Ryan Dempster (3-5, 3.72 ERA) vs. Roy Oswalt (3-7, 2.78 ERA)
Well, so much for that sweep I was hoping for. Tonight the Cubs face the definitive ace of the Astros staff, Roy Oswalt. Despite his struggles in recent years as well as his mediocre record this season, Oswalt is pitching pretty darn well. Roy O has a WHIP of 1.08 and is striking out over three times as many batters as he walks (72:20 K:BB). In other words, this is gonna be tough.
On the other side, the storyline is the start of the Tyler Colvin era in right. Logically the length of this era will be determined on whether Lou wakes up feeling a certain way. On the downside, Theriot will lead off in the game despite his inability to walk... or hit... or play defense, for that matter.
Honestly, I'm not even doing this until we actually win a game. Seriously. Someone on the Cubs, please force me to write about how awesome you are with a performance tonight. I dare you (and/or beg of you).
A win is needed. A win against Roy Oswalt would be a nice momentum builder, I think. A win is a win, however, so I'll take it any way it comes.
Carlos Zambrano (1-3, 6.12) vs. Felipe Paulino (0-7, 4.40)
Well, this day has finally come. It's hard to ignore the elephant storyline in the room. Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past 2 weeks, you've been hearing about the triumphant return of Carlos Zambrano to the rotation. Well, here it is. What that means, I'm not really sure just yet, but I do know this: Z belongs in the rotation.
Outside of that, there really aren't any storylines worth covering. The Cubs are playing mediocre ball, the Astros are absolutely terrible. Good news is, someone has to win this game. Hopefully, the Cubs seize the opportunity.
I expect Zambrano to be passionate, but I hope he holds off on the hot headedness.
The 3-4 hitters of both teams have underperformed for both teams all season long.
We need this game. For that matter, we need a sweep. Go Cubs. Do things.
The Cubs' 2010 season is currently at a crossroads. They are 6.5 games back of two teams and on the precipise of falling out of the race. Without further ado. Here is a preview of a series that the Cubs should win handily. Of course ,we all know how that has gone this year:
Friday June 4: Carlos Zambrano vs Felipe Paulino
This game marks the triumfant return of Carlos Zambrano. Instead of getting the hapless Pirates (who someone turn into the 1927 Yankees when they play the Cubs), he gets the hapless Astros. In case you didn't know, the Astros are last in almost every relavent offensive category. They have the lowest OBP, the lowest OPS, the lowest SLG, the lowest wOBA and the fewest runs scored in all of baseball. Of course, the Pirates aren't much better and we know how that faired. Still you have to like Zambrano's chances. Z has pitched much better than his putrid ERA and quite frankly I expect him to take the move to the bullpen personally and have one of the best months of his life.
As for Paulino. I'd say he doesn't really need his outfield. He K's a decent amount, walks a bunch also and gets a fair number of grounders. He is coming off of 3 straight quality starts and his last time out, he went 8 scoreless against Dusty's Juggernaut, the Reds. He is beatable, as long as the Cubs wait him out.
Saturday June 5: Carlos Silva vs Roy Oswalt
Is this the meltdown we have all been expecting from Silva? I sort of doubt it but as bad as the Astros are, Oswalt is one tough customer. I know it may be hard for some people to believe but Oswalt is suddenly very underrated. His K rate is higher this year than at any point since his rookie season. His actual ERA is great and it's backed up strongly by the peripherals. Even on a terrible baseball team, Oswalt could be a Cy Young candidate this year. He is supposedly on the trading block and givin his salary, etc, it seems doubtful that he will be dealt but he is one of the better pitchers in baseball and is not to be underestimated.
Sunday June 6: Ryan Dempster vs Bret Myers
If the Brewers offense had the Astros pitching, it would be a pretty fantastic team. Dempster is probably a slightly better pitcher so I expect to win this game. Is it too much to hope that the Cubs bullpen doesn't give any games away here?
I am probably the only writer at this site who is not willing to give up on this team all the way until at least the end of June but I do acknowledge that a sweep in this series is almost necessary. This team needs to start winning soon and not stop if they have any chance this season.
