How do you follow up a series against the Pirates? How about a trip to lovely San Diego. I spent a weekend out in San Diego, and let me tell you, it might be the best place to live in the nation. It's kind of stuck in this perfect weather situation, and I know why Brian Giles hasn't left in a trade. Nonetheless, the Pirates are another bad club. They were just swept by the Cardinals (Thanks guys). Even closer Heath Bell couldn't slam the door last night, so the Cubs find themselves five games back in the Central heading into this week.
The big news is that Ted Lilly is back from surgery and shoulder problems to once again give the Cub fans hope. It also means we will not have to see Jeff Samardijza any time soon stroll to the mound in something other than an Iowa Cubs uniform. Anybody think we should trade him while we can actually get something?
Lilly was probably the Cubs best pitcher before he got hurt, and now he needs to return to that form since the Cubs are falling faster than 2009 stock prices. In other news, Ryan Theriot is still out with some kind of stomach virus, so that means Aaron Miles gets one last start before the Cubs DFA tomorrow (Please happen, please!).
Koyie Hill - Who knew catchers need some time off? Since Geovany Soto got back, Hill's actually been kind of productive at the plate. He's hitting .400 with a .933 OPS.
Sam Fuld - Fuld's doing everything that has been asked of him, and he will probably head to Iowa once Reed Johnson gets back next week. Well, unless Alfonso Soriano comes with isuckrealbaditus this week. Fuld's .450 OBP during his lastest hot streak.
Alfonso Soriano - It's really too bad that Soriano caught isuckrealbaditus this year, becuase we are paying him a lot of money. He's 3 for his last 29 folks with no walks. Should we move him back to the top of the order?
Mike Fontenot - He was supposed to start yesterday, before the rainout. Maybe Lou has come to his senses and put Jeff Baker back in the lineup. Yep, Fontenot's 1 for his last 6. Top of the wish list next year, new 2B or trading Soriano? I'm guessing it's a 2B, because nobody in their right mind would take Soriano. Well, the Dodgers did take Todd Hundley once, so there is hope.
With the Cardinals in L.A., the Cubs really need to get a couple games this week in the standings. They flip-flop on Thursday, and the Cubs will have the tougher four-game set with the Dodgers. They need a sweep, and I suggest that they don't pitch to man named Adrian Gonzalez.
The lazy, fat, stupid losers return to the Whale’s Vagina for the second time this season where they were swept in a 3-game series back in May. Remember that series reader? It was when the Cubs scored a total of 3 runs throughout the entire weekend. Gives a man nightmares just thinking about it.
Of course now the Cubs are fighting for their postseason lives and the Padres are fighting for the best fares on plane tickets to golf resorts. Needless to say, this matchup is a bit one-sided.
Let’s not sleep on the Padres though. They did give the Cardinals two tough games in St. Louis and they have a legitimate power hitter in their lineup (Adrian Gonzalez) unlike the Pirates.
For those of you scoreboard watching, the Cardinals will be just up the road in LA to take on the Dodgers for three games. If Mannywood can’t win at least one of those games, then I will burn Dodger Stadium to the ground. Then again, the series will feature Carpenter and Wainwright.
Regardless, this is the best chance the Cubs have at catching up for the next month until they go to St. Louis on Sept. 18…
August 17th - Ted Lilly vs. Kevin Correia
Lilly returns from the disabled list as he makes his first start since July 20. Everyone knows TRL has had a tough time pitching on the road, but he is fortunate enough to take the mound at one of America’s largest national wildlife parks. Lilly has only walked more than 3 batters once all season and I’m guessing he will enjoy success if he doesn’t give the Padres any free bases. San Diego has the second lowest team BA in the National League. Make them earn it.
With Jake Peavy gone, Correia and his 4.51 ERA take over as the team’s interim ace. Although his overall stats aren’t particularly impressive, Correia has only allowed more than three runs once in his last eight starts. He’s also coming off of four consecutive quality starts and has a 2-1 record.
August 18th - Ryan Dempster vs. Cesar Carrillo
As it’s been pointed out on this blog, Dempster basically went “Rocky IV” on us last season during his contract year and put up some sick stats. Then he got big money and returned to the .500 pitcher he has been for most of his career. Then again, Dempster has never pitched successful back-to-back 200-inning seasons, so maybe the guy is incapable of being a reliable starter. He is 1-2 with a 6.20 ERA in his last four starts at Wrigley, so Demp is probably happy to be at Petco.
