Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Diamondbacks

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Game Recap: Cubs 11, Diamondbacks 3


Cubs win
Carlos Zambrano demands an explanation!


The Big Moose also came extremely close to hitting for the cycle - he was just a triple short, and had he gotten an at bat in the 7th inning you just know that he would've stretched his legs to get it. I suppose this is the type of game where you'll often hear "Zambrano didn't have his best stuff but he delivered a solid performance nonetheless." They'll be saying that because through 7 innings of work he only struck out 3. The thing is, I don't believe that really demonstrates how good or mediocre his "stuff" was, because when Carlos struggles - even when he can contain the damage - he gives up lots of walks and, last night he only walked 2.


The offense, on the other hand, was apparently looking to make up for lost time. Every Cub regular got a hit - including Milton Bradley, who in fact did make his return. 6 of the 9 starters also managed to drive in runs. But if you're wondering what was the biggest reason for this breakout, I have one suggested reason: patience at the plate. On top of their 15 team hits, the Cubs drew 6 walks - 3 from Fukudome - and they took advantage of big opportunities. Alfonso Soriano had a rare runners-on situation and he capitalized with a 3-run homer, his second in as many days. Speaking of "second in as many days," Fontenot hit another homerun too. Don't look now but his batting AVG is rising.


Three Finger Hill started in place of GeoINO Soto and delivered a 3 for 5 performance, raising his AVG to .370 on the year. I still think Soto should spend some time on the DL or something, and Hill appears capable of filling in for a while. Oh, and lastly, Angel Guzman pitched 2 innings of shutout relief lowering his season ERA to 4.35. Maybe I was a little abrupt about him needing to be cut and I for one am willing to let him pitch for a while longer to see if he can get steady and consistent.


The Cubs play for the series win tonight. So far their offense has been excessive-hit or complete-miss and they have not been able to consistently produce numbers night after night. Maybe it's high time for a change about that.


Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Arizona
Game Recap: D-Backs 7, Cubs 2
GameCast:Cubs at Arizona April 28th

GameCast: April 28th - Cubs v. Arizona

GameCast
Carlos Zambrano (1-1, 4.85 ERA) vs. Yusmeiro Petit (0-1, 6.00 ERA)
Story-lines

On a team where the starting second baseman is the only back up third baseman...

...where a guy who never played anywhere but first base before he turned 28 is starting in right field....

...where the only lefty reliever on the team has failed to have a single no-hit, no-walk outing...

...they play to do more than just survive.  They play to WIN It's DeathCub 2009 - The Bloodening!

The good news about tonight: Milton Bradley is apparently ready to return to the lineup, or will be ready to do so soon.  Just one small request to Cub fans: when a guy has hurt legs/testicles, DON'T EFFIN' BOO HIM FOR NOT RUNNING OUT A HIT BALL.   Idiots!  YOU try running out a ground ball with a throbbing-not-in-the-fun-way groin!

Anyway, earlier I posted an article about the "crazy" roster moves I'd make to give the team better balance.  One such "crazy" move would be promoting a legitimate backup third baseman and shortstop to the team at the cost of a guy who is essentially the team's sixth outfielder and one of the team's seven relief pitchers, three of whom appear to totally suck ass.  But before you jump aboard the "crazy Kurt" train keep in mind that the team's only backup third baseman is their starting second baseman and he had something like two errors in one game yesterday.  That's not good.  Just sayin'.

Who's Hot
Alfonso Soriano - he hit homerun #6 yesterday.  Incidentally the Fonz was given up on by Lou Piniella after a 1 for 8 spell as the #3 hitter.  Thankfully Lou's not so quick to give up on other players who only go 1 for 8.

Who's Not
Mike Fontenot - despite his second homerun of the season last night Fontenot had 2 defensive errors at third.  He's got some makin' up to do.

Dave Patton - He's been getting hammered as of late after giving up 2 more runs - 1 earned - last night.  How much longer until Lou cuts the cord?

Conclusions
Between the two of them, I'd probably bet on Carlos Zambrano to have a better game than Yusmeiro Petit.  But it's no sure thing -- the Moose has shown moments of brilliance amid instances of crappiness. 

