(Kevin will scoff at the addition of this box score into the post as he basically thinks it's jabrone, but I figure hey, why not? Eventually, we very well might have a functional "real thing" on the blog)
While the offense was tepid at best, Carlos Zambrano all-out delivered in his first outing since his shoulder issues more than two weeks ago.
On the offensive end of this, the Cubs didn't exactly set the world on fire against the Ex Crappy Closer Braden Looper, or his replacements from the deep Cardinals bullpen. The Cubs combined for only 8 hits and 1 walk, scoring 2; both runs came from solo shots. One came from Fukudome, who's been swerving us all, as he can not only read and speak perfect English, but he's been trolling the blogs and suffered great offense at the hands of Rob, who implied that he was "struggling." Even then, it was his only hit of the day.
Geovany Soto was the only guy who really seemed to have the Cardinals staff figured out tonight, as he went 3-3 with a walk and a solo homerun in the 4th which would prove to be the difference. Soto tried patiently to explain it to the rest of the Cubs, as he drew charts and graphs, but nobody really seemed to take notice - particularly not Jim Edmonds, whose first game back to St. Louis was a total bust. Lassie went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts.
On the pitching front, Lou kept Carlos on a short leash - he threw 87 pitches through 6 innings, which was enough. It was an efficient start for the Big Moose; he had 11 pitches after the first inning, and 28 through 2. Maybe if he thought he was on a pitch count for every start, he'd be more efficient and go deeper into games. Either that or he's simply well-rested. Point is, in 6 innings of work the Big Moose struck out 5, walked 2, and surrendered only 4 hits.
Thank you sweet fancy lord, Carlos is back.
Of course, no Cubs game against St. Louis would be complete without a little drama. In a close game (2-0 at the time), Lou seemed to feel as if he had no choice but to go to his most reliable set-up man in the 7th. Sit back down, Marmol, he went to Howry. And Bob did a fine job, outing the first 5 men he faced without drama before rolling the dice and landing on Cause Fear and Anxiety In Cub Fans Everywhere By Letting Pujols Tee Off On You.
One big homerun later, and Lou decided to up the anxiety factor another notch by calling on Neal Effin' Cotts to face Rick Ankiel, who he struck out swinging. I'm sure there was relief everywhere in Cubville, although you must all realize that Lou plays favorites and because of tonight, he'll go to Cotts in other close situations down the road.
Kerry Wood came in to close the 9th. It wasn't too long ago that he was a) hitting and/or walking too many batters in close games and b) letting that come back to bite him in the ass. Tonight was one of those nights that could have gone the other way - Woody got Troy Glaus to a full count before striking him out looking, and after that it was cruiseville, even after a Yadier Molina single with 2 outs in the inning.
Cub fans everywhere will be relieved to know that the Cubs can't possibly drop out of first place in this series after tonight's win. They'll also be relieved, I imagine, because Zambrano pitched well. Relief will be amplified further after Kerry Wood closed down a close one.
Tomorrow night will be a telling game. Lilly has been good, but Lohse has been ace-like.
Incidenally, either later tonight or early tomorrow we'll have some trade speculation for you. We hope you've enjoyed the fireworks, I suspect there will be more to come. Stay tuned.
Hwhaaat? I still do game recaps? I know, it's shocking to you all.
Anyway. The Cubs have proven these past few weeks that it's going to take more than mere logic to turn them into a good road team. This has been further exampled by the team's difficulties with the lowly Giants - a team whose crappy pitching is only surpassed by their incompetent hitting. And yet, on the heels of a game in which the Giants pitching stomped the Cubs hitting, the Giants bats came alive Frampton style last night and kept things interesting long after the Cubs should have battered them into submission.
The Cubs were leading the game 3-0 and then 5-2, but San Fran managed to briefly tie the game after a 3-run homer off of the now-troubled Carlos Marmol before Mike "Of All People" Fontenot hit the game-winning homer in the 8th.
On the starting pitching front, Ryan Dempster had perhaps his best road-outing of the year, although he has yet to win a game outside of Wrigley. As good as he's been, that's bound to change.