He can kill two stones with one bird. The dark is afraid of him. He lives vicariously through himself. He is the Most Interesting Man in the World. OK, not really, but doesn’t the name Cesar Carrillo sound like it should belong to the guy from Dos Equis commercials? Anyway, Carrillo was roughed up in his first Major League start by the Brewers. Now he has a 30.86 ERA. That’s…interesting.
August 19th - Randy Wells vs. Mat Latos
Nothing cures what ails ya like 17 runs of support and facing the Pittsburgh Pirates. Something tells me Wells won’t enjoy the same luxury, but I’ve been wrong before. Wells has only given up 4 homers and never walked more than two batter while pitching on the road this season. And people wonder why he is so good.
Latos is one of the top prospects the Padres have and he has been dominating since being called up July 19…except for his last start. The Cardinals put up 7 runs against Latos and he was out by the fourth inning. There is no doubt Latos is the most talented pitcher the Cubs will face in this series, but how will Latos respond to his first big league shelling? This could be a matchup of future aces.
You can control being fat. You can control being lazy. But you cannot control being stupid.
Jim Hendry put together a strong team on paper to begin the season, but I think we can all agree the mental toughness is just missing. Hendry might have signed some talented players, but he also signed some thick-skulled morons. A smart PROFESSIONAL athlete doesn’t let his body get out of shape. He doesn’t raid the food spread after every game like he is going to the electric chair. He doesn’t become happy with what he has.
If the Cubs don’t sweep the Padres (or at least win two out of three), then I’m not going to blame it on their laziness or their waist sizes. I’ll just finally concede that these guys are too stupid to know they are better and more talented than almost everyone they face. Disappointing stuff.
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If the Cubs are the team we follow then we are Ron Santo forever living that horrible moment in 1998 when Brant Brown dropped the lazy fly ball. We moan, we lament our torturous lives, and there is such despair in our fandom that any clinical observer would look upon us and see living proof of a contradiction. Maybe that's why we so fiercely defend him against his detractors. For good or bad he's us.
Tonight -- and lately -- Ron Santo has not been alone. This isn't the way it was supposed to be. 42 games into the season -- just over a full quarter of the campaign -- and the Cubs are a .500 ball team riding a 7 game losing streak in which they averaged 1.43 runs per game during that time.
Everybody but one man has gone cold, and that one man is playing with something you can't really get by on scott free -- a damaged neck. But I suppose that I remain shockingly calm and amazingly unworried because looking at the Cubs lineup I see a team that is way, way, way better than 1.43 runs per game.
So if your plan is to go cliff-jumping based on the past week of play, based on basically an anomoly of team-wide offensive slumber, then you must also be the kind of person to assume that significant others are dumping you just because they didn't call you when they usually do. (Or worse, perhaps they're dead. That's the kind of worry train that you're rolling on.)
That isn't to say that there aren't reasons to be concerned. There are reasons. We'll talk about that on Monday or Tuesday. But before I actually, y'know, recap the loss, I'll leave you with this one thought.
We spent 2007 with butterflies and damaged nerves because they played down to the wire and snuck in at the end of the season. The entire time, we -- or at least I -- complained loudly about how the Cubs never make it easy.
Then we watched in awe in 2008 when they locked it up basically in August as they surged toward the best team record since 1945. Finally, we had our easy season. Still, they were swept in October.
There is no mathematical formula to winning in the playoffs and there is no such thing as a superlative season. I don't know if teams need rough patches in order to know how to win under pressure later on, but that idea is ludicrous and implies that 25 grown men who've all been there before 2009 somehow forgot between past seasons and this one. But I do know that rough patches are a part of the game and it seems like the best team rarely wins the World Series. So let the Cubs be underdogs, scrambling, fighting, and climbing their way up. Let them scrap for it.
Subtract the "s" from "scrap" and that's what we had on Sunday. Ted Lilly got hammered, Aaron Heilman helped, the Cubs offense walked not once and nobody had more than 1 hit.
Maybe it's time for a classic Lou Piniella Wake Up! moment. I suspect it's coming.
The New Recap Logo
I'm just tinkering, in case you were wondering. I frankly like the previous logo better but I've got big plans and if they turn out to be possible then the Cubs scoreboard as we've been 'chopping it would look confusing on the site. You'll see what I mean soon enough.
