positive note with a series win over the Red.

Gamecast: June 6th at Reds

GameCastRyan Dempster (4-3, 4.48 ERA) vs. Matt Maloney (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Story-lines
The Cubs go for the series win in game two tonight against the Cincinnati Reds, which is something we haven't said a lot this season it seems. Ryan Demspter, who hasn't pitched since May 30th, is coming off his best start of the year. He threw 7 shutout innings against the Dodgers and didn't walk a batter. Hopefully, Dempster has turned the corner and is more of the guy who threw in the regular season last season.

For the Reds, Matt Maloney makes his Major League debut today (which is never a good sign for the Cubs). Maloney, originally drafted by the Phillies, came over in a deal for Kyle Lohse in 2007. Since then, he has pitched fairly well for the Reds, which includes 58/9 K/BB ratio this season in Louisville. Also, since he's a lefty that means Reed Johnson will get the start in center. It could also mean a start for Jake Fox finally, but I doubt it happens.

The Cubs offense went to sleep last night, with the GWRBI coming from Carlos Zambrano last night. If there is any good news it is that Zambrano can pinch-hit again if Lou keeps burning players in double switches like in Atlanta.

Who's Hot
Cubs Starting Pitching - The Cubs starters have really gotten the job done in recent weeks. That continued last night when Zambrano threw 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball. Ted Lilly and Randy Wells also added great starts this week, so all those people calling for Jake Peavy might want to hold off for a little bit.

Mike Fontenot
- He had the huge hit against Derek Lowe on Wednesday. He followed that up with a bases-loaded two-out walk and another hit last night. He's up to .232 overall.

Who's Not
Micah Hoffpauir - Just goes to show that it is never easy coming off the bench after his 0-for-4 night, including a one-out bases-loaded strikeout in the first inning. Granted, he did come up with the game winner on Wednesday. So, I'll give him a little slack, even if he is 1-for-8 in his last five games.

Alfonso Soriano - It's hard to put a guy with a four-game hitting streak in the cold section, but Soriano has seen his batting average drop during this time. We've all seen him go through these slumps before, but he's down to .244 overall. Right now, I just feel that he can't be counted on to come up with the big hit. While I was at the games this week it was obvious that people are just setting him up for sliders and breaking balls away. I'm ready for one of those crazy hot two weeks where he carries the Cubs.

Conclusions
I really don't like this matchup with the way the Cubs are swinging the bats. A lefty rookie with good control doesn't give me the greatest feeling inside. Hopefully, Maloney will be nervous and give up a couple long balls that lead to a 4-2 Cubs win.

GameCast: June 5th - Cubs at Cincinnati

GameCastCarlos Zambrano (3-2, 4.22 ERA) vs. Micah Owings (3-6, 5.10 ERA)
Story-lines
It seems that whenever Carlos Zambrano is the story it's bad news.  Either he just punched out his catcher, or he ejected the umpire from the game (I always visualize Zambrano picking the ump up by the pants and heave-hoing him into the stands) or he's missed a team flight or he's breaking through walls or something. 

That's fine.  Zambrano has never shied away from drama and he's never wilted under the intense pressure of his own emotions.  And I certainly don't speak for Cub fans everywhere but it wouldn't bother me at all to see him acting like a child if he had a better record than 3-2, and a better ERA than 4.22.  If Carlos was 7-1 with a 2.65 ERA he could be drowning kittens between innings and I'd be mosty okay with it.

Tonight he's under the microscope.  As I am writing this a little late I'm pleased to note that he started out just fine, striking out swinging the first 3 batters he faced -- although he took 21 pitches to do it. 

Who's Hot (sorry, I'm just copying it straight from the last, rained-out GameCast)
The Gooz - He hasn't allowed a run since May 8th and
he has turned into the most reliable pitcher out of the pen.  I'm happy
to have apparently been wrong about him as I would have voted him off
the island back in March.

D.Lee - A .381 AVG in the past week is nothing to scoff
at.  Lee is still a ways away from being "on track" but at least now
he's on pace to hit 22 homers, 33 doubles, and to drive in 77 RBI. 
Wait -- 77 RBI?!  As he has only exclusively batted 3rd or 4th this
season, I cannot emphasize how tremendously this can be used to example
just how ridiculously bad the offense has been.  77 RBI.  Sheesh.

Kosuke Fukudome - Well, "hot" might be the wrong word for it.  More like "warm."  Fuku is batting .286 with an OBP of .353 in the past week.  He's slown down from his earth-shattering start, although I wouldn't scoff at his numbers.

Who's Not
T.Fonz - He's 5 for his last
28 with 9 strikeouts.  Fonzie is a hot-and-cold kind of player.  The
only problem is that he's been exclusively cold for a while now.  Lou
needs to think about sucking it up and dropping him in the lineup.

