Once again: Cub starter great, Cub offense bad, Cub bullpen not good enough to make up for the difference.
For the sake of naming names, Randy Wells and Sean Marshall combined to pitch eight shutout innings in yesterday's contest, and in the bottom of the seventh, Starlin Castro scored the Cubs' lone run, coming home on a squeeze bunt laid down perfectly by Ryan Theriot.
The team had a one-run lead in the top of the ninth inning when the ball was handed to Carlos Marmol, who would quickly demonstrate that he didn't have his best stuff. Actually, that's not true -- it takes a while to walk five guys, doesn't it? By the time the half-inning was over, the Phillies had scored four runs, despite Marmol's allowing just one hit.
And now, for today's "Just Saying" moment:
Carlos Marmol, thru 43 games in 2010:
2-2, 17 SV, 4 BS, 2.91 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 82 K
Guess Who, thru 42 games in 2009:
3-2, 16 SV, 3 BS, 3.32 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 41 K
That's all, just saying. Go Cubs!
Are all home runs created equal? Do they sometimes differ in terms of their... clutchiness?
The Cubs would end up needing four runs to win yesterday's game, after Ted Lilly allowed his second homer of the game, to Ryan Howard in the sixth inning with a man on ahead of him. Indeed, by allowing just four hits and one walk over seven solid innings (with 10 Ks to boot), Lilly did more than just boost his trade value: he kept his team in the game.
And actually, Ted did even more than that -- yesterday, he drove in a run. After falling behind 0-2 to Phillie starter Joe Blanton, who had just IBBed Geo Soto to load the bases, Theo worked his way back to a 3-2 count, and then fouled off a fastball, before taking one high for a walk. Run scores, and at the time, tie ballgame.
The Cubs would tie the game up yet again, this time in the bottom of the sixth. In the half inning just after Howard hit a two-run bomb, Marlon Byrd answered with a two-run shot of his own.
Neither team would score again, and all of a sudden we found ourselves rooting for Aramis Ramirez at the plate, late in a tie game -- and, no less, with two outs.
Of course, Ramirez would hit a home run, giving the team the lead, and setting the stage for Carlos Marmol to strike out the side for a save once again.
A great game to watch, a great win for the Cubs, and now only one question remains. Speaking of clutchiness: Has Aramis Ramirez retaken his place as Mr. C McC? I dare not say the name until given permission to do so.
Every non-pitcher in last night's game for the Cubs had either a run or a run batted in. Six Cubs had multiple hits (three had three), a trio of Cubs hit homers, and one even stole home.
I suppose when you have a lot of 30-year-old veteran ball players on your roster, your team might perform better when it only has to play a few times a week instead of six out of seven days. Or maybe Jamie Moyer, who started for the Phillies, is really bad, although it's probably a combination of the two.
Regardless, Aramis Ramirez continued his hot streak last night, driving in four runs with two doubles. And Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano each had three hits, while Lee and Geovany Soto each contributed a two-run home run.
And then there was Starlin Castro, who once again was one at-bat away from hitting for the cycle last night. Castro tripled, singled, and doubled -- or rather, I should really say he tripled AND STOLE HOME, singled, and doubled.
The steal was really more of a Phillie battery mistake than it was a great play by Castro, although the kid is certainly fast. Ryan Dempster whiffed on the squeeze attempt, but Phillie C Carlos Ruiz couldn't handle the breaking ball delivered by Moyer, and the run scored.
Speaking of Ryan Dempster: Clownsevelt went 6.2 innings, giving up two earned runs (both on an early home run allowed to Ryan Howard), allowing six hits and three walks, and striking out nine. A fine line, indeed. Certainly one you can win with on most nights.
And let's be sure to end on a low note, courtesy of Bob Howry's pitching line: 0.2 IP, 4 ER, 4 H, 1 HR, 0 K, 0 BB.
So, bravo, Cubs. Enjoy the win -- just PLEASE don't immediately start getting delusional on me. Please?
Starter Carlos Silva gave up a three-run bomb to James Loney in the first inning, and the game never really got much more interesting from there. Cubs lose!
A big "eff you" to the first base umpire, who appeared to have been paid off by Joe Torre before the game started. Every close play seemed to go against the Cubs, to the point that, according to someone I follow on Twitter, the entire Cub dugout deserved ejecting after the umpteenth bad call late in the game.
In the Shout Box, Sayers40 speculated that Carlos Silva was probably hurt, which is probably fact. I wish we had a manager with the balls/brains to 1) identify when players are hurt and 2) tell them they're not allowed to play through severe injuries (see: Ramirez, Aramis this year, Soriano, Alfonso last year).