He left Ryan Dempster in for too long. The man ended up throwing 120 pitches, which is crazy. Yes, many of our relievers have done poorly thus far, but there are at least two guys that we've been able to trust so far (until today I suppose) in Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol.
Why didn't Lou yank Demp after seven, let Marshall take the eighth inning, and give Marmol a save situation in the ninth? I haven't ever talked to any of them personally, but I'm pretty sure pitchers prefer having a routine. Give each guy a job, and let him do it. Instead, Piniella rode Ryan Dempster too long, gave Marmol a tough spot to squeeze out of, forced him to try to get a four out save (didn't Carrie Muskat just write about how bad an idea that was?) and then put Marshall out there in the tenth.
Poorly managed, by my count. Yes, Theriot probably could have helped by getting on base at least once, and the 3-4-5 hitters' combined 1-for-13 doesn't help either. But I wonder how the game might've played out if Marshall got to pitch the eighth with the bases empty, and Marmol was brought out with a one-run lead in the ninth inning.
But what do I know?
Sorry for the late column, but I totally blanked this morning as I tried to do some things around the house (The curse of new home ownership I guess).
As for the Cubs, they are currently tied 0-0 in the bottom of the third and are looking for their second straight series victory.
Extra Innings - Seriously, did anybody see that game last night? Maybe the Cardinals will be thinking about that game the rest of the season.
Aramis Ramirez - is the only regular batting under .200 in the last seven days.
Hopefully, the Cubs will continue their winning ways today and tomorrow in New York.
When an offense scores five runs, that team really should win the game; and when a pitching staff allows five runs in a game, it's hard to blame the bats if the team does end up losing.
On the flip side, it's hard to really get on anybody when pitchers allow three or fewer runs over nine innings. I guess there could be a blown save in a game like that, but still, if your offense only scores one or two runs, the game is kinda on them, I think. And yes, of course there are exceptions in both cases, and the best teams will find ways to win under any circumstances.
But then you have a game like today's decided by a score of 4-3. Starter Tom Gorzelanny certainly didn't shut the Astros down during the three innings he pitched, but two runs on three singles and a bunch of ground outs... that's rough. And don't blame Font for not turning the double play there: if you watched, you saw Pence make a good hard slide into second to break it up. Or maybe you want to blame Fontenot, in which case I can't stop you.
None of the relief pitchers were hammered either. Jeff Gray made one mistake to JR Towles that really almost didn't make it out of the park (keyword almost), and Justin Berg got burned by a floater into center which scored a runner from second. Again: neither was really bad. Furthermore, James Russell and his 0.00 ERA, and Sean Marshall -- who struck out the side in the top of the ninth -- were both pretty great.
On offense, the Cubs managed nine hits, four of which were doubles (one each from Soto, Lee, Ramirez and Soriano). The problem may have been patience, however -- no one managed to draw a walk. Although, honestly, Oswalt was totally on today, so perhaps there weren't any bad pitches to take.
I guess what I'm saying is, it's hard to blame any one or three people for this loss. It was a close game that the Cubs ended up on the wrong side of in the end. I suppose game balls go to Marshall, for his three ninth inning strikeouts, and Soto and Soriano for each going 2-for-4 with a double (although we might take the ball back from Fonz for that stupid looking error in the top of the fifth).
But, all in all, whatever. Indeed, over the course of a season you do win some, and you also lose some.
Tomorrow, we go for the series win. Go Cubbos.
After a slow start, the Cubs offense finally got it going in the 8th yesterday, putting up 6 runs off a trio of Astros pitchers, leading to a nice 7-2 victory. And it was a quick victory as well, as the time of the game was 2hrs and 27 minutes. I don't know about anyone else, but I like my baseball games nice and quick like that...unless I'm at the park knocking back 1 or 2(00) beers, then they can go on all day for all I care.
