Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Pirates

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Gamecast: August 16th vs. Pirates

Ross Ohlendorf (10-8, 4.30 ERA) vs. Rich Harden (7-7, 4.30 ERA)

Story Lines

The Cubs really need to sweep here this weekend, because a trip out West looms with the Dodgers. The Cardinals are pretty close to sweeping the Padres, and the Cubs need to keep pace heading into the road trip. The Cards play three against the Dodgers, before getting a four-game series against the Padres. The Cubs luck has them playing three against the Padres, with four against the Dodgers. So, it is imperative that the Cubs find a way to club Ross Ohlendorf.

Is it possible for Ohlendorf to have 10 wins? The Pirates only have 46 wins as a team, but Ohlendorf has been able to scratch out a few W's. For the Cubs, Rich Harden heads back to the mound after a heartbreaking loss last Tuesday. Harden was perfect through five, then he gave a walk and a home run to tie the game at 2-2. Hopefully, he has the same stuff this time out and the offense gives him a little help.

The Cubs did game a .5 game in the Wild Card after the Rockies and Marlins were rained out yesterday, but they still remain in 5th place.

Who's Hot

Jeff Baker - Baker is playing 2B for the long haul it looks like. He had two RBI yesterday, including his second home run as a Cub. He's got a 1.298 OPS in his last seven games.

Geovany Soto - This might be a little early, but any news is good news right? Soto picked up two more hits yesterday after getting a hit on Friday. Hey, at this point we'll take any production we can get.

Who's Not

Alfonso Soriano - What can I say? Well, my mom raised me to think that if you don't have anything nice to say, you shouldn't say anything at all. Well, let me say that in his last seven games, Soriano has 3 hits in 29 at bats. That says it all to me.

Conclusions

The Cubs should win today. They seem to beat up on the bad teams, and run away against the good ones. Maybe a trip to San Diego will help them prepare for the Dodgers, or at least give us a little more false hope for another week.

Game Recap: Cubs 3, Pirates 1 --- Who knew we could win two in a row?

Game Recap
Even we here at GROTA can have internet problems, so I'm going to write the shortest recap in history.

I didn't get to see yesterday's game, but it sounded decent on paper. Instead I was with the wife at The Proposal. I much rather would have seen the game, but she has allowed me to watch about 110 games this year. So, if any GROTA members want to add to the recap, please do so.

Tom Gorzelanny was good enough to get the win (He only threw five innings). Then the bullpen was able to get through four innings to hold on to the win. Jeff Baker provided most of the offensive punch with a RBI single and a solo home run a little later. The other run came off the bat of Gorzelanny, who knocked in Geovany Soto.

The Cubs go for the sweep today, and I will write about that in a few minutes.

Kurt
Apologies for the lateness -- my internet died for the bulk of yesterday, and huge, huge thanks to Chris for stepping up and helping out.

The Cubs have bounced back nicely from those games where they played actual good teams, beating the Pirates for the second straight day thanks to some solid pitching mixed with a few timely hits.

Cub starter Tom Gorzelanny, whose last outing ended abruptly with an injured foot, bounced back to pitch 5 innings, allowing 1 run and striking out 8.  He was relieved by Guzman, Marmol, and Gregg -- with Lou still using Angel and Carlos out of order -- who pitched 4 innings of scoreless, 2-hit, 0-walk, 5-strike-out baseball.

As for the Cubs offense, they slowed down from the previous day although they still managed 9 hits and 3 runs, with every regular but Fuld and Fox getting on base at least once.  The biggest of the big winners though was Jeff Baker, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI single and a solo homerun.

Baker -- who was born in West Germany but resembles an Asian rail worker -- is batting .333 since joining the Cubs, with 6 doubles, 1 triple, 2 homers, 11 RBI, and a .934 OPS.  Perhaps he should see some more play-time for the next little while.

Anyway, the Cubs will try to finish the Pirates a little later today.  Go team.

