So, the present season appears lost, although there remains time to gain ground and sneak into the post season. Still, I doubt anybody is expecting that to happen. But on the off chance that the Cubs are going to surprise us, then it has to entail an ass-whipping of the Dodgers. Seriously, y'all. Enough's enough.
Theriot, Lee, Baker, and Ramirez -- it's a case of the haves and have-nots right now. In the past week, Theriot's batted .304 in the past week, but with few walks and a crappy OPS, Lee is batting .429 with 9 RBI (granted, 7 came from one game), Baker's batting .421, and Aramis is batting .417.
Soriano, Fukudome, Bradley, Soto -- meet the have-nots. These four are complimenting the others by batting .214 or lower, with Bradley bottoming out at .167.
At this moment the Cubs trail 2-1, with the 1 coming off the bat of Fukudome. As I mentioned briefly in the Series Preview, this may be Gorzelanny's last start of the season for the Cubs with Zambrano soon-to-return. Unless he makes things interesting, which he has failed to do so far.
Did you think the Cubs’ remaining schedule was more cupcake-loaded than Geovany Soto’s ass? Well guess again suckers. Now the Cubs head to L.A. to take on the National League-best Dodgers in a four-game series. Oi.
On the positive side, the Dodgers have actually been playing fairly craptacular baseball as of late. They have gone 7-11 in August and only have a 3.5-game lead over the Rockies in the N West. If ever there was a time to play the Dodgers, I guess now good.
August 20th – Tom Gorzelanny vs. Jeff Weaver
Until Tommy GoGo pitches a decent game against a good team, I will never agree he belongs in this rotation. Now he has a chance to convince me otherwise. The Dodgers have been jacking up left-handed pitching with a .289 team batting average and a .813 OPS against southpaws. Good luck Gorz.
With Zambrano pitching in Peoria this weekend, Lou's going to have to figure out Gorzo's role pretty soon. A tremendous outing from him tonight would go a long way toward creating a cluster-f**k in the rotation. So book it. Done.
The last time Jeff Weaver made it through the fifth inning was June 20 against the Angels. So expect this game to be another short outing. The Dodgers used four bullpen pitchers in their final game against the Cardinals last night, so maybe the Cubs can take advantage of a semi-tired group of relief pitchers.
August 21st – Randy Wells vs. Randy Wolf
When I look at the body of work Wells has put together this season, I see a guy who has won the games he was supposed to win. Wells dominates bad teams like every good pitcher should do. However, against the more talented MLB teams, Wells is only OK. In his 7 starts against quality teams (the Rockies, Cardinals, Braves, White Sox, Twins, Braves again, and Dodgers), he is 2-4 and has given up 20 earned runs in 43 innings. Could be tough night for Wells.
The other Randy threw a gem in his last appearance against the D-Backs in which he went 7.2 innings with 10 strikeouts. Wolf isn’t the type of pitcher that gives a hitter nightmares, but he has only allowed more than 3 earned runs once in the last two months. In all of those appearances, he has not pitched less than 6 innings.
August 22nd – Ted Lilly vs. Charlie Haeger
I’ve already mentioned how the Dodgers have fared against lefties this season, but TRL came off the disabled list looking good. I guess the rehab starts helped (Yes, I’m still mad about the way Lou and Hendry handled Dempster’s return). Lilly already faced the Dodgers this year on May 29 at Wrigley. He went 7 innings giving up 1 run on 4 hits.
Haeger has made one appearance this season in which he went 7 innings against the Cardinals giving up 3 runs on five 5 hits (2 of which were homers). Haeger is a knuckleball pitcher and (correct me if I’m wrong here) he will be the first knuckleballer the Cubs face this season. It could be an adventurous night for Milton Bradley and his "keen eye" for the strike zone.
August 23rd – Ryan Dempster vs. Chad Billingsley
The Good: Dempster struck out 10 against the Padres in his last start. The Bad: He gave up 4 runs on 8 hits and took the loss. Opponents are hitting .296 against Dempster since the All-Star Break and his suckiness is becoming more apparent with every start. For those of you that are advocating Lou to move Dempster back to closer, forget about it. There’s no doubt Dempster would take on the assignment if asked, but his contract is too big to move him back to the 'pen.