Offensively, I must now spend a brief moment expressing my burgeoning man-love for one James Patrick Edmonds, who, as a Cub, is now batting .292 with 8 homers and 24 RBI in 35 games. His Cub OPS is .981, and if he can fail to fall off the face of the earth, then the Cubs will have a very dangerous lineup when Soriano returns.
Oh, and as far as Marmol goes - no worries. He struck out his first 2 opponents last night, but he was clearly rusty. Beyond that, he threw 19 pitches, 13 for strikes.
The Cubs play for the series win tonight. It should be interesting.
How do you lose to a man named Liz? It was a question for the ages, one which we believed could never be answered. Turns out that we were wrong. Jason Marquis, the Human Rosetta Stone (he'll crack the code of Suck in three dead languages, just watch him pitch) threw with ineptitude today, leading the Cubs to a rare home-series defeat.
It's okay. With four games to go this month, the Cubs have already met my "we'll be okay if they win X games this month" expectations. But it was still painful watching the Cubs squander early opportunities and surrender a copious amount of runs. For instance - the 2nd inning. Radhames Liz took a page out of Carlos Marmol's discarded book and loaded the bases off of one hit. And one HBP, and one walk. He then proceeded to take a page out of George Sherrill's book and induced a fielder's choice and fouled out Eric Patterson.
Following this momentously squandered opportunity, Baltimore took time between high-fiving themselves for having escaped a close one and proceeded to repeatedly display their dominance of Jason Marquis. With two outs in the inning, Marquis intentionally walked the #3 hitter Nick Markakis*, which promptly backfired as he unintentionally walked home a run before Aubrey Huff - who apparently felt inspired by my man-love - doubled in 2 runs, followed by a Jay Payton 2 RBI single before the Cubs managed to limp out of the inning.
(*Imagine if you will an outfield including Markakis and Fukudome, with the great Harry Caray calling the game. That would be must-see TV.)
After allowing 2 more runs in the 4th, Jason Marquis departed for Jon Lieber, who continued the hurting by allowing another run to score. And then, some more runs scored - 3 in the 6th off of the Eyre/Wuertz duo. Now, I knew this would happen. Any time you take a player of debatable ability and defend him, he's bound to immediately do exactly what people were criticizing him about. However, while Wuertz definitely filled the "From Bad to ..." quotient today, even his harshest detractors will have to acknowledge one thing: it cost the Cubs nothing. This game was over the second Jason Marquis crapped the bed in the 2nd.
The Cubs managed to get some offense once Baltimore decided to rest up, and they eventually managed to score 4 runs. 2 of those 4 runs were driven in by Eric Patterson, which just proves that at a glance, anybody can look good. Keywords: at a glance. Patterson had 2 RBI, he could've/should've had closer to 4 or 5, and had he capitalized on his bases loaded chance in the 2nd, it could've/should've been a much different ballgame.
Marquis now finds himself at 6-4, and where his ERA had almost crept to under 4 before this game, it has now climbed its way back up toward 5. So much for the Marquis de Resurgent. Oh well, at least he - and the relievers - managed to keep a lid on Cintron. (Cue photoshop)
Series Recap: Definitely a disappointing set. The Cubs have been hit-and-miss against the AL, and it's a little disappointing that Baltimore was able to come to Wrigley and play so well. So much for the rumors that the Cubs are stealing signs. On the bright side, the Tigers beat the Cardinals in 10, so the Cubs remain 4.5 games ahead of the 2nd place team in the central. With four games left to go, this has been a pretty good month for Chicago, all things considered. If - big if - they can continue to dominate the White Sox, then they will not just have met my "must-win" expectations ... they will have exceeded them.
Current Record: 49-30
Position in the NL Central: 1st place, 4.5 games ahead of St. Louis
On Pace For: 101-61
Record needed to win 120: 71-12
Give Baltimore credit - they earned tonight's victory. With 0 outs in the 9th, their closer George Sherrill loaded the bases and then promptly sat everybody down.
