Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Cubs

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/managed/grota/drupal/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

Series Preview: Astros v. Cubs

Astros vs. Cubs
match-ups
Overview

The Chicago Cubs continue their charge to the top of the NL Central.

The Houston Astros battle it out with the Pirates for the "Worst in Division" award.

This is amazingly the third match-up between these two teams already.  So far the Cubs are 4-1 against Houston and this will be the first time they meet in the Friendliest of Confines.  The Cubs will be looking to win their 5th straight after having outscored the Padres 23-9.  The Astros will be looking to hang on for dear life.

The Match-Ups
May 15th - Brian Moehler vs. Randy Wells
The 37-year-old Moehler can't possibly be this bad... can he?  After 4 starts he's 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA.  But despite his terrible record he's only surrendered 1 homerun.  So how did this happen?  In part blame the Pirates and don't forget to serve up a heapin' helping of blame on the Cubs.  In his first 4 innings of work - the representative of his first two starts of the year - Moehler gave up 15 hits, 12 earned runs, and he walked 2.  That is a WHIP of 4.25.  Since he's entered the month of May he has managed to shave about 30 points off of his ERA.  No, not .30 points.  THIRTY points. 

Randy Wells was initially supposed to start yesterday but the Cubs traded him in the rotation order with Clownsevelt.  He'll be getting his second big league start later today.  A decent performance could spell future use out of the bullpen.

May 16th - Roy Oswalt v. Sean Marshall
If ever Houston would win a game this series it'll be this one.  Oswalt hasn't exactly been his former glorious self, and he's had nagging finger problems.*  Through 8 games he's won exactly one time, and that was during his last start.  Through 3 games in May his ERA is 6.00.

Sean Marshall is this year's hard luck loser in Chicago.  Through 5 starts he has a better ERA than pretty much everybody in the bullpen but Ted Lilly, and yet he's only won a single game.  Interestingly enough in his 7 total appearances this year, 3 have been against the Brewers and 2 have been against the Cardinals.

(*he just can't stop flipping off people in authority.  President Obama visited the Astros clubhouse a few weeks ago and they had to stuff Oswalt into a meat locker.  Hijinx ensued.)

May 17th - Rich Harden vs. Felipe Paulino
Harden has shockingly made his first 7 starts.  He is presently on pace to win 19 this season - despite his 4.54 ERA and he's also projected to strike out more than 200.  But so far the only important "pace" number is 33 - his projected starts.  Harden has yet to face the Astros this year.

Felipe Paulino.  25-years-old and with the pitching stats of Mark Grace.  The good news for Astros fans is that he's pitching below his career ERA so far this year.  The bad news is that his career ERA is 7.01 and he's only under it by 8 points.  Also if he's 6-2 and weighs only 180 pounds then I'm the bloody Pope of Nebraska.*

(*There is no Nebraskan Pope!  Felipe is really fat!)

Conclusions
I like the Cubs' chances.  They're riding a 4 game winning streak, they're facing 3 underperforming pitchers on a team with an erratic offense and their cylanders have started clicking.  I predict big wins.  I hope I'm not wrong.

Quick Links
Series Preview - Opening Day Cubs at Astros
Series Recap - April 9th, Cubs 11 Astros 6
Series Preview - Cubs at Houston May 6-May 7
Series Recap - Cubs 2, Astros 0
NL Central Rankings of Ultimate Power (May 12)

Tip for Purchasing Tickets Online
Most online brokers and marketplaces in the secondary market charge a service fee during checkout regardless of what you are purchasing, such as Chicago Cubs tickets or anything else. Typically you can walk through the first few steps of checkout to find out if there will be any additional charges.. From your friends at Neco.com
, the home of transparent pricing.

Game & Series Recap: Cubs 11 (3), Padres 3 (0)

Cubs win!
Wow.  Now that was an awesome game which will hopefully leave the boo-birds silent for a while.  First of all, Chad Gaudin was up to his old tricks.  He proved tough to hit, but for him so did the catcher's mitt.  The former Cub allowed only 1 hit in 4.1 innings of work but he also walked 7.  Amazingly enough he appeared as if he'd get away with his wild streak until the hitters erupted in the 5th. 