Current Record: 21-21
Position in the NL Central: 4th place, 4 games out
Best Possible Record: 141-21
Worst Possible Record: 21-141
Record needed to win 110: 89-31
On Pace For: 81-81
Woof. Look what I missed -- when I left, the Cubs were starting to look good. They'd put things together. They were stringing together a nice little streak. Then I go on vacation and everything falls apart. The offense dies, the readers are angry, the writers are dejected, and it's still only May!
Well, my brothers, this is baseball for us. We're in the pit right now looking out but without hope. No matter what happens it's going to be this point in time that really defines the season for the Cubs. Either this is where they come together, climb out, and play the baseball we know they're capable of, or this is the beginning of where everything ends.
I don't know which one it is, but I do know this: people - be they fans or players - who quit on a baseball team with a winning record this early in the season do not have the right to call themselves fans and are not the kinds of players I'd want on the team I follow. So if that sounds like you, scram kiddo. We're not the place for you, yet.
Not the Cubs. Haw! I kill me. Seriously:
In the week I've been gone, Derrek Lee has batted .458 -- that's 11 for his last 24, with 2 homeruns but a meager 3 RBI. I could have sworn that Rob just published an article like, yesterday, in which he wrote "Derrek Lee is not only still struggling, but he's now doing it in the cleanup spot." I guess maybe he's watching baseball from the alternate Fringe universe?
But seriously, it's a lonely offense for Lee right now because he's the only one hitting anything.
Let's see. Ryan Theriot - 3 for 25, .120 AVG in his last 7 games.
Alfonso Soriano - 4 for 22, .182 AVG.
Milton Bradley - 3 for 20, .150 AVG.
Kosuke Fukudome - 4 for 20, .200 AVG.
Mike Fontenot - 3 for 17, .176 AVG.
Geovany Soto - 4 for 17, .235 AVG.
Aaron Miles - 1 for 11, .091 AVG.
Micah Hoffpauir - 2 for 10, .200 AVG.
Bobby Scales - 0 for 10, .000 AVG.
That's 9 Cubs, 152 at bats, and 24 hits, for a .158 Team AVG (minus Derrek Lee). That's also 5 RBI between all 9 over those 152 at bats.
Friends, this offense is capable of doing better than hitting like Randy Johnson. I'm just saying.
I've been gone for a week. I've clearly missed a lot. Rich Harden went onto the DL for a non-arm related reason. Colin re-appeared after having vanished and I never knew that a single-sentence post could bring me such joy, even as it lamented the bad news of Harden's problems. The Cubs have gotten hammered.
I'll have the Game Recap tonight and tomorrow I'll cook up a longer piece on the shape of the team, but I'll just say it again in case it didn't set in earlier...
This team is better than its .158 AVG this past week. Stop being a baby. Let them work it out.
Just a quick couple of post script comments...
First, thanks so much to AJ, Yarbage, and the rest for keeping the ship floating while I was gone. I appreciate their hard work and I hope you guys appreciate their hard work too.
Second, we'll have a new GROTA skin coming soon that's going to knock your socks off, assuming we can pull it off. Stay tuned for that too.
Third, go Cubs.
Throughout this entire losing streak, the Cubs' pitchers have really found a groove.
In particular, Randy Wells continues to be a joy to watch on the mound. Sure, the scoreless streak is over, but his "Extra Base Hits Per Start" rate (it's an official stat, look it up!) remains below one. Wells allowed just one double in last night's game, a double to Brian Giles in the 4th inning. And seven strikeouts to just one walk? I like it.
The offense? It's just bad timing. We had more base runners than the opponent, and, for once, more home runs. But Derrek Lee hit his HR at the wrong time, and we only managed to score once.
Anyone realize we still have a winning record this month? It's on the line in today's game, however.
Randy Wells (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Josh Geer (0-1, 5.61 ERA)
The Sky is falling! The Sky is falling!
Ok, I know it has been a rough few days, but all is not lost. The offense won't be this bad forever, and hopefully the pitching will continue to perform. Right now the Cubs need to string a few wins together and get the offense going.
Rich Harden has been moved to the DL, so Randy Wells and Sean Marshall will continue to make starts in the mean time. Tonight, Randy Wells will make the start.
Wells has been strong in his last two starts, but he has worked out of a lot trouble in the first two starts. I like what I've seen out of Wells and he might be really useful this season when guys go down.
