Ted Lilly (1-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (0-5, 12.57 ERA) Overview Who's Hot Who's Not Get another winning streak going tonight and get back to .500. Gotta get moving on these Cards, they're not showing signs of slowing. -MW
T'Lil makes his 3rd start tonight as the Cubs try to get back to their winning ways of late after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Buccos last night. Lilly's had one really good start and one fairly miseraable one. Often guys are up and down when they come back from shoulder surgery, so let's hope that tonight's more of the former. The Pirates' offense certainly isn't a formidable one, and I feel good about a nice outing for Bulldog #30 tonight. Opposing him is Charlie Morton who's been downright miserable this year. He's lost all 5 of his starts, and that 12+ ERA is just startling. Recent rumors have him pitching for his rotation spot tonight, so we'll see if that has any bearing on his productivity. His last start on April 30th was his best (least bad?) of the year, going 6 innings and allowing 6 runs (only 3 earned) on 6 hits. 6-6-6. Eek.
Ryan Theriot has a lucky 13-game hitting streak going on, during which his batting avg has risen from .222 to .357. He's certainly seeing the ball well. Alfonso Soriano has that fun little 4-game homer streak going on as well. Also hot is Milton Bradley. He's hot at his team, his manager, the home plate ump from last night, etc. Word is he walked out on his team mid-way thru the game last night. Classy, Milton...classy. I'd be lying if I said that I'm not rooting for that to end as poorly as possible and I don't care if that makes me a bad person.
Rami's batting average has fallen below .150. It's officially start time to become concerned. What to do about it? Drop him even further in the lineup? Also not hot are Pirates IF Ronny Cedeno (something like 4 for his last 40) and Jeff Clement (hitting far less than his weight). Oy. I'm glad I'm not a Pirates fan.
Ted Lilly (1-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (0-5, 12.57 ERA)
Get another winning streak going tonight and get back to .500. Gotta get moving on these Cards, they're not showing signs of slowing.
He's been slowed by a calf injury and, presumably, by the fact that he's certifiably insane. He's hitting .214 with two home runs and 12 RBI. He has a relatively poor .313 OBP. Oh, and he's mad again.
Miles disappointed the Cubs immensely in 2009, and did the same to the Reds in spring training. They designated him for assignment (i.e. released him) on April 5, and he signed a minor league contract with the Cardinals last Tuesday.
Jim Hendry let Johnson go in favor of free agent Xavier Nady. Johnson found a home with the Dodgers, and here's the comparison thus far:
So, basically, it's a big shoulder shrug of a move at this point. However, there's a $2.5 million difference in their salaries, so Nady needs to get it going to make Hendry's investment a good one.
He has only amassed 33 at-bats with the Rangers thus far--his slash line (average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) is an underwhelming .212/.278/.212.
Rich Harden has been SO Rich Harden with the Rangers. He has not allowed more than four earned runs in any of his six starts this season, yet he's gone five innings or more just three times. His walk total in his first five starts: 5, 3, 6, 4, 5. Not good. He's had two pretty good starts in a row, however, including a dominant outing on Monday.
You probably know what he's up to after having seen him pitch against the Cubs this weekend: six earned runs in just 10.2 innings on the season (5.06 ERA), plus five walks and two home runs.
Gregg lost out on the closer role in spring training, but Jason Frasor's struggles have resulted in several save opportunities for him. He's 7-for-7 in those chances, has struck out 16 guys in 13 innings, and has a miniscule 0.69 ERA. Basically, he's been awesome. If we would have known he was going to do that, he would have fit real nicely in the eighth inning for the Cubs!
Read more of Brandon's work at his blog Wait 'til this Year!
Cubs lose. Offense sucks.
Demp gets another tough loss.
Against... the Pirates.
The two runs came on solo shots, one each from Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto. The three runs Dempster gave up also came in via homer -- a loner to Andy LaRoche and a two-run dinger to Ryan Church.
The Cubs struck out five times in tonight's game, and every time they did I got pretty pissed off. Of course, hitters will strike out, but tonight's Ks were almost all in big spots in the game. Pretty frustrating.
