Goatriders of the Apocalypse


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Game Recap: Reds 7, Cubs 5 -- Carlos Marmol isn't the change we are looking for

Game Recap
Randy Wells joined today the increasingly full list of Cub starters who struggle to get out of the 4th inning, although the Cubs still almost managed to escape with a win.  Our heroes were down 5 runs when, in the middle innings they launched a Geovany Soto-led charge. 

The Cubs catcher hit 2 RBI-scoring doubles in back-to-back innings, which -- along with run-contributing hits by Aramis Ramirez and Bobby Scales -- tied the game at 5 until the 9th inning.  That was when Carlos Marmol stepped in and proceeded to cough, hack, and vomit up the lead after having gotten the first 2 outs of the inning via a double play.  It was at that point that Marmol walked Johnny Gomes and Kevin Barker, surrendered a 2-run double to Drew Sutton, and to add injury to insult plunked Paul Janish.  And that was the way it ended, with Carlos Marmol doing a Walk of Shame off the mound after he managed to get a strikeout to end the inning.

On a side note, I have to admit that sometimes I want to read Dusty Baker's excuses as to why the Reds have sucked so badly these last few years.  But really, I can't do it.  I just can't bring myself to read his words. Still, if you're a Reds fan and you've stumbled across this website, (here are a few Google keywords to help you get here -- Dusty Baker sucks, Dusty Baker is a fraud, Dusty Baker should be fired, how Dusty Baker tricked the Reds into hiring him, hot MILFS in wild action with a Dusty Baker look-alike) you should tell me if any of the following sounds familiar:

  • We just don't have the horses, dude.
  • I'm not saying that the ownership hasn't got me some good players, but in a league with the Cubs and Cardinals they need to open up the wallet a bit ... dude.
  • I'm sure we've got some young, talented players here who could help us win.  But baseball is an earn it game, dude, not a give it game.  I can't just give those guys a job.  I used to play with Hank Aaron, and it took me a long time to crack that same lineup as him, dude.  Anyway, I gotta give my guys (aka: the veterans on the team) their at bats so they can make their bonuses, but if these kids can earn their way into the lineup (magically without getting actual play time) then you bet I'll play them.
  • We never had a lot of young talent in San Francisco or Chicago, it was always just a good group of veterans.  That's why I got this unfair reputation of not starting rookies, dude.

And that's Dusty Speak 101 for you right there.  Reds fans, we pity you, honestly.  We wouldn't wish Dusty Baker on our worst enemies ... not even the White Sox/Cardinals.

GameCast: September 12th vs. Reds

GameCast"Broke-Arm" Johnny Cueto (9-10, 4.39 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (10-8, 2.84 ERA)

The Chicago Cubs surge toward the improbable today as they play for their 5th straight win!  The odds are in their favor as they square off against talented Reds youngster Johnny Cueto, who secretly prays to the Baby Jesus every night for Dusty Baker to drown in a vat of goat cheese.  His opponent is unheralded Rookie of the Year competitor Randy Wells, who may or may not get a single first place vote depending on how badly the media sucks J.A. Happ's dick this October.

I know, we've been stirring the pot a little with my recent "they could" post, followed by Rob's "Kurt's crazy" article, intermixed with comments by the Token Cards Fan who has so-awesomely represented his creed thus far on GROTA.  The TCF thinks it's admirable to have the never-say-die attitude, while Rob has already purchased for "never-say-die" a neighboring plot for in the cemetery next to the '09 Cubs season.  

Me, I'm a realist.  The Cubs aren't playoff bound.  But I'm also one of the least-negative people you'll ever encounter, and even while I know the Cubs won't be over-taking the Rockies for the Wild Card, it's entertaining to imagine what they'd need to do for that to happen.  So, to address directly the back-and-forth, I wasn't being sarcastic when I posted the numbers the Cubs would need to achieve to win 90.  But I'm not exactly booking a trip to Chicago for early October either.

Who's Hot
Jeff Baker says "Mark DeRosa who?"  He's batting .478 this past week.

Derrek Lee, who's batting .421 with 4 homers and 6 RBI is a raging ball of fire out there.

Geovany Soto is batting .400 too, albeit in only 10 at bats.

