Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Marlins

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Gamecast: August 1st at Marlins

Carlos Zambrano (7-4, 3.36 ERA) vs. Burke Badenhop (5-4, 3.46 ERA)

Story Lines

The Cubs fell back to second place last night after the bullpen chose to explode, well Carlos Marmol chose to stop throwing strikes. It's not a big deal, the Cubs still are up in the loss column, and they still have a chance to take the series.

Carlos Zambrano heads back to the bump for the Cubs. Carlos is 3-1 in July with a 2.63 ERA, and has been pitching much better of late. The Cubs need a quality outing out of Big Z since Rich Harden only went 5 innings last night

There is not a whole lot of other news going on in world of the Cubs. The waiver trading period starts today, and it will be interesting to see how the Cubs act during this month. The Cubs only glaring need is at 2B, but it seems the platoon of Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot will continue for the time being.

The Cubs were also terrible with runner's in scoring position last night. The Cubs only had six chances and they came up empty in every single one of those chances.

Who's Hot

Jake Fox - Fox picked up his 8th HR and 25th and 26th RBI last night. He only had one hit, but it was big at the time. I have a feeling that Fox might be a little bit of trade bait in the offseason.

Aramis Ramirez - Another day, two more hits. Granted they were both singles, but he keeps hitting and that is what matters.

Who's Not

Carlos Marmol - It was just one outing, but it was rough.

Top 2 in the order - Ryan Theriot and Kusoke Fukudome went a combined 0-for-8 last night. The Cubs are not going to win many games with that happening.

Conclusions

The Cubs are not going to win every night, but it would be nice to take Game 1 of a series. They are now .5 game back again in the NL Central and 1 game out of the Wild Card. I have a feeling it is going to come down to the very end.

Game Recap: Cubs 2, Marlins 5 -- Offense, 'Pen Fail

The obvious reason for why this game went to crap had to do with Carlos Marmol walking two Marlin batters in the bottom of the 8th inning. If he gets outs, maybe we go a little longer, maybe the Cubs score later on, and so on and so forth.

But really, the offense wasn't exactly killing the ball tonight either. I don't know how many additional outs the Cubs would have needed to give the hitters enough time to take the lead. The Cubs were 1-for-12 at the top of the line-up, with Derrek Lee collecting the only hit among the first three Cub hitters.

Volstad was good. All we could muster off of him was a bloop and a blast, and that happened relatively late in the game.

For the Cubs, Harden was decent; 11 Ks is awesome, but five innings is not. Harden also gave up an RBI double to the opposing pitcher.

On a positive note, John Grabow's debut went well. He did walk a batter, but retired the next three Marlins hitters he faced.

In the end, I'm chalking this one up as an off night for the offense. Let's put some more pressure on the starting pitcher in tomorrow's game.

Go Cubs.

Gamecast: July 31st at Marlins

Rich Harden (7-6, 4.55 ERA) vs. Chris Volstad (8-9, 4.44 ERA)

Story Lines

The Cubs are once again in first place thanks to a comeback victory by the Dodgers last night in St. Louis. After St. Louis struck for Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa and Julio Lugo, the Cubs went out yesterday and dealt for John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny.

The move has been discussed at length, but it probably helped the team. For one, it does give the Cubs another arm in the bullpen to go along with Sean Marshall, even if he gets out right handers better than lefties. The Cubs should get better on their own over the next few weeks with Ted Lilly, Geovany Soto and Reed Johnson coming back.

Tonight's game starts a long road trip for the Cubs. They make trips to the Marlins, Reds and Rockies, and this is a very important time for the Cubs to continue to play well.

Rich Harden heads to the bump tonight, and it will be interesting to see  how he pitches at night after all the fuss the last few weeks. Harden's been great since the All-Star brek. In three starts, he's 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA with 21 strikeouts and two walks. Harden's lack of walks have been the key for him, but that's true of any pitcher.