Gamecast: August 15th vs. Pirates

GameCastZach Duke (9-10, 3.40 ERA) vs. Tom Gorzelanny (4-2, 6.23 ERA)

Story Lines

Yesterday was just what the doctor ordered. I mean, maybe it was a little overkill, but fun nonetheless. Of course taking Game 1 was a must, but Game 2 will not be easy. The Cubs have faced Duke twice this season and scored a total of five runs off him in 14 innings. They won both games, but a third time might be a bit harder if Duke is on his game.

For the Cubs, Gorzelanny heads back to the mound for, hopefully, his last start of the season. With Ted Lilly due back Monday, and Carlos Zambrano right after that, Tom will likely head to Iowa for a few weeks, or to the bullpen. We can only hope that his start in Colorado was just a bad day, because the Cubs really need to win this game.

It looks like Aramis Ramirez and Milton Bradley will be both be back in the lineup today against the Pirates. Ramirez was sent home Friday with a sore throat, and Bradley was held out with a sore hip. Good thing we didn't need either one of them today.

Who's Hot

Derrek Lee - Lee scored twice, had three hits (two doubles) and seven RBI.....in four innings. That's how bad the Pirates were yesterday. He's up to .290 on the season with 81 RBI. Not a bad season for the "washed up" Lee.

Ryan Theriot - Theriot remains on a tear after yesterday's three hit day. He pushed his average to .302.

Sam Fuld - Fuld had two hits and two walks yesterday, but somehow managed not to pick up a RBI. Fuld has been the perfect part time player for the Cubs, or maybe he should play for Alfonso Soriano.

Who's Not

Mike Fontenot/Aaron Miles -
Both guys came into the game late and went 0-for-4 combined. It looks like it is Jeff Baker the rest of the way.

Conclusions

The Cubs need to win, and beating Zach Duke a third time might give them a little momentum heading into the road trip where they will start with the Padres. Hopefully, Ramirez and Bradley bounce back tomorrow and the Cubs breeze to another victory.

Game Recap: Cubs 17, Pirates 2 -- Woooo

Game Recap
Goat Friend and Tribune writer Paul Sullivan writes

Does Piniella's track record keep him immune from being a target of
criticism, or is he in danger of receiving the same kind of scrutiny
Dusty Baker had in his final two seasons with the Cubs?
"I haven't seen the abuse Dusty took yet," Derrek Lee replied. "But I'm sure if we don't win, it's around the corner."

But ... I thought Dusty took that abuse because he's black, not because the Cubs failed to win.  Somebody clearly needs to get D.Lee back on script.

I still continue to shovel Lou's fair share of blame onto him, but I have to acknowledge that there have been an awful lot of negative factors going against the Cubs this season.  With a hat tip to Desipio poster Dave B, the Cubs have had 13 players spend 431 days so far on the Disabled List this season.  While that figure includes such riff-raff as Chad Fox, Dave Patton, Ryan Freel, and Aaron Miles, the Cubs have also lost a lot of time from key contributors Aramis Ramirez (58 days), Geovany Soto (31 days, and he's still not right), Carlos Zambrano (30 days), Reed Johnson (30 days), Ryan Dempster (25 days), Rich Harden (22 days), Ted Lilly (20 days), and Angel Guzman (15 days).  While it's strange that four of the Cubs starters have spent so much time on the D.L., it's hardly a first (1985), but stranger still is that I'm pretty sure none of them have actually lost time for arm injuries.  Even Ted Lilly, who will get scoped this winter, is currently recovering from kee surgery.

Ignoring that, the Cubs finally gave fans something to cheer about, thumping the Pittsburgh Pirates by a score of 17-2.  They combined for 18 hits -- with multi-hit games coming from six players, including the pitcher -- and 6 walks, and they scored on their first 11 opportunities, which is pretty amazing considering how many chances they blew against Philly.

Kosuke Fukudome continued his string of solid play, going 1 for 4 with a walk, 2 runs scored, and a 3-run homer.  But most impressive of all the hitters was Derrek Lee, who went 3 for 3 with 2 doubles and 7 RBI before getting pulled in the 5th inning. 

