Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Astros

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Game & Series Recap: Cubs 2, Astros 0 (2 games to 1)

Game Recap

Nobody predicted it at the time, but Ted Lilly is perhaps the best free agent pitcher signing the Cubs have ever made and last night he continued his domination of the Houston Astros. Lilly -- who, last I heard, is going to have shoulder surgery this off seasson -- pitched 8 innings, allowing only 4 hits, walking none and striking out 5. He improves to 10-8 on the year, and has a chance of getting his ERA below 3.00 before the year's over.

In the 9th, Carlos Marmol held the lead for his 8th save of the year, causing one Goat Reader to remark that he's been a great closer this year and might be able to do the job next season without trouble. I hate to be the bringer of bad news, though, but Marmol's outing last night was hardly great and he's only been closer for a couple of weeks. Even Kevin Gregg -- who proved to be a dud -- looked good for a couple of months before devolving into a rancid pile of dung. At one point last night Marmol had surrendered 1 walk and 1 hit with 2 outs needed and the heart of the Astros lineup in front of him. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for the job next year in my opinion.

It's probably not surprising that the Cubs won last night, but considering that they faced the inept Felipe Paulino, maybe we should continue to feel annoyed -- not concerned, there's no point -- by the offensive bumblings of the team. The only 2 runs came from a Derrek Lee homerun, his 27th of the year. With about a month of play remaining, he needs 10 RBI to hit 100 for the second time of his career.

All told, it was hardly a dominating series win but with the ridiculously weak schedule remaining the Cubs have a chance to play a very good September and finish with a respectable -- if not pointless -- winning record.

Current Record: 67-64
Position in the NL Central:
2nd place, 10.5 games out
Best Possible Record: 98-64
Worst Possible Record: 67-95
Record needed to win 90: 23-6
On Pace For: 83-79

Gamecast: September 2nd vs. Astros

GameCastFelipe Paulino (2-6, 6.96 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (9-8, 3.35 ERA)

Story Lines

Today we continue with our look at the Cubs in 2010. This list is not the end all, be all, but it is a quick look to take our minds off the 2009 version.


Starting Pitcher - First base (Derrek Lee)


Contract 2009: 13.25 Million


Contract 2010: 13 Million


Stats 2009: .294/.373/.545 with 26 HR, 30 2B and 88 RBI.


Lee is easily turning in his best season since 2005 for the Cubs. Too bad that it is also another where the Cubs are probably not going to make the postseason. So, maybe we need to D-Lee to struggle to get there? Well, anyway....Lee has played better than anybody could imagine, including all those Micah Hoffpauir lovers out there. I've been using this one site for contracts, and it says that Lee is actually getting a pay decrease next year. I'm not sure if that is correct, but at least he will probably not get a huge raise. Still, he is going make another 13 million next year, and it will leave the Cubs with little contract flexibility.

He's also entering the final year of his deal, so maybe he is due for one last monster season. Then, he can lead the Cubs to....well you get the picture. I don't see any problems bringing Lee back next year, because the Cubs really don't have another option. Jake Fox? eh..Micah Hoffpauir?...Aaron Miles....Ok, I'm joking about Miles, but still the Cubs could do far worse at 1B as long as his neck holds up next year.


Running Totals
2010 Payroll:
57.8 Million


2010 Average: 11.5 Million (Five Players)

Who's Hot

Koyie Hill - Hill has five RBI during his last five games to go along with his .438 average (7-for-16). Geo get used to the bench the rest of the year.

Mike Fontenot - Wow, another member of the underachieving club is moving up with four hits in his last 11 at bats.
 
Who's Not

Ryan Theriot - It's the end of the year, so Theriot is wearing down a little. He's only got six hits in the last six games, which is good for a .207 average.

Conclusions

Labor Day is almost here, so do yourself a favor and have a good time over the next few days. These games are actually winnable, so the Cubs might be fun to watch.

Game Recap: Cubs 4, Astros 1 - Milton Bradley, wtf?

Game Recap

Seriously, Milton Bradley, wtf? For the first half of the season -- y'know, the part of the year where the Cubs squandered all hope -- Bradley was a .243 hitter with 6 homers, 21 RBI, and a whole lot of suck. But since the pressure of expectations collapsed, Milton has turned it up. He batted .308 for the month of August and is, in fact, a .309 hitter since the All Star Break. Other oddities -- maybe he actually loves Wrigley Field, because he's batting nearly 120 points higher at home than he is on the road. So far this year Milton's a .326 hitter in the unfriendly confines, with 9 homeruns in 178 at bats. Meanwhile in 168 at bats on the road, he's batting .208 with 3 homeruns. Guh.