Who's Hot

Aramis Ramirez - The "Real" Aramis Ramirez is back, and maybe stronger than ever. Ramirez has crushed the ball of late with a .520 average with four HR's and 10 RBI. That translates to a 1.746 OPS during the streak.

Kosuke Fukudome - It is no shock to see the Cubs turn things around when Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano starting to hit. In his last 7 games, Fukudome is hitting .409 with a 1.109 OPS.

Milton Bradley - He's still hitting a lot of singles, but he does have two home runs in the last week. His line in the last week of .333/.483/.619 is showing real signs of improvement. Overall, his OPS is up to .776. Still not great, but getting better.

Who's Not

Mike Fontenot - I really thought the Cubs would make a deal for a 2B, but it does not look like it is going to happen. Even with his two hits yesterday, Fontenot's still just 3-for-17 in his last six games.

Conclusions

The Cubs have traditionally struggled with the Marlins, but they did take 3 of 4 back in April during a homestand. Hopefully, the Cubs can find a way to take 2 of 3 this weekend.

Series Preview: Cubs at Florida


Overview
What a difference a week makes, eh? Last Friday the Cubs were 1.5 games out of first place with the Astros and Brewers not far behind. Now the Cubs are in first after going 6-1 at home and the NL Central race seems less like a swingers orgy and more like a monogamous relationship.

The Cubs are 11-3 since the All-Star Break and are playing like the team everyone was having wet dreams about during the winter. They hit road next and will not be returning to Wrigley until August 11. First stop: South Beach.

Although the Marlins have won seven of their last eight games, they are currently 6 games behind the Phillies. Let’s not be fooled though my friends, the Marlins certainly have something to play for.

In their only meeting of the season, the Cubs took three of four games from the Fish in Chicago.

Needless to say, that means practically nothing now because this Cubs team is different than anything we’ve seen so far this season. Say what you will about the difficulty of their opponents during this hot streak, but the Cubs offense is straight ballin’ homie. I guess that makes this preview particularly hard write because the Cubs are actually…like…good on a consistent basis.

Alas, I will push on. To the matchups!

The Matchups
Friday, July 31st – Rich Harden vs. Chris Volstad
Baseball Reference has Volstad listed at 6’7’’…wait for it…and 190 lbs. Holy crap. Someone get this guy a cheeseburger before the wind picks up. While Big V can bring the heat with his fastball, the guy has suffered some control issues in his last two starts. He’s allowed 4 walks in both contests (giving up 1 earned run and 4 earned runs respectively). Expect the Cubs to be patient and test Volstad’s control.

After Rich Harden’s last start, at least we know that he is NOT a vampire. However if he is actually a vampire, then we are all screwed because they can walk among us during the day. Seriously though, Count Harden threw six innings giving up just 1 run while striking out 8 Reds during a DAY game at HOME. Since the ASB, Rich is 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA. He vants to strike you out.

Saturday, August 1st – Carlos Zambrano vs. Burke Badenhop?
We may not know what carcass the Marlins are going to roll out on the field for the Cubs to feast on, but all accounts seem to point to Burke Badenhop. This guy has been used mostly as a reliever all season, so it’s safe to say he won’t last more than 5 innings at best. Like Russ Ortiz, Badenhop (a righty) is stronger against left-handed hitters. I’m not sure if you saw what the Cubs did to Ortiz yesterday, but he was waived after the game by the Astros. Just saying.

Zambrano finally pitched like an ace in his last start but he still didn’t get the win. Such is life. The Marlins don’t take many walks (10th in the NL) and are notorious hackers. This should please Big Z as he seems to work better against teams with little patience. I predict many strikeouts. And the people rejoiced.

Sunday, August 2nd – Ryan Dempster vs. Rickie Nolasco
Nolasco, the “ace” of the Marlins’ staff, has not had an outstanding season so far. With a 7-7 record and a 5.24 ERA, I see no reason to fear him. One could argue that Nolasco is getting better as evident by the 2 earned runs he has given up in his last two starts. But one could also argue that my master’s degree will get me a job sometime soon. In both cases, you’d be wrong.