I'll rank them in order of impact, as defined (quite subjectively) by myself:
5) With two out and nobody on, Ryan Theriot strikes out in the top of the eighth.
It was late in the game, and the 2010 Theriot is supposed to be more like the 2008 one, who rarely struck out, instead of the 2009 guy who too often swung for the fences. But even if Theriot avoided the out here, it would have been tough to bring him home with two outs already in the inning.
4) With two on and two out in the top of the seventh, Xavier Nady swings and misses at an Evan Meek heater.
We had a great chance to score here, and Meek could not figure out how to throw his breaking ball for a strike. But Nady couldn't do anything with that knowledge, and the inning ended without the Cubs having scored any runs.
3) One at-bat prior to Nady's K (runners on 1st and 2nd), Alfonso Soriano struck out on a 3-2 Meek fastball -- after being ahead 3-0 at one point.
The Pirates couldn't afford to allow a runner to get to third base with only one out in the inning, so Soriano had to know he had three strikes coming -- and that's exactly what happened. He took the 3-0 fastball (dead center at 93), fouled off the 3-1 (Meek came a bit inside -- it was a good pitch), and whiffed on the 3-2.
A productive out would have moved the speedy Marlon Byrd to 3rd base for Nady, putting more pressure on Meek against Nady, and of course a hit would have scored a run, and put another runner in scoring position for Nady. The K was painful there.
2) Mike Fontenot leads off the top of the ninth by swinging and missing at a letter-high fastball fastball from Octavio Dotel on a 3-2 count.
Simply taking a ball way out of the zone would have put the leadoff man on against a shaky closer with our three, four, and five hitters due up. In my mind, this game was over as soon as Font swung and missed here.
But I'm even more pissed about a strikeout that happened much earlier.
1) In the top of the fifth inning, with Marlon Byrd on 2nd, Aramis Ramirez, our cleanup hitter -- the artist formerly known as Clutchy McClutcherson -- struck out swinging on the fourth pitch of his at bat.
Foul tip. Called strike. Ball. Swinging strike.
A perfect demonstration of ineptitude.
Aramis Ramirez looks straight up terrible, folks. He's never slumped like this.
And the worst part is, it's not even bad luck really. It'd be one thing if his line shots were finding gloves, or if his hard hit grounders were all being hit right at people. But Aramis is just swinging and missing WAY TOO MUCH, and hitting weak crap every time else. He's hitting .149 on the season.
He looks terrible. And if it weren't for the first half of last year, this would be a perfect time to say, "I don't know what the Cubs will do this season if he continues to play this way." Because we all know what it felt like watching the Cubs without Aramis Ramirez last year.
On that note: Guess who will almost certainly be exercising his 2012 player option worth $14.6 million?
(Editor's Note: Feel free to check out an article I -- Kurt -- wrote for a Pirates blog known as Rum Bunter. It's a pretty cool site)
Ryan Dempster (2-1, 2.78 ERA) vs. Paul Malholm (1-2, 4.83 ERA)
Who thinks they know the Cubs? Well, it looks like we all do. They are either really good or really bad, which has led us to the .500 record thus far.
The Cubs travel to th Burgh for the first time this season while trying to get above .500. The Cubs had a chance last week, but ended up losing three straight to put that out of the question.
The Cardinals are already 5 games in front in the NL Central, but there is still tons of time left in the year. The Cubs still are looking for stability in the bullpen, but the Carloses have been pretty good.
Today, Xavier Nady will probably get the start against the lefy along with Jeff Baker. It would be nice to see Nady get going to go along with our other guys with the DH coming soon in interleague play.
The Cubs are stroking the ball at the plate up and down the lineup. So, lets get to the last seven days.
Ryan Theriot - There is no way he keeps this up. He's hitting .423 in his last seven with five runs scored. He only has one walk during this time.
Alfonso Soriano - He gets like this a couple times year, and the only question how long does it last? He's hitting .420 with 4 HR and 10 RBI in his last five games played.
