Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Cubs

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Gamecast: May 20th vs. Cardinals

Ryan Dempster (4-3, 4.65 ERA) vs. Chris Carpenter (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Story Lines

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.

Who's Hot

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.

Who's Not

Geovanny Soto and Milton Bradley - Both guys are back below .200 again.

Conclusions

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.

Game Recap: Cubs 0, Cardinals 3 -- Fuggetaboudit!


Well that was fun, huh?


Ted Lilly put up a pretty decent line last night. Usually, 3 runs in 7 innings will do it. But the offense had trouble scoring one run, let alone 3 or 4, against the Dominating Force of Joel Piniero!!!


Piniero had 14 strikeouts in his last 45.1 innings pitched this season, but somehow managed to get five Ks last night. I guess he was just on or something. Maybe on something?

Despite the loss, there were a couple of notable performances from a pair of Cubs that had been in a bit of a rut lately.

Kevin Gregg handled the top of the Cardinals order with relative ease in the top of the eighth, allowing just one hit (a double to Pujols). 12 of his 17 pitches were strikes.


Also, Mike Fontenot's hitless streak is over. He had a two-out double in the top of the fifth inning.


Unfortunately, it was one of only three Cub hits. That's alright, they were just savin' 'em up for tonight's game against Carp. Let's even this one up, huh?

Go Cubs!

Gamecast: May 19th vs. Cardinals

Ted Lilly (5-2, 3.27 ERA) vs. Joel Pineiro (4-3, 4.17 ERA)

Story Lines

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.

Who's Hot

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
something

Who's Not

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.

Conclusions

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.

NL Central Rankings of Ultimate Power (May 19)

What has two thumbs and thought yesterday was Sunday until around midnight and realized he had forgotten to put up his power rankings? This guy.

There was a bit of a Royal Rumble-like fight at the top of the standing throughout the week, which was entertaining. I don’t know if this division is the best in baseball, but it’s certainly the most competitive.

Here is this week’s Chicago Tribune power rankings for comparison: Brewers, Cubs, Cards, Reds, Pirates, Astros.

1. Milwaukee Tony La Russa Juice Makers (24-14) Previous ranking: 4

The Brewers lead the NL in homers but are 12th in batting average and 11th in hits. While I know that batting average isn’t a good indication of a team’s offensive success, I don’t think a team can succeed exclusively on the longball. If that were true, then the Rangers would have like eight championships in the last 10 years.

2. Chicago Cubs (21-15) Previous ranking: 2

Is anyone else starting to like what Angel Guzman is putting together? Gotta love a reliever that isn’t giving out many walks (only 6 in 19 innings). Nice to see Geo is getting his groove back, but how much longer before Lil’ Mikey and his .204 BA starts hearing the boobirds?

3. Cincinnatrually Self-Imploding Reds (20-17) Previous ranking: 3

Compared to the bottom half of the division, they had a decent week despite suffering their first 3-game losing streak of the season. To the surprise of doctors everywhere, the pitchers still has their arms attached to their bodies. As such, the team’s suckalicious offense is being carried by aforementioned arms. As we all know though, it’s only a matter of time with Dusty.

4. St. Louis Birds of Pray Pujols Doesn’t Get Hurt (21-17) Previous ranking: 1

How many injuries does it take to get to fall out of the division lead? Ah 1. Ah 2. Ah 3. CRUNCH. 3. The Cards were fine with Chris Carpenter hurt and survived with Rick Ankiel going down, but the injury to Ryan Ludwick seemed to push them over the edge. They will get healthy eventually, but for the meantime, let the big dogs eat.

5. Sh*tsburgh Pirates (17-21) Previous ranking: 6

I feel that there is always one crappy team that somehow does better against one good team than any other opponent. For the Pirates, that team is the Cardinals. And for that, I move you out of the cellar...Plus I hate the Astros.

6. Houston Nickname That Sounded Cool In 1965 But Is Stupid Today  (17-19) Previous ranking: 5

Why is closer Jose Valverde on the DL? While the official report says a strained right calf, the real reason is because I punched him in the face so hard that he can no longer yell crazy things in Spanish when strikes people out. No one on this team is safe from me.

Game Recap: Cubs 5, Astros 6 -- Just Short!

Well, poop. All good things must come to an end, I guess. A shaky 4th inning from starter Rich Harden, a wild start to the top of the 7th by reliever Jose Ascanio, and some solid defensive plays by the Astros brought about the end of two Cub winning streaks: the five straight wins in the Cubs' last five games, as well as their formerly perfect record in games in which the Cubs scored four or more runs (they're now 20-1 in those games, I think, assuming I still understand how numbers work).

The Offense

Derrek Lee gets the gold star on offense today. He added about 25 points to his average with today's 4-hit effort, which included a double and a home run. Two other Cubs got multiple hits: Alfonso Soriano (one of which was a home run), and Kosuke Fukudome. Kosuke has been earning the number on the back of his jersey lately, and currently leads the team with a .333 batting average. Together, the team knocked out 11 hits, four more than the Astros (see? I understand subtraction!).

On the less-gold-starrish side of things, Mike Fontenot posted his fifth consecutive oh-fer. He's now in the middle of an 0-for-16 streak. He does have a handful of walks in that time, but let's be honest. We want hits, Mike. HITS! AND WALKS! AND HOME RUNS! YEAH MIKE FONTENOT! Yeah!

