Goatriders of the Apocalypse

GameCasts

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Gamecast: May 17th vs. Astros

Brian Moehler (0-2, 8.44 ERA) vs. Rich Harden (4-1, 4.54 ERA)

Story Lines
I spent a good hour writing a post this morning that I promptly lost when trying to add the graphic to the left. So, this is going to be a lot shorter than I wanted this morning.

There are a few things that caught me eye yesterday about Cecil Cooper, who might be the next great Dusty Baker. After the Astros scored four runs to the tie the game, they had runners on first and second with no outs. What does Cecil do? Well, he lets Jason Michaels swing away and the Cubs get out of it without further damage.

Then, in the bottom of the 9th after Bobby Scales moved to second on the sac-bunt, Cecil decides to pitch to Alfonso Soriano instead of pitching to Ryan Theriot. I know Theriot has five home runs this month, but you have to put the double play in order. Anyway, lets move on.

Milton Bradley makes his return today after his one-game suspension. Milton was starting to hit when he had to sit this week, and he hasn't played since Wednesday. Hopefully he isn't rusty from the lack of playing time.

Who's Hot
Derrek Lee - this might be a little early, but he was 1-for-3 with a walk yesterday, including putting the Cubs pu 1-0. He looked better yesterday, but he really doesn't deserve to be in the hot section. It has been a long year for Derrek, so I'm happy to see him do anything positive.

Micah Hoffpauir - Well, if Derrek Lee winds up on the DL at some point, I'm pretty sure the Hoff will do better than Phil Nevin a few years ago. He had a huge two-run home run yesterady that gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead at the time.

Angel Guzman and Carlos Marmol - they both looked really strong yesterday, the rest of the bullpen not so much.

Who's Not
Kevin Gregg and Aaron Heilman - That brings us to the 9th inning. These two were pretty bad yesterday, but Lou said that Gregg would be out there again today if the there was a save situation.

Mike Fontenot - I have a feeling that Mike Fontenot might be losing some playing time. He was 0-for-4 yesterday, and hasn't shown any signs of breaking out.

Conclusions
The Cubs really should pick up their sixth straight win today, but crazy things happen in baseball. The Cubs are all along in second place, and could be in first place tomorrow if they win and the Brewers lose.

Gamecast: May 16th vs. Astros

Roy Oswalt (1-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Story-Lines

I'm walking at my Master's graduation this morning, so I'm saving time and using part of Kurt's Gamecast from yesterday since the game was rained out.

So the Cubs were rained out yesterday, and will make that game up on July 30th, which was a common off day for both teams. Not to mention, the two teams were already playing a 3-game series that same week in Chicago.

The Cubs didn't catch a break since the Astros have decided to keep Roy Oswalt on regular rest, and not pitch Brian Moehler for today's game. However, the Cubs are going to use Randy Wells today, probably just to see him in action. I haven't read anything about tomorrow's starter, but I have a feeling that Marshal might get skipped this time through.

Milton Bradley will finally serve his one-game punishment today. I'm sure the writers will be out and in full force saying that Milton Bradley is once again hurting the team if he goes 0-for-anything on Sunday. I'm sure they will blame the fact that he had to take three days off when he was starting to heat up, blah, blah, blah.

That's all I got today, because I need to get to the second degree I've earned. The sad thing is I'm starting a new graduate degree on June 8th. I'm never going to be done with school. You can check out the Hot and not list, which is the same as yesterday.

Who's Hot
Ryan Theriot - Theriot is
currently second on the team with 5 homeruns.  That puts him on pace to
hit 24 this year assuming he avoids nasty 50-game suspensions and
bizarre ligament injuries. 

Bobby Scales! - Scales! has played in 6 games,
gotten hits in each appearance, is batting .444 on the season, and 4 of
his 8 career hits have been for extra bases.  Did we mention he's a
31-year-old rookie?  A couple more weeks of this and he just might play
his way onto the team for the full season.