Kosuke Fukudome - He's played way better than I thought and now he's driving the ball. In his last six, he's walked six times and has a 1.298 OPS.
Tyler Colvin - He's not getting at bats and has one hit in his last nine at bats.
Aramis Ramirez - Hopefully the day off helped him the most. He's hitting .190 in his last five games.
The Cubs are an interesting team, but I would love to see a long winning streak continue through the Reds series this weekend.
First, stop reading this article and check out the Series Preview written by Brandon on the Readers Blog section. Chances are, it's better than mine will be.
Okay -- are you back? Let's roll.
These days, Cub fans love the Pittsburgh Pirates. They're NL Central speak for "easy pickings." And, for as badly hit-and-miss as the Cubs have been, it's nothing compared to the Pirates.
Check it out -
Pittsburgh has won 10 games. 8 of those 10 games have come in streak clusters -- 2 to start off the season, 3 in a row from April 16-18, and 3 more from April 27-29. As is to be expected, the Pirates have outscored their opponents 56-34 in games they've won.
Pittsburgh has lost 15 games. All but 1 loss came in streak clusters -- with a 7 game losing skid from April 20th to April 26th, and 3 more losses since Friday. And while they would be, obviously, expected to be outscored by their opponents in these losses, it's more like they've been blown out. Pirate opponents have outscored them 141-30 in their losses. That's nearly 10 runs given up per game by Pirates pitchers in losses. Pittsburgh has already had games in which they surrendered 10 runs (April 8, April 25), 15 runs (April 11), 17 runs (April 26), and 20 runs (April 22).
Ouch. Seriously, ouch.
But as ridiculous as those lines are, the Pirates are presently closer to the Cubs in the standings than the Cubs are to the Cardinals.
On this blog, it's probably not too popular to stand up and proclaim your belief that the Cubs not only might reach the post season this year, but they probably will. Well, looking purely at the standings, the Pirates would have an easier time overtaking the Cubs than the Cubs would overtaking the Cardinals. Figure that one out.
Tuesday, May 4th - Ryan Dempster (2-1, 2.78 ERA) vs. Paul Maholm (1-2, 4.83 ERA)
Dempster has so far been a pretty reliable starter, but it's extremely early. Still, most years he has been considerably more effective at home than on the road (Sman would probably consider that to be a fatal defect).
His opponent is lefty Paul Maholm, whose career ERA (4.35) is a lot better than his career record (39-46). Then again, he's pitched for a team that's never won 70 games or more while he's been there, so a poor record is understandable.
Wednesday, May 5th - Ted Lilly (1-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (0-5, 12.57 ERA)
Lilly is bound to improve upon his ERA, but so is Morton. I mean, Charlie Morton really isn't that bad, is he? Maybe he's just the victim of circumstance? Looking at his game log this year, it's hard to miss the fact that his "best" game was his last one, in which he "only" gave up 6 runs -- 3 earned -- in 6 innings pitched.
Still, he's probably due for a good game.
Thursday, May 6th - Randy Wells (3-0, 3.45 ERA) vs. Who the Hell Knows
The Pirates haven't announced their final starter yet, but Brandon suspects that it will be Brian Burres, who pitched well against the Dodgers last week.
Randy Wells, who couldn't buy a win to start his 2009 season, is off to an unbeaten start in 2010. If the Cubs manage to pull up the nose on their tailspin (and it looks like they will), it will be due to the solid pitching of guys like Randy.
Yep, Brandon definitely said it better.
Here's one thought for you -- yes, the Cubs bullpen sux, no denying that, and yes, they are either Big Hit or Huge Miss, but I think Rob is wrong to suggest that the '10 team as we see them cannot get the job done. Here's why:
Do you really think that, in September, the starting third baseman of the Chicago Cubs will be batting .155? And do you really think the starting first baseman will be batting .221?