On a staff that doesn’t have a clearly defined ace, Chad Billingsley is about as close as it gets. His overall stats look good (12-6, 3.70 ERA), but Chad has had his issues with control ad endurance this season. He has walked four or more batters 10 times and hasn’t thrown more than 100 pitches since June 10. If the Cubs can wait him out, then they could have a big night against Billingsley.
The last time the Cubs were this far out of first place was back in July 2007. Think about that for a second. Two Thousand Friggin Seven.
Unlike that situation though, time is running out rather quickly on the 2009 Cubs and it isn’t getting any easier this weekend. The Dodgers don’t have a particularly strong rotation for a team with 71 wins, but the lineup can be terrifying.
Dodger Stadium is a pitcher-friendly park, but it still isn’t as cavernous as Petco, so hopefully Lou can pocket his excuses for the weekend.
This is one of the few times left in this season when the Cubs will actually have to play good baseball in order to win a series. Some signs of life would be welcomed, but I’d settle for a 2-2 split.
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Take a look at Sean Marshall for example. In his first full season as a starter, he's taken the mound in the first inning 8 different times. In each of those 8 appearances, he's thrown 5 or more innings and he's only allowed more than 3 earned runs twice -- on May 5th, when he pitched 7 innings in a loss to San Francisco and yesterday, when he was rocked by the Dodgers.
In other words, Marshall has consistently delivered acceptable performances from the mound. His record for the month of May before yesterday? 3-2, 4.05 ERA. That's good for any 5th starter anywhere in baseball. But because Sean Marshall got beat yesterday, these are the comments of a couple - well, one -- of our readers:
Cubsfanky: Sean Marshall is TRASH!!
So, is this the way it's going to be all year long? A player has an ugly performance and we jump him? Ryan Dempster alternates between good, bad, and ugly outings and we label him a juicer? Milton Bradley begins the year 1 for 23 and we call him selfish? Derrek Lee slumps while he battles a sore neck and we call him washed up? This is how it is now?
On the bright side, the Cubs offense accounted for 9 more hits yesterday but they were only able to draw a solitary walk. Reed Johnson, who is apparently on fire, had another 3-hit game and suddenly finds himself batting .295.
The bullpen also threw 4.2 innings of shutout relief, stopping the Dodgers offense cold. They struck out 8 over that span too.
As for Sean Marshall, fans of Randy Wells couldn't have asked for a different performance. It should be a tough decision for Lou to make once Rich Harden comes back as to whether or not Wells stays in the rotation and Marshall shores up the pen or vice versa. A few more strong outings from Wells, coupled with a few more bad or ugly outings from Marshall and Lou's decision will be easy.
Current Record: 25-24
Position in the NL Central: 4th place, 4.5 games out
Best Possible Record: 138-24
Worst Possible Record: 25-137
Record needed to win 110: 85-28
On Pace For: 83-79
In case you've been avoiding the Cubs for the past week, I would like to point out that they have a chance to take 3-of-4 against the best team in baseball tonight at Wrigley Field. How have they done that? Well, they continued to pitch well thanks to Randy Wells, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster. Then, yesterday they broke out the bats to club the Dodgers 7-0.
All of the sudden the Cubs are showing signs of life before heading out on a 9-day road trip to Atlanta, Houston and Cincinnati next week. With Milwaukee pounding the Reds this afternoon, the best they can be is 3.5 games out of first, which is just fine. The Brewers and Cardinals are in action tomorrow, so maybe we can pick up a half game without playing.
Back to the game at hand, the Dodgers are throwing Eric Milton. I thought he retired or something. Apparently, Milton did not pitch in '08, before signing a Minor League deal with the Dodgers this season. So far he's made two starts and is 1-0. I can't imagine he will keep up his 3.00 ERA, so I expect the Cubs to score a few today. Milton marks the fifth lefty the Cubs have faced this week, which is something you don't see often. They have fared pretty well against them, except Randy Wolf on Thursday.
Marshall will counter for the Cubs. In his last three starts, he's only gone five innings in each of them. Of course one of them was a rain-shortened complete game, but it is an interesting trend to look at in the time being. Unless somebody else gets hurt or the Cubs trade for another lefty, Marshall will move to the pen when Rich Harden comes back. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but if Randy Wells keeps pitching out of his mind it won't matter much.