Reed Johnson - After batting .216 for the month of April, the resident SWP is batting .294 in May with 6 RBI. 

Who's Not
Alfonso Soriano - An 0-fer
against the Padres has dropped Soriano's average to .271 on the
season.  Then again, he's on pace to hit a Sosaesque number of
homeruns.  Imagine what this offense will do when he goes on one of his
legendary hot streaks!

The Questionable Quartet - They've been doing
better on the whole.  Derrek has struggled since his neck tried to
break, but I remain confident that they will have some good months
ahead.

Conclusions
Starting with the Padres and continuing with
the Astros, the Cubs have picked a good time to get hot.  Neither San
Diego nor Houston are real challenges, although the Astros have an
annoying tendency to smack around Cubs pitchers. 

More than anything the outcome of this game will be determined by
the performance of Randy Wells.  He's got a lot of reasons to pitch
well, the foremost one being that if he does then he'll likely be
bullpen bound once Carlos Zambrano returns from the DL.

GameCast: May 15th - Astros v. Cubs RAINOUT

GameCastRandy Wells (0-0, 0.00 ERA) 
vs. Brian Moehler (0-2, 8.44 ERA)

Story-Lines


No Game today because of rain. The makeup date is July 30th. Check back tomorrow.
It wasn't so long ago that the Cubs were a 10-11 team on the cusp of mediocrity.  A handful of dickish fans jumped ship, sarcastically informing us that the team was finished, the Cubs sucked, and wait til next year.

...on April 30th they were telling us that.

Since May 1st, though, the Cubs have gone 10-3.  They are .5 games out of first place in the Central.  They've outscored their opponents 75 to 53 and that's with half their lineup in a slump, that's with their best hitter on the DL, that's with half the bullpen looking like re-fried shiz with a "z," and with their ace pitcher on the DL for a gimpy leg. 

So what's going to happen when they start hitting and pitching like they could?

Who's Hot
Ryan Theriot - Theriot is currently second on the team with 5 homeruns.  That puts him on pace to hit 24 this year assuming he avoids nasty 50-game supsensions and bizarre ligament injuries. 

Bobby Scales! - Scales! has played in 6 games, gotten hits in each appearance, is batting .444 on the season, and 4 of his 8 career hits have been for extra bases.  Did we mention he's a 31-year-old rookie?  A couple more weeks of this and he just might play his way onto the team for the full season.

Reed Johnson - After batting .216 for the month of April, the resident SWP is batting .294 in May with 6 RBI. 

Who's Not
Alfonso Soriano - An 0-fer against the Padres has dropped Soriano's average to .271 on the season.  Then again, he's on pace to hit a Sosaesque number of homeruns.  Imagine what this offense will do when he goes on one of his legendary hot streaks!

The Questionable Quartet - They've been doing better on the whole.  Derrek has struggled since his neck tried to break, but I remain confident that they will have some good months ahead.

Conclusions
Starting with the Padres and continuing with the Astros, the Cubs have picked a good time to get hot.  Neither San Diego nor Houston are real challenges, although the Astros have an annoying tendency to smack around Cubs pitchers. 

More than anything the outcome of this game will be determined by the performance of Randy Wells.  He's got a lot of reasons to pitch well, the foremost one being that if he does then he'll likely be bullpen bound once Carlos Zambrano returns from the DL.

Gamecast: May 14th vs. Padres, Sweep Edition


Chad Gaudin (0-2, 4.08 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (2-2, 4.98 ERA)

Story-Lines
The Cubs are looking for a sweep, which has been rare this season, but totally doable against the lowly San Diego Padres. If you can believe it, the Cubs are only .5 games back of the Cardinals for the NL Central lead. Of course, the Brewers also share the lead, while the Cubs are tied with the Reds (Is that possible?). The Brewers and Cardinals are in action today, and they actually play each other this weekend.