Regardless, Bradley was 2 for 4 last night with his 12th homerun of the year. He and the Cubs offense combined for 8 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs -- enough to give Randy Wells his 10th win of the year. Wells almost certainly won't beat J.A. Happ for the Rookie of the Year crown, but it's impressive nonetheless that he has essentially sprung from nowhere to become such an effective rookie pitcher. Then again, as Geovany Soto taught us this past year, we probably can't expect a repeat performance. Rob: what is doubly impressive is, after a recent rough patch, Wells bounced back with last night's gem.  The YMCA's are full of guys who got off to fast starts to begin a career (Jeff Pico handed me a towel the other day) but those fortunate few who can re-adjust and re-group provides a great indicator for future success.  It will be nice to have another starter without having to overpay for him.

Back to Bradley for a minute, he has become the first Cub in my adult life who angers me when he succeeds. More than any fan I know, I've been patient with him, I've made excuses for him, and I've defended him to critics, but at this point I believe he's a miserable human being who is more concerned with being right than he is with being a winner. So, screw him, at least for 2009. I'll give him a 2010 blank slate.

As for the Cubs, they won their series against the Mets and they are now poised to win again against the Astros. They then play a makeup game against the white-flag White Sox before travelling to New York to continue their play against the useless Mets. Then it's a series in Pittsburgh, and they will then host the Reds and Brewers before traveling to St. Louis, then Milwaukee and San Francisco before wrapping it up back home against Pittsburgh. It's sad that they play such an easy schedule, against no more than two good teams, because they very well might be mathematically alive until the last week of the season. But they sure as hell don't look it, even in games they win.

Gamecast: September 1st vs. Astros - No. 5 Starter

GameCastBrian Moehler (8-9, 5.26 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (9-7, 3.06 ERA)

Story Lines

The Cubs are still playing bad, but lets take a look at the fifth part of our series looking at the 2010 Chicago Cubs.

Starting Pitcher - No. 5 Starter (??????????)

Contract 2009: 7 Million

Contract 2010: ????????

Stats 2009: 8-8, 4.19 ERA in 129 innings. 152/58 K/BB with a 1.29 WHIP

The big question is who is the fifth starter in the Cubs rotation. Granted, Randy Wells is really that guy this year, the Cubs don't have a 5th pitcher for the next season. Do the Cubs resign Rich Harden or do they let Sean Marshall have another shot at starting? Harden will probably be better, but of course there are health concerns there, and Marshall has been up and down.

If the Cubs sign Harden to a one-year deal it could be about 10 million, so the Cubs might be less than willing to give that kind of money.

Running Totals
2010 Payroll:
44.8 Million (4 Starting Pitchers)
2010 Average: 12.2 Million a player

Who's Hot

Anybody playing the Cubs.

Who's Not

The Cubs

Conclusions

The Cubs have been just about impossible to watch this season, and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. Here's hoping for a change of luck tonight.

Game Recap: Astros 5, Cubs 3 -- Harden hardly helped himself


Game Recap
On the news that he would not get traded to a playoff contender, Cubs pitcher Rich Harden had one of his worst outings since the first half of the season last night.

Harden pitched only 5 innings, surrendering 5 runs on 5 hits and 6 walks while also striking out 9. He's probably got a fair shot of winning 10 this season, and getting his ERA below 4, but I have a feeling that he will be one of the bargain pitchers on the market this year. In other words, the Cubs might want to hesitate to offer him arbitration, lest he pulls a Maddux, accepts it, and gets paid more for one year than he would've made on the open market.

He was relieved by three guys who struck out 6 in 4 innings -- giving the Cubs 15 strikeouts as a team against the Astros -- and gave up 0 runs, which is always pointlessly nice. One of those successful pitchers was Aaron Heilman, whose continued presence on the Cubs is baffling. Didn't the Giants claim him? Were they willing to deal anything to get him? No? Then the Cubs still should have let him go.

Offensively it was a pretty dry day, except for Derrek Lee who hit his 26th of the year. It's amazing that he might finish the year with 30 homeruns, considering the time he's missed -- mixed in with the neck problems he's had. Wasn't Lee supposed to be on the decline?

