Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Cubs

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GameCast: Cubs at Houston

GameCast
Rich Harden (2-1, 5.11 ERA) vs. Mike Hampton (1-2, 4.88 ERA)
Story-Lines

Apologies because this one will be short.  Pitching for the Cubs is Rich Harden, a guy with million-dollar stuff and a 10 cent arm.  As Jason noted, Harden has been psyching himself up for this match-up against Mike Hampton by listening to - among others - Bitter Sweet Sympathy by the Verve and by watching reruns of the first season of Dawson's Creek. 

Their first match-up of the season resulted in a Cubs series victory.  Since then Houston has rocketed to the basement while the Cubs have sipped the sweet nectar of mediocrity. 

Who's Hot
Mike Fontenot, Derrek Lee, and Ryan Theriot have combined for 8 homeruns and 21 RBI over the last 7 games.  Lee's AVG has still been down, but you'll be shocked to know that he hasn't hit into a double play yet this year.  (Then again, his neck is still bothering him and he's not playing tonight.  So, er, nevermind)

Who's Not
Kosuke Fukudome - batting .182 in the past 7 games, Alfonso Soriano is also hitting weakly, batting .200.  Maybe May is the new April for the Fonz and the new September for Fuku. 

Conclusions
Mike Hampton?  Pitching?  Filed in the "Kurt is epically wrong" department, I was soooo pissed when the Cubs didn't sign Hampton back in the day.  Anyway, if the Cubs can't destroy Houston and their attempts at a 90's revival, then I've got nothing for them.

And I promise.  I swear.  Zambra-0-Meter to be updated immediately following tonight's game.

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs at. Houston Astros

Cubs @ Houston
Match-ups
Overview

Ahhh, another two game series, another chance to predict a split. 

The Cubs leave Wrigley for friendlier confines, leaving behind a handful of boos and a locker room full of broken hearts.  Everyone from The Shark to DLee felt the razor sharp tongue (BOOOOOO) of the (BOOOOOOOOO) dissatisfied (BOOOOOO) fan (Boo) base (...boo...).  I mean, no reason for them not to boo.  The Cubs were about to lose a game...after winning four straight.  But totally, anytime you feel the least bit dissatisfied during this 162 game season, you should boo.  Perspective is for the weak.

Alright, enough of the boo talk, let's get onto some quick hits regarding your Chicago Cubs

  • Yeah, as Kurt pointed out, Fukudome's being hitting around .250 for the last week or so, which is quite a step down from his the lofty level of play he's established early on (BOOOOOOOOOOO).  That being said, he still looks really good, the hits just aren't dropping.  Plus, the walks are still there.  My big concern's going to be if his power goes away for a prolonged stretch, which would signal the return of Fuku v2008.
  • Cubs, as a team, have an 85 OPS+ at Wrigley and a 108 OPS+ away from home.  No wonder the boo birds have been raining down (BOOOOO).  Cubs: don't like to be cold and wet.  Me: not blaming them.
  • In an inverse of the flip side, the Cubs pitchers have a sub-4 ERA at home and a super-5 era on the road. 
  • And you're surprised we're basically a .500 team?
  • GET MY PLAYERS HEALTHY!!!!!
  • (okay, they're not my players)
  • (I don't have any players)
  • (I wish I had a pet monkey)

Onto the matchups!

Wait, what the hell?  Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz? What is this, the greatest hits of 1999?  Somebody fetch me my Smash Mouth t shirt.  Hey look, the Phantom Menace is coming out!  That's going to be awesome!

What's a Jar Jar?

Wednesday, May 6th - Rich Harden vs. Mike Hampton

I suppose if this was 1999, Hampton would have a ERA a little bit closer to 3 (or 4, for that matter) and a bit less of the suck.  It seems that he's finally done with The Contract of Insanity and can start anew with whatever the going rate is for a crappy, old lefty who was dumb enough to try to make a go of it in Colorado and say he career wash out.

Harden, on the other hand, is completely awesome.  He's just had a case of the up and downs and there's been a bit more down than up so far this year.  But I'll take 13.5 strikeouts per 9 innings...I'd just like Rich to pair that with a WHIP that's closer to 1 than it is to 2.

Tuesday, April 28th - Ted Lilly vs. Russ Ortiz

And Russ, remember 1999?  When you had the 18 wins and a career on the upswing?  That was awesome.  Do you wish it was still 1999 and you idn't know the secret ending of the Sixth Sense? 