Who's Not
Kosuke Fukudome - .185 in his last 27 at bats. 

Aramis Ramirez - .160 in his last 25.

Koyie Hill - .188 in his last 16.


I don't hate the Reds, but I wouldn't exactly offer Dusty a bed to sleep on if he ever got thrown out of his house.  More to the point, I'd probably get him drunk, take him into the woods, spin him in circles, and run away laughing maniacally while he hopelessly wailed in despair.  But it'd probably be easier to just maniacally cheer the Cubs on to victory tomorrow, so that's what I will do instead.

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Reds 4

Game Recap
Geovany Soto, where have you been?  They must have confiscated his reefer at the airport or something, because the Cubs second-year catcher brought his hitting cleats to tonight's game.  By that I mean he went 1 for 3 with a sacrifice fly and a solo homerun, which makes this game for Soto quite an achievement.  (At this point we'll take anything.)

Soto's 2 runs, coupled with a 3-RBI day from Aramis Ramirez, gave the Cubs just enough offense to overtake a Reds team hell-bent on Rich Harden domination.  The Cubs starter burned through 104 pitches in just 4 innings of work, walking 5 and striking out 6.  His totally craptacular performance paved the way for Jeff Stevens to notch his first-ever big league victory, which he managed to do by pitching a single inning of 3-hit, 3-run baseball.  In other words, much like how you don't want to tell your kids about how they were conceived before you and your spouse got married, Jeff Stevens will probably not want to describe in intricate detail to his kids the way Johnny Gomes teed off on him like it was the Homerun Derby in Jeff's first-ever big league win.

Still, it was enough for the Cubs, who otherwise saw a good outing from their bullpen.  Aaron Heilman shocked the world by pitching 2 innings of perfect baseball (true, he didn't come in with runners on) and Carlos Marmol stepped in to earn his latest Mitch Williams-like Save ... he got 'er done on 28 pitches, 12 of which were balls, 1 hit, 1 walk, and 2 strikeouts.  Guh.

Meanwhile, at this moment the Rockies are losing to the Padres in the 8th inning by a score of 1 to 0.  IT'S GONNA ...

Update: 7:50AM

...be a blown lead for the Padres.  Colorado 4, San Diego 1.  Sweet Jesus, the Rockies are tough!

Gamecast: September 11th vs. Reds

GameCastJustin  Lehr (4-1, 4.43 ERA) vs. Rich Harden (9-8, 4.10 ERA)

Story Lines
While the Cubs may be furstrating at times, it is good to reflect on how great the game of baseball truly is. It amazes me that eight years have passed since September 11th, but here we are and the game we love is still talking up our time even when things are not great. Regardless of how you feel about the current political atmosphere, take a step back enjoy the fact we have something so pure and great to focus on year after year.

I feel sorry for nations that do not get this level of enjoyment or pain for that matter. I know many people have pain in their lives, but this is a different kind of pain that is healed sometimes yearly. During the last eight years, the Cubs have made the playoffs three times, won two division titles, and broke our hearts eight times. Who doesn't love that? The funny thing is that we will back ready for more starting this offseason. By the times pitchers and catchers report, all will be forgiven for this season and our hopes renewed.

Enjoy the rest of the day, and watch a game this weekend if you get a chance. Life is too short to blame Jim Hendry for everything, and we need to embrace these times, because we will not be on this earth forever. We might as well watch more baseball while we still can.

Who's Hot
Jeff Baker - Now playing second base for your 2010 Chicago Cubs, "Jeff Baker." Baker has a 1.073 OPS in his last seven games and barring a big change will be the starter at 2B next season.

Geovany Soto - He's 4 for 10 in his last three games, with three of those hits coming for doubles. We'll take what we can get at this point.

Derrek Lee - He has four home runs in the last week, but only 6 RBI. How does that work? Oh right, people need to get on base in front of him to drive them in.

Who's Not
Aramis Ramriez/Kosuke Fukudome - Both of these guys have OPS's under .600 in their last six games.

Rob and Kurt both commented on the Cubs chances for the playoffs. Well, I say we pull a Major League and take the whole "win he whole F'ing thing" approach. I know it is a long shot, but it is better than no shot.

