So we've split the first two games. Randy Wells looked awful (and bullpen-bound?) in his start, and Carlos Silva struck out 11 in seven innings (not bullpen-bound) in his.
Whether the Cubs win or lose this series, it'll feel a heckuva lot more important that it actually is. But screw sensibility; let's win on Sunday and ride the momentum all the way to the freakin' pennant!
How 'bout y'all readers contribute to this here combined recap? What are your favorite moments from the past two games?
The Cubs win another close won today, thanks to back-to-back extra-base hits from Cubs bench players who I would argue should be starting against righties -- for now, at least.
After seven and a half scoreless innings combined from the two teams, Mike Fontenot led off the bottom of the eighth with a triple. (Stats Update #1: Fontenot is now hitting .330 this season, with a respectable .836 OPS to go along with his average.)
Cub fans everywhere were immediately overcome with dread and fear, as we all know the team can't bring home runners from third when there are less than two outs. And Geovany Soto added fuel to those flames by striking out on three pitches. (Status Update #2: Soto is now hitting .257, quickly converging with Lee's average, which now stands at .246.)
Fortunately, Tyler Colvin hasn't been with the team long enough to learn how to not bring runners home from third with less than two out. So he went ahead and doubled in Fontenot, and then took third on a fielding error by the Dodgers' right fielder. (Stats Update #3: Colvin has a .348/.385/.609 in May, while Kosuke has a .258/.338/.394 after today.)
Cubs take lead, all is well -- until Theriot pops out on a bunt attempt (grrrrrr) and Starlin Castro, Mr. Contact Hitter Himself, strikes out at the worst of times. (Stats Update #4: Castro's .292 average has now fallen two points below Theriot's .294.)
Fortunately, Carlos Marmol is teh balls. He struck out Rafael Furcal swinging, walked Blake DeWitt (which people booed? WTF), struck out Manny Ramirez swinging, and then struck out Garrett Anderson swinging. (Stats Update #5: Marmol has struck out 49 of 103 batters faced, a 47.6% rate. Thanks for that one, Rob.)
(Stats Update #6: The Cubs are now two games below .500, and will be either four or five games behind the Reds for the division lead tomorrow morning.)
When asked if the constant chatter about the Cubs' oversupply of starting pitchers had affected his performance in last night's game, Tom Gorzelanny answered, "No."
"But you read it."
Of course you read it, and of course it affects you. Tom was clearly off his game last night. In the game's first at-bat, he had Rafael Furcal in a 1-2 count before giving up a single, and then followed that up with a dreaded four-pitch walk to Russell Martin. Three runs would eventually score.
In the second inning, he started the at-bat against Dodgers' starting pitcher Chad Billingsley with three straight balls, before eventually walking him. It's little things like that that make you think, "Something's not right."
Pressured or not, however, that's probably that -- Gorz will likely head to the 'pen, and James Russell will likely head back to Iowa. Having said that, I know it would not at all be fair to Tom, but I'd almost be in favor of sending him to Iowa to have him continue to start games, with the understanding that the Cubs would soon trade either him, Lilly, or Silva for either some relief help, or some quasi-talented young players. But what do I know?
On offense, there were some blown opportunities, sure, but five runs are five runs, definitely enough to give your team a chance to win. Perhaps more importantly in the long run, I don't know who looked worse last night: Kosuke Fukudome or Tyler Colvin.
I think it's pretty clear that, with Soriano and Byrd carrying most of the load on offense so far this year, Kosuke should be feeling the most pressure in terms of being replaced as an everyday starter in favor of Colvin. But for Tylermania! to replace anyone at all, he has to earn it, regardless of how poorly the Fook performs in May (.254/.338/.397 as of right now).
Colvin looked ugly in his first inning at-bat, swinging at two super-low breaking pitches to strike out. He walked in the third, but then didn't take the bat off his shoulder in the fifth, striking out again. So, yeah, he isn't seeing the ball real well lately. And it's not like he ever has -- the kid didn't walk once in spring training this year. But you know what might help improve his eye? Maybe some regular playing time. But again, what do I know?
The Cubs go for the series win this afternoon. Theo gets the start against some young guy. Have fun with that.
Ryan Dempster is vindicated! Except not quite. Sigh.
Demp starred in last night's outing, mostly by not crapping his pants and/or giving up any grand slams. No, but seriously, eight innings, seven strikeouts to only one walk, and just three hits. That'll do it.
I was hoping Ryan would get a shot at completing the game, but I'm not going to complain about the opportunity to watch Carlos Marmol make lame-os like Manny Ramirez look compleetly stoopid with his narsty slider.
Derrek Lee knocked in all three Cub runs, taking himself above both the .230 mark in batting average as well as the .700 mark in OPS. He'll keep coming back around, I promise. (For the record, Fangraphs' preferred predictor suggets he'll hit .280/.364/.476 for the rest of the season, which would be fine by me.)