Dempster got shelled in his last start. To be honest, the guy should have probably pitched a minor league assignment before coming back to the big squad. Besides his walks, what worries me most about Dempster is the number of homers he has given up. In 2008, Demp gave up 14 dingers all season. Guess how many he has given up this year. That’s right, 14. This could be a high scoring affair.

Conclusion
I really like all the matchups this weekend for the Cubs. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think they could pull off the sweep. However I’m predicting they’ll lose at least one game (most likely Dempster’s start).

Like I said above, it’s hard to tell what to expect from the Cubs now. They could just be teasing us and we’ll have Cubbie Blue Balls at the end of this road trip. Or perhaps they will kick ass across America and come back to Wrigley in first with a nice lead.

I now want to use this space to welcome the newest members of the Cubs to our team: John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny. Although I’m not thrilled about moving Marshall out of the bullpen, this was a decent trade by Hendry. So welcome to the team guys. We’ll love you until you screw up. No pressure.

Go Cubs.

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Series Recap: Cubs 3, Marlins 1

A big thanks to Yarbage for kindly covering for me while I was away.  Naturally the Cubs took advantage of my absence by playing some of their best baseball this season.  I'm not going to take a deep look into things because that would be redundant, but I'll give a few quick spins on the games played this weekend.

Game One
Cubs lose
Cubs lose, yadda yadda, season over, etc. etc., more of the same old tailspin rhetoric that feeds so much content into this blog.

Game Two
Cubs ... win?
Ryan Theriot.  I told my best buddy - not a Cubs fan - about the unlikelihood of Theriot's granny and his response was this:

If you look up "due" in the dictionary, they've got a picture of Ryan Theriot hitting that grand slam below the definition.  Probably my favorite part of this game was that the Cubs were down at various points by a lot of runs.  They were down 3-0 when they scored their first run of the game, and were down 5-1 when they went on their rampage, scoring 7 times before the Marlins were able to tack on a garbage run in the 9th.

Impressive events of this game - Theriot's granny, and Lee, Soto, and Fontenot - three of the now-legendary Questionable Quartet - combined for 2 hits each and went 6 for 10.  The team as a whole also drew 5 more walks, and while Rich Harden was chased the Succeptible Seven - also known as the bullpen - allowed only 1 earned run in 5.1 innings of work.  Cudos to Neal Cotts for almost succeeding in facing the minimum.

Game Three
Cubs ... win again?!
Speaking of due, Ryan Theriot apparently decided that he likes the taste of the longball and hadn't had enough.  So, he hit his second homerun in as many days - doubling his total for last year - leading the way to an easy romp in Game Three. Wherever he's vanished to, Pseudo-Goat Rider Colin must be scratching his head over the sheer improbability of Theriot's offensive outburst.  (Consequently, we at GROTA will now refer to Theriot as "Juice" for obvious reasons.)

Every playing member of the Questionable Quartet got hits in this game as well, including Derrek who went yard.  The offense drew 5 additional walks, and Ted Lilly (who also hit a double) went 8 innings, striking out 10, and taking the lead for the title of Most Reliable Pitcher on the staff.  Oh, and Aaron Heilman struck out all 3 batters he faced in the 9th.  He's turning out to be shockingly good.

Game Four
CUBS WIN AGAIN!!
And finally we have the decisive game.  On the plus side, Carlos Zambrano threw 5 innings of decent baseball before - on the down side - exiting with a sore hammy.  The Cubs are apparently going to shut him down, but I haven't read anywhere if he'll be taking a trip to the DL or just having a turn skipped in the rotation.

