Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Astros

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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
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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 11 (2) Astros 5 (0)


Cubs 8, Astros 5
The Cubs get the cheap sweep -- with authority!

It wasn't as close as the final score indicated. Ted Lilly and the Cubs did exactly what we thought they would - beat on Russ Ortiz with a Brick the way an Army drill sargeant might beat on a recruit. That's right, the Cubs were Rocking the Suburbs, and the suburbs happened to be the baseball when pitched by Russ Ortiz. Ortiz's undefeated record was forced to Evaporate, and that's the last Ben Folds reference I'll make this article. Although I will point out that the last "hit" by Folds was the song "You Don't Know Me" which eventually landed on #28 of the Adult Alternative chart. Just saying.

Regardless, the Cubs managed 14 hits yesterday along with 5 walks. Every regular starter but Fontenot got at least one hit (and Mikey still managed 2 RBI) with Alfonso Soriano hitting 2 homeruns and making one awesome glove save in the outfield. The Fonz now has 9 homers and, should he manage to avoid the freak injuries that derailed him in '07 and '08, may finally be on the brink of the kind of season he was signed to produce.

Theodore Roosevelt Lilly pitched 6 innings, winning his 4th of the year and reducing his ERA to 3.11. The Cubs bullpen then delivered scoreless relief, not counting Chad Fox whose 2009 ERA is now 81.00. For the record, when all future discussions of the bullpen are made, Chad Fox will not count as being a member of the pen regardless of his status on the roster.

It appears as if the Cubs are finally - FINALLY - starting to click. They've won 6 of their last 7 and enter tonight's series against Milwaukee with the chance to gain some distance from the rest of the division, the Cardinals excluded.

The planned article about Marmol and Gregg remains pending, but I'll get to it eventually.

Current Record: 16-12
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 2.5 games out of first
Best Possible Record: 150-12
Worst Possible Record: 16-146
Record needed to win 110: 94-40
On Pace For: 93-69

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Astros
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Astros 3
GameCast: May 7th Cubs at Astros

GameCast: May 7th - Cubs at Houston

Cubs at Houston
Ted Lilly (3-2, 3.13 ERA) vs. Russ Ortiz (2-0, 5.21 ERA)
Story-lines
The Cubs continue their rock-out to Ben Folds and the Barenaked Ladies tonight in a contest against Russ Ortiz, who remembers the 90's as a decade of promise and opportunity ... until the bubble burst.  (Double entente.  Genius)

I've yet to see if Lee will start tonight, but he's trying to get better from a stiff neck that may or may not be a part of his hitting problems so far in '09.  Or he could be a steroid user.  I'm not sure how putting up really crappy numbers make one an alleged steroid user, except I am pretty sure that those who were using steroids probably still are - see Manny Ramirez.  Lee, meanwhile, is getting older and broke his freaking hand a few years ago.  It sort of reminds me of how Joe Borwoski had a career year with the Cubs in 2003, returned ineffective in '04, and was painted a steroid user despite the intense likelihood that he never consumed an illegal substance that wasn't a derrivative of moonshine.  But I digress.

Who's Hot
Reed Johnson - went 1 for 3 with 1 walk yesterday, drove in 3 with his one hit and scored twice off of passed balls.  He's gotta be juicing.
Aramis Ramirez - the sole Cub to collect 2 hits yesterday, A-Ram blasted his 4th of the year as well.  He must be juicing.

Who's Not
Geo Soto - After an 0 for 3 night Soto's AVG remains at .159.  He shouldn't have quit steroids. 

Conclusions
I'm sorry, but Russ Ortiz?  2004 was a long time ago, and he hasn't exactly been effective since then (what with his 9 wins since then).  Lord knows that Ted Lilly got his butt kicked in the first game he faced the Astros this season, but I'd really be shocked if Chicago doesn't beat them easily tonight.

Then agian, they play the games for a reason...

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Astros
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Astros 3

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Astros 3

Cubs 6, Astros 3
It's odd, but I've read multiple recaps about the game and nowhere have I seen a mention of the passed balls capitalized on by the Cubs. 

Regardless, Reed Johnson's big day was emphasized by scoring not once but twice on passed balls.  But probably more impressive was Reed's 3-run triple in the 1st inning and Aramis Ramirez's homerun in the 7th, giving the Cubs all the offense they'd need to beat a putrid Astros team. 