The Hitters
We actually saw this often enough last year that it wasn't surprising.  The 1-4 hitters in the Cubs lineup failed to drive in a single run and yet the team exploded for 11.  But unlike those incidents from '08, the 1-4 hitters got the job done -- it's just that they spent the day setting the table rather than clearing it.

Impressively Theriot, Fukudome, and Hoffpauir drew 2 walks a piece - accounting for 6 of the day's 10 walks - and consequently they also made up for 5 of the Cubs 11 runs.  Dusty Baker is shocked that the patient, disciplined route worked but Cub fans have always known better.

The first big inning came in the previously mentioned 5th, when Gaudin managed to walk the bases loaded.  He was then relieved by Luis Perdomo who continued the party by walking Geovany Soto (scoring a run) and then through surrendering back-to-back doubles to Reed Johnson and Bobby Scales!  (The act of coming in to relieve a difficult situation only to fail to get a single out while being beaten like Tina during one of Ike's coke benders is what we like to call "crapping one's pants on the mound.")  Turdomo was then relieved by Duaner Sanchez who surrendered an RBI single to the pitcher, walked Soriano, and finally escaped the inning by inducing a ground out from Theriot.

But wait!  There was a second big inning!  The Padres trotted Sanshiz out there for a second inning of "effective relief," and he proceeded to surrender a hit to Fukudome before he got the first two outs of the inning, at which point Reed Johnson singled and Bobby Scales! doubled home both base runners.  Then Aaron Miles doubled home Scales! and Ryan Dempster completed the Trifecta Double scoring Miles.

In other words, Sanchez pitched 1.2 innings, surrendered 6 hits, gave up 4 runs, and walked 1 batter.  So much for "relief."

Incidentally Mr. Bobby Scales! went 2 for 4, giving him hits in his first 6 games at the Major League level.  As I keep saying Scales really wants to stay in the majors for a while.

The Pitchers
Dempster has been a hard-luck ace this year evoking serious doubts from the faithful about his fat contract.  He's still got a ways to go before we feel better about things but today he pitched 7 innings, allowed only 3 hits, 2 walks, struck out 5 and lowered his ERA to 4.65.  Not to mention he went all Zambrano on the Padres as previously mentioned.  His stellar 2 for 4 day raises his batting average to an impressive .105 on the season -- Milton Bradley territory.

Dempster was relieved by Jose Ascanio, marking his 2009 debut.  The Ass-Can threw 2 innings of relief, struck out 3, and surrendered an irrelevant homerun.  But hey -- no walks.  We'll take it!

Series Wrap-Up
I'll never forget what the Padres did to the Cubs back in '06 when they brutally crushed the team and effectively ended the season.  They evoked this photoshop from me at the time:

Cubs Padres
It brings warm feelings to my blackened heart to see the Cubs deliver a similar blow to the Padres just over 3 years later.  This series wasn't even remotely close for San Diego and the Cubs at this moment sit half a game out of first place in the Central.

And still I'm sure that there will be plenty of ledge-jumping moments to come, but that warm feeling you have right now is the right one to have.  For all their nagging injuries, and bizarrely bad performances, and heart breaking losses these Cubs are the real deal.  Lower the white flag of defeat, raise the white flag of blue victory and bring on Houston!

Current Record: 20-14
Position in the NL Central: Tied for 2nd place, 0.5 games out of 1st
Best Possible Record: 148-14
Worst Possible Record: 20-142
Record needed to win 110: 90-38
On Pace For: 95-67


Quick Links

Series Preview: Padres vs. Cubs
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Padres 2
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Padres 4 Theriot Unquieted
GameCast: May 14th - Padres vs. Cubs Sweep Edition

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).

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Padres 4, Theriot Unquieted

Cubs win
Unrelated note: Attached is the second new graphic of the day.  This one took a shockingly long period of time to make.  Again, about 97% of it is made from scratch, with a few things borrowed from an ESPN image.  Sometimes as a graphics guy I like to challenge myself to performing tasks without knowing if I can actually succeed.  In this case though it's mission accomplished.