Kosuke Fukudome - Nobody has more than one hit last night, but Kosuke had one hit and three walks. He continues to be biggest surprise of the season.
Pretty much everbody else. There is no reason to beat a dead horse, so I won't.
The Cubs are in a funk, but at least they are only four games back right now. It could be much worse. People do not give up hope. I really believe that we will turn this thing around.
You know what? All you ledge jumpers out there can...
Honestly, the Cubs will someday score more than two runs in a game. But it's hard to say when that will be. Maybe against this "Geer" guy today?
Last night's problem wasn't base runners. The Cubs reached base 11 times--five via hit, six via walk. They just couldn't find the clutch hit.
Hopefully they remember how to do that soon.
Added from yarbage: My bad yesterday on the Gamecast. I was busy trying to get out of town to head to a birthday party for one of my wife's friends. So, thankfully i was able not to see much of the game. I will post tonight's gamecast closer to game time, but I plan to watch the game.
Wow. Now that was an awesome game which will hopefully leave the boo-birds silent for a while. First of all, Chad Gaudin was up to his old tricks. He proved tough to hit, but for him so did the catcher's mitt. The former Cub allowed only 1 hit in 4.1 innings of work but he also walked 7. Amazingly enough he appeared as if he'd get away with his wild streak until the hitters erupted in the 5th.
We actually saw this often enough last year that it wasn't surprising. The 1-4 hitters in the Cubs lineup failed to drive in a single run and yet the team exploded for 11. But unlike those incidents from '08, the 1-4 hitters got the job done -- it's just that they spent the day setting the table rather than clearing it.
Impressively Theriot, Fukudome, and Hoffpauir drew 2 walks a piece - accounting for 6 of the day's 10 walks - and consequently they also made up for 5 of the Cubs 11 runs. Dusty Baker is shocked that the patient, disciplined route worked but Cub fans have always known better.
The first big inning came in the previously mentioned 5th, when Gaudin managed to walk the bases loaded. He was then relieved by Luis Perdomo who continued the party by walking Geovany Soto (scoring a run) and then through surrendering back-to-back doubles to Reed Johnson and Bobby Scales! (The act of coming in to relieve a difficult situation only to fail to get a single out while being beaten like Tina during one of Ike's coke benders is what we like to call "crapping one's pants on the mound.") Turdomo was then relieved by Duaner Sanchez who surrendered an RBI single to the pitcher, walked Soriano, and finally escaped the inning by inducing a ground out from Theriot.
But wait! There was a second big inning! The Padres trotted Sanshiz out there for a second inning of "effective relief," and he proceeded to surrender a hit to Fukudome before he got the first two outs of the inning, at which point Reed Johnson singled and Bobby Scales! doubled home both base runners. Then Aaron Miles doubled home Scales! and Ryan Dempster completed the Trifecta Double scoring Miles.
In other words, Sanchez pitched 1.2 innings, surrendered 6 hits, gave up 4 runs, and walked 1 batter. So much for "relief."
Incidentally Mr. Bobby Scales! went 2 for 4, giving him hits in his first 6 games at the Major League level. As I keep saying Scales really wants to stay in the majors for a while.
Dempster has been a hard-luck ace this year evoking serious doubts from the faithful about his fat contract. He's still got a ways to go before we feel better about things but today he pitched 7 innings, allowed only 3 hits, 2 walks, struck out 5 and lowered his ERA to 4.65. Not to mention he went all Zambrano on the Padres as previously mentioned. His stellar 2 for 4 day raises his batting average to an impressive .105 on the season -- Milton Bradley territory.
Dempster was relieved by Jose Ascanio, marking his 2009 debut. The Ass-Can threw 2 innings of relief, struck out 3, and surrendered an irrelevant homerun. But hey -- no walks. We'll take it!
I'll never forget what the Padres did to the Cubs back in '06 when they brutally crushed the team and effectively ended the season. They evoked this photoshop from me at the time:
It brings warm feelings to my blackened heart to see the Cubs deliver a similar blow to the Padres just over 3 years later. This series wasn't even remotely close for San Diego and the Cubs at this moment sit half a game out of first place in the Central.
And still I'm sure that there will be plenty of ledge-jumping moments to come, but that warm feeling you have right now is the right one to have. For all their nagging injuries, and bizarrely bad performances, and heart breaking losses these Cubs are the real deal. Lower the white flag of defeat, raise the white flag of blue victory and bring on Houston!