On the mound Rich Harden pitched 7 splendid innings of 1-run ball; unfortunately Lou elected to dip from the well once too often and left Harden in there to be hammered in the 8th.  But then Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg - both of whom will be the subject of an afternoon post if I can remember it - stepped in and closed out the game for a Cubs win.

Overall the Cubs collected 8 hits and 4 walks, and the only two members of the Questionable Quartet to start today - Bradley and Soto - combined to go 1 for 8 with a walk and 2 runs scored.  Not exactly splendid by any means.

Talent In, Garbage Out
Although we Cub fans appear to be brimming with common sense, Hendrinella did not release Neal Cotts yesterday and designate Angel Guzman as the defacto LOOGY, but they did smartly demote the struggling Jeff Samardzija while promoting an Iowan Fox - only not the right one for the job.

Chad Fox - rather than the ball-crushing Jake Fox - has been called up.  Fox apparently enjoys the taste of pain, otherwise he'd be retired by now.  Presently in 11.1 innings of Iowan work he has an ERA of 1.59, but I ask again - why do the Cubs need 7 relievers?

The other Fox presently has a .393 AVG in 89 at bats along with 12 homeruns.  And did we mention that before this season he's played 274 games at catcher, 119 games at first, 4 games at third, and 99 games in the outfield?  Isn't that kind of versatility valuable? 

Cubs play for the mini-sweep today.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Astros
Game Cast: May 6th Cubs at Astros

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 Recap - Cubs 11, Astros 6

Cubs win!
The Cubs leave Houston with a winning record following an offensive explosion.  Let's break it down...

The Offense
8 of the team's 11 runs were scored in the first 2 innings of the game, and only 3 of those 8 runs came from a homerun - the result of a 3-run shot by Mike Fontenot. 

Impressively, Soriano went 2 for 5, scoring 2 runs and stealing a base.  More impressively, #2 hitter Kosuke Fukudome went 4 for 5, including a double and a homer, silencing his critics for at least one night.  Fooky also stole a base (as a part of a double steal with Sori). 

In fact, every Cub regular but Milton Bradley - we'll get to him in a second - got a hit.  Lee went a meager 1 for 6 (Hoffpauir is shining his bat in anticipation), while Aramis collected 4 hits and 4 RBI. 

About Bradley - he remains 0 for 2009, but he also remains amazingly patient.  He worked every pitch count he saw last night and drew 3 walks.  It may not exactly be what we're looking for in a cleanup hitter, but who cares?  Bradley's discipline is part of the reason why Ramirez drove in 4 last night.

The Pitching
Ted Lilly!  Why?  Last year Lilly was a fantastic pitcher, except for when he faced the Reds and ignoring his first 4 or 5 starts.  Last night Teddy Roosevelt got the least-earned win imaginable.  He pitched 5 innings, striking out 3, walking 0, and serving up 4 - FOUR!! - homeruns, all but one solo-shots.  Lilly now has an improbable record of 1-0 with an ERA of 9.00.

As far as the pen went, Dave Patton gave a very solid performance in his major league debut.  He appears to be earning a high degree of man-love from Cub fans everywhere.  Oh, and Marmol and Guzman pitched shutout ball in their innings of relief as well.

The Series Recap
If the Cubs can average 2 wins for every 3 games played, then they will come pretty close to the 110 wins I'm predicting they'll win in '09.  A road series win, beating the 3 best pitchers of an opposing team that's dangerous but lacking the juice to stay competitive ... well, that's pretty awesome.  The Cubs killed Moehler last night, chasing him in the 2nd inning, and amazingly they were able to hold Carlos Lee to a 1 for 12 (.083 AVG) performance.  It may be the first time in his career that Lee didn't burn the Cubs at least once.  The guy's got a career .306 AVG against the Cubs and has hit 27 homeruns against them - 8 better than his second best against-team total. 

The Cubs roll into Milwaukee next on Friday.  Maybe they will continue to announce their presence with authority there by thrasing the Brewers.

Current Record: 2-1
Position in the NL Central: Tied for 1st with Pittsburgh and Milwaukee
Best Possible Record: 161-1
Worst Possible Record: 2-160
On Pace For: 108-54

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs vs. Astros
Game Recap: Cubs 4, Astros 2
Game Recap: Astros 3, Cubs 2

And a P.S.
We're 3 games into our experiment in this new format with better graphics and hopefully a little more interactionability (I know that's not a real word).  I'd love to know what you think about the graphics and the content.