The Offense
Speaking of mission accomplished, Ryan Theriot's got to be feeling like a billion bucks right now.  The guy hit a total of one - ONE!! - homerun last year and he's already five deep in the 2009 season.  And let's not forget that he began the year with something like 7 career homeruns and is now dangerously approaching the point where he doubles that number. 

Other offensive stars tonight include Alfonso Soriano - who hit homerun #11, by the way - and Geovany Soto.  Soto went 2 for 3 with his first homerun of the year and 3 RBI.  Derrek Lee meanwhile went 0 for 4 and maybe the Cubs would be better off DLing him after all and giving him some time to work on his swing in Iowa.

The Pitching
Theodore Roosevelt Lilly worked his wonders.  He threw into the 7th, surrendering 8 hits but walking 0 while striking out 7.  Granted, he surrendered not one but two homeruns to Adrian Gonzalez but it hardly mattered.

Oh and in the 8th Carlos Marmol stepped in, allowed a leadoff single which he turned into a double play ball and then walked Nick Hundley, advanced him to second with a wild pitch, walked Brian Giles and gave up an RBI single to Jody Gerut.  Not exactly his best night and half of his pitches were balls.

Conclusion

It's a series win for Chicago.  The Cubs are now 19-14, half a game out of a three team clusterbang for first place in the Central.  They'll be playing later today for a sweep and the chance to share the lead in the division.

Quick Links
Series Preview - Padres vs. Cubs
Game Recap - Cubs 6, Padres 2
GameCast: April 13th - Padres vs. Cubs

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

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Padres 2

Cubs win
Bobby Scales! wants you to know that since he's finally made it to the majors he plans on staying for a while.  While he's there he might as well get used to winning, too.

The Offense

Was anybody sweating the 2 run lead San Diego held until the 5th?  The Cubs sure had some chances in the early innings but were unable to capitalize on walks, doubles, wild-pitch advancements, and mascot mischief until Alfonso Soriano finally said ENOUGH!  and cranked a run-scoring double.

After that it was a verifiable hit parade as the Cubs scored 1 or more runs every inning until they shut it down after the top of the 9th.  The Fonz and Fuku were responsible for 6 of the Cubs 11 hits, and both managed double doubles - giving both 9 on the year.  (A Soriano-Fukudome double team?  But how can that possibly work?  They're practically from different worlds!  One is dark skinned and from the Dominican, the other is Asian and from the Far East!  What is this, Rush Hour 4?) 

Also among the big hitters was Milton Bradley - who hit a 2-run homer in the 6th - and the previously mentioned Bobby Scales! who has now played in 5 games and collected at least 1 hit each time. 

By the way, on the flip side Derrek Lee and Mike Fontenot both went 0 for 3 and Lee struck out every at bat.  Clearly he's done for, rather than merely rusty. 

The Pitching
Rich Harden lowered his ERA thanks to 6 innings of 4 hit, 1 walk ball.  The only damage he allowed was done in the 1st inning, a two-run shot by Adrian Gonzalez.  Harden responded to his early troubles by popping a ligament out of his arm.  (No, wait, he actually buckled down and owned San Diego the rest of the way out.)

The bullpen delievered 3 solid innings.  Heilman, Marmol, and Gregg gave Cub fans what we needed - shutout baseball with only a few pants-crapping moments - like when Carlos Marmol issued one of his trademark walks.

The Cubs are now 1.5 games out of first place, by the way.  I hope St. Louis has enjoyed their lead.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Padres vs. Cubs
GameCast: May 12th - Padres vs. Cubs

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.

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. San Diego Padres

Padres vs. Cubs
Match-Ups
(editor's note: this Preview was written mostly by Jason with a few tidbits thrown in by Kurt.  If you read a line that's funny, Jason wrote it.  If it's lame, blame Kurt)
Overview
Oh, the Padres, how we scorn you.  Who can forget the way you crushed our hopes and deprived the Cubs of their first trip to the World Series in 39 years? 