As far as the pitching went, Randy Wells gave 6 solid innings, earning his 9th win of the year and dropping his ERA to 3.01.  His three relievers -- Caridad, Grabow, and Gregg -- gave 3 innings of no-hit, one-walk relief and the Cubs ran - nay, sprinted -- away with the win. 

So, what does it mean?  It was nice to see a route, but in the grand scheme of thing it means dog piss jones.  The Cubs will still be 4.5 games out when this day is over, with the same glaring problems as before.  Still, it's nice to see a crushing.  A repeat performance would be pretty effin' awesome.  That is all.

Gamecast: August 14th vs. Pirates

GameCastCharlie Morton (2-5, 3.81 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (8-5, 3.01 ERA)


Story Lines

This Cubs team is finished. Toast! Well Done! ________ insert your own word, because the team that played this week is not heading to the playoffs. That being said, this Cub team is about to get some help. Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Aramis Ramirez should be back in the lineup soon, and that means the Cubs should play better. Does that mean the Cubs will make the playoffs? I don't have those answers, but hopefully the worst baseball of the season is behind them.

Well, who would you rather play after losing five in row? I can't think of an better opponent than the Pirates. The Bucs come to Wrigley at the prefect time to get the Cubs back on track. So, if things don't get better this weekend, they are never going to get better.

Of course, the Cubs will turn to Randy Wells, who was looking like the ROY for a time. Then, he made the trek to Coors and saw his ERA skyrocket to 3.01. All kidding aside, Wells had a bad game, which happens to everybody in Coors. Wells will try to right the ship this afternoon.

Who's Hot

Jeff Baker - Well, it looks like Mike Fontenot is not playing anytime soon thanks to Jeff Baker. Baker's only hitting .579 in his last six games with an OPS of 1.426. That's crazy hot, too bad the Cubs have sucked during that time. Overall, he is up to .275, which is a lot better than Fontenot.

Ryan Theriot - The Riot has been steady for about a week. He's hitting .406 durin his last seven games. Too bad he's only score four runs.

Who's Not

Geovany Soto - 1 for 19 in his last six games. That's pretty bad, and a bad season just got worse for our ROY.

Aaron Miles - Yeah, how long before we cut this guy? The DL stint has not helped and he has one hit since coming off the DL.


Conclusions

It is tough to be a Cub lately, but things can get better with the Pirates in town. If they get worse, we can all look forward to the new owner (hopefully) and new GM (most likely) that will revamp the team and take us to the promised land.

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Pirates



Overview

I’ll admit it right here, right now: I listen to sports radio. Shoot me. I know you’ve all tried it too, so don’t judge me.

Anyway, after listening to hours worth of sports talk since the Cubs were swept by the Phillies yesterday afternoon, I must say I’m quite disgusted in the number of Cubs fans who have given up on this team already. You have your right to complain (lord knows we do), but to look ahead at the schedule and say the season is over is just short-sighted. As Steve Stone points out on his Twitter page, 12 of the next 49 games for the Cubs will be against above .500 teams.

While some of those matchups are at the Dodgers, at the Cardinals, and at the Giants, the remaining schedule is very Pirates/Reds loaded. Yeah, we’ve seen the Cubs crap their pants against playoff-caliber teams, but as long as they get into the playoffs then anything can happen. I don't care if they have to beat up on 12-year-olds in Williamsport to make it to the postseason, just get in.

A series against teams like Sh!tsburgh are the ones I worry about the most though. The Cubs must win. The Cubs must sweep. The Cubs must dominate. Say what you will about this team's ability, but they've consistently shown us they have the mental toughness of a jar of mayonnaise. That's more troublesome than anything else.

The Matchups
Charlie Morton vs. Randy Wells
Morton had a solid outing against the Cards in his last start but he is still a big bag of suck. He especially sucks against lefties (hitting .308/.362/.355 against him) and on the road (opponents hitting .283/.356/.443). However Morton is fairly unfamiliar to the Cubs as they have only faced him once, and we know what the Cubs do against unfamiliar opponents.