The only other thing that's really got to worry Cub fans is the super-ice-cold Alfonso Soriano. Pat Hughes made a statement yesterday that he was a limping after catching a fly ball, but he stayed in the game. The Cubs really can't afford to lose another player, but playing with half a player really isn't that great either.
Reed Johnson - What has gotten into Reed? He shaves his beard and goes nuts. In the last seven days, Johnson is hitting a not so cool, .389 with 3 HRS while posting a 1.339 OPS. Also, Reed is doing the little things like laying down 2-out bunts. This recent hot streak has raised his overall average to .270. Now if we can some other guys this hot.
Mike Fontenot - Nine days ago Fontenot was hitting .193 after a pinch-hit appearance. I guess he thought he might lose his job or something, because he's raised his average 37 points. He came up with a 2-for-3 preformance yesterday that included a double and a triple, not to mention a walk and two RBI.
Milton Bradley - Well he didn't do any real damage, but he collected three hits and saw his average raise to .223. Hopefully, he's ready to carry the team for a couple weeks and get up to around .270.
Alfonso Soriano - What's cooler than being cool? Well, I guess it's Soriano, who went 0-for-5 yesterday. He's average has dropped to .246, and he hasn't hit a HR since May 17th.
Bobby Scales - It wasn't a great day for Crash Davis. Scales rapped into two double plays and left four guys on base.
After losing a game on Thrusday it seemed unlikley the Cubs could win this series, but they have that chance now. I suspect the Cubs will put together a good performance and get pick up their second straight series win.
Also, I'm going to all three game in Atlanta. Scott Lange, of the Northside Lounge, and I will be tailgating at least a couple of days this week. I will try and post more details later, but we're probably sitting in the Upper Deck. Leave a comment below if you anybody wants to get together.
The Cubs and the Dodgers. Two teams, evenly matched, who always play close games with high drama - until today. Today, L.A. rolled over, closed their eyes, and pretended to be in a far away land while the Cubs went to town on them for 7 runs. The details are as follows...
The Questionable Quartet
Combined, they went 6 for 12 with 4 walks, 2 doubles, a triple, 2 RBI and 2 runs scored. Individually, Bradley went 3 for 4, all singles (we'll take them), Soto was hitless but drew 2 more walks and Mike Fontenot has his best game in about a month.
Other key contributors include Reed Johnson who also collected 3 hits including a homerun. In total the Cubs notched 10 hits, walked 7 times, and ran away with the game.
The Perplexing Pitcher
Ryan Dempster -- who has been little hit and lotta miss this year -- went 7 strong innings, surrendering only 3 hits and walking 1. He was spelled by Guzman and Heilman, who gave up 2 hits and 1 walk in their 2 innings of shutout relief.
At this point, we know a few things about Dempster. First -- he's been bad, but some of it has been poor luck. Second, he's not going to win 17 games. He probably won't even win 15. But he is not toast by any means. It's conceivable that Dempster will end the year with a sub 4 ERA ... even if it's not likely.
The Cubs go for the series win tomorrow. If they accomplish it, don't scoff. The Dodgers are a tough team no matter where they play. For a streaky-but-slumping Cubs team to handle them so effectively would be an accomplishment, not to mention a sign of things to come.
Eric Stults (4-1, 4.29 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (3-3, 4.99 ERA)
How many people thought we were going to lose yesterday after Matt Kemp hit that fly ball that turned into a home run? ......Wow, a majority of our fans that like pain. Well, I don't really like pain, and Koyie Hill made me feel much better in the bottom of the inning. Then, give it up to Kosuke Fukudome, who came through by putting the ball in play with the bases loaded. Anyway, the Cubs held onto to win 2-1 and pulled within 3.5 games of first after a Cardinal loss. As bad as things have been, the Cubs are still right in the middle of things in the NL Central. Please don't give up hope, because a season is a wild ride.
I won't be watching today, since Fox has picked up the Braves game today. It seems like most of the nation will be catching the Cubs game, except me.
Today, the Cubs will hope that Ryan Dempster gets his stuff together. Which would include a few things like:
• Dempster doesn't walk 7 Dodgers.