Ortiz has seen better days (not surprising, given this post, they were in the late 90's) and Houston has now picked him up and is watching as his career winds down.  Ortiz used to be a fastball curve pitcher, so I'd guess he's now he's a mediocre fastball/mediocre curve pitcher.

Oh yeah, and Russ?  Don't bother to see the Matrix 2 or 3.  It's just...just don't.

Ted Lilly, on the other hand, is in full career upswing.  He's working on his first Cy Young season and, if he can get around the lefty-killing Carlos Lee, he'll get right through this Astros lineup.  Lilly has a WHIP just south of one and a K:BB ratio better than 4.  Niiiiiiice.  Of course, he also has an ERA of 9 on the road and 0.42 as home, but nothing cures a case of the road blues like the Astro's lineup.  Look for Lilly to slice and dice and devour the Astros hitters.  And I mean that 100% literally.

Conclusions

I said that I would predict a split, but it's so hard to believe that a couple of pitchers who peaked when Britney was still hot can take down two of our best pitchers.  But still, I'm the guy who calls "Edge" for every coin flip.

Sorry kids, the tea leaves say split.  But expect the Cubs to get cheated out of one of these games. 

Go Cubs.

Quick Links
Series Preview - Cubs v. Astros April 6-April 8
Series Recap: Cubs 2, Astros 1

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.

Series & Game Recap: Giants 6, Cubs 2

Giants 6, Cubs 2
You can tell that Lou Piniella likes Tim Lincecum on account of how he apparently tried to give him a good chance of tossing a no-hitter today.  Here was the lineup the Cubs trotted out there against the Giants:

CF Joey "GONNA LOSE HIS GIG" Gathright
SS Aaron Miles
RF Fukudome
1B D.Lee (went 1 for 4, which is a mild improvement on going "0 for suck")
LF Micah Hoffpauir
3B Mike Fontenot
2B BOBBY SCALES (went 1 for 4, collecting his first ever big league hit)
C Koyie Hill

In other words, five of the eight Cubs weren't typical starters and today's game resembled more of a split-squad Spring Training game than anything else.  Naturally, the Cubs lost.

The positives were that a) this isn't a lineup that was indicative of how the Cubs will perform this year on account of how the majority of those players aren't meant to be big league starters and b) Bobby Scales played and performed decently, although I was somewhat befuddled to see Fontenot start at third and Scales at second. 

The negatives were that Jeff Samardzija continues to leave us baffled as to why he was called up to pitch out of the pen as he has yet to display in 2009 the ability to get out major league hitters.  This time the consequence was that Sean Marshall's ERA took an unecessary hit, after the lefty had given 7 innings of decent baseball. 

Oh, and on the day in which I note that Neal Cotts hasn't faced the minimum but once, he did it again.  Go figure.

Current Record: 14-12
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 3 games out of first
Best Possible Record: 150-12
Worst Possible Record: 14-148
Record needed to win 110: 96-40
On Pace For: 87-75

Quick Links
Series Preview: Giants vs. Cubs
Game Recap: Cubs 4, Giants 2
Just a brief word prior to the GameCast
GameCast: May 5th, Giants vs. Cubs

GameCast: May 5th Giants vs. Cubs

GameDay
Tim Lincecum (2-1, 3.16ERA) vs. Sean Marshall (0-1, 3.32ERA)
Story-lines

Two consecutive wins is nothing.  Three is a trend.  Four is a streak.  And five?  Five is usually the start of something special, which is exactly what the Cubs are playing for today.  Lawd knows they have their problems.  Shall I outline them for you?

  • No, I shall not.  You already know all about them.

But despite those issues, the Cubs have the potential to continue to play well.  I particularly am looking forward to watching the team play with an actual backup third baseman on the roster - BOBBY SCALES! - and my fingers are crossed that the 31-year-old rookie will play well enough to warrant a tough decision by Hendrinella at a later date. 

For me, the interesting subject of now and the future is the gameplay of the Questionable Quartet.  Fittingly, all four have begun to show the signs of shaking out the cobwebs - Lee, Fontenot, Bradley, and Soto all had big games in the last series against the Marlins.  Maybe it's not a coincidence then that, at last, the Cubs are playing like a winner.