The Cubs fought and scrapped their way back to make things interesting, but tonight just wasn't meant to be. After Sean Marshall crapped his pants in front of 41,000 screaming maniacs, the Cubs got close on the back of a Jim Edmonds 3-run homer. (Edmonds is working really hard to earn the approval of Cub fans. I still think he should go all out and buy a beer for the bleachers, but then throw an M. Night Shamalalaetcetera twist on them by making it actually be a beer.)
The Cubs then made it interesting in the 8th and 9th by stranding a combined 6 runners. I guess the gods decided that 14 straight was enough. And while Ron Santo painfully lamented tonight`s tough loss - I swear, I`m shocked that Cubs baseball has yet to kill that man, and I`m doubly shocked that he`s never let out a long, loud, unintelligible `ffffffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuudddddddddddgeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee`while calling a game. It`s only a matter of time, and we should start a gambling pool on when and where.
Actually, the best part about tonight`s game is Carlos Marmol. Sure, he hit a batter. Sure, he threw some ridiculously bad pitches. But, ultimately, he shut down the Orioles with minimal damage. He still only threw 5 strikes in 11 pitches, but he got some first strikes, he got a little help from Geo Soto who threw out the previously hit Melvin Mora, and that`s all drastically better than what he did his last two times out.
It`ll still be another outing or five before I`m convinced that he`s okay, but he seems to be on the right track.
Ted Lilly takes the mound tomorrow. It should be an interesting game.
One of my favorite things about the Cubs-Sox Series is the opportunity to get to listen to the opposing team’s broadcast. Throughout much of today’s game, I was flipping between WGN (Cubs broadcast) and Comcast (Sox broadcast) because I like to see the differing styles of the announcers, the opposing point of views on the same topic…who am I kidding…I just love to hear Hawk wallow in pain as his beloved “good guys” get dismembered in front of the whole city.
That being said, the fourth inning was a thing of beauty to watch from the perspective of the Sox broadcast team. With the Cubs down 4-1 going into the bottom of the fourth, Hawk was on cloud nine. Then without warning, Grandpa Contreras started handing out belt-high hangers like it was Halloween. The Cubs graciously accepted these treats by hitting four homeruns (Edmonds, Fontenot, Ramirez (3-run shot) and Edmonds again) and accumulating 9 total runs in the inning to effectively end the game. While Hawk kept trying to convince himself the Sox would come back by saying, “Well, the good news is that you know we’re gonna score more runs” he finally conceded that the Cubs might actually have a solid offense saying they didn’t hit any “duck-snorts” in the inning (I think this is a compliment from Hawk) and finally letting out his internal defeatist after the second Edmonds homer by claiming “Maybe we can’t score that many runs.”
Let me taste you tears Hawk…Delicious…
Now to conclude this post-game rambling, here are just a couple random thoughts on the game…
-While I’m not totally convinced Jim Edmonds isn’t here to destroy us, hitting two homeruns against the hated Sox in a “meaningless” series is sure going to help his popularity around Wrigleyville. In no way do I now “like” Edmonds, I just hate him a little less.
-E-Pat finally, FINALLY decided to make me look like an idiot. Being C-Pat’s younger brother automatically puts you on a short leash in Chicago, but I’ve been trying my best to hammer this guy any time he gets the call up to the Bigs. Today, however, Patterson went 3-for-5 with 1 RBI and a stolen base to thoroughly shut me up for at least a week. I hate to admit it, but Patterson might have been the catalyst through which the Cubs offense was powered today.
-Although Jason Marquis got the “W”, he had no business winning this game. Of the five runs he gave up, four came on homeruns with 2 FRIGGEN OUTS. Now I don’t expect Marquis to be pitching shutout baseball every time he is on the mound, but please don’t give these guys anything meaty to hit with two outs. I just see this as a lack of focus on Marquis’ part. If not for the Cubs offense, he would be 5-4 instead of 6-3.
-I hate you Bob Howry. You make my life so hard sometimes.
OK, that’s all I got. Cubs win. Grab a drink, grab a smoke, or grab yourself. Let’s celebrate then do it again tomorrow.
In the past few days, we've seen the following:
- A possibly devastating injury to Carlos Zambrano, who will miss at least one start as they determine if something is seriously wrong with his shoulder.