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Reds

Series Preview

Why do I love the Cincinnati Reds? Simple friends. They are a team with so much young talent, yet they are being run into the ground by a manager who overuses their arms and refuses to use their skill in the field as long as a subpar veteran is available instead. Life sure must suck in the Queen City. At least they had “Hard Knocks”, right? That show was sweet.

The Cubs have had their fair share cupcakes recently, and this weekend will be no different. Unfortunately, this is all for not as the teams that the Cubs need to catch keep winning (Last 10 games: St. Louis 8-2, Colorado 9-1, Cubs 6-4).

However, the Cubs are in position to offer two scenarios to their bipolar fan base.

For the pessimists, it is over. The Cubs will not catch the Rockies or Cards. It's nearly impossible. Feel free to drown yourself in beer or to thrown on your favorite Bears jersey in preparation of a football-induced hibernation.

For the optimists, the Cubs still have a chance…mathematically speaking. The schedule is loaded with easy W's and it only takes one big winning streak for the Cubs to potentially get back into this at the very last second. Let’s...go…Cubs…(starting slow clap).

Pick your poison Cubs fans. Personally, I prefer to have a few drinks and start yelling at the umpires inappropriately for no reason Rep. Joe Wilson-style.

The Matchups
September 11th – Justin Lehr vs. Rich Harden
Last time the Cubs saw Lehr, he threw a complete game shutout on four hits. Since then, things have been getting worse for Lehr (0, 1, 3, 6, 5, 4…earned runs given up in consecutive starts since August 5). Sounds like a young Reds pitcher to me.

Last time the Reds saw Harden, he threw 6 innings giving up two earned runs in the loss. It wasn’t a bad effort for Rich and he still got 9 strikeouts, so I wouldn’t expect much from a Reds team that lacks real coaching. Let the Hackfest begin.

September 12th – Johnny Cueto vs. Randy Wells
In three starts against the Cubs, Cueto is 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA. In three starts against the Reds, Wells is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA. Nuff said.

September 13th – Homer Bailey vs. Ted Lilly
Bailey is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his last four starts. Wow-zah. But his name is Homer for crying out loud. Could there be a worse name for pitcher?

Lilly has been a steady beacon of consistency since coming of the DL. He has struck out 78 batters and only walked 15 in his last 92 innings pitched. That’s some serious control brother. His middle name is Roosevelt. Bad ass.

In the immortal words of Chad Ochocinco, “Child, please.”

The Cubs should easily be able to pick up at least two games and continue their quest to a 90-win season. Although they will probably not make the playoffs even if they get there, at least my level of depression will be upgraded from “crippling” to “oppressive.”

Go Cubs...and Braves (playing the Cards) and Padres (playing the Rockies).

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Game & Series Recap: Reds 4, Cubs 0 (Cubs win 2 games to 1)


No brooms tonight, as the Cub's offense was shut down again. How is this team going to hit the opponents best couple starters if they do make the post season, if they can't manage to score against number 3-4 guys?

I know you probably didn't mean it the way it sounded, Dan, but that's the sort of comment that will drive me to stand atop tall buildings and look longingly down at the concrete sidewalk far below. Despite the butt-kicking they received last night, the Cubs have been one of the winningest teams in baseball since the All Star Break. Rather than look negatively at how they failed "to score against number 3-4 guys," I think we should call it what it was -- Reds pitcher Justin Lehr pitched a hell of a game. Expecting any team, be they the Dodgers, or Cubs, or Cardinals, to always beat the 3-4 pitchers in a rotation is a mistake. Teams like the Cubs will surely smack around the Justin Lehrs of the world more often than the Justlin Lehrs smack them around, but not always.

Meanwhile, Cub fans are anxious to give Rich Harden's job to Grozelanny, because Rich has been below-average this year while Gorzo had one solid start. I'd suggest that this might be a case of jumping the ol' gun a bit. Harden suffered from One Bad Inning syndrome last night (the pathos of which were explored in detail by Kerry Wood and Mark Prior several years ago) but if he manages to pitch 6 innings while surrendering only 2 earned runs and striking out 9 every time he's out there, I don't think the Cubs would be justified in taking him out of the rotation.