Who's Hot
Koyie Hill - 9 for his last 24, Hill's batting .375 in the past 7 days
Ryan Theriot - Geezus, what has Theriot been drinking?  Before this season Theriot had never hit more than 3 homeruns in a season, be it his 134 at bat season in 2006, or his 537 at bat season in 2007, or his 580 at bat season last year.  In fact, before the start of this season TheQuietRiot had 7 career homeruns.  He's well on his way to doubling that total having hit 3 longballs in the past week alone.  Cherish this moment Cubs fans, because for now Theriot is on pace to hit 19.
Mike Fontenot - It would be somewhat petty of me to remind you that Mike Fontenot will never be as good as Mark DeRosa.  So far this year, DeRo is batting .241 with 5 homers, 19 RBI, and a .738 OPS.  Meanwhile Fontenot is now batting .266 with 5 homers, 14 RBI, and an .852 OPS.  I'll take the younger one that bats lefty, although now that Lil' Babe is producing, people are now expressing the ridiculous wish that DeRo was the team's first baseman rather than DeePee.
Angel Guzman - I appear to have been wrong.  In his last 7 appearances, Guzman has had an ERA of 3.12.  Not exactly stellar, but for a long reliever it's pretty damn good.

Who's Not
The Chicago Bullpen - While Guzman has found balance to his season, Carlos Marmol, Aaron Heilman, Dave Patton, Jeff Samardzija, and Neal Cotts have come undone.  The Cubs pen looks horrible right now, but as somebody who recently took a stand to say that the lineup couldn't be as bad as they appeared, I will do so again now and say that the bullpen can - and will - turn things around.

Kosuke Fukudome - He's still doing better than the Questionable Quartet, but Fuku's last week has been, er, weak.  In his last 24 at bats Fukudome is batting .250, although he's hit a homer and has 5 RBI in that span.  I suspect it's nothing to panic about.

Conclusions
Four is galore but five would be ... a hive?  Eh, I dunno.  I'm pretty impressed with the Giants pitching but a Cubs team that stays patient, works the counts, draws walks, and gets epic homeruns from pantywaste shortstops is pretty hard to beat.  Today's game should be a good one.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Giants vs. Cubs
Game Recap: Cubs 4, Giants 2

Game Recap: Cubs 4, Giants 2

Cubs 4, Giants 2
Zambrano to miss time

Those of you who bet on "Carlos Zambrano" to be the first Cub to go to the DL, collect your money.  But hold off if you thought it would be due to arm issues - nope, our Big Moose hurt himself while trying to beat out a bunt single, that effin' lunatic.

Consequently the Cubs are promoting BOBBY SCALES! to replace him on the active roster which is good on a number of levels - most of them pertaining to Bobby playing the left side of the infield and being the modern day Crash Davis.  The only problem is that the Cubs don't have an immediate replacement for Z. in the rotation and a quick look at the schedule shows that they sort of need one by Friday. 

ESPN has the Cubs scheduled to turn to Randy Wells on Friday, the only problem being that he's not, y'know, technically on the ML roster yet.  So either Scales's trip to Chicago will be a very short one or somebody else - Dave Patton, Joey Gathright - is playing with an expiration date.

(Actually this may be a clever way to get around 25-man roster limitations.  My understanding of the rules is that you can promote/demote players as often as deemed necessary and it only counts once toward a notch against their service time.  The Cubs could travel with Scales and Wells, promoting Wells every 5th day while demoting Scales, only to re-promote Scales immediately after Wells finishes his start.  I'm sure there's something in the rules which prevents ambitious GM's/managers from doing that, though.)

Game Recap
I really think Ryan Dempster has been hard-luck this year, just in a different-than-usual sort of way.  Typically "hard-luck" reflects losing low-scoring games, but what's happened to Dempster is that his WHIP hasn't been horrible, but it seems that any time he gives up a walk or allows a hit it bites him in his ass.  But last night he had his best outing of the year against a Giants offense best known for sucking.

Dempster threw 7 innings, allowing 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs while striking out 7.  Cubs ace relievers Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg combined for 2 innings of relief, allowing 1 hit, 1 walk, and striking out 4 between them.

Offensively it was a "passable" day for the Questionable Quartet - 3 of whom played.  Bradley, Lee, and Soto combined to go 2 for 7 with 4 walks, 3 of which came from D.Lee.  But more impressively, Juice Theriot went yard -- again.

I know that we're not supposed to look gift horses in the mouth, but Ryan Theriot?  3 homeruns in under a week?  What the hell?!!  Seriously!  What the hell!