Current Record: 20-14
Position in the NL Central: Tied for 2nd place, 0.5 games out of 1st
Best Possible Record: 148-14
Worst Possible Record: 20-142
Record needed to win 110: 90-38
On Pace For: 95-67
Series Preview: Padres vs. Cubs
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Padres 2
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Padres 4 Theriot Unquieted
GameCast: May 14th - Padres vs. Cubs Sweep Edition
Unrelated note: Attached is the second new graphic of the day. This one took a shockingly long period of time to make. Again, about 97% of it is made from scratch, with a few things borrowed from an ESPN image. Sometimes as a graphics guy I like to challenge myself to performing tasks without knowing if I can actually succeed. In this case though it's mission accomplished.
Speaking of mission accomplished, Ryan Theriot's got to be feeling like a billion bucks right now. The guy hit a total of one - ONE!! - homerun last year and he's already five deep in the 2009 season. And let's not forget that he began the year with something like 7 career homeruns and is now dangerously approaching the point where he doubles that number.
Other offensive stars tonight include Alfonso Soriano - who hit homerun #11, by the way - and Geovany Soto. Soto went 2 for 3 with his first homerun of the year and 3 RBI. Derrek Lee meanwhile went 0 for 4 and maybe the Cubs would be better off DLing him after all and giving him some time to work on his swing in Iowa.
Theodore Roosevelt Lilly worked his wonders. He threw into the 7th, surrendering 8 hits but walking 0 while striking out 7. Granted, he surrendered not one but two homeruns to Adrian Gonzalez but it hardly mattered.
Oh and in the 8th Carlos Marmol stepped in, allowed a leadoff single which he turned into a double play ball and then walked Nick Hundley, advanced him to second with a wild pitch, walked Brian Giles and gave up an RBI single to Jody Gerut. Not exactly his best night and half of his pitches were balls.
It's a series win for Chicago. The Cubs are now 19-14, half a game out of a three team clusterbang for first place in the Central. They'll be playing later today for a sweep and the chance to share the lead in the division.
Chris Young (2-1, 4.76 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (4-2, 3.11 ERA)
It wasn't too long ago that Chris Young engaged our own Derrek Lee in a legendary wuss-fight. They swung, they flailed, they didn't connect. It was legendary.
Young should face Lee again tonight. I'm sure it will be a very professional battle in which the Cubs first baseman strikes out repeatedly while trying to pretend that his neck shouldn't be in a splint.
Meanwhile Ted Lilly will be looking to improve on his already impressive numbers. Before long he'll ascend to the "ace pitcher" role, securing in the process the right to pitch the first game of the playoffs only for the Cubs to get hammered.
In all seriousness, Theodore Roosevelt is looking pretty special right now. And isn't he technically the team's #3 pitcher?
Alfonso Soriano - The Fonz is coming off of a three hit, two double night. He is presently on pace to hit 47 doubles, 52 homeruns, and to steal 21 bases. By the way, as a leadoff man he's on pace to drive in 114 RBI. The Cubs are stacked in the lineup but that is bound to go down a bit.
Kosuke Fukudome - He's been looking a lot more like what we expected from him than the second coming of Ichiro, but Fukudome remains an offensive force on the team. It was a lot like this a year ago now, but let's just stare in awe at this guy, who is presently on pace for 51 doubles, 6 triples, 23 homers, 23 steals, and most impressive to me 124 walks! Wow!
Bobby Scales! - 5 games played, a 5 game hitting streak, a triple, a homer, and a .429 average for this 31-year-old switch-hitting rookie. Add in some awesome versatility and the Cubs have themselves a bench guy they could've been using since day one, were they not focused on having the deepest outfield in baseball.
The Questionable Quartet (minus 1) - Where to start. Mike Fontenot was up to .266 on May 3rd. Since then he's gone 1 for 20. Ugh. Geovany Soto is still only batting .175 on the season, although he's 9 for 34 in the month of May (.265 AVG). Then again, only 1 of his 9 hits were for extra bases. Guh. Derrek Lee had been hitting the ball better before missing 5 straight games due to his neck. In his return he went 0 for 3 with 3 strikeouts. Yuck. And Milton Bradley represents the minus 1 having hit safely in his last 6 games including 2 homeruns and 6 RBI.
Young is not looking great. Lilly is pitching fantastically. The Cubs offense continues to show signs of becoming an unstoppable force. In other words, as usual I'm expecting a win.