And thus, the All-Star Break is upon us. Here are some stats to tide you over until someone else decides to write something:
Aramis Ramirez' post-DL, pre-Break numbers: .328/.381/.672 (1.053 OPS)
Starlin Castro, so far, in July: .265/.359/.441
and for the year: .270/.333/.383
(compare to Ryan Theriot: .278/.317/.313)
Tyler Colvin's slash line since June 1: .234/.274/.467
Kosuke Fukudome's slash line btwn June 1 and the Break in 2008: .233/.338/.357
Cubs starters, ranked by ERA: Gorzelanny, Silva, Dempster, Lilly, Wells(, Zambrano)
OK, that's enough for now.
OK, World Cup over, but Futures Game on now! Turn on ESPN to watch Brett Jackson, rising Cub star, who is starting in center field!
But I do owe you a recap, so, quickly: Tom Gorzelanny, super, with 7 K against just 1 BB in 6 IP. Hittingwise, Geo Soto went to town, posting a 3-for-4, including a home run and three ribs. Other players collecting multiple hits include Darlin' Starlin Castro, Derrek Lee, and The Resurgent Aramis Ramirez. That's Aramis' fifth or sixth consecutive mutli-hit game, IIRC.
With yet another home run in last night's game, Ramirez' post-DL OPS continues to climb above one. I'll have it updated after tonight's game (also on ESPN, FYI). But for now, Brett Jackson! (And eventually, Hak-Ju Lee at SS for the World team!)
Not exactly the outing you want to see from a pitcher your team is trying to trade. Or, you might say, exactly not the outing you want to see.
Ted Lilly didn't make it out of the fourth inning last night, allowing seven hits, two walks, and a home run, for a total of five earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched. The home run was hit by Russell Martin, immediately after Lilly allowed a walk and a single.
The Cub offense showed up last night, putting up seven runs over the course of the game, including two in the ninth when Aramis Ramirez drove in Kosuke Fukudome on a triple, and was then brought home on a Marlon Byrd single. But it wasn't enough.
Gold stars go to Marlon Byrd, who went 4-for-5 on the night (all singles) with three RBI and a run scored; Tyler Colvin, who went 1-for-3 with a double, a run scored, and two walks; and Aramis Ramirez, who posted his fourth consecutive multi-hit game, going 3-for-4, with a walk to boot. Aramis ended up a home run short of the cycle, while scoring twice and driving in one run. His post-DL stint stats now look like this:
.333/.381/.628 (1.009 OPS), 10 R, 9 RBI, 4 HR
So much for my analysis a month ago, when I said Derrek Lee looked capable of a comeback while Aramis looked toast. The only defense I can offer up is that I wish Aramis spoke up sooner about his bum thumb. I guess athletes are supposed to tough it out, but Ramirez' at-bats have truly been as different as night and day pre- and post-DL. I'll try to take another look at each hitter's peripheral stats later on to figure out what the problem is.
In the meantime, as trade speculation continues, the Cubs continue to lose games. So that's too bad.
Stop me if you've heard this before: Cub starter goes quality, offense can't score enough runs, we lose a close one.
And now, the mitigating factors:
- Randy Wells was one pitch away from a super outing. He gave up six hits (a leadoff double, four singles, and a late, low, line-drive homer that barely made it out), walked one, and struck out seven. Whether it was bad mechanics, bad luck, or a combination of both, whatever was ailing Randy's ERA seems to have subsided.
- I promised you a guessing game in the title, so here goes. Check out these numbers, compiled over Mr. Mystery's last 47 at-bats:
.297 avg, .340 obp, .596 slg (i.e. .936 OPS), 4 HR in 47 AB
I know you know who it is, but still, that was fun, right? Of course, every time I look at Aramis' post-DL numbers, I wonder why he wasn't put on the DL earlier. Clearly, an Aramis Ramirez with one good thumb is a completely worthless hitter (see: April and May), so let's try to keep him healthy for the next season and a half, shall we?
- Kudos to the two Cubs who drove in runs last night. If you believe the numbers at Fangraphs, Geovany Soto is on pace for a more valuable season than his 2008 ROY campaign, and Alfonso Soriano has been worth $10.4 million in value over a replacement player thus far this season.
When an offense fails to score runs, fans usually start to demand change, and they tend to do so pretty quickly. And yes, we know it's a 162-game season, but can you blame us? We want to win, and we want to win now.
Personally, I'd say this year's most perplexing issue for the offense has been Lou's insistence on hitting Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez in the 3- and 4-holes, respectively, despite each of their thoroughly failtastic performances at the plate this season. (Along the same lines, why does Nady keep hitting 4th or 5th? Pardon me, I digress.)
So right, Lee and Ramirez have been terrible. And along with the occasional call for a straight-up benching (yes, I'm guilty of that), the most popular request in response had been to simply move those two down in the order.
Which may have made us feel better, I guess. But the fact has always been this: so long as Derrek and Aramis are struggling, this entire offense will continue to struggle. You can't stash these guys in the 7 and 8 spots, and you can't simply bench them. The Cubs need them if they plan on scoring any respectable number of runs this year.
