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.
Well, poop. All good things must come to an end, I guess. A shaky 4th inning from starter Rich Harden, a wild start to the top of the 7th by reliever Jose Ascanio, and some solid defensive plays by the Astros brought about the end of two Cub winning streaks: the five straight wins in the Cubs' last five games, as well as their formerly perfect record in games in which the Cubs scored four or more runs (they're now 20-1 in those games, I think, assuming I still understand how numbers work).
Derrek Lee gets the gold star on offense today. He added about 25 points to his average with today's 4-hit effort, which included a double and a home run. Two other Cubs got multiple hits: Alfonso Soriano (one of which was a home run), and Kosuke Fukudome. Kosuke has been earning the number on the back of his jersey lately, and currently leads the team with a .333 batting average. Together, the team knocked out 11 hits, four more than the Astros (see? I understand subtraction!).
On the less-gold-starrish side of things, Mike Fontenot posted his fifth consecutive oh-fer. He's now in the middle of an 0-for-16 streak. He does have a handful of walks in that time, but let's be honest. We want hits, Mike. HITS! AND WALKS! AND HOME RUNS! YEAH MIKE FONTENOT! Yeah!
Cubs hurlers put up seven shutout innings today; even star "hurler" Neal Cotts goosed the 'Stros in the 9th (in his case I mean the OTHER hurling--you know, like barfing? lol!). Unfortunately, they mixed in a pair of bad innings with those good ones. In the 4th, Rich Harden served up three extra-base hits, including a two-run shot to Pudge Rodriguez; and in the 7th, Jose Ascanio went 2-for-2 on his first pair of pitches--he hit both batters he faced. Both would score--one on a Lance Berkman single, the other on a wild pitch.
Apart from those first three batters (Matsui, Bourn, and Elvis), Ascanio would not allow any additional base runners. He also got two strikeouts during his perfect 8th inning. In the end, however, the six runs allowed by Harden and Ascanio were insurmountable.
It's hard to be too upset about this one. The Cubs scored five runs, and weren't completely awful from the mound. Who knows what might've happened if Geo Soto's liner to end the game got past Jeff Keppinger? They were right there. Hopefully that bad luck gets turned around against the Cardinals on Tuesday night.
As Len and Bob always say, it's never easy.
The Cubs came through when they needed to in this one. After five solid innings from Astros ace Roy Oswalt, the Cubs' two first basemen both came through in the bottom of the 6th. Derrek Lee brought home Alfonso Soriano with a flip single out to shallow left, and Micah Hoffpauir followed with a "useful shot" into the bleachers to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead. Geo Soto's RBI in the 8th may have looked unnecessary at the time, but boy was it ever.
After an absolutely dumbfounding performance from the Cubs so-called closer in the top of the 9th (we'll get to that later), the Cubs ended up needing a 5th run in the bottom of the inning to pull out the win--and they got it. Everyone's new favorite Cub Bobby Scales!!! drew a walk on a 3-2 fastball, moved to second on Aaron Miles' sacrifice, and shouted, "Win! Win! Win!" all the way home on a clutch single from Alfonso Soriano. All in all, a great performance from the Cub offense in this game.
Let's do the bad news first: Kevin Gregg was not good today. After giving up back-to-back homers to Lance "Fat Elvis" Berkman and Carlos "Also Fat" Lee, Gregg couldn't get any of the next three batters out, and left with the bases loaded. Aaron Heilman came on in "relief," and promptly "relieved" the Cubs of their lead on a two-run single on the first pitch to Pudge Rodriguez.
But hey, there's good news! Randy Wells put up six more scoreless innings today. That's 15.1 scoreless in his career with the Cubs, the first Cub since 1993 to start off on such a good streak. He's been hittable, but has avoided any major damage by allowing just one extra base hit this season (a double to Jason Kendall in his last start, against Milwaukee). In addition, Angel Guzman and Carlos Marmol continue to dominate; today they combined for two innings with four strikeouts and zero base-runners.
Should we begin demanding changes in the way Lou trots out his relievers to close games? To be honest, I'm not sure. Before today, Kevin Gregg had pitched 6.2 innings in May, allowing just one run while racking up seven strikeouts. Regardless, it looks like we've got an offense we can trust, even without two of our best hitters in Ramirez and Bradley. Hey, a win's a win, right?
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.
Bobby Scales! wants you to know that since he's finally made it to the majors he plans on staying for a while. While he's there he might as well get used to winning, too.