So yeah, see? Winning is easy!
Nice and important win. Cubs take a 4 run lead in the first inning on a few dinks and then a Soriano blast and they hold it thru a less than stellar Carlos Silva and some shaky middle relief. This is the first time the Cubs have pitched both John Grabow and Bob Howry in the same game and they still managed to win!
Soriano made a nice, slightly awkward, diving catch but also saved a run when the Rangers attempted a comeback in the seventh on a double by Ian Kinsler, holding Elvus Andrus, who runs like the wind, at third base. That kept the score 5-4 and some great pitching by Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol, they managed to keep it that way.
With the win and losses by both the Cardinals and the Reds, the Cubs have parlayed a surprising 3-2 road trip into a 4.5 game deficit in the central. Day off tomorrow. Let's relish all the big close game wins for the Cubs and get ready for a tough Dodgers series on Tuesday.
Last night's effort to score runs got little help from most of our veteran regulars. Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee, and Aramis Ramirez each went 0-for-5, and Marlon Byrd and Geo Soto were also hitless.
Instead, it was Alfonso Soriano and... the... Sorianettes? that got most of the work done. The Fonz himself blasted a two-run homer, Darlin' Starlin Castro added a solo shot to the opposite field (...!!!), and Tyler Colvin and Kosuke Fukudome came off the bench in the top of the tenth inning to lead off with back-to-back hits, with both eventually scoring to give the Cubs a two-run lead, all of which Carlos Marmol would end up needing.
Randy Wells posted a solid performance, allowing three earned runs in 8.1 innings, with six strikeouts and only one walk, seemingly solidifying his position in the rotation while Carlos Zambrano pitches a simulated game on Monday.
In Carrie Muskat's article that explained that Z would be throwing a sim game, Lou was quoted as saying he didn't know what his rotation will be once Z comes back into it. Frankly, I can't figure it out either.
Well folks, this one had a little bit of everything: Starlin Castro being good (mostly), a nice comeback to tie it up, John Grabow blowing a game, and Aramis looking feeble.
I'm just going to ignore most of the game and skip right to the part where Grabow came into the game in the 8th. What is Lou thinking bringing Grabow into a tie game? This situation has played out countless times in close games, and always with the same result: bringing Grabow into a game as a "stopper" is about as successful as throwing water on a grease fire. In this game, Grabow came into the 8th inning with one out and gave up a walk, got a deep flyout, and then allowed another walk and a hit that scored the winning run. Epic failure, once again. This is about the time where the Cubs need to start dreaming up some mystery ailment that Grabow can get for an entire season. I'm sure David Patton can let Grabow in on what he was afflicted with last season.
Despite the incompetence of John Grabow, the Cubs still had a chance in the 9th to tie it up. Soriano led off the inning with a walk/hit by pitch and advanced to third on a Fontenot single. However, with runners at the corners and no outs, the Cubs failed to put a ball in play. Probably the most disappointing out came when Aramis flailed at ball 4 to strike out for the second out of the inning. Honestly, he looks about as lost at the plate as it gets.
On a good note, Jeff Stevens looked good and had a scoreless IP and Derrek Lee went yard on a no-doubter in the 7th. Kosuke tied it up in the 8th with a shot to right field off left-hander Anthony Bastardo.
Not much else to say other than that this game was both frustrating and emotionally draining. I keep hoping Lou will figure out that Grabow shouldn't be used ever, but based on his use of Bob Howry last year, I think this is a pipe dream.
Who says the Cubs don't draft well?
OK, so maybe they don't. But last night's starting lineup featured four Cub products -- Theriot, Colvin, Soto and Castro -- and every reliever that appeared last night has been through our minor league system, including Caridad, Russell, Marshall, and that one guy who will soon become a long reliever so he can become a starting pitcher but until then will be the backup closer.
Major kudos to James Russell, who according to Fangraphs' leverage index was the ballsiest player of the night last night. And I'd agree with that. He came on with the tying run at first -- which later got to second on a bloody-nose-inducing steal courtesy of Miguel Olivo. Bleeding aside, the run didn't score, and our late inning guys had a lead to hold.
Three hits for Tyler Colvin, who is now back to hitting .300. In 15 May at-bats, he's got a .908 OPS (boosted by his home run that I believe was hit in Cincinnati). And guess which Japanese prospect blocker has an OPS below .800 so far this month? Hint: It's Kosuke, who has a .759 over 48 at-bats.
Derrek Lee struck out three times. I suppose he did hit that double late in the game, but I was pretty pissed off in the first inning when the Cubs had runners on first and third and no outs and neither he nor Ramirez could bring one of the damn things home.
And Carlos Silva wins again. Five-and-oh for the season. Gee whiz. He was cruising early, and I wonder how much longer he would have gone if not for the mistake to Helton.