Randy had a tough go in Colorado that really wasn’t that big of a surprise considering it was against a strong left-handed hitting lineup. He probably would have had a similar result against the Phillies. Since the beginning of June, Wells has not lost back-to-back starts and has won every game in which the Cubs have scored at least 4 runs (aside from this last start in Colorado). Four runs ftw.

Zach Duke vs. Tom Gorzelanny
Duke is about the only recognizable name left for the Pirates, which means he will certainly be traded at some point before July 31, 2010. He has given up at least 7 hits in four of his last five starts, but has only walked more than two batters twice this whole season. The Cubs will have to hit their way on base. That’s usually not good news.

Tommy GoGo looked much more like a member of the Pirates than the Cubs in his last start and no one should be surprised. I know we were all jizzing ourselves after his gem against the Reds, but did you really think it would last? Oh Cubs fans, you ignorant sluts. Maybe the Gorz will enjoy some success against a team he is familiar with, but trusting this guy to start a meaningful game is like trusting Johnny Macchione with a can of Bud Light.

Ross Ohlendorf vs. Rich Harden
The Big Dorf Daddy has had a decent start to the second half of the season. He’s 3-1 with a 3.07 ERA in his last five starts. Not bad, but not great (especially since three of those starts came against the against the D-Backs, Nationals, and D-Backs again). Ohlendorf did shut down the Cubs earlier this season going 7 innings and giving up 0 runs in a 3-0 shutout. However, the guy seems wildly inconsistent as he will just as easily give up 5 walks as he will give up none.

It was tough to watch Harden pitch so well and the Cubs come away empty handed. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Harden took a perfect game into the sixth inning before issuing a walk and giving up a two-run jack to J-Roll. Harden was all over the place in the first half of the season, but his post-ASG ERA is at 1.95 and he (along with Wells) has been the most consistent Cubs pitcher over the last month.

Conclusion
As I said in the Overview, the pressure is on for the Cubs to sweep. The Cardinals are facing San Diego at home. The Padres won’t see Carpenter though, so there is a chance for the Cubs to pick up at least one game this weekend.

With all the injuries and the frustration, my main concern with this team is them losing their focus against a clearly inferior opponent. Ever since Marmol walked in the go-ahead run during the first game against the Phillies, it seems as if this team has just given up emotionally. Maybe the Pirates are what they need to regain their focus…or maybe they are the nail in the coffin.

Let’s play a little over/under. The Cubs sit 4.5 back of St. Louis. When you come back on Monday, where will that number be? I say under at 3.5.

Go Cubs.

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Game and Series Recap: Cubs 4, Pirates 1 -- SAM FULD!!!!! (2 games to 1)

Game Recap
If these Cubs are going to do anything in October, they've gotta be able to take a regular season, three-game series from a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Fortunately, they were able to do that today.

Aside from Randy Wells continuing to outdo himself, the story from tonight's game has to be the pleasantly surprising performance of one Sam Fuld. Sam went 2-for-4 from the leadoff spot, including a double to start a game, and also walked once.

One other special surprise: Fukudome hit a home run! Crazy!

One more Randy Wells comment: he's chalked up another start in which he allowed one or fewer extra base hits. His allowed slugging percentage is a paltry .328 at this point.

It kinda feels like the Cubs can't win unless they hold the opposing team to zero or one runs. Fortunately, they've been able to do that fairly consistently.

Kudos to Wells, Fuld, the Fook-ster, Derrek Lee, and perhaps most importantly, the New York Mets, who took down the Brewers tonight. Three and a half out, with a whole half-season to go!

Additional Notes from Kurt
Although the Cubs held the lead all night, Lou Piniella finally exploded in a fit of ANGER and got himself expelled from the game.