But if ever there was a game I'd like to see the Cubs win, it's tonight's.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Arizona
Game Recap: D-Backs 7, Cubs 2

Game Recap: Diamondbacks 7, Cubs 2


Backs 7, Cubs 2
(Please ignore my error regarding the number of errors made by Cubs fielders). 

Somebody said in the shoutbox yesterday that the Cubs offense has the swine flu. I think it's just more that they are very anemic right now and they happened to face an incredibly talented pitcher in Dan Haren.

Haren held the Cubs to only 3 hits - 2 of which were not contained by the ballpark (thank you Fonz and Font) wheras Ted Lilly was a victim of his own undoing. The Roos (note: that nickname probably won't stick) was mostly undone by an ugly 4th inning in which he clogged the bases in part due to two walks and surrendered back-to-back doubles to Haren* and Chris Young.

(*Do I even have to repeat the well-known rule of never letting the pitcher beat you at the plate**?)
(**Unless it's Carlos Zambrano, at which point it's expected)

Dave Patton continued to seal his demise with an ugly 2 run (1 earned) relief outing, but at least Jeff Samardzija came in and struck out 2 in his inning of relief.

This would normally be the part where I climb high atop my horse and remind everybody to relax, but I think I've pretty much beaten that high horse to death already. Instead I will just point out that the Cubs were squaring off against a very talented pitcher with a lineup that is limping-at-best. The team was without Lee, Ramirez, Bradley, and Soto remains GeoINO, or "In Name Only." Incidentally the ridiculous number of steals taken against Geo is additional evidence that he's not 100%, and Mike Fontenot's 2 errors at third base is additional proof that maybe the Cubs should actually consider fielding a real backup third baseman. Later today I'll write an "easy roster solutions" article that somebody should post on Lou's office door.

Anyway, today's game is another late starter but now that the Cubs are past the best pitcher I would expect a slightly improved response from the hitters.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Arizona
GameCast: April 27th - Cubs vs. Diamondbacks

GameCast: April 27th - Cubs in Arizona

Cubs at D-Backs
Ted Lilly (2-1, 2.41 ERA) vs. Rich Haren (1-3, 1.38 ERA)
Story-lines
After 17 games the Cubs are merely 1 win over .500.  That's not exactly what we thought would happen.

Probably the most interesting thing - besides wondering whether or not the Cubs will actually win - is the continued lineup juggling.  In case you're not up to speed, here's the latest ...

Derrek Lee missed yesterday's game due to neck spasms.
Aramis Ramirez missed yesterday's game because of a nagging leg injury.
Alfonso Soriano didn't miss any time despite taking one to the noggin.
Milton Bradley remains "a long ways away" from returning from a groin made sore in an Other Than the Fun Way. 
Carlos Marmol probably won't be ready just yet to return to action out of the bullpen.
Neal Cotts pitches as though he has a bladder control problem.

That's five players on the 25 man roster who may be playing at less-than-100%, assuming they play at all.  Did we mention that, for some reason, the Cubs aren't putting any of their walking wounded on the DL?  Can't wait to see how that story plays out.

Who's Hot
Alfonso Soriano - Sori looks like he may finish the month of April with a better-than.300 AVG.  That would be a first for him in his career as a Cub.
Ryan Theriot - Theriot is back to batting in the #2-spot, where he spent some time last year.  I can't exactly figure out how, but Yahoo Sports has him scoring 3 runs in yesterday's game despite having reached base only once, via a hit.  (A closer inspection reminds me that he reached twice more, once by error and the other by fielder's choice)
Kosuke Fukudome - The birthday boy didn't hit his 4th homerun last year until June 5th.  So far this year he's on pace to hit 38.  Remember back in Spring when everybody was all "ooooh he sucks, it's painful to watch him swing a bat," well, like, how do you feel about that NOW?  Awww snap!
Micah Hoffpauir - All mocking aside, Hoffpauir is doing exactly what you'd hope to see from the team's top bench player/pinch hitter.  He's putting up monster numbers in limited at bats while reminding us defensively why he's better off saved for those key situations. 