Speaking of which (let the recap commence!!): last night's game, combined with Tuesday's matchup, marked the first time Aramis Ramirez has hit three home runs in two games since June 20th and 21st of 2008 against the White Sux. (June 20th was a walk off blast, and June 21st was the day the Cubs scored nine in the 4th... remember, when Fontenot was pinch-hit for in the same inning in which he hit a home run earlier? Those were the days.)
Starter Ryan Dempster did not have his best stuff, but he's a tough dude, and he managed to get through five innings anyway. And the 'pen stepped up, posting four scoreless innings, with Andrew Cashner putting up the most impressive line of the lot (five outs, three strikeouts, no walks, one hit).
It feels like it was only yesterday when I was complaining about the Cubs never having five guys drive in runs in the same game (which it was), and here they go and do it again. Marlon Byrd, Alfonso Soriano, and Ryan Dempster each nabbed one ribbie, while Starlin Castro drove in two for himself on a single. And Aramis Ramirez' home run was a three-run bomb.
So yeah, about Ramirez: Take heart, Cub fans, as it seems Aramis hasn't completely lost it yet. (The guy needs to learn when to take a frakkin' breather and let his hand heal, because when his thumb hurts he SUCKSSSSS, but whatever.) At the very least, we don't have to worry so much about that $16 million option for 2011 that AR will still likely exercise.
At best? Maybe there's a chance the Cubs haven't completely lost it either.
Hey guys, how 'bout that Ben?!?!? What a kid!! Congratulations, yarbage!
Hopefully Ben will see more of that Crimson Tide onesie than his Cubs outfit, because winning is fun. And speaking of winning (which we... ya know, won), last night's game reminded me of a mindset I had back in 2008.
(I know this seems like an awful tangent but bear with me. OK, here goes.)
Going into the NLDS in 2008 I was cautiously optimistic, which is really to say I was 100% cautious. I realized our team proved itself as the best in the National League over the course of a regular season, but I remembered the cat-poopish taste left in my mouth by our brief 2007 playoff experience. Winning a game in the division series is no small feat, and when a baseball series is best of five, you've really gotta win game one.
So the main thought on my mind was, "Until we win a game I will make a minimal emotional investment in these playoffs." Turns out we didn't win a game, so now I'm convinced: even if we were to win 105 games in the regular season before our next playoff run, I'd still be skeptical until we managed to snag that first W.
This is essentially the way I've been handling Aramis Ramirez' struggles this year. It was sad to see Aramis go so quickly, I thought, but after hitting under .200 for a few months, I decided it would be best to completely abandon hope until he did something -- ANYTHING -- to prove he wasn't a complete waste of space this year (and $16 million or so next year, thank you player option).
Call me crazy, and I know it's just one game. But hitting two home runs is definitely a start. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure Aramis is now slugging .520 over his 14 games in June and July.
Last night's game was cool for a number of reasons, not the least of which was Marmol's striking out all FIVE batters he faced. The contest gave Carlos Silva his ninth win of the season, too. But if Aramis Ramirez can somehow turn one good night in the desert into a solid second-half, that'd be the coolest thing by far.
Regarding the title: when's the last time five different Cubs recorded an RBI in a game? I admit, there's a good chance I haven't been playing close enough attention and it happened, like, two days ago, but really when's the last time this team scored five runs, much less had five different guys do it?
On Monday, the Cubs' "five guys" were Kosuke Fukudome (lead-off dinger), Mike Fontenot (pinch-hit single), Alfonso Soriano (pinch-hit two-run bomb), Geovany Soto (3-for-4, two runs and two RBIs) and Starlin Castro (1-for-4 with a two-run triple).
Speaking of which, guess which catcher leads MLB (as in, ALL OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL) in offensive production according to wOBA? Hint: he's a Cub, and it's not Koyie Hill. Having said that, let's keep splitting up the ABs, shall we? Gosh darn it, Lou.
Tom Gorzelanny started for the Cubs, and did not have very good control of the strike zone, allowing six walks over five innings. I blame The Organization for this. Much in the same way that Jeff Samardzija's development could not have been handled worse by the dudes upstairs (starter! reliever! starter! reliever! relief starter! closer! ham sandwich!), it's gotta be tough for a creature of habit to adjust from starting to relieving to starting again, and doing so while facing major league hitters. If it were my organization and I had six starters, I'd send whoever had options down to Iowa to stay stretched out. Heck, maybe he could even work on his fundamentals and pitch mix in relatively meaningless games, and improve even. But that makes way too much sense, obviously.
Lou used five relievers to get the win. James Russell performed well as a LOOGY, going one-for-one against his assigned hitter, while Andrew Cashner was less successful, allowing three base runners to reach while recording just one out. Beyond those two, however: Justin Berg, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol combined to strike out eight of their eleven batters faced, with Marmol striking out the side in the ninth inning. Super.