The short of this series is that -- although the Cubs got shut out by a pitcher coming soon to a softball game near you -- the Cubs took 2 of 3 on a road series (something they haven't done a lot this year) against a crappy team overplaying their talent. Naysayers -- also known in some circles as "realists" -- will point out that beating the Pirates means about as much as successfully breathing. But I say that, on the contrary, every win is important even if they are to be expected. Besides, the Cubs are playing two out of their next three series against the Brewers and Cardinals -- if they had entered the up-coming four gamer after having lost to the Pirates, I think we'd all be going to games with our hangin' nooses around our necks.

I will say that I completely understand the negativity -- obviously. We've been saying since May that the Cubs are only a few games out, and all they need to do is string together a series of wins and it will suddenly be their division to lose. That's true but it's a lot harder than a three-dozen-or-so word sentence makes it out to be. In fact we've been saying it for so long that the season has now slipped into July, with the All Star Game looming. And we're probably wrong for feeling this way but the Cubs are playing with every appearance of time running out on them before they get their acts together.

Then again, if we were fans of the Brewers or Cardinals, I suspect that in our secret places we would be pissed off and perhaps even a little terrified of the fact that our teams have failed to spread the field with a team as potent as the Cubs creeping along behind them.

Perhaps we are so used to this being the Cubs, for gawdssakes, that we are forgetting how we would feel if the Cubs were in the place of the Cardinals right now. We'd be in a panic. We'd be furious at our team for failing to take advantage of a weak division. In other words, even if things were different we'd still be acting the same -- and that says a lot about our sanity or lack thereof. So I'll conclude my tack-on recap with the following, indesputable (not even by you, Rob) observation:

Perhaps it really still is ours to lose.

Rob: indisputable.  Anyway, only a moron would state that, statistically, the Cubs are out of the running when they are 3.5 games out with 85 games to go.

However, the Cubs have played .493 ball this year.  It is indisputable that they have the capability to play better ball.  You may believe they will, due to the logic that they are better than this.  I have not seen anything thus far in 2009 to lead me to believe that they are.  They have looked like a .500 team from day one.  They have some decent days, and some miserable ones. 

So do we all, I suppose.  Then again, I haven't deluded myself into thinking I am going to win the Employee of the Year at my job, and I am also not going to delude myself into thinking that we will win four more games than the Brewers AND the Cardinals the rest of the way.  The Brewers have a better lineup than we do on our best days, and the Cardinals are better managed, both Generally and on the Field. 

So, unless we make a good trade, or unless guys like Soto, Bradley, Zambrano and Soriano do an about-face, we won't be able to make up even the meager deficit we have now. 

Current Record: 37-38
Position in the NL Central: 4th place, 3.5 games out
Best Possible Record: 124-38
Worst Possible Record: 37-125
Record needed to win 110: 73-14
On Pace For: 80-82

GameCast: July 1st at Pittsburgh

This one is coming up early because I won't be around to publish it tonight.

GameCastRandy Wells (2-3, 2.57 ERA) vs. Virgil Vasquez (1-0, 3.00 ERA)
Story-lines

The Cubs, a team of destiny.  The Pirates of mediocrity.  The pitchers, Ross Olendorf, a mediocre-at-best 5th starter with a near-5 ERA.  The hitters, a Cubs lineup loaded with super expensive superstars.  The results?  A shut-out with the Cubs being the sad participants.

The other day Rob criticized the team for having three incredibly expensive corner outfielders who aren't producing.  Except he exaggerated, which is apparently against the rules of the internets, which apparently gave readers permission to ignore that the Cubs have three incredibly expensive corner outfielders who aren't producing.

So, sorry, but minus the exaggerations Rob is right. 

With all due respect to those who would go as far as to tell Rob he pooped if Rob claimed he'd peed, Jim Hendry's moves have not paid off.  Even back when he first signed Soriano, Lilly, and Marquis, we called them reactionary moves made by Jim to save his job.  They weren't necessarily smart moves, but they were moves that worked for 2007 and 2008. 