Was anybody sweating the 2 run lead San Diego held until the 5th? The Cubs sure had some chances in the early innings but were unable to capitalize on walks, doubles, wild-pitch advancements, and mascot mischief until Alfonso Soriano finally said ENOUGH! and cranked a run-scoring double.
After that it was a verifiable hit parade as the Cubs scored 1 or more runs every inning until they shut it down after the top of the 9th. The Fonz and Fuku were responsible for 6 of the Cubs 11 hits, and both managed double doubles - giving both 9 on the year. (A Soriano-Fukudome double team? But how can that possibly work? They're practically from different worlds! One is dark skinned and from the Dominican, the other is Asian and from the Far East! What is this, Rush Hour 4?)
Also among the big hitters was Milton Bradley - who hit a 2-run homer in the 6th - and the previously mentioned Bobby Scales! who has now played in 5 games and collected at least 1 hit each time.
By the way, on the flip side Derrek Lee and Mike Fontenot both went 0 for 3 and Lee struck out every at bat. Clearly he's done for, rather than merely rusty.
Rich Harden lowered his ERA thanks to 6 innings of 4 hit, 1 walk ball. The only damage he allowed was done in the 1st inning, a two-run shot by Adrian Gonzalez. Harden responded to his early troubles by popping a ligament out of his arm. (No, wait, he actually buckled down and owned San Diego the rest of the way out.)
The bullpen delievered 3 solid innings. Heilman, Marmol, and Gregg gave Cub fans what we needed - shutout baseball with only a few pants-crapping moments - like when Carlos Marmol issued one of his trademark walks.
The Cubs are now 1.5 games out of first place, by the way. I hope St. Louis has enjoyed their lead.
There are Cub fans out there who want you to know that if you haven't given up on the team as of today - May 10th, 2009, with 132 games remaining on the season - then you're swilling the blue kool-aid. (heimiedog, I'm not saying that that's your take on it, I'm just borrowing from your venacular)
But back here in reality, where there are 132 games remaining and it's only the 10th of May, a Chicago Cubs team with two key players on the DL and with 4 more key players struggling to heat up their bats are 17-14, 2.5 games out of first place. They've won 7 of their last 10 and exit their most recent road trip with a 3-2 record.
Anybody who wants to quit on a team that's 2.5 games out of first place in the early part of May can leave. Here's the door.
But let's be fair. This team has problems that they need to work on which can thankfully be fixed. I'd say that the offensive woes, for example - which are a bit overrated anyway* - will fix themselves for the most part when the Cub regulars get healthy. It's easy to jump to conclusions but so far most of the key guys who have been tanking have been playing with sore necks, shoulders, and groins.
(*since the start of May, the Cubs have scored 52 runs ... that's an average of 5.2 runs per game which probably won't be much off their pace anyway once this ugly spot is behind them)
The bullpen woes - which were very clearly exploited this series, especially yesterday - will require a little more help. Chad Fox is done for as he has hurt his elbow again. Neal Cotts and Dave Patton need to go. There are thankfully players in the system who might be able to step in and replace them admirably - including a couple of the talented young arms acquired for Mark DeRosa - and the Cubs need to turn to them immediately. Meanwhile Jim Hendry needs to consider pursuing another setup guy at first opportunity.
Offensively, the Cubs had just enough today to get the positive result. Soriano selfishly hit his 10th homerun of the season, Kosuke Fukudome collected 2 hits (including a triple), and Bobby Scales! went 2 for 3 - he's gotten at least one hit in every game he's played in so far.
The result is that the Cubs are now returning to Wrigley having gone - as previously mentioned - 3-2 on a difficult road trip including 3 games against a team that's been on fire. (Raise the white flags, they only went 3-2!)
They now have a day off tomorrow before they begin a 6 game homestand against the Padres and Astros. Neither San Diego nor Houston are world beaters and I'd expect the Cubs to continue to win in the face of controversy and injuries.
But since I've taken the time to note their winning road trip and their .700 winning perecentage in May, then I must be swilling the blue kool-aid. Sorry about that everybody.
Current Record: A white-flag-raising 17-14
Position in the NL Central: A loserish 3rd place, 2.5 games out of first
Best Possible Record: An impossibly unlikely 148-14
Worst Possible Record: A much likelier 17-145
Record needed to win 110: A won't-happen 93-38
On Pace For: A swill-the-kool-aid-if-you-think-it's-gonna-happen 89-73
What the hell is the matter with you people?