• Demspter doesn't yell at an Ump
• Dempster doesn't destroy the Gatorade machine
In all seriousness, Dempster had four pretty good starts in a row before Monday's blow up against the Pirates. I had a feeling that Dempser would be up and down this year, and he hasn't disappointed.
Countering for the Dodgers is Eric Stults, who has been pretty decent for the team from L.A. The biggest thing is that Stults is a lefty, so that means Reed Johnson will once again get the call. Hopefully we will see Jake Fox one of these next two days with lefties on the mound.
Jake Fox - Since being called up as he's done is go 3-for-4. Interestingly, all three hits are in pinch-hit situations. Granted the one he didn't get a hit happened to end the game Thursday.
Cub pitchers - The offense might be struggling, but the pitchers have done their job. Ted Lilly and Randy Wells have been outstanding the last two nights. Also, the bullpen has done their job. If they keep it up, it is only a matter of time before the Cubs start putting together long winning streaks.
Andres Blanco - He did make a couple nifty plays in the field yesterday, but he left five guys on base, and only has one hit in three games. If Theriot is healthy today, you have to think he's back on the bench.
The Cubs have a great chance to take the series if they win today with the Dodgers throwing Eric Milton tomorrow. Don't look now, but the Cubs have won 3-of-4. I feel a winning streak coming on and it starts today.
At this time last year, the Cubs faced the Dodgers in a home series which they swept. The final score of that 3-game series? Cubs 8, Dodgers 3. At this point in a 4 game series neither team is on pace to score 8 runs.
The difference between this year and last year is that after the Cubs barely scraped past L.A., the Dodgers went out and acquired a game-changer who helped them trounce the Cubs in October. Who knows if the Cubs will even get to the playoffs but hopefully they've got something up their sleeves to change the scenario a bit.
This game is what we could conservatively call a "snoozer." No team scored a run until the 7th, when both squads exploded for a combined 3 scores. Matt Kemp briefly gave the Dodgers the lead before Three-Finger tied it up. The Cubs then managed to load the bases on one out before Fukudome sac-flied the winning run. Not exactly high-noon drama.
Roosevelt continues to pitch well out of the rotation, going 7 strong, allowing 4 hits, 3 walks, and striking out 5. He was relieved by Marmol and Gregg who combined to allow 1 hit and 2 walks in 2 innings of relief, but without any score. Marmol's control issues remain concerning.
Nevertheless, a win tomorrow for the Cubs guarantees a split. Although both teams have had dry offenses, and despite the fact that L.A. is one of the best teams in baseball right now, I fully expect the Cubs to do better than that.
School's out for Summer! Oh, well that doesn't really apply to the Cubs, but it does to me, and it is cause for celebration. What does that mean? Well, I hope it means a Cubs victory today.
The Cubs lost a tough one last night, and they try and rebound against the Dodgers' best pitcher, Chad Billingsley.
Sorry for the lateness of the post, but I was getting grades done at school and it's my wife's 30th birthday today.
Can we just skip this?
The Cub offense.
It will tough for the Cubs today, but I think we win in honor of my wife.
Note From Kurt
It would be nice to see the Cubs pummel the hottest team in baseball, but it seems that the Cubs and Dodgers tend to play pretty close games. As we noted yesterday a speedy, nit-picky Los Angeles team exposes the flaws in the way the Cubs have been built. ie - Chicago doesn't do enough to prevent the steal and aggressive base-running from playing a big factor in the outcome of a game. Fortunately most teams don't play with that style, but the Dodgers have a number of players who wanna hold that base for a while.
The thing is, it's never easy and can sometimes be heart-breaking but the Cubs can beat the nit-picky teams. It's when the nit-picky team has that added element - and last October it was Manny and his long bombs - that it becomes a fruitless exercise in frustration.
Not that this contributes anything to the GameCast, I just thought I'd point it out. Go Cubs!
Your name is Randy Wells. You are a relatively unheralded 26-year-old who regrettably shares a resemblance with Kevin Federline. You are playing for the team that drafted you as a catcher and thought so highly of you as a pitcher that they left you unprotected for the Rule V draft -- resulting in your first cup of coffee in the majors with the Blue Jays last year. Now you're back, and, although you've been ridiculously good in your first 4 starts this year, nobody is giddy with your potential and it seems as if you couldn't buy a win with all your bonus money.