Well, 2009 is here.  Baseball was, is, and always will be a What Have You Done For Me Lately sport.  And what Jim has done for me lately is nothing.  He's made trades that didn't work, moves that have absolutely failed, and signings that have absolutely hand-cuffed the team from taking further steps to try to get competitive.  Rather than nitpick the exaggerations like an annoying mother, why not step back and acknowledge that the Cubs are in a tough situation right now and, yes Rick Morrissey, Hendry is at least partly to blame?

Anyway, it's a moot point if the under-performing Cub hitters step up, but we aren't wrong for pointing out that they haven't and they may not.


Who's Hot

After yesterday's fiasco, we're back on the "nobody at all" kick. 

Who's Not
See above.  Hey, at least Samardzija pitched a scoreless inning of relief in his return.  At this point, after his earlier performance this year, I'm not sold on his big league ability.

Conclusions
Despite the justified worry, I feel confident that any Cubs team from any bad year can take 2 of 3 from this year's Pirates, even when they're playing in Pittsburgh.

Game Recap: Cubs 0, Pirates 3 -- He did WHAT?

Recap
As is so often the case with this team, tonight's loss is pretty much completely attributable to the offense--or specifically, the lack thereof.

If I told you a certain "Pitcher McPitcherson" put up this line:

7.0IP, 0R, 4H, 0BB, 8K

Wouldn't you assume the Cubs were facing some sort of well-established ace? That's a Johan Santana line, or a Peavy-in-his-prime line, or something like that. 

I guess, for tonight at least, it's also a Russ Ohlendorf line.

Russ got through seven innings on 93 pitches, 62 of which were strikes. In other words, Ohlendorf was all over the strike zone, for the entire night, and the Cubs couldn't convert. 

Even when Ohlendorf was gone, the Cubs couldn't take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves later in the game.

In a moment of maximal frustration, the Cubs were unable to capitalize on a no-out situation with runners on 2nd and 3rd in the 8th inning. Soriano struck out swinging on an outside change-up, Fukudome looked at strikes two and three, and Derrek Lee grounded out.

Are Pirates pitchers that good? Maybe.

Is the Cubs offense that bad? Almost certainly.

Go... eh.

GameCast: June 30th at Pittsburgh

GamecastTed Lilly (7-5, 3.41 ERA) vs. Ross Ohlendorf (6-6, 4.75 ERA)
Story-Lines

Fresh off a fairly long bout with losing, the Cubs managed to beat the Pirates yesterday 3 to 1.  Today the Cubs should have a pretty decent shot of winning as their best pitcher this season squares off against a guy who would hemorrhage runs against a more offensively competent team than the Cubs.

We keep talking about momentum as if it is something that even a team as rocky as the Cubs can grasp.  I can only direct you to the Colorado Rockies, who were at their low point 20-32.  Since then they've rattled off an 11-game winning streak and are 20-6.  Momentum.

Then again, as I write this the Cubs are being 1-hit by Ross Ohlendorf.  It's probably not a good thing that he has apparently joined the long line of pitchers who've had their best games of the year against the Cubs.  You know why it's happened?  Inertia.  Like the fat kid trying to peddle his bike from a stand-still up a steep hill, it's reallllly hard to get started sometimes. 

Who's Hot
Jake "Please Let Me Play" Fox.  In the past week the young man is 9 for 23 with 2 doubles, 2 homers, and 6 RBI.  Apparently he may actually belong in the major leagues, defensive incompetence be damned.

Alfonso Soriano.  Is he finally awaking from hibernation and crawling out of the Slump Cave?  In the past week the Fonz is batting .300 with a .344 OBP -- the sort of numbers that are actually passable for a leadoff guy.

Who's Not
Pretty much everybody else.  It's the same old story.  Team can't hit, blah blah, shaky bullpen, yadda yadda, crazy guy on roster, etc.

Conclusion
Assuming that today's crazy guy is actually Ted Lilly, and he displays his insanity by owning the Pirates from innings 1 through 9, then the Cubs just might sneak off with their second straight win.  But it's a big assumption.  This team needs an injection, and not of the steroid variety.

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