- The self-destruction of Carlos Marmol, who walked the first two batters he faced in the 7th, then he hit the next two batters he faced in the 7th, before exiting the game in disgrace only to watch Scott Eyre put down his chunk of fried chicken and surrender a grand slam, a triple, and 2 freakin' doubles. Point of fact, I'm calling shenanigans. There was some jackass in the stands reflecting light into our pitchers eyes. It's the only explanation for this atrocity of an inning.
- The first three-game losing streak of the season.
- The first sweep of the season.
- Al Green live in concert. In this case, we is me, and I just got back.
But there's good news, folks! Although the Cubs suffered 3 tough losses to one of the best at-home teams in baseball, the Cardinals have also suffered 3 tough losses ... in their own home ballpark, no less, to one of the worst teams in baseball. A silver lining if I ever saw one.
However, because I did not see, nor did I closely follow this game, I can't really offer much more feedback, apart from the sick feeling that comes with any outing in which our top setup guy throws 20 pitches, 7 of which were called strikes.
Series Recap: We always knew there'd be days like these. Now comes the real test of this team - how do they bounce back from the most dejecting three-game set of the year (and not just because they got swept)?
Hey, I warned you. Tampa Bay is a dangerous team, and give credit where it's due - so far, I've been dead on about this series. Not spend too much time talking about ME! but so far I've predicted ...
- Every game should be close and might be determined by one run. Check.
- Carlos Zambrano has been less than dominating as of late and he might be vulnerable. Check.
- The Rays are a tough team to beat at home and are going to make the Cubs look like the Royals. Check.
- The Cubs could get swept. Check.
- All of this is a tease for October - the Cubs will get roughed up by the Rays in Tampa, the AL will win the All Star Game, and the Cubs will enter their first World Series in 63 years without home field advantage against one of the few teams they couldn't beat on the road. Pending.
Hey, no team can win every game, no team can win every series, and no team will go a full season without getting swept at least once. I'm not saying for sure that it'll happen tomorrow, but if it does it is by far not the end of the world. This is just God-However-You-Perceive-Him's way of scripting an interesting story. If the Cubs were a juggernaut and plowed their way through every team they play all year long, where would be the drama? The tension? The nerves?
Fine, so there would be all of that stuff anyway, but it still makes for a good story. And if it happens, I demand that you start calling me Nostrakurtis, and you tithe me 10% of your earnings. On second thought, just give me the money, "Nostrakurtis" is pretty lame.
Before I jump into the actual details of the game, I feel the need to point out three more things, quickly. First: Humor-wise, while I may be tipping heavy on the silliness scales right now, I feel like I'm in a pretty good groove when it comes to blogging about the Cubs. So, naturally, I will be away from the internet for the bulk of three days this weekend, which means that when I get back to it on Sunday night, I'll have to requisition my groove back. B) For those of you keeping score, I did not doze off at 8:10 tonight. I made it until roughly 8:45. And Third) If you've ever noticed the whole 1st, B, 3rd thing, it's lame and intentional. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, then that's fine too. Onto the specifics:
- Ah, the second triumphant appearance this post of bullet-points.
- Sonnanstine proved vulnerable, as we suspected. He surrendered 7 hits and 2 walks in his 5 innings of work, but the Cubs just weren't able to capitalize. And while the Cubs did lead briefly in the third, it was brief indeed.
- Carlos's strikeout totals are down, and he's been walking a lot of guys lately. Despite his rough outing, he still went nearly 7 innings and he only looked particularly bad in the 3rd, but it's times like these when I wish the Cubs were in possession of a competent pitching coach who could actually figure out what's going on. Additionally, it appears as though Carlos left early due to "shoulder discomfort." Hmmm. That could be a problem, and perhaps an explanation for the loss of stuff and increase in walks.
- Derrek Lee struck out with runners in scoring position twice tonight. I don't want to get on D.Lee, who remains a solid bat in the Cubs lineup, but c'mon, his strikeouts are way up and his discipline is way down. He needs to be dropped down to the cleanup spot. I'd rather see Ramirez in those situations.
- Fukudome got on base 2 times in 5 plate appearances. For those of you far too lazy to do your own math, that's an OBP of .400.