Granted, this was the same argument I made last year when Milton Bradley and Geovany Soto were leading the Suck Ass Charge, but I think it's still a fair argument to make. While it's true that Alfonso Soriano will probably not be a .325 hitter all year long, and while we know that Fukudome will certainly not be a .342'er, improved hitting from Lee and Ramirez will go a long way toward making the Cubs offense a little more regular.
In other words, if you happen to have that unfortunate opinion that the Cubs just might be a thread to compete this year after all ... well, I'm right there with you. These guys aren't done just yet.
Buy Chicago baseball tickets at Coast to Coast, your Chicago Cubs ticket source!
The Pirates got off to a 7-5 start but have gone a more Pirate-like 3-10 since. Their recent slide is not the result of bad luck--the fact is, they don't do much of anything well. They've scored just 86 runs this season (second-worst in the NL) while allowing more than twice that many (175, worst in the NL). This amazingly bad run differential puts them on pace to be outscored by nearly 600 runs this season. While that's really, really unlikely to happen, it's clear that Pittsburgh is really, really bad.
Which is nothing new, of course. The Cubs went 10-4 against them last year after going 14-4 the year before. Though the Cubs will be away from home, they really need to start the road trip off right by winning--if not sweeping--this series. Fortunately, using the transitive property, we can see that the Pirates have been outscored by an average of seven runs per game in their six contests with the Brewers this year, while the Cubs have outscored the Brewers by an average of four runs per game; therefore, the Cubs will outscore the Pirates by an average of 11 runs per game in this series. That's science.
Tuesday, May 4--Ryan Dempster (2-1, 2.78) vs. LH Paul Maholm (1-2, 4.83)
Dempster has been on fire lately, even if he did lose his last start. He beat the Pirates twice last year, but had a modest 4.66 ERA against them. While it's still early, Dempster's road split is actually better than his home split so far this season--he has a 1.32 ERA in two road starts, with three walks and 13 strikeouts.
Maholm's last two starts were almost identical: 7 IP, 4 ER in both. His one start against the Cubs last year was the reverse: 4 IP, 7 ER, though the Pirates won that game 10-8 (look who got the win). He struggles against righties, so Xavier Nady is likely to get a start here against his former team.
Wednesday, May 5--Ted Lilly (1-1, 4.91) vs. Charlie "Holy crap look how bad my numbers are" Morton (0-5, 12.57)
These two matched up last September 30, with Morton throwing a complete game, four-hit shutout. In mid-August, however, Morton lasted just one inning against the Cubs and gave up 10 earned runs. Morton has been downright awful this season: he's allowed at least three earned runs in all five of his starts, given up seven long balls, and has allowed more than two hits and walks per inning pitched (2.17 WHIP). Go get 'im, boys.
It was probably unfair to assume that despite having just come off the DL, Lilly would stay in the groove he was in when he faced Milwaukee. He struggled with his control and gave up several long balls in his second start of the year last week against Arizona, giving him one great start and one terrible one on the season. Lilly was 1-2 with a 3.60 ERA against the Pirates last year. Andy LaRoche is the only current Pirate with a home run off Lilly, while Ryan Doumit is 5-for-15 in his career against him.
Thursday, May 6--Randy Wells (3-0, 3.45) vs. LH Brian "TBD" Burres (1-1, 6.00)
The Pirates have not yet announced Thursday's starter--someone needs to fill in for the injured Ross Ohlendorf. Burres did so admirably last week with 5.1 scoreless against the Dodgers, and seems a likely candidate for the series finale. Only Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady have faced him more than three times--Nady is 2-for-7 against him while Byrd's one hit off him was a home run. Recently recalled Brian Bass would seem to be the other potential starter for this game (9.00 ERA in 2 IP).
Wells had his worst start of the season on Friday, though he still got the win. He had success against the Pirates last year, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA. Andrew McCutchen is 3-for-5 against him.
The most valuable player for the Cubs in Sunday's game was almost certainly Edwin Jackson. That young kid has a good heater, but apparently not much else.
Regardless, Tom Gorzelanny should get some credit for yet again putting himself and his team in position for a win. Nice enough for him, he got the decision this time.