Nevertheless, the Cubs are now 14-11 and have won 4 straight.  Consistency, ladies and gentleman.  Consistency! 

They play for the mini-sweep tonight.

The Zambran-0-Meter
Incidentally, the Zambran-0-Meter is updated and ready to go on my computer back home.  I would have uploaded it last night or this morning, but I have a strict policy of cruelty when it comes to responding to loyal readers who act as if they are entitled.  It's nothing personal.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Giants vs. Cubs
GameCast: May 4th, Giants vs. Cubs

Series Preview - Cubs vs. Giants

Series Preview
matchups
Overview

I don't understand what's going on.  The bright, shiny lights and three game win streaks, they hurt my head!  Where am I?  Is that a strained hamstring?  Where are my pants?

Yes, it may seem like a dream, but fear not.  The last three games were real as pudding.  Yes, you really did see Theriot hit homers in back to back games.  Yes, and perhaps more importantly, you did see Lee crush two balls on back to back days.  And yes, in between those two homers, you did boo Lee.  I'm not sure about that one, but I think you're just an idiot.

It's a brave new world!  Unicorns and rainbows and win streaks!  Sandwiches!

None of it matters, of course, as the St. Louis Cardinals have the division all sewn up.  Or do they?  I present to you three scenarios that could propel the Cubs from second-dwellers into first place.

  • Isiah Thomas looks to be wearing out his welcome in Florida already (well, it has already been two weeks) and might be looking for a new job.  Give him a month as skipper of The Greatest Team on Earth and I give you a fourth place team.
  • Lure Pujols into the Democratic party.  His team will alienate him, he'll pull into his shell like a frightened turtle, and those numbers will fall faster than a brick in a barnyard (doesn't make sense?  Let's see you write metaphors at 6 am.  Or was that a simile?)
  • Swine Flu (too soon?)

And with that, what will the Cubs have to do for their part?  Let's move onto the matchups to find out.

The Matchups

Jonathan Sanchez vs. Ryan Dempster - I'd say not to let Sanchez's low 2 era fool you as he posted a 5+ era last year, but that'd be risking a jinx.  No, I prefer to let you know that Sanchez is off to a hot start (that hit rate is totally sustainable) and the Cubs will be lucky to get to him as the Cubs always struggle against young pitchers.  Blah blah blah. Rinse.  Repeat.

Dempster, on the other hand, has been just as bad as his numbers (5.40 ERA) suggest.  His control has been spotty and he's getting knocked around pretty good.  Other than that, though, he's been great.  Don't worry, folks, we've got three and three quarters years to find out which Dempster is the real Ryan Dempster.

Tim Lincecum vs. Sean Marshall - How about we just don't have to face Lincecum this series?  I don't see any real need for it. 

Lincecum got off to a slow start this season, but in his last two starts he's been stellar.  Lincecum is sporting a brilliant strikeout rate (43 in 30 innings) and has been keeping the walks down pretty well.  In fact, there's nothing wrong with his stat line.  He doesn't even give up homers.  For once, I'm glad I'll be at work and miss this game.

But hey, we've got our new ace on the mound: Sean Marshall.  Marshall has been decidedly awesome recently, culminating in his 7 inning, one run gem in his last start.  Marshall will be facing an impressively bad lineup and should be able to take advantage with his mix of curves and changeups away, so I see a pitcher's duel in the offing. 

Conclusion

This series has split written all over it.  Not literally, of course.  That would just be silly.  But still.  Split.

Go Cubs.

Tip for Purchasing Tickets Online
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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.

Gamecast: May 4th Giants vs. Cubs

GameCast
Jonathan Sanchez (1-1, 2.60 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (1-1, 5.40 ERA)

Story-lines

The Cubs are riding a three-game winning streak coming into tonight’s game against
the Giants. After a week of bad baseball, it was nice to see the Cubs do something good for a change.

The major story-line of the night is how will Aramis Ramirez look after taking forever off to
rest his calf (I know it hasn’t been forever, but really he needs to start playing again)?

The Cubs got pretty good pitching during the Marlin series, sans Rich Harden’s walk
fest, but they now turn back to last year’s most consistent pitcher Ryan Dempster.

Dempster hasn’t been the same since his seven-walk playoff game. But did we really
expect anything different? The Cubs signed him to a huge four-year deal, and he promptly turned into the pitcher I thought he would be
last year.