Regardless, the Cubs collected 6 runs from 9 hits and a Bakeresque 0 walks, including homeruns from two members of the Questionable Quartet - Derrek Lee and Mike Fontenot.  In this series, Fontenot's seen his AVG go from being around .230 to .266, and he now has 5 homeruns on the season.  Not bad for a guy who  some of our readers had given up on after about a week into the season.

Conclusions
The Cubs did what they needed to do - they beat the crap out of a first place team who I happen to hate with a hot, fiery passion.  Again a big thanks to Chris for covering for me while I was away

Maybe the Cubs will build on this play and hammer away at the Giants tonight.  After a week or so of harping about consistency, though, it's nice to see 3 games won by 6 runs or more in which different players contributed every night toward the offensive barrage.  That's what good teams do.  That's what the Cubs will do this year.

Current Record: 13-11
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 3.5 games out of first
Best Possible Record: 151-11
Worst Possible Record: 13-149
Record needed to win 110: 97-41
On Pace For: 88-74


Quick Links
Series Preview: Marlins at Cubs
Game Recap: Marlins 8, Cubs 2
Game Recap: Cubs 8, Marlins 6
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Marlins 1
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Marlins 4

P.S. The Carlos Zambran-0-Meter desperately needs to be updated.  It's at the very top of my to do list when I get home from work tonight.  Apologies for those who enjoy seeing the meter rise.

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Marlins 4

I didn't see any of today's game as I watched the Astros beat the Braves in Atlanta. By the way, the Braves might have the worst lineup in the majors right now if you were wondering.


As for the Cubs, Derrek Lee's grandslam in the fifth inning was enough to send the Cubs to a 6-4 victory. Apparently, Carlos Zambrano strained his hamstring beating out an infield single in the fifth inning that caused him to leave the game. I couldn't find anything on Zabrano's injury, so we will just have to wait and see.

During the top of the sixth, I remember looking at the Brave's scoreboard in right and seeing the Marlins with the bases loaded. I wondered what Zambrano was doing, but it makes a little more sense now. Angel Guzman did manage to get out of the jam by only allowing one run.

Carlos Marmol had another adventure in the 8th inning. He gave up a lead-off home run to John Baker, followed by a walk to Hanley Ramirez. He was able to get out of it. Then, Kevin Gregg picked up the save to the Cubs a 3-1 series victory.

Mike Fontenot hit his fifth home run, but Milton Bradley went 0-for-4 to push his average down to .116.

The Cubs picked up a half-game on the Cardinals, who were rained out. It was good to see the Cubs string a few wins together, and hopefully Ryan Dempster can put together a qaulity start against the Giants tomorrow.

Gamecast: May 3rd Marlins vs. Cubs


Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 6.92 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (2-1, 4.64 ERA)

Story-lines
Can the Cubs finally win a series, and a four-game one at that?
Can Ryan Theriot hit a third home run in as many days?
Can Carlos Zambrano be dominating on the mound?

These all things that I’m looking for as the Cubs try take 3-of-4 from the Florida Marlins. Well, maybe not the Theriot home run, but that would be really nice. After scuffling for over a week, the Cubs are back over .500 with a 12-11 mark. A win today, and the Cubs would have honest-to-God winning streaking heading into a two-game series against the Giants.

If the Cubs are going to compete, the Cubs need Zambrano to start throwing some dominating innings. He has pitched better in each of last two starts, and it would be nice to see that trend continue.

Who’s Hot
Ryan Theriot – as long as Theriot keeps hitting home runs and triples, he will stay on the hot list. The man’s on fire after he doubled his home run total from last season, on May 2nd no less. Call me crazy, but he just might hit three or four this season.

Mike Fontenot – Don’t look now but the other LSU grad has a 1.000 OPS in his last seven days. During that time he is hitting .292 with eight RBI. If anything good has come out his early season slump it is that Aaron Miles didn’t take the chance to take his job.

Zambrano – Big Z has four hits this week, including his first bomb of the year. He also has pinch hit in three straight games, which means his timing is ready for today.