...hold on, that was 25 years ago and nobody really cares anymore? 

Who can forgive the smoking bat of that fat, hit-machine pud known as Tony Gwynn?  Imagine what his career would have been like if he hadn't gone blind and died tragically prematurely ...

...wait, that was the fat, hit-machine pud known as Kirby Puckett?

Ahem.  Anyway, the Padres are exactly the team we thought they were back in the winter time when they came >< that close! to trading Jake Peavy to the Cubs.  Imagine what the Cubs would be like right now with Peavy in their rotation?  They'd be unbeatable!

...oh, he's 2-4 with a 4.27 ERA?  Dammit.

Regardless, the Cubs are 17-14, 2.5 games out of first, while the Padres are 13-19 and are eating the Dodgers' smoke.  Plus it's a home series.  Sounds to me like it's advantage Chicago, but let's break it down by outing:

Tuesday, May 12th - Rich Harden vs. Jake Peavy
Now *this* is a marquee matchup.  The 2-4 Jake Peavy goes up against Rich Harden and his...4.83 ERA.  Huh.  But...

No really, both these guys are really good!  I was ready to trade four prospects, a DeRosa, three Ronnie Cedenos and a generous helping of Cubbie Pride* for Jake Peavy and his arm of gold.  He was supposed to combine with Harden to form a rotation, not a Tuesday matchup.  WHY JIM HENDRY!!  WHY DID YOU NOT TRADE FOR HIM?!?  You broke my heart.

And Harden!  He's one of the few guys out there who can honestly claim to have better stuff than Peavy.  His poor ERA, in my humble opion, is largely a result of his having poor control of his changeup in several of his starts, and not because of any issues with velocity (despite the protestations of hack writers). 

If both pitchers are on this game, look for few runs and tons of strikeouts.  Not a good day to be a batter.

(* yeah, that's right, I said Cubbie.  Suck it)

Wednesday, May 13th - Ted Lilly vs. Chris Young
Here's hoping Lee can make it into the lineup.  I love a good fight.  Young, generally an excellent pitcher, has also struggled a bit this year (4.76 ERA).  I thought Petco was a pitcher's park.  Actually, I thought Petco was a pet store, but that's neither here nor there.

Lilly, on the other hand, has been awesome this year.  Sporting an ERA just a notch above three, Lilly is the proud owner of a 4-2 record.  He's also the proud own of Illinois' largest collection of human shins.  Who knew he had a thing for shins? 

Color me surprised.

Thursday, May 14th - Randy Wells vs Chad Gaudin 
Wait, what?  Chad Gaudin?  Huh.  We could kind of use him right about now, couldn't we?  I mean, not that Dave Patton hasn't been great and all**.  DAMMIT, CHAD, YOU COULDN'T HAVE TRIED A LITTLE HARDER THIS SPRING?  Granted, he's continued to issue more walks than a gleeful warden, but apparently his genius plan of pitching his way off the Cubs roster and into a starting rotation has paid off.  But he still looks like an extra from the set of Deliverence.

Wells, on the other hand, has been the Cubs best pitcher with a zero point zero zero ERA.  Wells also has a pet monkey.  That's all I know.  But in seriousness, he wasn't exactly unhittable in his last outing.  However he has to know that there's a gig waiting for him once Carlos returns, and if a few decent starts keeps him on Lou's happy list then just maybe the Cubs have an answer to one of their bullpen conundrums in Wells. 

(** far be it from me to mention that I said we should keep Gaudin going into the season) 

Conclusions
I'm sorry, call me crazy, but I have to call split again. 

Note From Kurt
I'm with Jason.  I'm not sure how they'll pull it off, but a split appears inevitable. 

In all seriousness, we keep harping patience here at GROTA which has earned us the respect of half the Cub fan nation and the scorn of the other half.  Those Cubbie Downers appear intent on taking us out via a full-body fling off a building ledge, but we're fast!  We're nimble!  They're not gonna get us!