After a slow start, the Cubs offense has certainly come to back to life, though it remains to be seen whether that was their own doing, facing some awful pitching, or some combination of both. The degree of difficulty is stepped up today as the Cubs face Roy Oswalt, who, depsite being 0-2 already, is definitely better than the last few starters the Cubs have seen. Oswalt's in a different league than the likes of Felipe Paulino, Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan, and Doug Davis..no disrespect to those gentlemen or their mommas.
Because of how late today's Gamecast is (blame the author), the lineup is out. It's the same lineup we saw on Opening Day, complete with Soriano in the 6th hole. We'll see how it goes. I'm hoping for another 6 good innings for Gorz (who despite his line of 0's at the top, actually has started a game). I can't realistically expect him to throw 6 shutout innings, but 2 runs or less would be nice, especially against this shit souffle the Astros are trotting out masquerading as a big league offense.
Carlos Marmol - Preseason, I said I didn't trust him. Well, he's meeting me eat those words thus far. 5 1/3 innings pitched, 1 hit, 11 K's. Not only that, he's looked downright filthy doing it. Keep it up big ears. I'm rooting for you to make your 2nd All-Star team this season.
The Middle of the 'Stros lineup - Their #3 hitter is Pedro Feliz (and he blows), and their #4 and #5 hitters are hitting .103 and .108 respectively. Add in that their lineup today includes Jason Michaels (sucks), JR Towles (1 for 18), and other luminaries like Chris Johnson and Tommy Manzella..well, I mean, COME ON.
Go Cubs. Keep the faith Goat Riders.
Carlos Silva (0-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Felipe Paulino (0-0, 7.20 ERA)
Well, the Cubs couldn't finish off a sweep yesterday even though they were able to score six runs. In the end, it was the bullpen that couldn't keep the Brewers off the board and allowed them to score three runs in the final few innings.
Today the Cubs face off against the 1-win Houston Astros. Astros were able to claw out a victory yesterday against the Cardinals. This is good because we will avoid leading off Sportscenter or Baseball Tonight when the Astros take at least one of these games.
The Cubs will send out Silva "The Hut" for his second start. He was quite good in his first start, and maybe he has fingured it out. This start is important for Silva, because Ted Lilly is coming back. Of course, Silva could make a good bullpen guy with the pen in shambles so far this season. I say it is more than 70% likely he ends up in the pen.
Derrek Lee - After a day off, Lee hits a home run and is back to form.
Aramis Ramirez - I know he golfed a HR yesterday, but he doesn't look good at the plate. He's only 5 for 35 so far, but he has 5 BB.
The Cubs really need to bury teams like this if they even want to think about competing this year. Hopefully, they can get off early and finally cruise to a win and save the pen.
God, I love it when the Brewers leave town. There is something about that team, whether it's Ryan Braun's general douchiness or my fear that Prince Fielder is gonna eat all my veggies, that just annoys me. One thing I love more than the Brewers leaving with their tails between their legs is a 1-8 team coming to town to hopefully pad the win totals, and hey, look! Here come the Houston Astros!
Make no mistake, the Astros are a bad team. There is no reason the Cubs shouldn't win this series, which means they will probably get swept. At which point Cubs fans will be screaming to bring up Sam Fuld to be brought up to play all 9 positions, because at least he has heart, damnit!
Before I get to the matchups, a quick note to my fellow followers of the Cubs: At what point does constantly booing Alfonso Soriano become self-defeating? I understand being unhappy with his play, who wouldn't be? But if Soriano can ever turn it around, is the constant booing going to help bring that about? Newsflash: If he cannot turn it around, the best the Cubs can do would be to eat the contract and release him. Nobody will trade for him with that contract. It will not happen. Just drop that idea right now. So, maybe instead of booing a guy who clearly needs some sort of confidence boost, just politely clap, and save the booing for Jim Hendry, the man most responsible for his contract. Just sayin'.
Game 1: Carlos Silva vs. Felipe Paulino
Carlos the Hutt makes his Wrigley debut after a best case scenario 1st start against the Reds. Few experts or fans would have predicted that, and with Silva coming up against a farily toothless Astros lineup, the chances for a 2nd quality start to begin the year look good.