On a side note, the waiver deals this year are continuously surprising to me. So far there have been some odd moves. The White Sox, who were actively trying to improve just a few weeks ago, are now active sellers and are breaking up their team in a way that Jim Hendry should be taking notes on. They've dealt away Jim Thome and Jose Contreras after having acquired Jake Peavy and Alex Rios. It's interesting because they are "only" 6 games out of first place. The Cubs are "only" 5 games out of the Wild Card, and like usual Jim Hendry will not break apart his team or try to gear up for 2010. But after more than half a decade of seeing Jim in the front office, I can honestly say it's not a surprise.

The Cubs play for revenge later today.

GameCast: August 31st vs. Astros

GameCastRoy Oswalt (7-5, 3.86 ERA) vs. Rich Harden (8-7, 3.99 ERA)

Story-lines
Have you ever been in a long relationship that was pretty much a shell of itself for a month or two before it actually ended?  Perhaps you knew by the second week of November that there was no future with your significant other, but Thanksgiving was coming up and, y'know, you didn't want to be a sad participant explaining to mom and dad why another one got away... not to mention Christmas was just around the corner and he/she'd been hinting for a while at getting you something spectacular, and is six more weeks not worth a great Christmas gift?  That's sort of what it's like with Rich Harden and the Cubs right now. 

Chances are, they aren't going to sign him once this off season rolls around.  Odds are that whatever the Twins were offering was probably as good or better than anything they might get if he signs with another team and the Cubs are awarded a draft pick.  But while the relationship is all-but-over, the Cubs have another month of baseball to play and they're doing it more for the symbol than the possible result.  After all, if they let Harden go to Minnesota, then they would be giving up on the 2009 season while being "merely" 4 games out of the Wild Card.  Appearances are everything, though, and so no trade was made.  It kind of makes one wonder why they would have waived him to begin with.

Anyway, let's be honest.  Blogging about the Cubs right now sucks.  Hopes are diminished, games remain to be played, and here we are churning out on average more words about the Cubs on a daily basis than perhaps any of the major papers that cover the team.  Sometimes it's not fun, but like Harden, the Cubs, and you and your significant other, we're too invested to quit now. 

But don't worry ... just because things are ending soon doesn't mean it has to be dull.  The nasty photoshops are coming.

Who's hot
Aramis Ramirez - 11 for his last 26, with 8 RBI in his last 6 games, maybe Ramirez should play with a hurt shoulder all the time.

Derrek Lee - He's batting .320 with an .890 OPS in the past week.  Not to repeat myself a lot, but I'd love it if all the Lee haters and Hoffpauir supporters would man up and admit just how wrong they were.

Milton "Eff You" Bradley - Now that it's pretty much too late to matter, Bradley is putting on a clinic.  He's 12 for his last 22 with 2 homers, 5 RBI, and 9 runs scored in the past week.  In other words meet Fred McGriff, version 2.0.

Kosuke Fukudome - He's batting .333 with a .391 OBP in the past week.  His power numbers haven't really been there over that span, but it's not so important so long as he bats leadoff.

Who's Not
Ryan Theriot - A .154 AVG in the past week.

Jake Fox - His only 2 hits in his last 13 at bats have been a double and a grand slam. 

Conclusions
As bad as the Cubs have been, Houston's been worse.  Playing them at home, even as erratic as they've been, with Harden on the mound leads me to believe this should be a win tonight.  Don't prove me wrong, Cubs.  ::shakes fist::

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Astros

Series Preview
Match-Ups
Overview

From Steve Stone’s Twitter page on August 30: “A few cub fans have given up on this years playoffs. Take a close look at the schedule and the rockies current losing streak. Still a chance”

Stoney never struck me as an optimist, but I guess there are still some of you out there that have faith in this team. If believing the Cubs can win the Wild Card (5.5 games back) helps you sleep at night, then by all means continue to believe.

I, on the other hand, am about to walk out the door to watch the Cubs play tonight in what I consider a meaningless game. It will be the first time in 3 years that I have been to a meaningless game at Wrigley Field. One only knows where that can lead...

As I said in my preview for the Mets series, 2010 is already here for me. While it appears that the team is set outside of one or two additions for next season, I have to disagree with Lou’s philosophy in the waning hours of 2009. Instead of playing veterans like Soriano, Fontenot, or even Soto, why not give guys like Fox and Fuld more PT. I’d particularly like to see Fox get some starts at catcher.

Anyway, the AssBlows roll into town for three games. Sweet fancy Moses do I hate these guys. From their team name to their uniforms to Miguel Tejada, I cannot stand Houston’s baseball team. Like the Nationals though, the Astros have a high team batting average (.264, fifth best in the NL), so this could be a tough series for a pitching staff that looks more hittable everyday.

