Jason Marquis (1-0, 2.57 ERA) Rich Harden (0-0, 1.50 ERA)
Jason Marquis returns to Wrigley Field with REVENGE! on his mind. He squares off against the best 4th starter in baseball, Rich Harden, who's coming off of a 6 inning 10 strikeout effort.
Lou Piniella continues to tinker. In Lou's world, if you're batting .125 then you're the ideal cleanup hitter because that's exactly where Derrek Lee is. I'm not really sure why.
Geovany Soto returns to the lineup today as well.
Everybody but Lee (.138) Soto (.143) and Aaron Miles (.143), who's starting second today for the Cubs.
This is what I get for forgetting to post. Harden's not on his B Game today. He's struck out 6 in 2.1 innings of work, but has surrendered a homerun to Seth Smith and a 2-run single to Jason Marquis.
Before you panic over the 1-hitter de Suck is tossing, keep in mind ... it's Jason Marquis. I doubt the Cubs are out of it yet.
It's opening day at beautiful, water-soaked, mud-filled, weather-worn Wrigley Field. Will the Cubs continue their early season success? Will Ted Lilly remember not to throw meat balls during games? Let's find out!
Pretty much everybody but Derrek Lee. In a moment of sanity today, Lou has moved Derrek down the lineup. But in a startling reversal, Lou only moved him to cleanup. (Because that's where I want to bat the guy with the .080 AVG. In the cleanup spot.)
Ryan Theriot - now batting .524 on the season. He's not just getting a hit per game, he's getting multiples.
Kevin Gregg - It would probably be easier on Cub fans everywhere for Gregg to just draft a letter to Lou via Gregg's agent requesting that he not be the closer, because the jackass is pitching like he doesn't want to be the closer! Man up, Gregg! Get 'er done, or get out of the way!
Series Preview, Rockies vs. Cubs (written 10 minutes before this GameCast)
Admit it. Considering that the Cubs are supposedly a much, much better team than the Brewers, it concerns you that the first 2 games of this 3 game set have been determined by a single run, scored in the 9th innings of both contests. Aren't the Cubs supposed to be better than this? Shouldn't they be dominating the poor pitching of Milwaukee?
Well, it's a long season, buddy. Dempsters will sometimes play like Suppans. Suppans will sometimes play like Dempsters. Piniellas will make boneheaded pitching choices. Bakers will make moves that would impress savants.
Despite the closeness of the games, and regardless of how they're already a much better-on-paper team, it would actually be pretty impressive for the Cubs to win tonight. Why, you ask? Because the Cubs would then have won their first two serieses (seri?) of the year on the road. Road dominance is a tough task for any team, and the Cubs would be off to a good start with a win tonight.
Kosuke Fukudome! I'm pretty sure Our Rob predicted 8 homeruns this season for Fooky. If that's the case, then he's already 25% of the way there, having hit homer #2 last night in the 4th. Fukudome is now batting .421 on the season following his 2 RBI performance last evening.
Alfonso Soriano. A leadoff hitter he ain't. But he is a slugger, and he has been winning games with his bat early on this season. Last night was another example - the Fonz hit homerun #3, this time in the 9th inning. It was the cap to an evening of battling back, as the Cubs were down 2-0, then 3-1, then 5-3, before scoring 3 unanswered runs in the 8th and 9th innings.
Aramis. Clutchy McClutchison with the 8th inning bomb that put the Cubs within 1. Rammy is now batting .333 on the year.
Ryan Theriot. He's not exactly back in my good graces following the defensive miscues of the previous game, but Theriot is batting .563 on the year following another multi-hit game last night. He also stole his first base of the season.
The Cubs #3 and #4 hitters. The heart of the Cubs lineup has combined to go 3 for 38 this year. That's a .079 AVG in case you were wondering. It's pretty impressive, then, that Chicago is poised to exit Milwaukee tonight with a .667 winning percentage on the season. We're all wondering it, and I'll ask aloud ... how long before Lou drops Derrek to 6th (where he belongs) and puts the Cubs best slugger (Aramis Ramirez) in the 3-spot?
Neal Cotts. He's made 4 appearances, pitched 1.1 innings, surrendered 2 hits, walked 1, and hit 1. He's also just about completely lost the trust of Lou Piniella who's not even leaving him enough rope to hang himself with.
One thing is pretty obvious -- Lou is not pleased with his bullpen. Just look at the way he juggles them. The Cubs will either need to respond by giving him pitchers he trusts, or by forcing him to play with the hand he's been dealt. Maybe he should spend a few weeks doing the latter before Hendry resorts to the former?
Another night, another attempt to recover from a frustrating defeat. The Cubs offense failed to capitalize on the mediocre pitching they faced last night, but they've got a chance to make up for it now as they face a guy with a career record of 43-46 and ERA of 4.47.