Also, I think it's pretty ironic that Justin Lehr kicks the team's ass and people are ready to question the team's ability to win, while Gorzelanny kicks the Reds ass and people are ready to prop him up and give him a role in the rotation. Guys, dudes, bros, Lehr and Gorzelanny are essentially the same guy right now -- number 3-4 pitchers who had great games and nothing more until they prove otherwise!

Anyway, at least the Cardinals lost again, keeping the Cubs propped in first place for the time being. It's interesting to note that they were essentially shut down by not one but two "3-4 guys" on the Mets roster -- Jonathon Niese, who left the game in the second inning and Nelson Figueroa, who pitched 4.1 scoreless innings in relief lowering his ERA to 6.75 on the season. I can't help but wonder how the Cardinals can win in the post season against good teams' best couple starters if they can't manage to score against number 3-4 guys?

Also: today is an off-day, so along with Cubs 101 we will probably have a Roster Thoughts article sometime in the afternoon. I'll probably use the opportunity to dispell the continuing misconception of Jeff Samardzija and his remaining options while waxing hypothetical about what moves need to be made.

Current Record: 57-49
Position in the NL Central: 1st place, .002 percentage points ahead of the Cardinals
Magic Number: 55 (thanks to cubsmagicnumber.com)
Best Possible Record: 113-49
Worst Possible Record: 57-105
Record needed to win 90: 33-23
On Pace For: 87-75

GameCast: August 5th at Cincinnati

GameCastRich Harden (7-6, 4.50 ERA) vs. Justin Lehr (0-0, 5.40 ERA)

In the shadow of a surging Cardinals team, the Cubs are poised to sweep another team on the road -- this time being the Reds, in what is surely Dusty Baker's swan song as a major league manager. 

Pitching for the Cubs is Rich Harden, who's had a less-than-fantastic walk year although he's stayed healthier than anybody could've imagined.  On the mound for the Reds is Justin Lehr, a journeyman who is back to the majors for the first time since 2006, when he had an 8.62 ERA with the Brewers.  Tonight will mark only his second career start.

Re-joining the Cubs today is legendary slugging second baseman Aaron Miles, best known for his epic clutch skills.  The Cubs have cut down to 12 pitchers to make way for him, with more tough roster decisions to be made this weekend when Geovany Soto returns to the team.

Who's hot
The incredibly awesome Mike Fontenot - Fontenot is indesputibly the most universally loved Cub, thanks in part to his David vs. Goliath demeanor, coupled with his keen defensive skills and wavy, flowing hair.  As usual, Fontenot's production has been tied into the Cubs' success -- their recent winning ways can certainly be attributed first and foremost to his .306 AVG in the past week of play.  On top of that, his first-at-bat double last night was huge for the team.  The once and future team MVP has an OPS of 1.056 over the past 7 days and will surely continue to put up huge numbers in the coming games.

Jake Fox - Okay, this one is subjective.  He's only 4 for his last 17, but 3 of those 4 hits have been homeruns.  So far this year ESPN has him on pace for 256 at bats, for which he is projected to compile 19 doubles, 19 homeruns, and 63 RBI.  Granted, he hasn't had as much to do with the team's success as Fontenot, but he has certainly earned the right to remain on the team for the remainder of the season.

Derrek Lee - He's 9 for his last 30 (.300 AVG) with 5 extra base hits in that span.  Not to mention the fact that, in 270 fewer at bats, Lee has already surpassed last year's homerun total while grounding into only 5 double plays.

Who's Not
The Cubs bullpen - For a while there they were efficient and reliable.  Now they're back to their old, gut-wrenching tricks.  Since July 31st, the bullpen has surrendered 15 runs in 15.2 innings of work, which doesn't even count the runs tacked onto the starters' tabs.  Indeed, I don't feel particularly confident about any of those guys replacing Gregg.

The bullpen needs to shape up; Harden needs to consistently get outs, and the Cubs offense needs to pick up the slack so that Fontenot is no longer carrying them on his admittedly broad shoulders. 

Oh, and I hope Cub fans brought their sweepin' brooms to Cincinnati.  I've got a feeling they may get to use them tonight.

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Reds 3 -- more bullpen angst

Tom Gorzelanny, welcome to Chicago. 