Geo Soto - Although Geo is indeed slumping, and may
indeed lose some play-time to Three Finger if Hill earns it, Soto
exited May with a .278 AVG, a .376 OBP, and a .730 OPS.  Not fantastic,
although that puts him in the top 6 among catchers with as many-or-more
at-bats as he had last month.  Just some levity for you.

Conclusions
State-the-obvious time: this is an important game and an important series.  The Cubs can get within range of first place if they can trounce the Reds.  As of this writing they are winning by 1 -- never a safe lead in Chicago -- and Zambrano is effective but wasting pitches.  Well, wasting pitches is fine.  Wasting opportunities to win is not.  That is all. 

GameCast: June 4th - Cubs at Braves Rubber Match

GameCastCarlos Zambrano (3-2, 4.22 ERA) vs. Jair Jurrjens (5-2, 2.59 ERA) 
Story-lines

Rob may have been the one to point out how the '09 Cubs are looking an awful lot like the '04 model.  They've got so much talent it makes you sick but various problems coupled with burn-outs mixed with a healthy dose of insane antics makes for a team that's hard to cheer. 

Still, that doesn't have to be the story of the season.  It needn't even be the story of June.  But one thing that needs to change is how the team plays on the road.  So far this year the Cubs are 10-15 outside of Wrigley Field, almost a mirror image of their 16-10 home record.

First, though, they actually need to play this game.  Since there's a possibility of it being called due to rain before I hit "publish," this may be one of the make-up games the Cubs have later this season.  Still, on the assumption of baseball happening...

Who's Hot
The Gooz - He hasn't allowed a run since May 8th and he has turned into the most reliable pitcher out of the pen.  I'm happy to have apparently been wrong about him as I would have voted him off the island back in March.

D.Lee - A .381 AVG in the past week is nothing to scoff at.  Lee is still a ways away from being "on track" but at least now he's on pace to hit 22 homers, 33 doubles, and to drive in 77 RBI.  Wait -- 77 RBI?!  As he has only exclusively batted 3rd or 4th this season, I cannot emphasize how tremendously this can be used to example just how ridiculously bad the offense has been.  77 RBI.  Sheesh.

Kosuke Fukudome - Well, "hot" might be the wrong word for it.  More like "warm."  Fuku is batting .286 with an OBP of .353 in the past week.  He's slown down from his earth-shattering start, although I wouldn't scoff at his numbers.

Who's Not
T.Fonz - He's 5 for his last 28 with 9 strikeouts.  Fonzie is a hot-and-cold kind of player.  The only problem is that he's been exclusively cold for a while now.  Lou needs to think about sucking it up and dropping him in the lineup.

Geo Soto - Although Geo is indeed slumping, and may indeed lose some play-time to Three Finger if Hill earns it, Soto exited May with a .278 AVG, a .376 OBP, and a .730 OPS.  Not fantastic, although that puts him in the top 6 among catchers with as many-or-more at-bats as he had last month.  Just some levity for you.

Conclusions
Maybe I should create the Carlos Zambrano Meter of Diminished Expectations or something.  Probably not.  Still, I'd expect a win tonight if the game gets played. 

GameCast: June 3rd - Cubs at Atlanta (aw, crap)

GameCastTed Lilly (6-4, 3.50 ERA vs. Derek Lowe (6-3, 3.49 ERA)
Story-Lines
Oops.  I guess I got distracted plotting Cubs 101 stories from now until October.  My bad (at least my forgetfulness occurred in service of the blog).

After suffering yesterday's heartbreaking loss, the Cubs take on the Braves again without the apparently overwhelming pressure of delivering Randy Wells his first big league win. 

As Rob bravely noted earlier, this Cubs team needs to stop screwing around or else risk being mediocre all year long.  The only problem is that, for a bunch of reasons we haven't seen the real Cubs yet.  They've either all been slumping, or battling various injuries, or turning to ridiculously bad relief pitchers who waste uniform fabric. 

I will note that, as of this belated writing, the Cubs offense has enjoyed the first strike thanks to a Fontenot double.  But until Lou really shakes up his bullpen a 2 run lead means nothing.

Who's Hot
Mike Fontenot, Derrek Lee, Reed Johnson - the Cubs offense has been a lot of hit and miss all year long, but lately they've mostly been hit.  That hasn't guaranteed victory by any stretch though on account of the "who's not" category.

Who's Not
Geovany Soto, Kevin Gregg, Aaron Heilman - Soto will be sitting for a little while which will be fine with some people (Rob in particular).  Three Finger Hill has been pretty effective in limited play anyway.  Gregg and Heilman, meanwhile, appear to have caught whatever it was that had infected Neal Cotts.  They need to be used differently or -- dare I say it -- outright cut.