This afternoon also marks the return of Chad Gaudin (or Mr. Crazy Bread Face) to Wrigley Field. Gaudin was terrible in Spring Training, but the Cubs might be able to use him now. At this point, I'm pretty sure I would rather have a veteran rather than David Patton.

Can we stop giving up 2-run home runs to Adrian Gonzalez in the first inning? That is getting a little crazy.

For the Cubs, Ryan Dempster takes the hill once again for the Cubs. He pitched against the Brewers last time out and gave up 5 runs (4 earned) in a loss. He still hasn't been as dominate as last year. At times he has looked solid, but he hasn't been commanding his pitches. His main problem is leaving balls up in the zone, which has been translating into balls that are hit hard. It would be really nice to see him turn in a nice string of starts.

Who's Hot
Ryan Theriot - Who cares about two nights ago? An 0-for-5, no big deal. Now, last night, that was the real Theriot. He blasted two home runs and is well on his way to 20+. Theriot is slugging .480 this season. Now, I don't think he will keep slugging that high. But a .400 percentage would career-high for a full season.

Kosuke Fukudome - He might be this season's biggest surprise. He's currently riding a 6-game hitting streak.

Geovanny Soto - Soto hit some balls real hard last night, including his first home run of the season. His average is up to .193. Hopefully he is coming out of the slump, because the Cubs really could use it with Aramis Ramirez out for a while.

Who's Not
Derrek Lee - While Soto is up to .193, Lee has fallen to .194 on the season. Not to mention, he looks totally lost at the plate. I wouldn't be shocked if Lee didn't see some time on DL, or at least get a break to give Micah Hoffpauir a few ABs.

Mike Fontenot - Maybe the Cubs are lucky guys like Ryan Freel and Bobby Scales are on the roster, because Fontenot is back in a slump. He's 1-for-22 in his last 7 games.  

Conclusions
The Cubs are primed for a sweep if they can get to Gaudin early, and keep the offense going. I really feel like Dempster was moved up on regular rest to face the worse lineup, so it should mean a Cubs victory (I hope).

GameCast: May 13th Padres vs. Cubs

GameCastChris Young (2-1, 4.76 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (4-2, 3.11 ERA)
Story-lines

It wasn't too long ago that Chris Young engaged our own Derrek Lee in a legendary wuss-fight.  They swung, they flailed, they didn't connect.  It was legendary. 

Young should face Lee again tonight.  I'm sure it will be a very professional battle in which the Cubs first baseman strikes out repeatedly while trying to pretend that his neck shouldn't be in a splint.

Meanwhile Ted Lilly will be looking to improve on his already impressive numbers.  Before long he'll ascend to the "ace pitcher" role, securing in the process the right to pitch the first game of the playoffs only for the Cubs to get hammered. 

In all seriousness, Theodore Roosevelt is looking pretty special right now.  And isn't he technically the team's #3 pitcher?

Who's Hot
Alfonso Soriano - The Fonz is coming off of a three hit, two double night.  He is presently on pace to hit 47 doubles, 52 homeruns, and to steal 21 bases.  By the way, as a leadoff man he's on pace to drive in 114 RBI.  The Cubs are stacked in the lineup but that is bound to go down a bit.

Kosuke Fukudome - He's been looking a lot more like what we expected from him than the second coming of Ichiro, but Fukudome remains an offensive force on the team.  It was a lot like this a year ago now, but let's just stare in awe at this guy, who is presently on pace for 51 doubles, 6 triples, 23 homers, 23 steals, and most impressive to me 124 walks!  Wow!

Bobby Scales! - 5 games played, a 5 game hitting streak, a triple, a homer, and a .429 average for this 31-year-old switch-hitting rookie.  Add in some awesome versatility and the Cubs have themselves a bench guy they could've been using since day one, were they not focused on having the deepest outfield in baseball.