The new Cubs lefty made his debut tonight, and he was above-and-beyond what we were probably expecting.  Gorzo went 7.1 innings against the Reds, holding them to 3 hits, 1 walk, and 1 earned run while striking out 6.  Of course, the Cubs bullpen would make things interesting, with Angel Guzman surrendering a 2-run homer in a 9th inning non-save situation, but Dusty's crew just couldn't git'er done.

Offensively it was a 9-hit, 3-walk day for the Cubs, starting with a leadoff shot by Kosuke Fukudome who is trying his damndest to elevate himself out of Rob's doghouse.  On top of Fooky's performance, the Cubs doubled and singled their way toward 4 runs in the 6th, followed by a Derrek Lee solo shot in the 7th. 

The Cubs now find themselves within striking distance of sweeping the Reds.  Hey, if Dusty continues to insist on using Willy ".275 OBP" Taveras as his leadoff dude, then we can only assume it will be a done deal.

Meanwhile, in Cubs blogger land, we posted earlier today a Gregg Defense article, causing one long-time, kick-ass reader to say the following:

I could very well have missed something because I only have time to get
on here about 10 to 15 minutes a day, but I dont remember anybody
actually HATING Kevin Gregg

There was definitely some hate in the ShoutBox, but beyond that here's what you've been missing in Cubs Nation Blog Land:

Sports broadcaster Dave Kaplan:

If this team has hopes of
going to the playoffs and contending once they get there I do not
believe they can keep Gregg as their closer. He is not an overpowering
pitcher and he has a penchant for the long ball that is often fatal
because when he pitches the game is almost always on the line. He has
surrendered 10 HR's in the closer's role which is the most in baseball
by any closer in the Top 15 in saves by a wide margin.

Cubs blogger Frodog

I can’t seem to mention his name without having a middle name. I never
liked this guy from the first pitch he threw in a Cub uniform. There
was no movement on his fastball, and I knew he was gonna get crushed. I
was right.

Those are just the easy two. 

I commented on Kaplan's blog regarding his opinion, for which I almost immediately received an EMail response.  Apparently he takes his blog seriously.  Kaplan's basic opinion appears to be that a pitcher can be almost lights-out for three straight months, but if he has two bad games in a row then he "has not earned the closer's job" and needs to be demoted.  Thankfully, Kaplan isn't running the team because he would be the Anti-Dusty Baker ... instead of holding an intense and unreasonable loyalty for his players, he'd apparently throw them to the wolves at every turn. 

Anyway, the Cubs remain a percentage point-or-so ahead of the Cardinals, who beat the Mets in extra innings tonight.  For whatever it's worth*, I've lately had a very good feeling about the chances of this team.  Maybe it's fitting that, on top of their continued hold of first place in the division, they'll be taking on their prime competition for the Wild Card very shortly.

(*"for what it's worth"?  I'll tell you what it's worth -- nothing.  Dog Piss Jones)

GameCast: August 4th at Cincinnati

GameCastTom Gorzelanny (3-1, 5.19 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (8-8, 4.06 ERA)

I have mixed feelings about this game - and the rest of the Cubs games against the Reds.  On one hand, for two reasons I'm hoping the Reds get crushed.  First, Cincinnati is on a downward spiral and the Cubs need to take advantage of their collapsing opponent.  Second, I don't hate the Reds and if the Cubs can continue to put the hammer to them, they just might fire Dusty Baker and salvage their franchise before he runs more of their young arms onto the surgeon's table.

On the other hand, I'm almost hoping that the Reds pull out of their nose-dive and manage to win just enough games to keep Dusty his job, if only because it's one less team to worry about in the Central.  But like I said, I don't hate Cincy and I pity their fanbase for living under the shadow of such a terrible manager.

Regardless, if the Reds win any it will be tonight's.  Tom Gorzelanny -- whom some of us were hoping would be on his way to some other team for a middle infielder -- makes his debut for the Cubs.  Before his struggles and injuries last year, Gorzo was an up-and-coming lefty starter with a lot of promise, going 14-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 2007.  Maybe he'll still meet that promise in a Cubs uniform, but I'm not holding my breath.