There has never been a team in the history of the game that didn't look like fumbling idiots at least once in a while during a long season. Even the 1906 Cubs - winners of 116 games - had a 2 and 4 stretch early in the season, went 1-4 between May 19th and May 24th and went 2-4 between July 19th and July 24th. And they won 116 games!!! They won more games than any other team in the history of baseball and over the collected span of close to a month of baseball they played like dirt. And if you don't have the stomach to watch a team lose games badly then go follow inter-murals, brother. You'll never experience joy from a baseball season because you're too high strung.
So, let's take a look at today's reason for why people are quitting the team.
Ryan Dempster. 17 game winner. Multi-millionaire. Bad luck pitcher who can't string together wins. Dempster pitched into the 7th today, which is good, he struck out 9, which is better, but he gave up 7 hits and 3 walks which is bad. Consequently he walked away with the loss. But the real story is the bullpen.
Here's the funny thing. I don't think the Cubs pen is actually all that bad. The problem is that they've got two or three guys who really don't belong there and aren't even the best choices to be there to begin with. Those three guys - Neal Cotts, Dave Patton, and Chad Fox, three guys who certainly will not be on the team by the time July rolls around - combined to surrender 6 earned runs. Had that not happened, then the Cubs would actually have had enough offense to possibly win the game.
I mean, really, the Cubs offense was there last night. They scored 6 runs off of 12 hits, including a 5 for 12 night from the 3 members of the Q4 who played. Every regular but Theriot collected at least one hit, and every regular but Soriano and Scales got on base at least twice. The offense was there. The bullpen was not.
So, here's the deal. If you think that pitchers like Chad Fox, Neal Cotts, and Dave Patton will still be around blowing leads into June and July, then you're right. The Cubs are doomed.
If you think that starters Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot, and Derrek Lee will combine to bat below .200 all year long, then you're right. The Cubs won't reach the playoffs.
But since the Cubs won't be using relievers who suck all year long, and since the Q4 are in fact much better than their numbers convey, then I think we can agree that quitting on the Cubs is a pretty stupid take to have.
I've said this before and I'll say it now. If the players quit as easily as some of you do, then you would be outraged. You would be furious. I'm sad to see that some of you don't hold yourselves to the same standard that you'd hold the people actually playing the games.
The Good News
Randy Wells delivered 5 innings of scoreless baseball in his debut start. He managed to shake off 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 trailer-park skanks in the process (did I mention how much he looks like Kevin Federline?). Regrettably for him, the Cubs bullpen will not be mentioned under "The Good News" heading.
In a pinch hit appearance, Bobby Scales! collected his second ever major league hit - a triple. Considering all the hub-bub with the Rammy shoulder injury, the performance made by Scales today and in the near future might have a pretty big impact on the Cubs.
Milton Bradley went 1 for 4, raising his AVG to .150. (Pretty bad that a 1 for 4 day raises your batting average.) But the 1 was his 3rd homer as a Cub.
The Bad News
Angel Guzman and Aaron Heilman pitched 3 innings of relief and surrendered 3 earned runs in the process. I'm not too upset with Angel, who also struck out 4 and made one mistake, but Aaron Heilman walked Hart, advanced him to second with a wild pitch, and made it a moot point by surrendering a homer to Ryan Braun. Not a good night for Heilman.
The Ugly News
Aramis Ramirez, as you are already aware, dislocated his shoulder and may miss 4 to 6 weeks. I will remind you that last season the 97-win Cubs lost one of their best hitters for more than a month due to a broken hand and they still won 97 games. Just saying.
A-Ram's injury comes hot on the heels of the acquisition of Ryan Freel from Baltimore. Freel, as Rob eloquently noted, is really a guy you want on your team ... if you live in the year 2005. (In case you don't get it, that's a clever way of saying that he has lost some of his shine.) They amazingly acquired Freel for Joey Gathright, which makes no sense since Mr. G. was probably a week away from getting cut.
Freel is a guy who plays a lot of positions - he's logged more than 100 appearances (many of them starts) at second base, third base, center field, right field, and he's appeared in left field 75 times. When the 33-year-old is performing well, he's a patient-but-not-spectacular hitter who can steal a lot of bases. But with a career OPS of .731, he's the kind of guy who, like Theriot, bats leadoff or bats eighth and belongs nowhere in between.