The Matchups
August 31st – Roy Oswalt vs. Rich Harden
Before his last start in St. Louis, Oswalt hadn’t lost a game in more than two months. By "ace" standards, Oswalt isn’t having that great of a season, but Houston’s offense hasn’t exactly been helping him out. He is 0-1 with a 3.68 ERA against the Cubs this season.

After being claimed by Minnesota, Harden remains with the Cubs for the rest of 2009. As such, the Cubs have been enjoying the kind of dominance that only a pitcher auditioning for a new job can provide. Harden gave up two earned runs to the Nationals in his last start and he remains the most dominant pitcher on this staff since the All-Star Break. Harden’s overall ERA now sits at 3.99 while his second half ERA is 1.80.

September 1st – Brian Moehler vs. Randy Wells
MLB.com’s probable pitchers section says Brain Moehler has a “far better” ERA on the road than at home. So a 4.35 ERA is "far better" than a 6.14 ERA? That’s like deciding between being punched in the face or kicked in the nards. They both suck, but I guess one is “far better” than the other.

Everyone was talking about how the Nationals ripped up Zambrano in his first start back from the DL, but Wells didn’t have the best performance against D.C. either (five runs, five hits, four walks). It was the first time a “bad” team had any real success against Wells all season, so one might think that Randy is starting to get tired as the year comes to an end. Can't fault the guy for that. He is given everything the Cubs asked of him and more.

September 2nd – TBA (ESPN says Felipe Paulino) vs. Ted Lilly
In his three starts since coming back from the DL, Lilly has a 1.86 ERA but no wins. Lilly is 3-0 against the Astros this season with a 3.57 ERA. This will be the first time he faces them at Wrigley in 2009. Did I mention his ERA at home is 1.92? “W” time.

Conclusion
I’m going to wrap this up quickly so I can practice my heckling skills on my dog before the game starts. Carlos Lee has no idea what he’s getting himself into tonight.

The Astros are a junk team that the Cubs should be able to win at least two games against starting with tonight. I only worry about the Wells start.

For those of you still holding out hope, the Rockies/Giants (Wildcard leaders) both have the night off while the Braves/Marlins (ahead of the Cubs in the WC standings) play each other. The Cubs have a solid chance of passing either the Braves or the Marlins this series while also picking up some ground on the leaders. Sleep tight optimists.

Go Cubs.

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GameCast: July 30th vs. Astros

GameCastStory-lines
In one corner we have the Astros, the hottest team in the NL Central this month, battling to stay above .500.  In the other corner we have the Cubs, the sleeping giant of the Central, who are -- we hope -- on a meteoric rise to the top of the division and then to playoff glory.  And if anybody thinks it'll be that easy, then maybe the Cubs aren't the only ones who've been sleeping through this season.

Don't get me wrong.  It's been great to finally experience a month of good baseball.  It's been fantastic to finally see the Cubs alone in first place above even the pesky Cardinals and their dastardly attempts to acquire good players to compete.  It'll surprise few of us if the Cubs get back there again soon.  Hell, maybe they'll even stay there for a while -- like, the rest of the season -- but underperforming teams don't just suddenly wake up, shove away the clouds of mediocrity, and rain fire on their opponents.  There are bound to be roadbumps.  There are sure to be more tough losses, and agonizing injuries, and instances of total, unending doubt.

But, c'mon.  Aside from the Fontenot-Baker Connection, these guys are actually pretty good

Today's Good Guy is Kevin Hart, who I'd feel a lot better about if only he hasn't walked something like twice as many guys as he's struck out.  Maybe it's a Maddux thing -- early in his career, the greatest pitcher of our era was afraid to throw inside with a full count -- and Hart is just skittish about his stuff, or maybe he's just wild.  But the sooner he gets it under control -- pun intended -- the better the Cubs will be, especially since they are going to miss Lilly for the better part of a month and Hart's the go-to replacement guy.

Who's Hot
Pretty much the entire Cubs offense - Hey, so far they've scored 28 runs this series.  Isn't that a little more like it?  The only guy to go hitless yesterday was Kosuke Fukudome, who is unfortunately going to be called upon to face lefties a lot more often now that Reed Johnson (affectionately known as Vag Face to the HJE crowd) has broken his foot. 

(Seriously, what is it with Cub injuries this year?  It really does appear to be like 2004 all over again, we should write a comparisson article about it sometime.  Hey Goat Riders, any volunteers?)