Conclusions
With Lilly on the mound, and having scored first, the Cubs should have a decent shot at winning.  But for the time being no lead is safe.  It's way too early too call the season over or anything, but it's also way too early to really believe in this team.  They've got a lot to prove.

GameCast: June 2nd - Cubs at Atlanta

GameCastRandy Wells (0-2, 1.80 ERA) vs. Kenshin Kawakami (3-6, 4.73 ERA)

It seems it was only yesterday that the Braves were the bitter nemesis of the Cubs.  Not that there was a long-heated rivalry or anything, but it really burned our asses to watch a Greg Maddux in his prime square off against the Cubs and often own them.  These days that bottom-burning has passed, although this series remains a fairly important one with some implications. 

Story-lines
Two .500ish teams at a cross-roads, vying for control of their own destinies and the chance to seize a playoff spot in the near future.  The only problem is that they are headed in opposite directions (at least in theory).  After slipping, stumbling, and eventually being held down and beaten, the Cubs have managed to rise up and win 4 out of their last 6.  Meanwhile the Braves have lost 5 out of their last 7.  I'm sure Cub fans everywhere are pulling for Atlanta to continue the downward spiral, although the bad news is that they took their beating on the road.  They may be a different -- and harder to defeat -- team at Turner Field.

This marks the 5th start this season for Randy Wells.  Project his numbers to a full 32 starts and we'd be looking at 200 innings pitched, 176 hits surrendered, 56 walks allowed, 184 strikeouts, an ERA of 1.80, and a record of 0-16.  Surely something must change.

Considering how poorly Sean Marshall did his last outing, and how quick things can change on the grand stage of Major League Baseball, then it seems likely -- nay, inevitable -- that a continuously successful Wells may usurp Sean for the 5th starter's spot once Rich Harden returns.  This probably wouldn't be the worst thing in the world since the Cubs currently have 0 reliable lefty relievers in the bullpen, but it's still a little premature to assume that it will happen. 

Who's Hot
Reed Johnson - in the past week he's 8 for 15 with 2 homeruns and 6 RBI.  He's gone from a cold backup outfielder to being so hot the Cubs may scramble to find a position for him in the immediate future.

Mike Fontenot - yes, it's true.  Lil' Babe Ruth is batting 6 for his last 18, or .333 with an OPS of .924.  He's not out of the woods yet but it's not too late for Fontenot to have himself a respectable season with the Cubs.

Ryan Theriot - Joining Johnson in the .500 club, Theriot has gone 8 for his last 16 although he's in a homerless spell.  The powerful shortstop has had something like 56 at bats since his last homerun.  Seems to me that he's overdue.

Milton Bradley - 6 for his last 15, Bradley is another guy batting .400 with an impressive 1.060 OPS.  If he's finally gotten comfortable then the Cubs offense is going to really heat up in the month of June.

Jake Fox - I'd be lax if I failed to mention that the newest former Iowan is 3 for his first 7 with a double and an RBI.  It would be refreshing if he actually played at a high level all year long.

Who's Not
Alfonso Soriano - If it's true that the Fonz can single-handedly win baseball games with his bat, then it must also be true that, as a lead-off hitter, he can suck the life right out of a team if he's cold.  Soriano is 5 for 25 with 9 strikeouts in his last 6 games.

Bobby Scales! - Et tu, Bobby?  Scales started out by making up for lost time upon his first call-up to the majors, but he's already showing signs of struggle.  In the past week he's a .182 hitter, even though 1 of his 2 hits was a homer.

Conclusion
Realistically, Wells is not a 1.80 ERA pitcher, but he's also overdue to win.  Kawakami, meanwhile, is mediocre at best.  Considering the Cubs have been playing well and the Braves have been mehdiocre lately, this is an ideal time for Randy to win. 

So, in the venacular of the South ... git 'er done! 

Gamecast: May 31st vs. Dodgers

Cubs v. DodgersEric Milton (1-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. Sean Marshall (3-3, 3.70 ERA)

Story Lines

In case you've been avoiding the Cubs for the past week, I would like to point out that they have a chance to take 3-of-4 against the best team in baseball tonight at Wrigley Field. How have they done that? Well, they continued to pitch well thanks to Randy Wells, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster. Then, yesterday they broke out the bats to club the Dodgers 7-0.

All of the sudden the Cubs are showing signs of life before heading out on a 9-day road trip to Atlanta, Houston and Cincinnati next week. With Milwaukee pounding the Reds this afternoon, the best they can be is 3.5 games out of first, which is just fine. The Brewers and Cardinals are in action tomorrow, so maybe we can pick up a half game without playing.

Back to the game at hand, the Dodgers are throwing Eric Milton. I thought he retired or something. Apparently, Milton did not pitch in '08, before signing a Minor League deal with the Dodgers this season. So far he's made two starts and is 1-0. I can't imagine he will keep up his 3.00 ERA, so I expect the Cubs to score a few today. Milton marks the fifth lefty the Cubs have faced this week, which is something you don't see often. They have fared pretty well against them, except Randy Wolf on Thursday.

Marshall will counter for the Cubs. In his last three starts, he's only gone five innings in each of them. Of course one of them was a rain-shortened complete game, but it is an interesting trend to look at in the time being. Unless somebody else gets hurt or the Cubs trade for another lefty, Marshall will move to the pen when Rich Harden comes back. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but if Randy Wells keeps pitching out of his mind it won't matter much.

The only other thing that's really got to worry Cub fans is the super-ice-cold Alfonso Soriano. Pat Hughes made a statement yesterday that he was a limping after catching a fly ball, but he stayed in the game. The Cubs really can't afford to lose another player, but playing with half a player really isn't that great either.

Who's Hot
Reed Johnson - What has gotten into Reed? He shaves his beard and goes nuts. In the last seven days, Johnson is hitting a not so cool, .389 with 3 HRS while posting a 1.339 OPS. Also, Reed is doing the little things like laying down 2-out bunts. This recent hot streak has raised his overall average to .270. Now if we can some other guys this hot.

Mike Fontenot - Nine days ago Fontenot was hitting .193 after a pinch-hit appearance. I guess he thought he might lose his job or something, because he's raised his average 37 points. He came up  with a 2-for-3 preformance yesterday that included a double and a triple, not to mention a walk and two RBI.

Milton Bradley
- Well he didn't do any real damage, but he collected three hits and saw his average raise to .223. Hopefully, he's ready to carry the team for a couple weeks and get up to around .270.

Who's Not

Alfonso Soriano - What's cooler than being cool? Well, I guess it's Soriano, who went 0-for-5 yesterday. He's average has dropped to .246, and he hasn't hit a HR since May 17th.

Bobby Scales - It wasn't a great day for Crash Davis. Scales rapped into two double plays and left four guys on base.

Conclusions

After losing a game on Thrusday it seemed unlikley the Cubs could win this series, but they have that chance now. I suspect the Cubs will put together a good performance and get pick up their second straight series win.

Also, I'm going to all three game in Atlanta. Scott Lange, of the Northside Lounge, and I will be tailgating at least a couple of days this week. I will try and post more details later, but we're probably sitting in the Upper Deck. Leave a comment below if you anybody wants to get together.

Gamecast: May 30th vs. Dodgers

Eric Stults (4-1, 4.29 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (3-3, 4.99 ERA)

Story Lines

How many people thought we were going to lose yesterday after Matt Kemp hit that fly ball that turned into a home run? ......Wow, a majority of our fans that like pain. Well, I don't really like pain, and Koyie Hill made me feel much better in the bottom of the inning. Then, give it up to Kosuke Fukudome, who came through by putting the ball in play with the bases loaded. Anyway, the Cubs held onto to win 2-1 and pulled within 3.5 games of first after a Cardinal loss. As bad as things have been, the Cubs are still right in the middle of things in the NL Central. Please don't give up hope, because a season is a wild ride.

I won't be watching today, since Fox has picked up the Braves game today. It seems like most of the nation will be catching the Cubs game, except me.

Today, the Cubs will hope that Ryan Dempster gets his stuff together. Which would include a few things like:

• Dempster doesn't walk 7 Dodgers.
• Demspter doesn't yell at an Ump
• Dempster doesn't destroy the Gatorade machine

In all seriousness, Dempster had four pretty good starts in a row before Monday's blow up against the Pirates. I had a feeling that Dempser would be up and down this year, and he hasn't disappointed.

Countering for the Dodgers is Eric Stults, who has been pretty decent for the team from L.A. The biggest thing is that Stults is a lefty, so that means Reed Johnson will once again get the call. Hopefully we will see Jake Fox one of these next two days with lefties on the mound.

Who's Hot

Jake Fox - Since being called up as he's done is go 3-for-4. Interestingly, all three hits are in pinch-hit situations. Granted the one he didn't get a hit happened to end the game Thursday.

Cub pitchers - The offense might be struggling, but the pitchers have done their job. Ted Lilly and Randy Wells have been outstanding the last two nights. Also, the bullpen has done their job. If they keep it up, it is only a matter of time before the Cubs start putting together long winning streaks.

Who's Not

Andres Blanco - He did make a couple nifty plays in the field yesterday, but he left five guys on base, and only has one hit in three games. If Theriot is healthy today, you have to think he's back on the bench.

Conclusions

The Cubs have a great chance to take the series if they win today with the Dodgers throwing Eric Milton tomorrow. Don't look now, but the Cubs have won 3-of-4. I feel a winning streak coming on and it starts today.

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