In last night's game against the Dodgers Wells did it again. He threw 7 innings and -- although the Dodgers knocked him around early -- he only walked 1 and surrendered 2 earned runs. His ERA is now 1.80, he's got 23 strikeouts in 25 innings, and he's not only winless but mokes like me are planning ahead to when -- not if, but when -- he'll get demoted to the bullpen.
Perhaps the term that best describes how that happened last night could be this: offensive druthers.
While Wells was trying to save the ship, the Cubs as a team collected 9 hits, 3 walks, and grounded into 4 double plays. In fact, every Cubs regular got at least one hit but, had Bobby Scales! not made the most of his return trip to the majors with a homerun*, the Cubs would've been shut out. This is frustratingly despite the Cubs stranding 5 men on base in the final 2 innings - 4 of whom reached their base before there'd been a single out. Maybe Carlos broke all their run-scoring bats in a fit of anger?
(*Gabby Hartnett had his Homer in the Gloamin', Bobby Scales! has his now-legendary Please Don't Demote Me Again Dinger. Not quite as catchy)
The one thing this game really reminded me of was last October. The Dodgers are the kind of team that's built to give the Cubs trouble. They run a lot, their pitchers surrender groundballs, and they'll beat you on singles and steals. You know, if this game reminded us of anything it isn't that the Cubs should desperately do something to rattle Soto's cage but, instead, maybe they should recognize that at the best of times -- when his shoulder isn't gimpy -- he's never going to be Hank Whitesque when it comes to gunning down base runners. As much as I love Three Finger Hill, maybe the Cubs need to look for that catcher with the Chip Caray "lazer-beam" arm.
I digress. The Cubs play tonight ... for vengence!
It's the battle of the Randy's today as Wolf takes on Wells in a 12-round fight. Err, 9-round? Oh, forgot it. Anyway, the Cubs come into tonight's matchup smoking hot. They've scored 19 runs in three games against a dynamic foe. Who am I kidding? Ok, the Cubs did what they had to do to beat the Pirates, now they must face the best team in baseball, not to mention the enemies of last year's .....well, you know.
Wells has been as solid as a call up could be. Too bad he hasn't won a game thanks to Kevin Gregg and some lackluster offense. Wells will have his hands full tonight with the Dodgers. Right now the Dodgers lead the league in BA, Runs, and OBP. Their only 2nd in OPS, and fourth in Slugging.
The Cubs are only 4-games out of first with everybody else off tonight. So, this is an excellent chance to gain a little ground.
Carlos Zambrano continues to dominate the news a day after his gentle disagreement. The more I look at the video, the more I believe the ump bumped into Big Z. The word just came down, and Z will get six games. My guess is it is reduced to five games and he won't miss a start. It will probably be reduced on appeal, and Z will miss one start at most. With an off say on Monday, the Cubs could just adjust the rotation without calling up anybody.
In other news, Ryan Freel was placed on the DL, and Bobby Scales was called back up. I hope he actually didn't make it Iowa, but if did at least he got some airline miles for his troubles.
Mike Fontenot - don't look now, but Fontenot is 6-for-15 in his last six games. He's not driving in runs, but he has to start somewhere.
Geovanny Soto - Geo is still not hitting for power, but he is drawing walks and getting on base. He's got five hits in his last five games. Now, if we can only get a few more HRs.
Ryan Theriot - After a little slump, Theriot started hitting again. He went 3-for-3 yesterday.
Jake Fox - Ok, I know it's early, but the man just hits. He's got a 3.00 OPS right now (I know it's just one AB).
Light hitting middle infielders - Aaron Miles and Ryan Freel now find themselves on the better side of the DL in many Cub fan hearts. The good thing was that neither of them were really hitting.
Derrek Lee - Lee had a 0-for-3 yesterday and is up to .246 on the year. We really need to see a few more 2-for-4 days with some 2B's and HR's.
The Cubs should destroy Randy Wolf, but stranger things have happened. Wells is long overdue for win, and I think he picks it up tonight.