Who's Not
The Questionable Quartet (minus 1) - Where to start.  Mike Fontenot was up to .266 on May 3rd.  Since then he's gone 1 for 20.  Ugh.  Geovany Soto is still only batting .175 on the season, although he's 9 for 34 in the month of May (.265 AVG).  Then again, only 1 of his 9 hits were for extra bases.  Guh.  Derrek Lee had been hitting the ball better before missing 5 straight games due to his neck.  In his return he went 0 for 3 with 3 strikeouts.  Yuck.  And Milton Bradley represents the minus 1 having hit safely in his last 6 games including 2 homeruns and 6 RBI.

Conclusions
Young is not looking great.  Lilly is pitching fantastically.  The Cubs offense continues to show signs of becoming an unstoppable force.  In other words, as usual I'm expecting a win.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Padres vs. Cubs
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Padres 2

Gamecast: May 12th vs. Padres

GameCast
Jake Peavy (2-4, 4.27 ERA) vs. Rich Harden (3-1, 4.83 ERA)
(With some contributions from the ever-interfering Kurt who tacked on a few paragraphs for no reason but to display his ridiculous sense of entitlement and power.... mwahahahaha)

Story-lines

Where do we begin? Well, it has been an interesting couple days here at GROTA since avoiding the sweep on Sunday. There have been articles about blowing up Wrigley, people calling other people names, and even some posts about our purpose as fans. I for one am glad that baseball is back on the TV, because like many other media sites we don't do well with off days. (I hope everybody gets the sarcasm intended during the first paragraph).

For real, the Cubs are trying to get back on tract against the lowly Padres. Kurt and Jason already pointed out a few major themes. So, I will keep this short.

First we'll note that, according to Cubs.com Derrek Lee won't be spending time in a neck splint on the Disabled List.  Fans of Micah Hoffpuair will despair over this turn of events, but the Cubs have concluded that Lee's neck isn't on the brink of cracking in half and he should be able to play productively.  If he isn't back in the lineup tonight, he should be around in time to experience a Round 2 battle royale with Chris Young tomorrow.  As for tonight...

Jake Peavy (Future Cub) vs. Rich Harden (Future DL'd Cub) will face off in game one. Harden needs to stop walking guys and it will be just fine for him.

Who's Hot
Kosuke Fukudome
- after a little cold streak, Fukudome has played well in his last 7 games. He's hitting .353 with a couple extra base hits.

Milton Bradley - Don't look now, but Cpt. Crazy is starting to hit. He's hitting .286 with a 2B and HR in his last six games.

Who's Not
Geovanny Soto
- Our ROY is still in Spring Training or something, because the player wearing No. 18 is not the Geo we want or need. He's still stuck on 4 RBI and 0 HR, while hitting a robust .169.

The Bullpen minus Kevin Gregg, Angel Guzman and Carlos Marmol - There is one thing that many of us agree on, and it is that without a bullpen the Cubs will not make the playoffs. It's impossible in this day and age, because starters only go about 6 innings. That means, on average, they have to get 9 outs, which our bullpen seems impossible without giving up runs and walks.

Conclusions
This is an important series for the Cubs. A victory could spark a multi-win streak, but a loss could bring out the boo birds, which is something I really don't care for.

We'll probably have more on the subject of booing in the near future, but for now we'll leave with this: it's not unique to Chicago that fans turn hostile.  It just happens that the media has harnessed a fine microscope in inflating just how "severe" the hostility of fans can get.  Consider Philly where they boo Santa Claus when they get the chance.  But the Cubs are a good team with really just some moderate struggles this year and an impatient fanbase isn't going to turn things around for them.  Then again, winning a lot of games will probably silence an impatient fanbase.  Tonight would be a good night to start that process.

GameCast: May 10th - Cubs vs. Brewers

Gamecast
Sean Marshall (0-2, 4.15 ERA) vs. Jeff Suppan (2-2, 5.68 ERA)

Story-lines

There is no doubt that the Cubs look really bad right now.  Their ace is on the DL for having pulled a hamstring.  Their star slugger dislocated his shoulder diving for a ball.  Their newly-extended ace is dealing with a combination of bad luck and bad stuff.  Their free agent right fielder is under-performing - as is a slew of other guys on the team.  And 50% of their bullpen flat-out sucks.