In my defense, Rafael Betancourt's first inning of work was fine. Betancourt, of course, was the guy I was pimping earlier this week as a trade target for the Cubs; he does have a good fastball, and he did strikeout Theriot. Also, try telling me the Cubs don't need a right-handed power reliever after Caridad's performance last night. He should be thanking God for the size of James Russell's testicles.
Actually, yeah, I'm gonna leave it right there. Go Cubs.
Who knew Aramis Ramirez could still hit?
Three RBI for the day, including a deep shot "into the night," as Lenny Kasper called it, ending this one in the bottom of the 11th inning. I actually thought he skied it when he hit it, but apparently he really REALLY skied it -- enough to get it out of the park.
Starlin Castro had three hits -- all singles -- and a stolen base against Miguel Olivo, who is apparently quite good at picking off base runners.
But about those singles: I think it's likely that the home run Castro blasted in his debut was the last homer we'll see from him for a long while. The kid doesn't have an extra-base knock since his first game. I think he'll hit plenty of doubles this year -- his first inning liner almost gave him a two-bagger -- but he's got a ways to go before he can afford to start swinging for the fences again.
Tyler Colvin had a hit and a walk, and also struck out once. He now has 17 strikeouts on the season to go against his seven walks; in contrast, Castro has five walks, against two strikeouts.
Derrek Lee had a rough night. These things happen I guess.
Most folks were fairly outstanding on the pitching side for the Cubs. Kudos to Lou for using Marmol in the high leverage situation -- bases loaded, one out -- instead of saving his "closer" for a "save situation." I suppose that's kind of an easy decision, but not every manager would have gone that way. Which is sad. Also, Marmol was nasty again. Surprise surprise.
You know who else was nasty? Sean freakin' Marshall. I'd encourage any and all fans arguing that we trade Marsh to stop what they're doing and re-evaluate their positions. Marshall is a control guy, not a flame-thrower, so he could have a really long career of throwing junk all over the corners of the plate.
In 20.1 innings pitched this season, Sean Marshall has allowed 11 hits, and given up just three unintentional walks, to go with 27 (!!!) strikeouts. DAMN.
Kudos also to Randy Wells, for another solid start. Also John Grabow sucks.
And now Z is eventually headed back to the rotation? Whatever that means. I suppose we'll see what happens.
Cubs win, oh yeah, get excited.
Since I work evenings, I don't typically get to watch the Cubs games live but today was an exception and what a game it was.
Some observations from the game:
Pitchers: Ted Lilly settled down and got some help from his defense today. He has probably been the worst of the Cubs' starters this year but today, he was fine, only allowed 3 runs in the second to the bottom of the lineup of the Pirate juggernaut. He threw strikes, didn't give up a HR and stayed in for 7 strong. He even gutten thru a tough 7th inning where the Pirates loaded up the bases but failed to score.
Carlos Marmol may be the most unhittable pitcher in all of baseball. Having said that, did anyone notice that he had a .424 BABIP coming into today's game? Incredible. Marmol's control has been very good this year and today he made the awesome Pirate offense look like members of well, the Pirates.
Sean Marshall was excellent shutting the door in the 8th inning but here's the question, where was Zambrano? Wasn't this exactly the type of role in which he was supposed to used? I am so confused as to what Lou is doing with him.
Hitters: Alfonso Soriano is making me think that having him around for four more years might not be the worst thing in the world. OK, maybe not, but he's really hitting the ball well now and went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. He stole second in the 7th and took third on a wild pitch with 2 outs (thank God he didn't get thrown out, the Soriano haters would have been out in force!). He skated around pretty bad in left field especially in that 3 run second but ultimately, it didn't lead to the Cubs giving up more runs. The more I watch him, the more he looks like Lonnie Smith to me out there.
Kosuke Fukudome made two great defensive plays in the 7th inning. The first one was on a throw that kept Stephen Pearce from taking third on a flyball to right. Len and Bob figured he'd take the base easily. I was following the game on CBS and they had Pearce on third but Fukudome probably would have thrown him out if he had tried. That play was fortuitous because the next batter was the pitcher and he pulled his bat back and lined a long liner to Fukudome that Kosuke had to take a weird angle to before catching it over his right shoulder. It was awesome and saved the Cubs as much as anything else that came after.
D-Lee and Aram look like they may be getting their swings back. Both hitters hit several hard balls today that were caught. Starlin Castro is a contact making machine. Watching him closely today, he has Theriot' approach combined with a better contact rate and more power potential. He is going to be good. I would not be shocked to see him put together .350/.400/.530 seasons in his prime.
It's good to see Nady come thru with the hit that won the game but there isn't much to say other than that. A decent hitter should have gotten that hit so it's no surprise that Nady lined the third or fourth mistake in the at bat to right field. I'd love to see Nady hit a little better because it's almost time for either Fuku or Byrd to move into a cold run and the Cubs can't really rely on Tyler Colvin all the time.
All in all. A good win and it's nice to see the Cubs pull out one of these close ones from time to time.