However!  (You knew there'd be a however, right?)  Sooner or later the Cubs will need to buckle down and reel off 10 or 15 straight wins.  Or at least, they need to win 10 of 15.  Or something.  But this up and down and up and down thing needs to end!

So go get 'em!  Go Cubs!

Tip for Purchasing Tickets Online
Most online brokers and marketplaces in the secondary market charge a service fee during checkout regardless of what you are purchasing, such as Chicago Cubs tickets or anything else. Typically you can walk through the first few steps of checkout to find out if there will be any additional charges.. From your friends at Neco.com, the home of transparent pricing.

NL Central Rankings of Ultimate Power (May 12)

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but as per usual, my time has been at such high demand and those daily transatlantic flights have really been taking it out of me. I’ll try to update this every Monday as the Cubs tend to have most Mondays off throughout the season and it seems to be the unofficial start of the new week.

Since everyone with an Internet connection likes to do “power” rankings (whatever that means), I figure we can do them too. While most experts like to rank all 30 teams, I have neither the time nor the care for anyone outside of the NL Central. Hell, I barely care about any outside of the Cubs, so the other five losers in the division should feel lucky I’ve even mentioning their name. Especially you Houston...good lord do I hate everything about how you choose to be (more on that later).

Also, for fun’s sake, we’ll compare my rankings to those of the Tribune’s Phil Rogers. Here’s how he ordered the division this week: Cards, Cubs, Brewers, Red, Pirates, Assblows. Let’s get started.

1. St. Louis Birds on Artificially Manufactured Wooden Sticks (20-12)

Gotta respect what the Cards have been able to do here early in the season. Clearly they have the best hitter in all of baseball (a title you probably don’t want to have these days) and their bullpen has been surprisingly good. Although the Cards have cooled off over their last 10 games (going 5-5), they have a favorable schedule coming up. STL is 12-5 at home (only the Dodgers and Red Sox are better in their own parks) and 17 of their next 26 games are at Buschhhhhhhhhhhhh.

2. Chicago Cubs (17-14)

So the blue and red flag might fly below three others tonight in the NLC standings, but that really doesn’t mean dick when you’re only 2.5 games out of first place. While some of us might be a little...distraught...over the current incarnation of the Cubbies, I’m cautiously optimistic if not encouraged. The team has been relatively spoiled the last two years as most of the big names have avoided injuries, but now it is all starting to pile on at once. A cause for concern? Hell yes, but look where the Cubs are. Two and half out with a team made up of guys who were getting PT in Iowa this time last year. If Lou can get the right chemistry in the bullpen and/or the Cubs can get their big names back and swinging, the rest of the division might want to invest in a pair of Oops I Crapped My Pants.

3. Cincinasty Reds (18-14)

I absolutely refuse to give Dusty Baker any sort of credit for this team’s decent start, so let’s not even think it's possible that Baker has somehow worked his magic on a club that will most likely falter in about a month. Sure, they just finished an impressive series against the Cardinals, but this team confuses me dearly. First of all, they are 7-9 at home and  11-5 on the road (best road record in the majors). Do you really think they will be able to win like this all season? Oh, and try to figure out this logic. The Harangutan has a 2.93 ERA and a 3-3 record while Bronson Arroyo is 5-2 with a 7.02 ERA. Argh, DUSTY!!!!!!!!!

4. Chicago’s Northern-Most Suburb Brewers (18-14)

What did I learn from the latest series between the Cubs and Crew? I learned that Ryan Braun is really dangerous but also a little school boy biatch (Oh no poor Ryan, did the scary Canadian with the goatee throw the ball to close to you? Let me taste your tears). I learned that even though the Brewers were at full strength for that series, they really aren’t that much better than half a Cubs team. I learned that as long as the Brewers trot that bullpen out there on a daily basis, they will never win this division. And I learned that my George Foreman Grill does not cook my chicken evenly (I didn’t learn that from the series, but I was making some dinner during one of the games and needless to say I was disappointed).