Who's Not
Reed Johnson - On a day when the anemic Cubs offense couldn't be contained, Reed Johnson responded by having a big ol' 0-fer.  I'm wondering if he'll play tonight or if, should Lee return to the lineup, Reed will return to the bench for Hoff to move to RF and Fukudome to CF.  (Man, the Cubs juggling act is kind of insane)
Geovany Soto - Here's a crazy thought.  You know how he missed some time because of a sore shoulder?  What if his shoulder is still sore and it's affecting his swing?  Just thinking aloud.
Neal Cotts - Cotts appears hell-bent on putting together the worst streak in baseball.  He seems to want to give up 1 hit, 1 walk, or 1 run (or more) in every single outing.  So far this year he has yet to have a perfect inning, or even a perfect outing.  The "closest" he's come is April 10th against the Brewers when he pitched 0.0 innings and surrendered 0 hits, 0 runs, and 0 walks.  Of course, he did hit the one guy he faced...
Dave Patton - Has the Patton experiment ended yet?  Perhaps soon?

Conclusions
Arizona kind of sucks, so we've got that going for us.  Ted Lilly has been the steadiest starter on the team, which is funny if you think about it since he got his ass kicked in the first game he pitched against the Astros. 

Maybe the one thing we should really be looking for is consistency.  The Cubs have completely lacked in that so far - aside from consistently having some very nagging injuries.

And I'd like to add one other thing ... if the Cubs lose tonight, it reallllly doesn't mean much.  So please don't panic, unless of course Soriano, Fukudome, and Ramirez have a three-way outfield collision that sends them all to the DL.  Then - and only then - the Cubs are screwed.

Quick Links
Series Preview: Cubs at Arizona

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks

Cubs at Backs
Matchups - Cubs @ Backs
Overview
By now you probably have a pretty good grasp on my opinion about the 2009 season and the people who are already thinking about abandoning it.  So rather than go over a tired topic - albeit one that's always good for discussion - I'll do something that we probably need a little more of here at GROTA: recent Cubs news.

The Theriot experiment is apparently over with at least for now.  The Sun-Times reports that Lou will be batting the Fonz leadoff again for the foreseeable future - perhaps the pitch Alfonso took to the head recently has caused him to forget how to bat anywhere but cleanup.  But speaking of injuries, the Sun-Times also reports that neither Aramis nor Marmol are hurt seriously, which is good since they are apparently intent on not placing anybody on the DL for the forseeable future. 

Nothing quite like entering a series with a struggling, short-handed squad.

Your favorite and mine Carrie Muskat has an article about the struggles of Geovany Soto.  It's a little early to worry about Soto becoming a Servais (Servias? too lazy to look it up), but a sophomore slump is not shocking. 

And lastly Goat Friend Paul Sullivan notes that Carlos Zambrano took some infield practice "just in case," but he's about as likely to be used in that situation as you or I am.  Oh, and the Herald reports that ex-Cub legend Tuffy Rhodes - for whom it cannot be confirmed that he ever dated Punky Brewster - has hit his 450th career homerun in Japan.  Hey, good for him.  I read somewhere that when Doc Gooden gained word of Tuffy's feat, he attempted to inject cocaine into his eyeball.  Anyway, on with the show:

Monday, April 27th - Ted Lilly vs. Dan Haren
Theodore Roosevelt Lilly - aka Hannibal - is off to a much better start this year than he was last year.  Probably the most impressive thing is that in 18.2 innings, he's surrendered only 14 hits and 2 walks.  You know, it's pretty impressive to see what Lilly's done since coming to Chicago.  I think most of us were happy with his signing (although how many of us idiots hungered for Zito?) but nobody could have expected 15 and then 17 wins in his first two seasons. 

Dan Haren, meanwhile, is quietly one of the better #2 pitchers in baseball.  He pitches behind Brandon Webb on the 'backs and doesn't get much attention (at least from me) but since he became a regular starter in 2005, Haren has consistently pitched between 216 and 223 innings while winning 14 to 16 games and posting ERAs as low as 3.07 and no higher than 4.12.  Oh, and did I  mention his fantastic K/BB ratio?  Regardless, he's only faced the Cubs once in the regular season since 2006 and that year he somehow managed to allow only 2 runs in 7 innings and he still ate the loss.  I'm sure the Cubs are hoping for a better showing tonight.

Tuesday, April 28th - Carlos Zambrano vs. Yusmeiro Petit
The good news about Carlos: through 26 innings of work, he's allowed only 11 walks while striking out 27.  The bad news: he's tossed more than his share of fatties and has already surrendered 28 hits and 4 homeruns.  The better news: he's a flippin' animal! 