Who’s Hot

Mike Fontenot – In the last seven days, “Little Babe Ruth” has lived up
to the name. He has four home runs, 8 RBI, and a 1.179 OPS. This has
raised his overall average to .263. It looks like his little slump is over for now.

Derrek Lee – Ok, to be honest Lee isn’t really too hot, but he has hit two home
runs in the last two days. You have to start somewhere. We can only hope those 1-for-4’s with a HR turn into 3-for-4’s pretty soon.

Cubs Pitchers – Ted Lilly, Carlos Zambrano and Sean Marshall looked really solid in
their starts against the Marlins. Now we need Carlos Marmol to get his act together.

Who’s Not

Milton Bradley – See the last 50 billion posts on Mr. Crazy. In the last seven, he is
4-for-20. He can only go up for here? At least I hope so.

Alfonso Soriano – After Soriano’s quick start, we knew this was coming. Now, he
does have two home runs in the last seven days, but he is only hitting .206 (6-for-29). With Soriano you have to take the good and bad, and right now he is on one of those bad streaks.

Conclusions

The Cubs are still 3.5 back heading into this series, and the Cubs really need to take Game
1 against Sanchez. It is really important since Tim Lincecum is up tomorrow afternoon. Getting Ramirez back will be a boost, and hopefully the Cubs will continue their run producing ways.

Of course the Giant offense isn’t great, so a few runs will go a long way.
There should be a Series Preview a little later, but I neede to go ahead and get this posted, because I need to grade about 50 research papers (Hopefully I can get to at least five).

Series Recap: Cubs 3, Marlins 1

A big thanks to Yarbage for kindly covering for me while I was away.  Naturally the Cubs took advantage of my absence by playing some of their best baseball this season.  I'm not going to take a deep look into things because that would be redundant, but I'll give a few quick spins on the games played this weekend.

Game One
Cubs lose
Cubs lose, yadda yadda, season over, etc. etc., more of the same old tailspin rhetoric that feeds so much content into this blog.

Game Two
Cubs ... win?
Ryan Theriot.  I told my best buddy - not a Cubs fan - about the unlikelihood of Theriot's granny and his response was this:

If you look up "due" in the dictionary, they've got a picture of Ryan Theriot hitting that grand slam below the definition.  Probably my favorite part of this game was that the Cubs were down at various points by a lot of runs.  They were down 3-0 when they scored their first run of the game, and were down 5-1 when they went on their rampage, scoring 7 times before the Marlins were able to tack on a garbage run in the 9th.

Impressive events of this game - Theriot's granny, and Lee, Soto, and Fontenot - three of the now-legendary Questionable Quartet - combined for 2 hits each and went 6 for 10.  The team as a whole also drew 5 more walks, and while Rich Harden was chased the Succeptible Seven - also known as the bullpen - allowed only 1 earned run in 5.1 innings of work.  Cudos to Neal Cotts for almost succeeding in facing the minimum.

Game Three
Cubs ... win again?!
Speaking of due, Ryan Theriot apparently decided that he likes the taste of the longball and hadn't had enough.  So, he hit his second homerun in as many days - doubling his total for last year - leading the way to an easy romp in Game Three. Wherever he's vanished to, Pseudo-Goat Rider Colin must be scratching his head over the sheer improbability of Theriot's offensive outburst.  (Consequently, we at GROTA will now refer to Theriot as "Juice" for obvious reasons.)

Every playing member of the Questionable Quartet got hits in this game as well, including Derrek who went yard.  The offense drew 5 additional walks, and Ted Lilly (who also hit a double) went 8 innings, striking out 10, and taking the lead for the title of Most Reliable Pitcher on the staff.  Oh, and Aaron Heilman struck out all 3 batters he faced in the 9th.  He's turning out to be shockingly good.

Game Four
CUBS WIN AGAIN!!
And finally we have the decisive game.  On the plus side, Carlos Zambrano threw 5 innings of decent baseball before - on the down side - exiting with a sore hammy.  The Cubs are apparently going to shut him down, but I haven't read anywhere if he'll be taking a trip to the DL or just having a turn skipped in the rotation.

Regardless, the Cubs collected 6 runs from 9 hits and a Bakeresque 0 walks, including homeruns from two members of the Questionable Quartet - Derrek Lee and Mike Fontenot.  In this series, Fontenot's seen his AVG go from being around .230 to .266, and he now has 5 homeruns on the season.  Not bad for a guy who  some of our readers had given up on after about a week into the season.