GameCast: April 8th - Cubs at Houston

Game Day
Ted Lilly (0-0) vs. Brian Moehler (0-0)

Storylines: The action!  The excitement!  Our first series of the year and already we have a rubber game!  Will the Astros dominate Lilly and seize the divisional lead?  Will the Cubs come out on top in their inevitable climb to World Series glory?  We'll find out in (theoretically) nine innings of heart-stopping play!

Who's Hot: Alfonso Soriano - 2 games, 2 homeruns, a .400 AVG, the Fonz is swinging a golden bat thus far in 2009.  Speaking of hot starts, Ryan Theriot is batting .500 on the season with his first double last night.  We'll ignore the fielding error and the time he was caught trying to steal.

Who's Not: Milton Bradley is 0 for 2009, and Geovany Soto isn't "cold" per se but he will miss at least one start while he ices his sore shoulder. 

Update: After two nights of good pitching and modest offense, the bats have come alive in Houston.  Every Cubs regular but Bradley has a hit as of the 5th inning (and Don't Wake Daddy has 2 walks, so he's not exactly being useless in his continued quest to get a hit).  Kosuke Fukudome has sent a big Fuku to doubting Cub fans eveywhere by starting the night with a 3 for 3, 1 double, 2 steal performance and Lil' Baby Ruth hit his first homer of the year -- a 3-run jack in the 2nd inning.

The only problem so far?  Ted Roosevelt Lilly is apparently designating the 2009 Astros as the new 2008 Reds.  He's given up 5 through 5 innings.  4 came as solo shots, the 5th with a runner on.  And yet, as the Cubs lead 10-5, Lilly is now in line to earn a win.  Go figure.

Chances are the Recap will come in the morning, just in case you're wondering.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs vs. Astros
Cubs 4, Astros 2
Astros 3, Cubs 2

Game Recap: Astros 3, Cubs 2 in 10 innings

Cubs lose
Clearly this season is OVER!  After all, how are the Cubs expected to steal game seven if they can't even win game two!?!  Ernie Banks said the Cubs would shine in 2009, but he's a LIAR!  He was clearly just telling us what we wanted to hear!  It might as well have just counted as another home game for them! We had no advantage!  God hates us!  I cant believe we lost a game this year.  I feel awful and I have to pay back all those undefeated bets!  DAMMIT!

But seriously, it was not one of the best offensive performances by the 2009 Cubs.  The good news - Derrek Lee popped his '09 cherry with a 3rd inning RBI single, scoring Ryan TheQuietRiot (screw you Rob, I'm making it stick!). 

On the Ryan Dempster front, he wasn't fantastic but he wasn't bad either.  Scratch that.  He had a no hitter going for the first third of the game.  He lost his touch in the 5th, though, when Hunter Pence hit a homer, and would have lost the game after giving up an RBI single in the 6th but Alfonso Soriano had other ideas. 

The Fonz -- who can't hit in Chicago in April -- is benefiting from the season's start in warm Houston.  He hit his 2nd homerun in as many days in the 8th, propelling the game to extra innings.  The only problem was the Piniella was rolling the dice hard by a) bringing Heilman in to pitch 2 innings, only for him to be completely ineffective in the 9th and turning to Neal Cotts, who bailed the Cubs out of trouble in the 9th only to be b) brought in again in the 10th inning, where he proved to be completely ineffective.  So, the Cubs lost in extra innings.

Anyway, the good points of yesterday's game:

  • Dempster didn't look bad.  He threw 95 pitches in 6 innings, striking out 5.  He wasn't quite as wild as the NLDS Dempster, but he walked 3 and looked ugly at points.
  • Alfonso smacked homer #2.  I think that will officially qualify him for the who's hot segment of the GameCast.
  • Guzman struck out 2 in his inning of relief, which was a relief.
  • Wandy Rodriguez owns the Cubs.

I was talking a little bit with AJ about this and he pointed out to me that Ryan Theriot's stolen base attempt - and subsequent failure - cost the Cubs more than the double plays they grounded into (of which Derrek Lee had nothing to do with.

Also, and this probably deserves mentioning before now, Geo Soto left the game early due to shoulder stiffness and is expected to miss at least one game.  Maybe the Cubs are downplaying it, or maybe it's really not too serious.  Either way, Three Finger Hill is our catcher tonight.

Quick Links
April 7 GameCast
Cubs at Houston Series Preview
Game Recap: Cubs 4, Astros 2

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