Who’s Not
Aramis Ramirez’s calf – As nice as it has been to some Cubs hit better, we need to have Ramirez back in the lineup. From what I read it looks like tomorrow might be the day. I would rather see him sooner rather than later.

Milton Bradley – Not to beat a dead horse, but Bradley still hasn’t really started hitting. He is improving (he’s got 4 hits in his last 15 at bats). His average still stands at .128 on the season, but with a .320 OB. He didn't play yesterday, so maybe he is ready to bust out.

Conclusions
The Cubs are playing better, and it has translated into wins. Lets go out there today and get a third in a row. I won’t be able to catch today’s game, because I’m heading to the Braves game to hang out with friends. If there isn’t a recap when I get home, I will post one a little later tonight.

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Marlins 1

Ok, who is spiking the kool-aid with HGH? No really, because this is the craziest thing since Ryan Theriot hit two home runs in one game. Anybody remember that one? I didn't, but thanks to Baseball-Reference.com for the information. Actually the entire offense was pretty good today with every regular getting a hit except Kosuke Fukudome, who ended up walking twice.

Theriot's blast in first inning was all that Ted Lilly would need. Lilly threw a brillant 8 innings, while striking 10 on the way to his third win of the year. Lilly's only mistake came in the fifth inning to Cody Ross, or he might have tossed a complete game.
The best thing about Ted's preformance was he didn't walk a hitter. Maybe it will rub off on a few more of the Cub pitchers.

The Cubs got all of their six runs off Marlin stater Anibal Sanchez, including another RBI by Mike Fontenot in the first inning that scored Fukudome to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead.

Taking inspiration from Dan Haren, Lilly came up with a huge 2-out, 2-run double in the third to give the Cubs a 5-run lead, which was more than enough. Derrek Lee added a home run in the fourth for good measure, and possibly a little ray of light that he isn't totally done.

Micah Hoffpauir continued to prove that he belongs on a MLB roster with two more hits and a walk. Of course the walk ended up as a caught stealing after Joey Gathright did his best Ronnie Cedeno impression by oversliding the bag.

More importantly, the Cubs were able to win for the second day in the row, and the Deadbirds finally lost to the Nats. The Cubs find themselves four back with one last game against the Marlins tomorrow. The Cubs have a great chance to take three out of four tomorrow if Carlos Zambrano can pitch well. At least he should be ready to hit after his third straight day pinch hitting.

Enjoy the rest of the night, and go Cubs.

Gamecast: May 2nd Marlins vs. Cubs

May 2 Game Day
Anibal Sanchez (1-2, 4.13 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (2-2, 3.80 ERA)

Story-Lines
After falling below .500 on Thursday, the Cubs came back yesterday, down 5-1 at one point, and defeated the Marlins 8-6 thanks to power-hitting Ryan Theriot. Was anybody really hoping for the Grand Slam there? At best, maybe a bases-clearing double or something, but “The Riot” got a hold of his one for the year and gave the Cubs a spark.

Today’s game pits Lilly, a two-time almost no-hitter, and Sanchez, a one-time no-no, together in a crucial game for the Cubs. With the Cardinal juggernaut steam rolling the Nationals, the Cubs really need to stockpile some wins to stay within 4-5 games.

Sanchez started the year by throwing five-innings of shutout baseball against the Mets, but they got too him for six runs in six innings on Monday.

Of course things aren’t going much better for Lilly, who couldn’t locate on Monday in Arizona. He was tagged for five runs in five innings of work, which included four walks. The Cubs have to find ways of walking people, or I have a feeling Lou Pinella might need to visit a specialist for some high blood pressure.

Who’s Hot
Ryan Theriot – I know he’s only hitting .267 in his last six games, but he had the biggest home run of the year yesterday. So, we’ll give him a little wiggle room to get heated up.

The two-hit wonders – Derrek Lee, Reed Johnson, Geovanny Soto and Mike Fontenot all had two hits yesterday.