With Ramirez missing a big chunk of time, this leaves the Cubs roster in a continued state of flux. Bobby Scales(!) was probably going to get demoted once Freel joined the team, but with Gathright gone and Ramirez hurt, Scales* will probably remain on the big league roster.
This leaves the Cubs still with their precious 7 man bullpen, and Wells pitched solidly enough to not only continue starting until Zambrano returns, but to be the first candidate to replace the inept Chad Fox at that point. Although, obviously, Wells will still have time to look like crap.
Anyway, I know that the natural reaction of any Cub fan is to immediately panic when something like this happens, but as I noted back in Spring Training the Cubs were built with depth this year. I'm not exactly challenging them to prove me right, but they could probably actually handle a few more injuries to their regulars before we should start getting nervous. But one thing this does mean is that there should now be slightly more pressure on the shoulders of Soto, Lee, and Bradley to start producing. If they can do that, then they'll be fine.
It wasn't as close as the final score indicated. Ted Lilly and the Cubs did exactly what we thought they would - beat on Russ Ortiz with a Brick the way an Army drill sargeant might beat on a recruit. That's right, the Cubs were Rocking the Suburbs, and the suburbs happened to be the baseball when pitched by Russ Ortiz. Ortiz's undefeated record was forced to Evaporate, and that's the last Ben Folds reference I'll make this article. Although I will point out that the last "hit" by Folds was the song "You Don't Know Me" which eventually landed on #28 of the Adult Alternative chart. Just saying. Regardless, the Cubs managed 14 hits yesterday along with 5 walks. Every regular starter but Fontenot got at least one hit (and Mikey still managed 2 RBI) with Alfonso Soriano hitting 2 homeruns and making one awesome glove save in the outfield. The Fonz now has 9 homers and, should he manage to avoid the freak injuries that derailed him in '07 and '08, may finally be on the brink of the kind of season he was signed to produce. Theodore Roosevelt Lilly pitched 6 innings, winning his 4th of the year and reducing his ERA to 3.11. The Cubs bullpen then delivered scoreless relief, not counting Chad Fox whose 2009 ERA is now 81.00. For the record, when all future discussions of the bullpen are made, Chad Fox will not count as being a member of the pen regardless of his status on the roster. It appears as if the Cubs are finally - FINALLY - starting to click. They've won 6 of their last 7 and enter tonight's series against Milwaukee with the chance to gain some distance from the rest of the division, the Cardinals excluded. The planned article about Marmol and Gregg remains pending, but I'll get to it eventually. Current Record: 16-12
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 2.5 games out of first
Best Possible Record: 150-12
Worst Possible Record: 16-146
Record needed to win 110: 94-40
On Pace For: 93-69
Series Preview: Cubs at Astros
Game Recap: Cubs 6, Astros 3
GameCast: May 7th Cubs at Astros
It wasn't as close as the final score indicated. Ted Lilly and the Cubs did exactly what we thought they would - beat on Russ Ortiz with a Brick the way an Army drill sargeant might beat on a recruit. That's right, the Cubs were Rocking the Suburbs, and the suburbs happened to be the baseball when pitched by Russ Ortiz. Ortiz's undefeated record was forced to Evaporate, and that's the last Ben Folds reference I'll make this article. Although I will point out that the last "hit" by Folds was the song "You Don't Know Me" which eventually landed on #28 of the Adult Alternative chart. Just saying.
Regardless, the Cubs managed 14 hits yesterday along with 5 walks. Every regular starter but Fontenot got at least one hit (and Mikey still managed 2 RBI) with Alfonso Soriano hitting 2 homeruns and making one awesome glove save in the outfield. The Fonz now has 9 homers and, should he manage to avoid the freak injuries that derailed him in '07 and '08, may finally be on the brink of the kind of season he was signed to produce.
Theodore Roosevelt Lilly pitched 6 innings, winning his 4th of the year and reducing his ERA to 3.11. The Cubs bullpen then delivered scoreless relief, not counting Chad Fox whose 2009 ERA is now 81.00. For the record, when all future discussions of the bullpen are made, Chad Fox will not count as being a member of the pen regardless of his status on the roster.
It appears as if the Cubs are finally - FINALLY - starting to click. They've won 6 of their last 7 and enter tonight's series against Milwaukee with the chance to gain some distance from the rest of the division, the Cardinals excluded.
The planned article about Marmol and Gregg remains pending, but I'll get to it eventually.
Current Record: 16-12