His opponent tonight is the young, talented Johnny Cueto, whose arm is probably aching for Dusty Baker to get fired.  Just a month ago Cueto was 8-4 with a 2.69 ERA.  Since then, he's gone 0-4 with a 10.32 ERA.  Maybe the Reds need to entertain shutting the 23-year-old pitcher down for a while.

Who's hot
Kosuke Fukudome -- He recently spent a week with his old batting coach from Japan.  The result has been nothing short of spectacular.  Fukudome has batted .364 in his 55 at bats since the All Star Break.  That production includes 6 doubles, 2 triples, and 13 walks to go along with his 20 hits -- giving him an OBP of .485.  Put it to you another way; Kosuke has a .447 OBP as a leadoff man this year. 

Derrek Lee, Mike Fontenot, Aramis Ramirez, Jake Fox, and Andres Blanco  have all put up an OPS of .943 or better in the past week.  That production equates to 7 homers and 26 RBI. 

Who's not
Alfonso Soriano -- The slumbering giant has, after a brief stretch, rolled back over and gone back to sleep.  Sori has spent the past week whiffing a lot again, not that his few hits haven't been huge.  Of course, whether he hits well or not doesn't matter.  Cub fans will hate him regardless, because apparently we are stoopid.

The Reds are presently 11.5 games behind the first place Chicago Cubs.  Whether the Cubs pound them or not, this is probably Dusty's last hurrah.  Odds are, it will be a lot closer than we might expect.  Unless Cueto is in fact nursing an injury, he's bound to do better than his 10+ ERA.  Unless Gorzo is pitching like his old self, the Reds are bound to take him for a few rides.  Either way, whether the two teams combine to score 20 runs or 6, I suspect that the game will end in a save situation.

Game Recap: Cubs 4, Reds 2 -- Hooray, Carlos!

Really, there were five key players in tonight's win over the Reds.

First off, we had the Cubs' True Ace, the Second Son of God, Randy Wells.

Last time out, Cub fans were hoping Randy could pitch a good number of innings since the bullpen had been worked so hard in the few games before. This time, Cub fans found themselves in exactly the same place.

Last time, Wells responded by throwing eight innings. Tonight, he got through 7.1 innings pitched, before Key Player #2 John Grabow came on to get an inning-ending double play ball (after hitting a batter, if I remember correctly).

Perhaps the best synonym for "ace" that defines Randy Wells these days is "stopper." When the Cubs have really needed a shutdown performance, a bunch of innings while holding the opposition's offense in check, Randy's given it to them. I think in the postgame press conference, Lou himself posed a question, which was something to the effect of: "Where would we be without this guy?" It's a pretty scary question, actually.

Wells and Grabow covered innings one-thru-eight on the mound. Before we talk about the pitching in the ninth, let's talk about the two Cub hitters with RBIs this evening.

First off, kudos to Mike Fontenot (KP #3). Mike was able to put a good swing on a Aaron Harang fastball with two men on, giving the Cubs a nice 3-0 lead that would end up being enough to win the game tonight. Good to see, indeed.

Also, Derrek Lee (KP #4) was credited with an RBI tonight. His double chased Aaron Harang from the mound, and gave the team even more cushion in the ninth inning.

Speaking of the ninth, let's get back to the pitching. The reliever Piniella went with to close out tonight's win was Carlos Marmol (KP #5), as Kevin Gregg was suffering from a little bit of a dead arm (a completely reasonable response to having thrown 38 pitches two nights before, and 10 the day after that).

Personally, I was kinda hoping he'd keep Grabow in for another hitter, just to see if he could get some additional outs before going with the Human Walkman. But with the Walkman he went, and so the fun began.

Marmol walked the leadoff guy, and gave up a single as well before eventually facing Alex Gonzalez with two men on. In what ended up being an 11-pitch at-bat, Carlos hung about five sliders to Gonzalez (this is by no means an exaggeration--at least five breaking pitches were thrown middle-up). Gonzalez fouled four of them off, before making Carlos pay on the fifth.

Fortunately, Willy Tavares sucks really hard, and Carlos was able to escape the jam with the next batter and preserve the win. But man, was it fun in the meantime!

At the end of the day, the Cubs are back in first place. Cool!

Go Cubs.

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