Then again, Fukudome, probably should be able to hit lefties, he is getting paid a lot of money for it.  But just to be on the safe side, maybe Jim Hendry should add "right-handed backup center fielder" to his non-existent Trade Deadline Needs list.

Who's Not
Aaron Heilman - I tend not to put pitchers on this list, mostly because I'm lazy.  But Heilman is definitely in the Cub fan doghouse right now, at least with me.  I'm still wondering what he would've been like as a starter - he sure did look good this Spring - but as a reliever, he's a turd to be used only in blow-outs.

Conclusions
Despite the questionable nature of Hart's ability to pitch in the big leagues, I still like the team's chances today.  The Cubs appear to be a team on the rise.  Then again, before this series so did the Astros, and they won't drop out of competition if they lose today.

But as we've pointed out a few times on this site, the Cubs upcoming schedule isn't easy.  A win today, while not falling in the must category, would be advantageous. 

Game Recap: Cubs 12, Astros 0 -- Pimp Slap Returned

Game Recap
Yesterday, the Astros busted out 11 runs against Chicago, thanks mostly to a tired, incompetent Cubs bullpen.  Today, the Cubs returned the favor with an explosion of 12 runs scored.  If the laws of "don't score too many one day or you won't have any tomorrow" hold true, then hopefully the two teams have evened things out and tomorrow will be a fair contest. 

Wait, the Cubs also held the Astros to 0 runs?  Huh.  Never mind.

Today's offensive heroes were everybody in the Cubs lineup -- except Fukudome, who was called in to replace an injured Reed Johnson -- with particular nods to Aramis Ramirez (solo homerun in the 3rd*) and Alfonso Soriano (3-run-jack in the 2nd).  Even Three Finger Hill, whose offensive numbers are mocked by most pitchers in the league, managed 2 hits and an RBI, raising his average to .143 on the season.  Woof.

(*It would have gone farther into the bleachers if only he wasn't nursing that dastardly shoulder injury)

The bloodshed was all made possible in part because the Astros left Mike Hampton in to face the Cubs for 4 innings, despite his surrendering of 7 runs through 2, with a special nod to Randy Wells.  In his second career start against Houston, he went 8 innings -- a career high -- allowing 6 hits, 2 walks, only 1 strikeout, and 0 runs.  His ERA is now back down to 2.84, he's now 7-4 on the season, and I would again like to reiterate my support for his journey toward Rookie of the Year status.

In moderately unrelated news, SBoxer Ice asks how options work.  I'll present two answers -- my understanding of it without researching the rule, and then the actual rule itself.  We'll call it the How Well Does Kurt Know the Rules Challenge. 

Options work like this -- every player in the minor league system who gets added to the 40 man roster has something like four options.  No matter how often said player is called up or sent down to Triple A, it only counts as 1 option for the year.  Once said player has run out of options, he must remain with the big league team, pass through waivers, or be released.

According to Baseball America:

When a player is added to a 40-man roster for the first time, the major
league team is permitted three optional assignments of his contract, or
three "option years." This gives them the option to assign that player
to the minor leagues without requiring him to clear waivers. For each
season thereafter in which the player is assigned to a minor league
team, one option is used up.


When a player is out of options, he can still be assigned to the minor leagues, but first he must clear waivers.


A player can receive a fourth option if he has less than five seasons
of pro experience. Draftees who immediately sign a major league
contract will qualify unless they reach the majors quickly and stick
there. Otherwise, they'll have their three options exhausted after
their first three years in pro ball. A season is defined as any year in
which the player spends 90 days on the active list. Short-season and
Rookie leagues don't last 90 calendar days, so a player assigned to
those leagues for an entire year won't accrue a season of pro
experience. Also if a player has a long-term injury, he usually won't
be credited for a season that year. (The exception is if he goes on the
disabled list after spending 60 days on an active list, in which case
the DL time counts as service time.)

So, my understanding of options was slightly simpler than the actual rule, but I had the gist of it.  Samardzija's option for 2009 has already been used, as he has already been promoted from -- and demoted to -- Iowa.

The Cubs play for the series win tomorrow. 

GameCast: June 29th vs. Astros

GameCastMike Hampton (6-7, 4.74 ERA) Randy Wells (6-4, 3.10 ERA)
Story-lines
After the brutal beating the Cubs received last night, I'm sure there are plenty of fans out there wondering if the recent 5-game winning streak was only a mirage. (Rob: Nah, it was just a bad Dempster night) Perhaps the Cubs aren't very good, as we thought previously?  Maybe they can't stay competitive with the Cardinals, who appear hellbent on winning the division? 