The Pitching

Cubs hurlers put up seven shutout innings today; even star "hurler" Neal Cotts goosed the 'Stros in the 9th (in his case I mean the OTHER hurling--you know, like barfing? lol!). Unfortunately, they mixed in a pair of bad innings with those good ones. In the 4th, Rich Harden served up three extra-base hits, including a two-run shot to Pudge Rodriguez; and in the 7th, Jose Ascanio went 2-for-2 on his first pair of pitches--he hit both batters he faced. Both would score--one on a Lance Berkman single, the other on a wild pitch.

Apart from those first three batters (Matsui, Bourn, and Elvis), Ascanio would not allow any additional base runners. He also got two strikeouts during his perfect 8th inning. In the end, however, the six runs allowed by Harden and Ascanio were insurmountable.

Conclusions

It's hard to be too upset about this one. The Cubs scored five runs, and weren't completely awful from the mound. Who knows what might've happened if Geo Soto's liner to end the game got past Jeff Keppinger? They were right there. Hopefully that bad luck gets turned around against the Cardinals on Tuesday night.

Go Cubs!

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.

Game Recap: Cubs 5, Astros 4 -- Wild One At Wrigley!


As Len and Bob always say, it's never easy.

The Offense

The Cubs came through when they needed to in this one. After five solid innings from Astros ace Roy Oswalt, the Cubs' two first basemen both came through in the bottom of the 6th. Derrek Lee brought home Alfonso Soriano with a flip single out to shallow left, and Micah Hoffpauir followed with a "useful shot" into the bleachers to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead. Geo Soto's RBI in the 8th may have looked unnecessary at the time, but boy was it ever.


After an absolutely dumbfounding performance from the Cubs so-called closer in the top of the 9th (we'll get to that later), the Cubs ended up needing a 5th run in the bottom of the inning to pull out the win--and they got it. Everyone's new favorite Cub Bobby Scales!!! drew a walk on a 3-2 fastball, moved to second on Aaron Miles' sacrifice, and shouted, "Win! Win! Win!" all the way home on a clutch single from Alfonso Soriano. All in all, a great performance from the Cub offense in this game.

The Pitching


Let's do the bad news first: Kevin Gregg was not good today. After giving up back-to-back homers to Lance "Fat Elvis" Berkman and Carlos "Also Fat" Lee, Gregg couldn't get any of the next three batters out, and left with the bases loaded. Aaron Heilman came on in "relief," and promptly "relieved" the Cubs of their lead on a two-run single on the first pitch to Pudge Rodriguez.


But hey, there's good news! Randy Wells put up six more scoreless innings today. That's 15.1 scoreless in his career with the Cubs, the first Cub since 1993 to start off on such a good streak. He's been hittable, but has avoided any major damage by allowing just one extra base hit this season (a double to Jason Kendall in his last start, against Milwaukee). In addition, Angel Guzman and Carlos Marmol continue to dominate; today they combined for two innings with four strikeouts and zero base-runners.

Conclusion


Should we begin demanding changes in the way Lou trots out his relievers to close games? To be honest, I'm not sure. Before today, Kevin Gregg had pitched 6.2 innings in May, allowing just one run while racking up seven strikeouts. Regardless, it looks like we've got an offense we can trust, even without two of our best hitters in Ramirez and Bradley. Hey, a win's a win, right?

Go Cubs!

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.

Give me a break Rosenbloom

When I graduated with my journalism degree part of me thougth it would be great to meaningful columns about baseball. There is something grand about weaving wonderful stories about players and the game they play, but every so often a writer just ticks me off.

Today while my students were watching To Kill a Mockingbird, I read through various sites about the Cubs. I came across a little article by Steve Rosenbloom. His stuff has always been shallow, and I'm not sure, in this day and age, why he still has a job.

Today's article deals with Milton Bradley, and his decision to stand up for himself and appeal his suspension. His short lashing of Bradley states, says that Bradley should've done the noble thing and just took the punishment when he was dinged up. He calls out Bradley for hurting the Cubs by waiting.

This part really cracks me up:

Instead, he’ll miss today’s game against Houston when the Cubs’ offense needs every bat it can find, especially Bradley’s, especially after his home run against San Diego that alerted NASA, especially with Aramis Ramirez out and Derrek Lee looking for his first hit in 10 days.


All because Bradley “had to stand up for myself.’’

Ok, other than his love for the word especially, what is Rosebloom saying here? First off, the Cubs scored 11 runs yesterday without Lee, Bradley and Ramirez. They were still able to draw walks and get extra base hits. Did he miss yesterday? Second, we all know that Bradley is going to miss time, so we might as well get used to it. Luckily, Kosuke Fukudome and Micah Hoffpauir have played well during this time.

I know the media loves to pick on Bradley, but did Rosenbloom see the play where Bradley got tossed? I have no problem letting a player appeal, because it is his right to do so. Isn't this America? Don't we have a chance to stand up for ourselves? Does anybody get the point of this article?

The only thing I can up with is that it Milton took his coco puffs one time and didn't forgive him for it. More likely, Rosenbloom is just the lastest writer that thinks that Milton's bad reputation must be called out all the time. This is just another example of a paid journalist being too full of themselves to write meaningful work. Is there any wonder why people visit places like GROTA instead of reading newspapers?

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.

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