Who’s Not
The Bullpen – The Cubs pen got a win and save yesterday, but they also walked five and gave up two hits. Granted, all of those free passes and hits only resulted in one run, courtesy of our “closer” Kevin Gregg.  On the flip side, David Patton and Neal Cotts both worked scoreless innings. I know it was a better result, but I would like to see some clean innings, before I'm ready to move them up to the hot list.

Conclusions
The Cubs really need to string a couple wins together. It is still too early to worry, but it would be nice to start playing better baseball. Lilly has been solid this year, and hopefully he can put Monday’s start behind him to lead the Cubs to first back-to-back wins since April 17-21.

Most of use won’t get a chance to see the game today, because of the blackout rules, unless you live in the Chicago area. For the rest of us, it will be MLB.TV or XM or constant updates on the web. I will be do my best to post a recap later today.

Image update
As you can see, I'm not as good at Photoshop as Kurt. So, I did the best I could and spray painted the numbers out of yesterday's graphic. Maybe I can get a few lessons this summer. Well, enjoy the game today and go Cubs.

Image update update from Kurt
Ironically soon after Chris posted this article I sent him the GameCast graphic for today.  I guess he didn't see it, so I've gone in and imputed the proper image.  As far as the Game Recaps go, once I get home from my trip I will do them up.

Game Recap: Cubs 8, Marlins 6

I’m not sure if anybody was going to write the recap, so I will jump in and give my views of today’s improbable victory.

I left school with the Cubs down 3-1 and Rich Harden still on the mound. Within the first five minutes of my drive, Harden proceeded to walk the bases loaded, walk in a run and hit a man to give the Marlins a 5-1 lead. Needless to say, there were a few choice words that left my lips, none of which was too supportive of our Cubs.

The Cubs had a chance for a big inning in the fourth inning, when Mike Fontenot singled to cut the lead to 5-2 with one out, but Carlos Zambrano couldn’t come up with a hit. Then, Alfonso Soriano hit into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

The Cubs finally broke through in the sixth inning when Hayden Penn entered the game. Things started well for Penn as he struck out Geovanny Soto. Penn most of been inhabited by somebody else, because he walked Aaron Miles, followed by a single by Mike Fontenot that moved Miles to third.

All during this inning Pat and Ron are giving one of the most uncomfortable interviews with Denise Richards, who kept her answers so short that Pat must been going crazy trying to fill dead air after she refused to elaborate on any story. Of course she could have been scared as Ron threw a fit after Micah Hoffpauir hit a shallow fly ball to left for the second out in the inning.

The most amazing thing happened after that. No, Denise didn’t rehash stories about taking blow off Charlie Sheen’s chest. Soriano coaxed a two-out walk, which is something he usually doesn’t do. Personally, I was hoping for a three-run blast to tie it, because light hitting Ryan Theriot. Or so I thought. The Scrappy Cajun, who had seven home runs before today, hit his first career grand slam to give the Cubs a 6-5 lead. He has matched his HR total from last season and it gave the Cubs a much-needed spark.

The Cubs seemed destined for another lost, but they were able to scratch another couple runs across the plate in the 8th, thanks to a Soto RBI single and Fontenot sacrifice fly.

Even in victory, things weren’t all good for the Cubs. Carlos Marmol had all kinds of trouble after walking the first two hitters he faced, but he was able to get out of it by striking out the side. In the 9th, Kevin Gregg couldn’t sit the Marlins down, but only gave a run.

On the bright side, Derrek Lee, Reed Johnson, Soto, and Fontenot all had two hits. Bradley was able to single once again. The Cubs need to start producing soon, and this looks like a step in the right direction.

This was a game the Cubs really needed to win, but for six innings it looked like the Cubs were headed to another loss before Theriot’s heroics. Hopefully the Cubs will be able to put together a winning streak with Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano pitching the next two days.

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