In other words, the Cubs look lost.  Since we all know that good teams never look as bad as the Cubs have looked in recent days, it's safe to say that the season is over.  But here at GROTA we will soldier on, documenting the failed 2009 season with anger.

Who's Hot
Actually the entire offense looks decent right now.  Usually when the Cubs score 6 they will win.  This wasn't the case last night as Lou apparently decided to turn to every suspect arm in his bullpen, one after the next. 

Who's Not
The Questionable Quartet continues to look sluggish, rather than sluggerish.  Neal Cotts, Dave Patton, and Chad Fox belong on another team, like maybe the Cardinals or Brewers. 

Conclusions
Sean Marshall is due for a win and has been pitching better than we might expect from a 5th starter.  (Which is good since Ryan Dempster is pitching quite a bit like a 5th starter this year.)  Jeff Suppan is somebody who the Cubs have had success off of in the past.

Maybe they'll get swept, maybe they won't, but it's a moot point as the Cubs are clearly finished for the season.  Oh well, wait 'til next year!

GameCast: May 9th Cubs vs. Brewers

GameCast
Ryan Dempster (2-1, 4.86 ERA) vs. Yovani Gollardo (3-1, 3.02 ERA)
Story-lines
Last season, I often complained that I wanted a "perfect" season, sort of like the superlative season I described a few weeks ago.  I wanted a year without stress.  While '08 was stressful at times, looking back on it the Cubs really blew the NL Central out of the water and didn't have too much trouble getting to the playoffs. 

Where they were promptly swept and eliminated.

Looking back even further than that, the 2003 Cubs were - up until the playoffs - probably the most exciting team of our lifetimes.  They delivered big games, tremendous performances, prodigious offense, exciting pitching, unlikely heroes, it was all there.  And they also gave us one of the most exciting Septembers ever, where they went on a torrid run in order to capture the NL Central crown before storming into the playoffs.

In other words, it was not easy for the '03 Cubs.  They overcame deficits and didn't definitively become a playoff team until the last month of the season. 

This year we have an immensely talented Cubs team that is already showing us the signs that they could be very good but they're being impeded by obstacle after obstacle.  Their ace is down, their star slugger is down, their offense is slumping ... and it's only May.

Rather than look at it like this is something for us to be nervous about, maybe we need to see these problems as the kind of things that winning teams often need to overcome in order to be cohesive and confident come playoff time.  Maybe in October the Cubs can look back to now and realize that if they can overcome these problems then maybe winning 3 games in a short series won't be so tough.

Just a thought.

Who's Hot
Ryan Theriot - batting .308 in his last 26 at bats with 2 homers and 17 RBI
Three Finger Hill - In his last 7 games he's batting .348 with 4 RBI
Aaron Miles - .300 AVG in his last 20 at bats with an OBP of .391

Who's Not
Milton Bradley - 5 for his last 26 with 1 HR and 2 RBI
Fukudome - The sump is on!  He's batting .143 in his last 7 games

Conclusions
Dempster needs to turn it up tonight.  He's had some bad luck which I believe he can improve on, but the Cubs are facing the ace of the Brewers staff and Ryan really needs to start earning his new, big contract.

I'm outta here.  Recap tomorrow.

GameCast: May 8th - Cubs at Milwaukee

GameCast
Randy Wells (0-0, 0.00) vs. Dave Bush (1-0, 4.36 ERA)

Story-Lines
This one is coming at you early because I'm going straight from work to dinner to Star Trek to bed. 

The Cubs and the Brewers are the modern day Tiffany and Debbie Gibson - their rivalry burns like hellfire.  And in the end one will lose her fanbase to the other, who in turn will become anorexic, addicted to meth, and will pose naked in Playboy 10 years after anybody cares.