5. Houston AssTrolls (14-17)

I could analyze Houston’s most recent performances...or I could list all the reasons what I hate them: I hate how Miguel Tejada has to clap his hands furiously after he does anything that is remotely decent. I hate how Hunter Pence looks like he running around with suitcases in his hands. I hate how the Astros thought it was a good idea to have Russ Ortiz, LaTroy Hawkins and Mike Hampton on their team all at the same time. I hate how they have not one, but two players on their team named Geoff (Blum and Geary). Most of all, I hate how Lance Berkman looks like Tony Stewart and both are considered “elite athletes.”

6. Pittsburgh Pirates (12-19)

I haven’t had the chance to take a good look at the ‘Rates this
season since they have yet to play the Cubs, but losing your last 9
games cannot be good for business (at least that’s what I’ve
been told). Maybe the Pirates decided they were playing too good and
decided to go into a slump so they could attack under the cover of
mediocracy? The last thing Pittsburgh wants to do is gain any sort of
attention so opponents start taking them seriously, right? Well played
Pirates. Well played indeed.

Game & Series Recap: Cubs 4 (1), Brewers 2 (2) - "break out the blue kool-aid"

Cubs 4, Brewers 2
There are Cub fans out there who want you to know that if you haven't given up on the team as of today - May 10th, 2009, with 132 games remaining on the season - then you're swilling the blue kool-aid.  (heimiedog, I'm not saying that that's your take on it, I'm just borrowing from your venacular)

But back here in reality, where there are 132 games remaining and it's only the 10th of May, a Chicago Cubs team with two key players on the DL and with 4 more key players struggling to heat up their bats are 17-14, 2.5 games out of first place.  They've won 7 of their last 10 and exit their most recent road trip with a 3-2 record.

Anybody who wants to quit on a team that's 2.5 games out of first place in the early part of May can leave.  Here's the door

But let's be fair.  This team has problems that they need to work on which can thankfully be fixed.  I'd say that the offensive woes, for example - which are a bit overrated anyway* - will fix themselves for the most part when the Cub regulars get healthy.  It's easy to jump to conclusions but so far most of the key guys who have been tanking have been playing with sore necks, shoulders, and groins.

(*since the start of May, the Cubs have scored 52 runs ... that's an average of 5.2 runs per game which probably won't be much off their pace anyway once this ugly spot is behind them)

The bullpen woes - which were very clearly exploited this series, especially yesterday - will require a little more help.  Chad Fox is done for as he has hurt his elbow again.  Neal Cotts and Dave Patton need to go.  There are thankfully players in the system who might be able to step in and replace them admirably - including a couple of the talented young arms acquired for Mark DeRosa - and the Cubs need to turn to them immediately.  Meanwhile Jim Hendry needs to consider pursuing another setup guy at first opportunity.

Offensively, the Cubs had just enough today to get the positive result.  Soriano selfishly hit his 10th homerun of the season, Kosuke Fukudome collected 2 hits (including a triple), and Bobby Scales! went 2 for 3 - he's gotten at least one hit in every game he's played in so far. 

The result is that the Cubs are now returning to Wrigley having gone - as previously mentioned - 3-2 on a difficult road trip including 3 games against a team that's been on fire.  (Raise the white flags, they only went 3-2!)

They now have a day off tomorrow before they begin a 6 game homestand against the Padres and Astros.  Neither San Diego nor Houston are world beaters and I'd expect the Cubs to continue to win in the face of controversy and injuries.

But since I've taken the time to note their winning road trip and their .700 winning perecentage in May, then I must be swilling the blue kool-aid.  Sorry about that everybody.

Current Record: A white-flag-raising 17-14
Position in the NL Central: A loserish 3rd place, 2.5 games out of first
Best Possible Record: An impossibly unlikely 148-14
Worst Possible Record: A much likelier 17-145
Record needed to win 110: A won't-happen 93-38
On Pace For: A swill-the-kool-aid-if-you-think-it's-gonna-happen 89-73

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Brewers
Game Recap: Brewers 3, Cubs 2
Game Recap: Brewers 12, Cubs 6
GameCast: May 10th - Cubs vs. Brewers

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award