It's Gorzo's first win of the year, which must be why ESPN said something like, "Finally he's doing well," when they went over the highlights on him. Of course, you and I know that this is Tom's third quality start of the year, and he was one out away from a fourth against the Mets on 4/22, AND that his only other start was the one where he took a liner off his shoulder. So, thank you very much, Tom's been doing quite well all season.
But here's a question for you: Will it continue?
I'm sure the media is really enjoying all this Carlos Zambrano drama (and when I say I'm sure, I mean I'm POSITIVE), but neither Gorzelanny nor Carlos Silva will keep his ERA under 3 all year. When the wind starts to blow out more and a few extra home runs leave the park, I think Lou might change his mind about the value of keeping Z in the 'pen.
But even with a few more home runs allowed, Tom might still figure to be rotation-worthy. Fangraphs likes him enough to predict that he'll finish the year with nine wins and a 3.91 ERA in 28 starts. I buy that, mostly because I'm liking Gorzelanny's ability to get strikeouts -- like the 10 he got yesterday, a new career high.
Speaking of yesterday's game, way to go Alfonso Soriano, who had two home runs and a double. The guy is looking pretty good right now, but allow me to quote MSD from the Shout Box:
"I hate to talk negative but soriano will carry the cubs now and then
bringem down later lol"
This feels mostly correct. In fact, even last year, Soriano posted two
months better than his April from this year OPS-wise (he was at .900 in
April '10, .955 in April '09, and .992 in July '09). For him, it's not a
question of getting hot; it's a matter of staying better-than-tepid. Or
But for now: Cubs win! Good stuff.
Can someone adjust the calendar in the Cubs' clubhouse to make it seem like every day is either Friday, Saturday or Sunday? For the second straight week, the Cubs used a stellar weekend to turn what was shaping up to be a frustrating stretch into a 4-3 week; they're now 7-3 in their last 10 overall. After unloading for 25 runs last weekend against the Brewers, the Cubs put up 28 runs this weekend and came back to take three of four from the Diamondbacks. They're back to .500 and will try for the fifth time to get over the hump when they head to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Ryno of the Week: These offensive outbursts are making it hard to choose--the Cubs are now fifth in the NL in runs scored and tied for fourth in OBP. Byrd continued to torch opposing pitchers this week, piling up 11 hits. Ryan Theriot had four multi-hit games this week and has a 12-game hitting streak overall. Kosuke Fukudome's solid week has him in the top ten in the NL in batting average, OBP and OPS. All three of those guys are in the top 10 in the NL in batting with Soriano close behind at 14th.
And it's Alfonso Soriano who gets the nod this week. He was 8-for-20 with six of those hits going for extra bases, including four home runs. One of his long balls gave the Cubs the lead and another tied the score in a game they eventually won. He also drove in 10, scored seven times, and drew four walks throughout the week. He consistently displayed patience as he watched sliders off the outside corner go by, waited for a hitter's pitch, and drilled it. He's in one of those zones we got used to back in 2008, and boy is it fun to watch.
Honorable mention: Tom Gorzelanny
Goat of the Week: It pains me to do this for the second week in a row, but Aramis Ramirez was just 5-for-25 (four singles and a double) and continued to be a virtual black hole in the middle of the Cubs' lineup. The highest his average got all week was .159. His current .156 average is the lowest in the NL by 24 points and higher than only Travis Snyder and Nick Johnson in the majors. Which is, you know, not good.
Dishonorable mention: Derrek Lee
The Cubs come from behind two days in a row to win. Are you sure this is May 1, not April 1? The Cubs won today thanks to the timely hitting of Alfonso Soriano and Derrek Lee and contributed to the collapse of another teams 'pen rather than watching their own implode.
Alfonso Soriano tied the game in the seventh with a two-run homer. If anyone thinks that Soriano is still missing confidence in the batters box, please observe this. He looks pretty confident to me. His 2-for-4 performance brought his season average up to .303 and included his fourth homer of the season. Fonzie is never going to live up to his contract price (or maybe he will, given the going rate of Ryan Howard), but we all knew that from the beginning. But after his performance last season, most of us wrote him off as an aging and declining salary dump candidate. I'm not saying he's fully redeemed himself, but I welcome his recent production and patience at the plate with open arms. Keep it up, Fonz.