Wait, they both lost their fanbases?  ...

Anyway, since I've posted this early and you've got time on your hands, let me recommend to you a couple of pieces written by Goat Friend and ESPN writer Wayne Drehs, who interviewed me last year and was directly responsible for my rocket toward stardom.  These days he's writing for ESPN Chicago* and blogging there so often that it makes me dizzy.  I mean, how can he possibly blog that often?

(*ESPN Chicago?  That sounds like a perfect fit for GROTA!  Damn you for not calling me, ESPN!  You know I always answer you on the FIRST RING!!)

What would you give for the Cubs to win it all?  - well, that one is self explanatory and since I'm a good sport I will probably answer Wayne's question with a retort column.  Right after I write that piece about Marmol and Gregg sometime next year.  Nevertheless, Wayne also Emailed me a What would you give up ESPN poll (or a ballot, if you will).  I don't want to influence your vote, but if you tick off on the "pay $$$$" options I will quit you.  It's not that I wouldn't surrender money in the name of Cub, it's just that if we tell them how much they might take us up on it.

Anyway, moving onto the GameCast...

Who's Hot
On a team that collected 14 hits in their last game, it would be easier to make a list of who's not.  But in particular, Alfonso Soriano selfishly hit 2 more homeruns while looking spectacular in the field, Aramis Ramirez collected 3 hits, and by gawd Micah Hoffpauir got 2 more hits raising his average to .312.

Who's Not
Mike Fontenot, Geovany Soto, and Milton Bradley remain on the bubble.  Soto and Bradley both had hits yesterday while Fontenot collected none but drove in 2 RBI. 

Conclusions
This may be the first series with implications, and since tomorrow's game will be tough to win (even if Dempster looks good) then today's contest against Dave Bush is practically essential.  If the Cubs can crack his nut as they have in the past - and especially if the Questionable Quartet can really start pounding the ball - then it shouldn't be too hard.

Then again, with a rookie pitcher on the mound for the Cubs, it could be a run-fest.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Brewers

GameCast: May 7th - Cubs at Houston

Cubs at Houston
Ted Lilly (3-2, 3.13 ERA) vs. Russ Ortiz (2-0, 5.21 ERA)
Story-lines
The Cubs continue their rock-out to Ben Folds and the Barenaked Ladies tonight in a contest against Russ Ortiz, who remembers the 90's as a decade of promise and opportunity ... until the bubble burst.  (Double entente.  Genius)

I've yet to see if Lee will start tonight, but he's trying to get better from a stiff neck that may or may not be a part of his hitting problems so far in '09.  Or he could be a steroid user.  I'm not sure how putting up really crappy numbers make one an alleged steroid user, except I am pretty sure that those who were using steroids probably still are - see Manny Ramirez.  Lee, meanwhile, is getting older and broke his freaking hand a few years ago.  It sort of reminds me of how Joe Borwoski had a career year with the Cubs in 2003, returned ineffective in '04, and was painted a steroid user despite the intense likelihood that he never consumed an illegal substance that wasn't a derrivative of moonshine.  But I digress.

Who's Hot
Reed Johnson - went 1 for 3 with 1 walk yesterday, drove in 3 with his one hit and scored twice off of passed balls.  He's gotta be juicing.
Aramis Ramirez - the sole Cub to collect 2 hits yesterday, A-Ram blasted his 4th of the year as well.  He must be juicing.

Who's Not
Geo Soto - After an 0 for 3 night Soto's AVG remains at .159.  He shouldn't have quit steroids. 

Conclusions
I'm sorry, but Russ Ortiz?  2004 was a long time ago, and he hasn't exactly been effective since then (what with his 9 wins since then).  Lord knows that Ted Lilly got his butt kicked in the first game he faced the Astros this season, but I'd really be shocked if Chicago doesn't beat them easily tonight.

Then agian, they play the games for a reason...

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Astros
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Astros 3

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