- Jim Edmonds left the game with a sore foot. Kenny Lofton?
- In the 9th, the Cubs again teased a comeback on Troy "Frankenarm" Percival. They again came up short. Since I'm Nostrakurtis, I predict ... if Percival comes in to close out a 1-run game tomorrow night, the Cubs are going to rip him a new elbow wound and a new ass hole.
Ultimately, while this was a painful loss, let us not forget - the Cubs hold a commanding lead on most of the teams in the NL Central, and as I write this the Cardinals are trying their hardest to lose again to the Royals. The Royals! Keep on smiling, Cub fan nation, and stay skinny.
I feel like quite the fool. When I was planning this weekend, I often noted that we might see Friday's and Sunday's game, but I wouldn't waste my time with Saturday. After all, Jason Marquis was pitching, and I've got nothing for the guy. He has proven to be mediocre at best, and in a rotation consisting of a converted closer, a rookie righty with a team photo that makes him look like he's begging to be punched, a psycho, and Carlos Zambrano, Marquis has proven himself to be the weakest link. Except he's now won his last 3 starts and he out-pitched one of the best aces in all of baseball today.
Marquis sailed smoothly for 7 innings. He needed only 71 pitches to get into the 8th, he'd allowed only one hit - a 5th inning single to Lyle "Mugger" Overbay, and he had me convinced that he was on his way toward a complete game. And while the wheels did come off in the 8th, it would be unfair of me to say that Marquis simply reverted to true form. By that point, the Cubs were well on their way, and it almost didn't matter that Jason loaded the bases with three singles. Carlos Marmol quickly swooped in with mask and cape, struck out the first two batters he faced, walked Matt Stairs, and induced an inning-ending pop-up to Scott Rolen.
Maybe it's not as big as when Marmol shut down the Astros in a similar situation more than a month ago, but coming in with the bases loaded and 0 outs while facing the heart of your rival team's lineup and walking away having struck out 2 and allowing only one run scored is always, always awesome. Huge day for Marmol.
Bob Howry was called on to finish the game, and although he gave up a triple and a double, he held the Blue Jays to only one run scored and, today, it is Toronto who are the sad participants.
But if you think I've forgotten to talk about the offense, fear not. I'm getting to it.
First and foremost, while the Cubs have now beaten Roy Halladay on the last two occasions they've faced him, I would be satisfied to never again see him pitch against the Cubs. He's one of the best pitchers in the game today, and he doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves due to the team he plays for. However, he wasn't dealing this afternoon, and the Cubs offense was quick to exploit his shoddy performance.
With two outs against them, Mike Fontenot and Henry Blanco got on base - with Fontenot at third after White's single. Ronny Cedeno briefly recalled that per at bat, he's the clutchiest hitter on the team in 2-out situations, and he singled Fontenot home. Then, Reed Johnson - the only Cub that Jays fans are okay with being beaten by - smacked a 3-run homerun. Based on how Jays fans treated Reed last night, it's a safe assumption that he was cheered wildly even after cutting the Jays starter deep in the soul with that big hit.
The Cubs would score twice more in the game - a DeRosa single in the 3rd and Edmonds drove in Derrek on a fielder's choice. Overall, the Cubs landed 11 hits, including 3 from the slumping Lee, and only Fukudome failed to get at least 1. (Naturally, Lou batted him in the #2 spot, and Lou being Lou, he will call it a failed experiment and Fukky will return on down the lineup.)
Jason Marquis won for the 5th time this season, and just like that, after 3 reasonable starts, he's not looking like a bad option in the rotation. It's all part of my evil plan! Mwa-hahahaha! Soon, Marquis will pitch well enough to have garnered some trade value, and Hendry will be able to include him in a deal for some other guy! Preferably Maddux! Ahhh-hahahaha! (Sorry, tired, couldn't resist)
The Cubs play for the rubber game tomorrow. Just remember, our Cubs should win. They're a first place team playing the Third Place Jays - not that Toronto is actually in 3rd right now; it's just that they are so perennially there that they should have it on their hats. Y'know, like this: