School's out for Summer! Oh, well that doesn't really apply to the Cubs, but it does to me, and it is cause for celebration. What does that mean? Well, I hope it means a Cubs victory today.
The Cubs lost a tough one last night, and they try and rebound against the Dodgers' best pitcher, Chad Billingsley.
Sorry for the lateness of the post, but I was getting grades done at school and it's my wife's 30th birthday today.
Can we just skip this?
The Cub offense.
It will tough for the Cubs today, but I think we win in honor of my wife.
Note From Kurt
It would be nice to see the Cubs pummel the hottest team in baseball, but it seems that the Cubs and Dodgers tend to play pretty close games. As we noted yesterday a speedy, nit-picky Los Angeles team exposes the flaws in the way the Cubs have been built. ie - Chicago doesn't do enough to prevent the steal and aggressive base-running from playing a big factor in the outcome of a game. Fortunately most teams don't play with that style, but the Dodgers have a number of players who wanna hold that base for a while.
The thing is, it's never easy and can sometimes be heart-breaking but the Cubs can beat the nit-picky teams. It's when the nit-picky team has that added element - and last October it was Manny and his long bombs - that it becomes a fruitless exercise in frustration.
Not that this contributes anything to the GameCast, I just thought I'd point it out. Go Cubs!
Your name is Randy Wells. You are a relatively unheralded 26-year-old who regrettably shares a resemblance with Kevin Federline. You are playing for the team that drafted you as a catcher and thought so highly of you as a pitcher that they left you unprotected for the Rule V draft -- resulting in your first cup of coffee in the majors with the Blue Jays last year. Now you're back, and, although you've been ridiculously good in your first 4 starts this year, nobody is giddy with your potential and it seems as if you couldn't buy a win with all your bonus money.
In last night's game against the Dodgers Wells did it again. He threw 7 innings and -- although the Dodgers knocked him around early -- he only walked 1 and surrendered 2 earned runs. His ERA is now 1.80, he's got 23 strikeouts in 25 innings, and he's not only winless but mokes like me are planning ahead to when -- not if, but when -- he'll get demoted to the bullpen.
Perhaps the term that best describes how that happened last night could be this: offensive druthers.
While Wells was trying to save the ship, the Cubs as a team collected 9 hits, 3 walks, and grounded into 4 double plays. In fact, every Cubs regular got at least one hit but, had Bobby Scales! not made the most of his return trip to the majors with a homerun*, the Cubs would've been shut out. This is frustratingly despite the Cubs stranding 5 men on base in the final 2 innings - 4 of whom reached their base before there'd been a single out. Maybe Carlos broke all their run-scoring bats in a fit of anger?
(*Gabby Hartnett had his Homer in the Gloamin', Bobby Scales! has his now-legendary Please Don't Demote Me Again Dinger. Not quite as catchy)
The one thing this game really reminded me of was last October. The Dodgers are the kind of team that's built to give the Cubs trouble. They run a lot, their pitchers surrender groundballs, and they'll beat you on singles and steals. You know, if this game reminded us of anything it isn't that the Cubs should desperately do something to rattle Soto's cage but, instead, maybe they should recognize that at the best of times -- when his shoulder isn't gimpy -- he's never going to be Hank Whitesque when it comes to gunning down base runners. As much as I love Three Finger Hill, maybe the Cubs need to look for that catcher with the Chip Caray "lazer-beam" arm.
I digress. The Cubs play tonight ... for vengence!
It's the battle of the Randy's today as Wolf takes on Wells in a 12-round fight. Err, 9-round? Oh, forgot it. Anyway, the Cubs come into tonight's matchup smoking hot. They've scored 19 runs in three games against a dynamic foe. Who am I kidding? Ok, the Cubs did what they had to do to beat the Pirates, now they must face the best team in baseball, not to mention the enemies of last year's .....well, you know.
Wells has been as solid as a call up could be. Too bad he hasn't won a game thanks to Kevin Gregg and some lackluster offense. Wells will have his hands full tonight with the Dodgers. Right now the Dodgers lead the league in BA, Runs, and OBP. Their only 2nd in OPS, and fourth in Slugging.
The Cubs are only 4-games out of first with everybody else off tonight. So, this is an excellent chance to gain a little ground.
Carlos Zambrano continues to dominate the news a day after his gentle disagreement. The more I look at the video, the more I believe the ump bumped into Big Z. The word just came down, and Z will get six games. My guess is it is reduced to five games and he won't miss a start. It will probably be reduced on appeal, and Z will miss one start at most. With an off say on Monday, the Cubs could just adjust the rotation without calling up anybody.
In other news, Ryan Freel was placed on the DL, and Bobby Scales was called back up. I hope he actually didn't make it Iowa, but if did at least he got some airline miles for his troubles.
Mike Fontenot - don't look now, but Fontenot is 6-for-15 in his last six games. He's not driving in runs, but he has to start somewhere.
Geovanny Soto - Geo is still not hitting for power, but he is drawing walks and getting on base. He's got five hits in his last five games. Now, if we can only get a few more HRs.
Ryan Theriot - After a little slump, Theriot started hitting again. He went 3-for-3 yesterday.
Jake Fox - Ok, I know it's early, but the man just hits. He's got a 3.00 OPS right now (I know it's just one AB).
Light hitting middle infielders - Aaron Miles and Ryan Freel now find themselves on the better side of the DL in many Cub fan hearts. The good thing was that neither of them were really hitting.
Derrek Lee - Lee had a 0-for-3 yesterday and is up to .246 on the year. We really need to see a few more 2-for-4 days with some 2B's and HR's.
The Cubs should destroy Randy Wolf, but stranger things have happened. Wells is long overdue for win, and I think he picks it up tonight.
The Cubs won a game yesterday. Can you believe it? I will repeat it for effect: the Cubs won a game yesterday! It's about time. I'm not one to go all doom and gloom, but a eight-game losing streak will get on anybody's nerves, including the most faithful of Cub fans.
Today, the Cubs go for their first series win in ages (ok, I know it is only a couple weeks, but still). They will send Carlos Zambrano to the mound against notorious Cub killer Zach Duke.
This is another in a string of lefties the Cub will face in the next couple days. Do you know what that means? Reed Johnson better get some extra BP.
Believe it or not, the Cubs are only four games back heading into today's matchup. Of course they can't gain any group with the Cardinals and Brewers playing each other.
In good news, the offense has shown signs of life. After being shutout for what seems like two solid weeks, the Cubs have scored 14 runs in the last two games (too bad it only meant one victory).
UPDATE: As I was writing this, the Cubs made three moves to improve the ball club. It looks like Bobby Scales and Neal Cotts are headin to AAA, while Aaron Miles is going on the DL. Jason Waddell takes the lone lefty spot on the roster, while Jake Fox is called up. I would think that Fox would get a start today against the lefty. Also, the Cubs called up Andres Blanco, who was playing SS in AAA. We will see how many of these guys get a start.
Kosuke Fukudome - Say what you want from the man from Japan, but he continues to look good. He hit his fifth home run yesterday that gave the Cubs a lead they wouldn't lose. He's also the only Cub regular that is active and hitting over .300.
Mike Fontenot - This may be a little early, but Theriot's double play partner had two more hits last night. That gives him five hits in three games. He might get the day off with the Cubs facing a lefty again today.
The Cubs Pen - They were perfect last night. They didn't allow a run during the rain delay and kept Marshall's 6-1 lead in tact. Also, the Cubs get Carlos Marmol back today after his wife gave birth. So, that's a plus.
Ryan Freel, Aaron Miles and any other player that's not Mark DeRosa - Freel went 0-for-3 last night and saw his average slide to .125. Miles is killing it with a .204 average.
The Cubs really, really need to win. It's going to be tough since Carlos is still working his way back from his injury, while the Pirates toss Duke. I think the Cubs win in a close one, hopefully with a home run from new Cub Jake Fox.
We have on one hand the worst team in the NL Central with a long history of losing, a sick fan base, and no promise of a better 2009. We have on the other hand the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wait, what?
Start that over.
If ever there was a team the hapless Pirates could sweep, it would be not the 2009 Cubs, but the May 17th-May 24* 2009 Cubs. The Cubs of the past week have been bad. Real bad. They've been turn your hair grey and make you kiss a guy bad. But unless this is 1904, the Cubs offense is bound to average more than 1.5 runs a game. Things are going to get better.
(*date could change)
Let's just skip this section for now. Nobody on the offense is hot. With apologies to Reed Johnson -- who hit a dinger yesterday -- it takes more than one hit in a game to be "hot" and the Cubs offense is about as cold as your wife would be if she discovered that you just bought your favorite car without consulting her.
However, the Cubs rotation has been pretty damned good. In the past 7 days, as a team their ERA has been below 4. You would think that a sub-4 team ERA would warrant at least a .500 record rather than 7 straight losses, but... well ... no.
In particular, Aaron Heilman has been getting his ass kicked as of late - he's allowed 3 runs in his last 2 innings of work and he was at least partly responsible for Ted Lilly's recent bad performance. (Not in the sense that he kicked Lilly in the back of the head before the 5th inning or anything, but rather in the sense that Lilly exited disgracefully with runners on and Heilman failed to keep them from scoring.)
The Cubs offense, by the way, is batting -- as a team, mind you -- .160 in the last 7 days. Subtract the prodigeous contributions of Derrek Tiberius Lee and that's a .137 team AVG. Speaking of Lee, 125 at bats into 2009 and he is still DP free. Just wanted to remind you.
Jason said it best earlier. Best bring your brooms to Wrigley Field, biatches. There's gonna be some sweepin' to do in a coupla days! SWEEEEEEE...
Woof. Look what I missed -- when I left, the Cubs were starting to look good. They'd put things together. They were stringing together a nice little streak. Then I go on vacation and everything falls apart. The offense dies, the readers are angry, the writers are dejected, and it's still only May!
Well, my brothers, this is baseball for us. We're in the pit right now looking out but without hope. No matter what happens it's going to be this point in time that really defines the season for the Cubs. Either this is where they come together, climb out, and play the baseball we know they're capable of, or this is the beginning of where everything ends.
I don't know which one it is, but I do know this: people - be they fans or players - who quit on a baseball team with a winning record this early in the season do not have the right to call themselves fans and are not the kinds of players I'd want on the team I follow. So if that sounds like you, scram kiddo. We're not the place for you, yet.
Not the Cubs. Haw! I kill me. Seriously:
In the week I've been gone, Derrek Lee has batted .458 -- that's 11 for his last 24, with 2 homeruns but a meager 3 RBI. I could have sworn that Rob just published an article like, yesterday, in which he wrote "Derrek Lee is not only still struggling, but he's now doing it in the cleanup spot." I guess maybe he's watching baseball from the alternate Fringe universe?
But seriously, it's a lonely offense for Lee right now because he's the only one hitting anything.
Let's see. Ryan Theriot - 3 for 25, .120 AVG in his last 7 games.
Alfonso Soriano - 4 for 22, .182 AVG.
Milton Bradley - 3 for 20, .150 AVG.
Kosuke Fukudome - 4 for 20, .200 AVG.
Mike Fontenot - 3 for 17, .176 AVG.
Geovany Soto - 4 for 17, .235 AVG.
Aaron Miles - 1 for 11, .091 AVG.
Micah Hoffpauir - 2 for 10, .200 AVG.
Bobby Scales - 0 for 10, .000 AVG.
That's 9 Cubs, 152 at bats, and 24 hits, for a .158 Team AVG (minus Derrek Lee). That's also 5 RBI between all 9 over those 152 at bats.
Friends, this offense is capable of doing better than hitting like Randy Johnson. I'm just saying.
I've been gone for a week. I've clearly missed a lot. Rich Harden went onto the DL for a non-arm related reason. Colin re-appeared after having vanished and I never knew that a single-sentence post could bring me such joy, even as it lamented the bad news of Harden's problems. The Cubs have gotten hammered.
I'll have the Game Recap tonight and tomorrow I'll cook up a longer piece on the shape of the team, but I'll just say it again in case it didn't set in earlier...
This team is better than its .158 AVG this past week. Stop being a baby. Let them work it out.
Just a quick couple of post script comments...
First, thanks so much to AJ, Yarbage, and the rest for keeping the ship floating while I was gone. I appreciate their hard work and I hope you guys appreciate their hard work too.
Second, we'll have a new GROTA skin coming soon that's going to knock your socks off, assuming we can pull it off. Stay tuned for that too.
Third, go Cubs.
Randy Wells (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Josh Geer (0-1, 5.61 ERA)
The Sky is falling! The Sky is falling!
Ok, I know it has been a rough few days, but all is not lost. The offense won't be this bad forever, and hopefully the pitching will continue to perform. Right now the Cubs need to string a few wins together and get the offense going.
Rich Harden has been moved to the DL, so Randy Wells and Sean Marshall will continue to make starts in the mean time. Tonight, Randy Wells will make the start.
Wells has been strong in his last two starts, but he has worked out of a lot trouble in the first two starts. I like what I've seen out of Wells and he might be really useful this season when guys go down.
Kosuke Fukudome - Nobody has more than one hit last night, but Kosuke had one hit and three walks. He continues to be biggest surprise of the season.
Pretty much everbody else. There is no reason to beat a dead horse, so I won't.
The Cubs are in a funk, but at least they are only four games back right now. It could be much worse. People do not give up hope. I really believe that we will turn this thing around.
Sean Marshall (2-2, 4.02 ERA) vs. Adam Wainrwright (3-2, 3.83 ERA)
The Cubs hope to find their offense tonight against Adam Wainwright, after two days of nothing. The Cubs have looked lifeless on offense, and if it weren't for a two-out pinch hit single by Micah Hoffpauir the Cubs would've been shut out twice in a row.
Both games have been close thanks to good pitching preformances from Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster. Tonight, Sean Marshall takes the mound in possibly his final start, before getting moved to the pen to replace our favorite lefty Neal Cotts. I don't know if that is a good move, but Lou hasn't used him in weeks.
The Cubs are still 3 games back after the Brewers lost to the Astros last night. There isn't much to say after the last two nights.
The other news involves Jake Peavy, who once was rumored to be heading to the North Side. There is a chance he could be headed to the White Sox. I know some people are upset about this, but the Cubs really need offense right now and not starting pitching. Now, if we could trade for a lefty in the pen or another solid bullpen guy, that might actually help.
The Cardinal pitchers - the Cubs have scored 1 run in two games.
The Cub hitters - they have manged 1 run in two days.
The Cubs need to score about five runs in the first inning just to take the pressure off themselves. I've predicted wins in the last two nights. So no predictions tonight. I just hope the Cubs put a better fight.
Ryan Dempster (4-3, 4.65 ERA) vs. Chris Carpenter (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
The Cubs sucked last night. How do I know? Well, they made a case for Joel Pineiro as a Cy Young Award Winner. They got three hits none after the fifth inning. Also, they didn't draw a walk, which is odd for them.
Tonight the Cubs face a pitcher that has been out since early April in Chris Carpenter. He should be rusty, and the Cubs should be ok, but last night has me a little worried.
Ryan Dempster toes the mound for the Cubs. He has been solid of late, and hopefully he has turned a corner.
One positive thing happened last night, Mike Fontenot got a hit. Yay! Now, lets string a few more together.
Derrek Lee - He got another hit last night, so that is a positive sign.
Hmm? The Milwaukee Brewers. Those crazy cheeseheads have won 7 in a row and lead by 3 games now.
Geovanny Soto and Milton Bradley - Both guys are back below .200 again.
The Cubs looked bad last night, so it would be nice for them to get in a groove to take this series. The Brewers and Cardinals have played out of this world for different stretches, and now it is time for the Cubs to get hot.
Ted Lilly (5-2, 3.27 ERA) vs. Joel Pineiro (4-3, 4.17 ERA)
The Cubs and Cardinals renew their rivalry in St. Louis tonight. The two teams seem to be heading into opposite directions. The Cardinals are 3-7 in their last 10, while the Cubs are 7-3.
The Cubs would be in first place if it weren't for the red-hot Milwaukee Brewers. As it stands, the Cubs are two games back of the Brewers.
The Cubs have put together a 21-15 record with all kinds of players who haven't played well or are injured.
Tonight the Cubs send Ted Lilly to the mound against Joel Pineiro. The Cubs probably have the better of the match ups tonight, but stranger things have happened.
Derrek Lee - Hello Derrek, welcome to the 2009 season, even if it took him 36 games. In his last seven games, Lee's hitting .333 with 1.012 OPS. I really hope he is breaking out and not just a quick flash in the pan.
Kosuke Fukudome - Who's hitting .400 in his last seven? Well, if you guessed Fukudome, you're right. He's not hitting for power, but he has .454 OBP.
Angel Guzman - He is quickly overtaking Aaron Heilman as the 7th Inning
pitcher. He has looked dominate in the last couple outings, which is
Mike Fontenot - Err, where's Mark Derosa when you need him? Oh right, Cleveland. As for our 2B, he hasn't had a hit since May 9th. He's in the lineup tonight, but with Scales and Freel on the roster, he might start losing AB's.
Neal Cotts and David Patton - Are these guys still on the roster? I guess so, but I feel the winds of change coming.
The Cubs really need to keep hot with the Brewers playing the Astros this week, before heading to Minnesota. The Cubs do end the week in San Diego, so they have a great chance to gain some ground.