So far in this short season, the offense has been very hit or very miss, averaging 7.5 runs when they win and 2.5 runs when they lose. But probably the most interesting story of tonight is a twin-billing, and both revolve around the team's most passionate characters.
Carlos Zambrano. Rugged. Mean. Off to a good start. Will he build on his momentum as he steams towards the best season of his career? Or will he falter and lose focus?
Lou Piniella. Feisty. Potentially going senile. Lou is the reason the Cubs have developed the so-called Cubbie Swagger these past few years. But while Lou has the right attitude and the track-record of success that the Cubs need to emulate, sometimes his decisions ... well, sometimes they scare the shit out of me. Take batting Alfonso Soriano leadoff, for example. Chances are the Fonz will finish the year with a good batting average, a respectable OBP, and damned near 40 homeruns. No matter how loudly some dopes gripe about him, the Cubs can absolutely win with him playing leadoff. They've done it two years running. But while maybe Soriano batting leadoff isn't enough of a flaw to affect a team's success from games 1 through 162, is he really the player we want batting leadoff in any playoff game ever? Just asking.
The other Piniella Problem is this - he seems to have a genuine distaste for bullpens. And not just his, but all of them. I base this supposition on the fact that throughout the long course of his managerial career, he has exerted the patience of a bleeding hemopheliac at a blood bank. He gives up on a reliever after the first walk. He yanks guys at the first sign of trouble. He gets angry. He gets noisy. He finds a pitcher who's successful and he uses him until the guy's shoulder starts making grinding noises during every pitch. Much like batting the wrong guy leadoff, this is something a team can get away with for 162 games - especially if they have the talent to replace burned out arms or pitchers who get prematurely abandoned. But in the playoffs, we want our team to have a well-oiled, seasoned bullpen who are comfortable with their roles and have earned the faith of their skipper. Is the way Piniella handles his pen at all conducive to winning a playoff series? Again, just asking.
Anyway, these are probably going to be recurring storylines all year long. But this might be the first time in my life that I give up on a winning manager who's leading my favorite team toward the playoffs. Thing is, if other people notice these trends, I definitely won't be alone.
Then again, any time one of our readers complain about a Cub's play, I caution patience and talk about how early it is. So I'll definitely give Uncle Lou plenty of rope to hang himself with. I promise.
Kosuke Fukudome! Fooky built onto his big night against the Astros by going 2 for 5 last night. After 14 at bats, Koss-Kay is batting .429 with a homer. I'm not positive, but those figures are probably going to drop.
Milton Bradley. I've never seen a guy with a .083 AVG have a .722 OPS, but while his discipline hasn't turned into hits yet, Bradley is going to explode. He hit his first homer as a Cub yesterday - also his first hit as a Cub - and I expect him to keep it up.
Mike Fontenot. Little Babe Ruth is batting .412 this year. I've been advocating that he be the #2 hitter in the lineup. Then again, he's yet to draw a walk. Either way I can't complain - FonteYES has been hitting.
Ryan Theriot. Ignore the AVG, the hits, the runs, and focus instead on the boneheaded defense that cost the Cubs yesterday's game. Then, turn your mind back and recall a time in October when Theriot was a part of the Infield of Errors that Carlos had to suffer through in Game 2 of the NLDS. Maybe it's time for Lou to mandate some extra practice for TheQuietRiot.
Kevin Gregg. Not a great start for the Cubs closer. Based on how he pitched in March, he obviously wanted this gig. I wouldn't expect Lou to take it from him any time soon, but at this rate Carlos Marmol will be playing set-up man to his own closer (thus putting him on pace to toss 120 innings in '09) by mid May.
This would mean so much more if I actually wrote this before the start of the game. But ... in his first 09 appearance, will Harden be effective or get injured? Will Fukudome continue on his recent success or will he flat-line? And will Milton Bradley get his first hit of the season?
The Fonz - 2 homeruns, lots of base hits, and being spoiled at leadoff. Classic.
The Fook - After one explosive day, he was back to batting .400 on the season. Can't complain about that.
The Font - He won the starting job in Spring and so far he hasn't left anybody wondering why.
Derrek Lee - Presently he's not even batting Neifi Perez's weight.
Milton Bradley - Well, for a guy with no hits he sure as heck has a great OBP, but still.
5 innings in, the Cubs are down 2-1 -- with their one run coming from Milton Bradley's first hit of the season, a homer. Soriano is 0 for 3, Lee is 0 for 2, and Rich Harden has thrown 5 innings and struck out 9 batters, apparently on less than 90 pitches.
So how about some late inning magic from the Cubs, eh? Eh!?!