Meanwhile, hot on their heels are the Astros -- the team they're trying to beat this weekend.  Houston has probably surprised nobody more than themselves with their continued competitiveness -- they're only 2.5 games out. 

Pitching for them today is Can't-Believe-He's-Still-Active Mike Hampton, who'll take on rookie mehsation Randy Wells -- who's only a "meh"sation because of how quietly he's achieved his success.  I'll tell you this -- if Wells continues to win his games an indeed ends the season with an ERA in the low 3's, then he will deserve strong Rookie of the Year consideration.  But I'm pretty sure that he's not even on anybody's radar for that just yet.  But go ahead and take a gander at the NL -- this league is not exactly sick with competition this season, at least not among the rookies.  Wells may just have a shot.

Who's hot
Aramis Ramirez - 15 for 44 since the break, batting .341 with 4 homers and 11 RBI.  I swear to gawd, Cub fans are such dopes sometimes.  Of course his immediate return from the DL looked ugly -- a player can't miss months of a season and then reappear as hot as he was when he left.  And his recent outburst of offensive hotness doesn't mean he won't slump again sometime either ... but Ramirez is playing as if he's not down a gear, to the shock of doomcriers everywhere.

Derrek Lee - Ramirez isn't alone.  D.Lee is 15 for 42 since the break, batting .357 with 3 homers and 7 RBI.  Remember, folks, Lee was supposed to be washed up this season.  He was, at the age of 33, over the hill.  His 27 double plays last year was proof that he was somehow losing his ability, despite his otherwise good offensive numbers.  So far in 2009 Lee has hit into 23 fewer double plays than he did last season, while already matching '08's total output for homeruns.  Good thing the Cubs didn't give him up for Hoffpauir.

Alfonso Soriano - The Fonz is 17 for his last 44, making him a .386 hitter with 4 homers and 12 RBI during that timeframe.  Not bad for another guy who is supposedly washed-up.  While the Fonz is bound to finish the year with numbers below his career averages, he has dispelled concerns that he can't get hot and, best yet, he's one good month away from pushing the ugly first half of the '09 campaign out of our memories.

Kosuke Fukudome - Fooky is 15 for his last 38, a .395 AVG.  Rob is right in that Kosuke is not the player we were all hoping for, but he remains a defensive marvel in the outfield and he actually appears to be a competent leadoff hitter.  Not to mention -- for what it's worth -- the fact that across the board he's performing better in 2009.  His AVG is presently 12 points higher, his OBP is 20 points higher, his OPS is 80 points higher, he's already hit more triples, he's 4 doubles shy of last year's total, and he's within 3 homeruns from matching his rookie output.  So what, he's not Ichiro or even Matsui, he's still a helluvalot better than Corey Patterson was.

Who's not
Ryan Theriot - Before his recent 0 for 9 spell, his numbers weren't so bad.  He'd hit safely in 8 straight games, and in 16 of his last 17.  Still, he's mostly been collecting singles, having only hit 1 double and 1 triple since the NL was crushed at the All Star Break.  Theriot is 12 for 49, batting .245, and needing a big day sometime soon.

Three Finger Hill - Rob, you miss Geo Soto yet?  (YES!!)  Hill is batting 7 for his last 42 (.167).  Maybe Lou should entertain letting Fox catch a few more games, as Three Finger is just a little too Bakoesque for my tastes.  (Hill wishes he could hit like Bako)

Mike Fontenot - Let's just bury the Fontenot-as-starter experiment once and for all.  Fontenot is batting 7 for his last 33, a .212 clip.  At this point, I'm not only hoping that Jim Hendry is, in his possible death rattle, shaking off one last magical trade for a new and improved second baseman -- preferrably, a trade that includes Fontenot himself, as I'm tired of his lack of production. (Dirty Sanchez, anyone?)

Conclusions
The Cubs should enjoy feasting off Mke Hampton while Randy Wells needs to strongly consider walking Carlos Lee intentionally and often.  I may have sung Randy's praises earlier in this article, but the truth is that he's been an average starter at-best this month, posting a 4.06 ERA despite his 4-1 record. 

Regardless, the last time Randy faced Houston he threw 6 scoreless innings en route to the second of those seven consecutive winless starts.  So far this year he's beaten the second time out both teams that he's faced twice, the Braves and Reds.  Here's rooting for three.

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