Yusmeiro Petit, meanwhile, a fellow countryman of Carlos, has a ridiculous name.  Just sayin'.  At this point he's pitched through 151.2 innings in his career, with an ERA of 5.46, a 7-11 record, and he also lacks the rage of his Venezuelan brother Carlos Zambrano.  Also he's prone to surrender homeruns, and he'll be facing a Cubs team that is theoretically inclined to hit a lot of them.

Wednesday, April 29th - Ryan Dempster vs. Doug Davis
Ryan Clownsevelt Dempster's nickname doesn't make as much sense if he's not pitching in front of (or behind) Theodore Roosevelt Lilly.  Anyway, through 4 starts this year he's pitched a lot like I thought he'd pitch last year - erratically with the consequence of surrendering too many runs.  But chin up, Cub fans!  While Dempster has yet to really dominate a team, he has very reliably pitched 6 innings each start never allowing more than 4 runs or less than 2.  In his last outing he surrendered 3 earned while walking only 1.  Let's root for some improved consistency!

Doug Davis kind of blows.  He's not a bad 4th or 5th starter, but I wouldn't count on him to win regularly.  That said he's already 1-3 this year, but with a good ERA.  I'm still a little bitter over the fact that he beat the Cubs in the 2007 NLDS, and I'm hoping the Cubs hitters share that resentment.

Conclusions
In our urgent panic, we haven't really taken into consideration that the Cubs' latest woes have mostly occurred on the road.  Sometimes winning in a strange ballpark is tough to pull off.  But if ever the Cubs were going to thrash a team outside of Wrigley Field, it should be Arizona.  They're not exactly "good." 

Besides, 3 games of high energy offense would be just what we need to settle down a bit.  So I figure why not?  Go get 'em, Cubs!

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Game Recap: Cubs 10, D-Backs 6, What the?

 

Cubs - Backs

 

Perhaps the Cubs are confused by this all-or-nothing approach they've been taking to baseball as of late.  They seem to score either 1 run or 10, with little compromise to meet that figure somewhere in the middle.  Last night was a perfect example - after 2 games of offensive druthers, the Cubs scored often, and had a particularly impressive 8th inning in which they scored 6.

They did everything they needed to do.  The Cubs delivered 10 base hits, including homeruns by Derrek Lee and Reed Johnson.  Knowing that his play-time was about to get Duboised, Johnson went ballistic against the 'backs, going 3 for 4 with 4 RBI from his 8th inning Grand Slam.  More importantly, the Cubs as a team drew 5 walks.  At this point, it's safe to say that plate discipline has indeed been an important aspect of the runs this team has scored and the wins they've collected.

Oh, and did we mention that Soriano is back?  He went 1 for 5 in his return, with a double.  Don't get too excited, though.  I will be shocked if he doesn't struggle for at least a week or too.

Meanwhile, Ted Lilly pitched 6 strong innings, allowing 6 hits, walking 3 en route to his 10th win of the season.  His performance would have been for nothing had the Cubs not scored an awful lot of runs in the top of the 8th, as the D-Backs thrust the fork even deeper into Bob Howry, who gave up 3 runs in the bottom half of that inning.

Lou Piniella must have been at his wits end.  The Cubs had a 4-run lead, he clearly was afraid that they'd somehow blow such a close score, and so he called on his super-arm, Carlos Marmol.  Luckily, Marmol buckled down and was able to hold onto that fragile lead, although he gave up a double and a walk before he struck out Chad Tracy to end the game.

Series Recap: Another tough series on the road for the Cubs.  It has become an epidemic for them, and it has to be concerning for any post season hopes.  While it's certainly possible - if not likely - that the Cubs will get there, they have to have the ability to win on the road.

Maybe it's true that they have been stealing signs at home.  Perhaps they've become a little too dependent on it.  Or, maybe their hitting coach should do his job and help guys figure out how to hit.  Just a few thoughts.

Current Record: 59-42
Position in the NL Central:
1st place, 1 games in front of Milwaukee
On Pace For: 95-67
Record needed to win 120: 61-0 - undefeated all the way, baby!

 

D-Backs

 

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