Storylines: The action! The excitement! Our first series of the year and already we have a rubber game! Will the Astros dominate Lilly and seize the divisional lead? Will the Cubs come out on top in their inevitable climb to World Series glory? We'll find out in (theoretically) nine innings of heart-stopping play!
Who's Hot: Alfonso Soriano - 2 games, 2 homeruns, a .400 AVG, the Fonz is swinging a golden bat thus far in 2009. Speaking of hot starts, Ryan Theriot is batting .500 on the season with his first double last night. We'll ignore the fielding error and the time he was caught trying to steal.
Who's Not: Milton Bradley is 0 for 2009, and Geovany Soto isn't "cold" per se but he will miss at least one start while he ices his sore shoulder.
Update: After two nights of good pitching and modest offense, the bats have come alive in Houston. Every Cubs regular but Bradley has a hit as of the 5th inning (and Don't Wake Daddy has 2 walks, so he's not exactly being useless in his continued quest to get a hit). Kosuke Fukudome has sent a big Fuku to doubting Cub fans eveywhere by starting the night with a 3 for 3, 1 double, 2 steal performance and Lil' Baby Ruth hit his first homer of the year -- a 3-run jack in the 2nd inning.
The only problem so far? Ted Roosevelt Lilly is apparently designating the 2009 Astros as the new 2008 Reds. He's given up 5 through 5 innings. 4 came as solo shots, the 5th with a runner on. And yet, as the Cubs lead 10-5, Lilly is now in line to earn a win. Go figure.
Chances are the Recap will come in the morning, just in case you're wondering.
Ryan Dempster (0-0) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (0-0)
Story-lines: After winning a close-on-paper opening game by a score of 4-2, the Cubs look to win their first series of the season tonight. Pitching for the Cubs is Ryan Dempster, coming off of a career year and huge multi-million dollar extension that he probably doesn't deserve. Looking to even up the series for Houston is Wandy Rodriguez, who should be tough as nails having lived his life with the name "Wandy."
Who's hot: Aflonso Soriano, who went 2 for 5 yesterday with a lead-off homerun to start the '09 season. Mike Fontenot, who went 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored, who has been rewarded for his first-game success with a start against Wandy, a lefty.
Who's not: Cubs who started out the season with a big 0-fer: Kosuke Fukudome (0 for 4, already given up on by jumpy Cub fans), Milton Bradley (0 for 3 with a walk, two hilight catches in the outfield, and one scary tumble at first base that somehow didn't result in a trip to the DL), and Derrek Lee (0 for 4) who should either be demoted to 6th in the lineup or benched all together for career minor leaguer Micah Hoffpauir.
Update: Looks like we have to comment in the post, since we reached our shoutbox limit. It said we can only have 60 posts in an hour. So, join the conversation below.
Series Preview: Cubs at Astros
GameCast: Opening Day
Recap: Cubs 4, Astros 2
Story-lines: Entering the 2009 season in this, their 101st year without a championship title, the Cubs take on the Astros. The last time Carlos Zambrano faced Houston, he made the entire team his collective biyatch, tossing the first Cubs no-hitter in the lives of many of the people who read this blog. Carlos then fell off the rails to the point where Lou Piniella didn't even call on him to pitch the first game of the failed NLDS.
Who's hot: Nobody! It's opening day! What a dumb topic! (Please ignore that I was the one who came up with it.) Loyal Goat Reader (and Goat Photographer) DB would tell you that Rich Harden is hot, but he's not pitching in this game or even this series.
Who's cold: Pretty much everybody in the north east right now. It's snowing outside my window. Sometimes I hate Canada.
Note: The GameCasts are still in the experimental phase. Feel free to post your take on the game in the comments section of this thread or, if you must, in the ShoutBox. Unfortunately for me, tonight's game is on ESPN2. Here in Canadaland, there is no ESPN2. Therefore, I'm boned. But I'll have a Game Recap for you sometime tonight regardless.
Oh, and as Jason would say, Go Cubs!
Update: Top of the Third
It's still way too early to do the Kurtie Dance of Joy, but 2 solo homeruns later and the Cubs are up 2 to 0. Although Carlos has had a few rough patches (a leadoff walk and he actually dared face Carlos Lee with runners on) some keen defense from Milton Bradley has kept the Cubs on top.
Strangely, 2 runs isn't much of a lead, especially with Opening Day Carlos on the mound, but it feels like way more than 2 runs at this point. The team is playing well.
Welcome to the experimental first GameCast of the 2009 season. We're going to do this a little differently once the season actually begins, as I will likely shut off the Shout Box in order to make the comments part of this article the place to talk about the game.
In the meantime, knock yourself out either here or over in the Shout Box. I'll be watching snippets of the game on WGN, but unlike the BlogCasts of the '08 playoffs I won't be updating constantly on account of how I wanted to hang myself when it was over.