However, the hero of the day would have to be Derrek Lee. For a week or so Lee has been hitting the ball hard, but right at defenders. It seemed like only a matter of time until he got a clutch hit or two to fall. Today seemed to be that day. Lee stepped tot he plate in the 8th with the bases loaded and pulled a 1-1 pitch through the hole for the go-ahead 2 RBI single. Lee went 2-for-5 on the day, making it two days in a row he's had a multi-hit game. It's progress, Cubs fans.
As for the pitching side of things, Carlos Silva came back down to earth. Silva gave up five runs in five innings, four of them by the home run ball, and struck out six on the day. It wasn't pretty, but when you miss high all day with the wind blowing out, those results are to be expected. The bullpen came in and pitched four scoreless innings with the win going to Sean Marshall. The ninth inning was a bit of an adventure as Marmol loaded the bases before getting the final out of the game. If that's the worst bullpen scare of the weekend, I think I can deal with it.
Don't look now, but the Cubs have two players in the top 5 for NL batting average. Marlon Byrd (.351) and Kosuke Fukudome (.353) are 5th and 3rd, respectively, on the batting leaderboard. If only the two could lend a few BA points to A-Ram...
In the end, the Cubs walk away with a win, a guaranteed split, and a chance to win a four-game series tomorrow. Hopefully they can end the homestand with a win and take a three-game winning streak into Pittsburgh.
It's sort of a nice feeling when your starting pitcher can give up five runs and the team still gets a win. I almost forgot what it felt like to watch the Cubs come back from any sort of deficit. Randy Wells went to 3-0 on the season but was in no way flawless today. Then again, with the wind blowing out it was clear it was going to be one of those days. Wells went six innings and gave up five runs on five hits. Most importantly, he didn't walk anyone and struck out eight on the day. Honestly, that's all you can ask of a pitcher on a day like today. Perhaps even more importantly, the bullpen contributed three scoreless innings... a luxury that hasn't been all that frequent this season.
Kosuke Fukudome started the Cubs scoring when he hit a home run to right field, giving him homers in back to back games for the first time in his stateside career. As frustrating of a month as it has been, Kosuke must be sad to see the month of April end as he hit .344 with 5 HR and 16 RBI on the month. I don't know if the power holds up, but if he can continue to make solid contact like he has been doing recently it would really add another dynamic to the club.
The real star of the day has to be one Alfonso Soriano. Some of you may remember him as the most booed player on the Cubs team (making him the only individual in Chicago that may have actually missed Milton Bradley). Today he went 2 for 3 with 4 RBI, three of which game on a game-changing home run in the sixth inning. Soriano ends the month of April with a .292/.358/.900 (SLG being the latter) line. To me the most surprising number on that line is the on-base percentage. At the moment, Fonzie is seeing the ball so well that he has been uncharacteristically patient at the plate. The end result is a fair amount of walks and much better contact when he swings.
Lou shut his critics up when he made Theriot sacrifice himself in the 7th inning (with a one run lead at the time) to set up what would be 3 insurance runs on the inning. Speaking of walks and Soriano, Fonzie drove in his fourth RBI of the day that inning when he took a bases loaded walk from Aaron Heilman (miss him yet?) after Ramirez had also taken a bases loaded walk earlier. To date, I am pretty sure Ramirez leads the league in the statistical category of "percentage of RBI driven in by means of a walk" with 15.3% rate. In the eighth inning Soto and Byrd won somebody $1000 when they hit back-to-back home runs. Happiness all around. HIGH FIVES EVERYBODY!!!!!!!
The Cubs end this April chapter of the season and march into May. To quote the great Marlon Byrd: "We're going to start swinging, it's just going to come around. April's over, so from what I've heard, the Cubs heat up in May. I think it's about that time." Let's hope he's right.