Conclusions
The Cubs did what they needed to do - they beat the crap out of a first place team who I happen to hate with a hot, fiery passion.  Again a big thanks to Chris for covering for me while I was away

Maybe the Cubs will build on this play and hammer away at the Giants tonight.  After a week or so of harping about consistency, though, it's nice to see 3 games won by 6 runs or more in which different players contributed every night toward the offensive barrage.  That's what good teams do.  That's what the Cubs will do this year.

Current Record: 13-11
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 3.5 games out of first
Best Possible Record: 151-11
Worst Possible Record: 13-149
Record needed to win 110: 97-41
On Pace For: 88-74


Quick Links
Series Preview: Marlins at Cubs
Game Recap: Marlins 8, Cubs 2
Game Recap: Cubs 8, Marlins 6
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Marlins 1
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Marlins 4

P.S. The Carlos Zambran-0-Meter desperately needs to be updated.  It's at the very top of my to do list when I get home from work tonight.  Apologies for those who enjoy seeing the meter rise.

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Marlins 4

I didn't see any of today's game as I watched the Astros beat the Braves in Atlanta. By the way, the Braves might have the worst lineup in the majors right now if you were wondering.


As for the Cubs, Derrek Lee's grandslam in the fifth inning was enough to send the Cubs to a 6-4 victory. Apparently, Carlos Zambrano strained his hamstring beating out an infield single in the fifth inning that caused him to leave the game. I couldn't find anything on Zabrano's injury, so we will just have to wait and see.

During the top of the sixth, I remember looking at the Brave's scoreboard in right and seeing the Marlins with the bases loaded. I wondered what Zambrano was doing, but it makes a little more sense now. Angel Guzman did manage to get out of the jam by only allowing one run.

Carlos Marmol had another adventure in the 8th inning. He gave up a lead-off home run to John Baker, followed by a walk to Hanley Ramirez. He was able to get out of it. Then, Kevin Gregg picked up the save to the Cubs a 3-1 series victory.

Mike Fontenot hit his fifth home run, but Milton Bradley went 0-for-4 to push his average down to .116.

The Cubs picked up a half-game on the Cardinals, who were rained out. It was good to see the Cubs string a few wins together, and hopefully Ryan Dempster can put together a qaulity start against the Giants tomorrow.

Gamecast: May 3rd Marlins vs. Cubs


Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 6.92 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (2-1, 4.64 ERA)

Story-lines
Can the Cubs finally win a series, and a four-game one at that?
Can Ryan Theriot hit a third home run in as many days?
Can Carlos Zambrano be dominating on the mound?

These all things that I’m looking for as the Cubs try take 3-of-4 from the Florida Marlins. Well, maybe not the Theriot home run, but that would be really nice. After scuffling for over a week, the Cubs are back over .500 with a 12-11 mark. A win today, and the Cubs would have honest-to-God winning streaking heading into a two-game series against the Giants.

If the Cubs are going to compete, the Cubs need Zambrano to start throwing some dominating innings. He has pitched better in each of last two starts, and it would be nice to see that trend continue.

Who’s Hot
Ryan Theriot – as long as Theriot keeps hitting home runs and triples, he will stay on the hot list. The man’s on fire after he doubled his home run total from last season, on May 2nd no less. Call me crazy, but he just might hit three or four this season.

Mike Fontenot – Don’t look now but the other LSU grad has a 1.000 OPS in his last seven days. During that time he is hitting .292 with eight RBI. If anything good has come out his early season slump it is that Aaron Miles didn’t take the chance to take his job.

Zambrano – Big Z has four hits this week, including his first bomb of the year. He also has pinch hit in three straight games, which means his timing is ready for today.

Who’s Not
Aramis Ramirez’s calf – As nice as it has been to some Cubs hit better, we need to have Ramirez back in the lineup. From what I read it looks like tomorrow might be the day. I would rather see him sooner rather than later.

Milton Bradley – Not to beat a dead horse, but Bradley still hasn’t really started hitting. He is improving (he’s got 4 hits in his last 15 at bats). His average still stands at .128 on the season, but with a .320 OB. He didn't play yesterday, so maybe he is ready to bust out.

Conclusions
The Cubs are playing better, and it has translated into wins. Lets go out there today and get a third in a row. I won’t be able to catch today’s game, because I’m heading to the Braves game to hang out with friends. If there isn’t a recap when I get home, I will post one a little later tonight.

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