Felipe Paulino makes his 2nd start of the year after getting roughed up by the Phillies to the tune of 4 walks, 4 hits and 4 runs over 5 innings. Please repeat that performance. Last year Paulino was 3-11 with a 6.27 ERA, and has that really awful chin patch of facial hair. What's the point of that? Just grow a damn beard or go home.
Game 2: Tom Gorzelanny vs. Roy Oswalt
Gorzo, like Silva, comes into his 1st home start of the year after a great opening start at the Reds without a win (Yet Jeff Gray has a win, which should tell you all you need to know about the value of wins as a useful statistic). Gorzo went 6 1/3 and gave up 1 run on 4 hits and struck out 7(!), and a repeat of that performance would be welcome, because the Cubs have the good fortune to be going up against the only good player on the Astros for game 2, Roy Oswalt.
Oswalt is probably feeling thankful for this start. His 1st two saw him up against some bums named Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay, who have something like 53 Cy Youngs between them. Gorzelanny isn't quite on their level, despite what his lovely family may tell you. Oswalt is 0-2 with a 3.75 ERA to begin the year.
Game 3: Ryan Dempster vs. Wandy Rodriguez
Dempster comes off a bit of an off say despite getting his 1st win of the year. Class Clown gave up 5 runs on 7 hits and 4 walks over 6 1/3. His control was a bit off, which Dempster struggles with at times, but as he does, he kept fighting and giving the Cubs a chance to win. If he has his control, he should take care of teh Astros lineup without too many issues.
Wandy Rodriquez has struggled out of the gate, which you would expect from a player on a 1-8 squad. In his last start he got roughed up by Albert Pujols, giving up an RBI single and 3 run HR off the Clean and Virtuous slugger of the Cardinals, who is not bad at this baseball game. Wandy is a lefty, so hopefully the Cubs can put their many right handed bats to good use. (By the way, I love saying "Wandy". Try it, it's fun!)
Overall, I see the Cubs taking 2 of 3 without issue, and a sweep is within possibility (It's hard to sweep a team, no matter how awful they are). Anything less would be a good indication that this Cubs team just won't be serious contenders as currently constructed. Expect 2 wins, hope for 3, and go Cubs.
Some issues facing Houston:
*Of their 4 best players, only Hunter Pence is on the right side of 30. Roy Oswalt (turns 33 this season), Carlos Lee (turns 34 this season), and Lance Berkman (just turned 34) are well past their primes, and all three are signed to large contracts that continue through 2011 or later (assuming Houston exercises their option on Berkman).
*Amongst their other regular players, they have very few players who would be considered league average starters. I suppose Wandy Rodriguez could fit that bill, and perhaps Michael Bourn if you're feeling generous and you catch him during one of his good seasons. Other than that, who's good on this team? JR Towles? Pedro Feliz? Bud Norris? Matt Lindstrom? I don't think so.
*A good majority of this could be overlooked if the Astros had some good minor league talent on the cusp of breaking through to the big leagues, but they don't. Kevin Goldstein, who does a great job writing about the minor leagues for Baseball Prospectus, recently ranked the Astros farm system 28th in the majors before the 2010 season. About the only player they have in their system that could significantly help in the next 12 months is 2008 1st round pick Jason Castro, a catcher, but even he's more of a "nice piece" than a budding star.
*So far we have an aging overpaid core, few complimentary players, a barren farm system...add to that an owner who historically frowned on rebuilding. Drayton McLane oversaw the end of the Killer B's era where Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio were rode into the ground. His GM is Ed Wade, whose track record is spotty at best. Wade has a soft spot for former Phillies, which explains the offseason signings of Pedro Feliz and Brett Myers, neither of whom are going to really help this team.
It's looking bad, and I can't see it getting any better in Houston. I think its quite likely they finish in last this year, and could even lose 100 games this year or next. Their stars continue to get older, and they have no one outside of Hunter Pence to carry the torch throughout the decade. For a franchise that not too long ago was finishing first or second in the division every year, it's quite a fall.