Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Series Previews

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Series Preview: Cubs at St. Louis - a tale told in photoshops

Series Previews
Match-Ups
Ah yes, the Cubs and Cardinals.  The bitterest of rivals.  Their fans hate -- and will occasionally fight -- each other.  These two teams have held a stranglehold on the NL Central for most of this decade, with the '06 World Champion Cardinals coming out ahead. 

Rather than make a traditional Series Preview, I thought I'd do one better ... here's a series of many of the Cardinals photoshops we've done through the years.  In theory, you'll be able to tell the older from the newer based on how much they suck.
Grandpujols
Yoda Pujols
Cubs Cards
Cardinals fans
Cubs Cards
Flask Tony

Cards Couple
Grandpa Pujols

Steroids
Pujols

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Series Preview: Cubs vs. Brewers



Overview

A few months ago this four-game series looked like a season-defining moment. Now it’s just an attempt by two meh-ish to become eh-ish teams. How disappointing. Especially since I have tickets for one of these games. Damn September.

Anyway, it’s been a season of disappointment for both teams, so which one of them will age through the twilight of the season gracefully and which one will crap their pants hysterically?

Let’s find out.

The Matchups
September 14th - Jeff Suppan vs. Ryan Dempster
Suppan has had a tough season. More specifically he has had a tough three months. Suppan has only won one start since June 12. This is probably because he has given up more hits (86) than innings pitched (65) in that time period. Just sayin’.

Believe it or not, Dempster is pitching for his 10th win of the season. It seems almost as improbable as Taylor Swift winning Female Music Video of the year, but it’s going to happen. Did you hear that Kayne West? It’s going to happen.

September 15th - Yovani Gallarado vs. Carlos Zambrano
Two aces, two average records, two decent ERAs. While both Gallarado (12-11, 3.59) and Zambrano (8-6, 3.77) don’t have the worst numbers in the world, neither is throwing like an ace should throw. Let’s see someone earn his paycheck…preferably not the guy from Milwaukee.

September 16th - Braden Looper vs. Rich Harden
Despite a 4.77 ERA, Looper has a 12-6 record on the season. I guess that makes him the ace of the staff. Then again, ever since Sabathia and Sheets left, the word “ace” has been used rather liberally with the Brewers.

Despite how well Harden has been pitching since the All-Star Break, his last start says a lot about why the Cubs might not bring him back next season. Although he only gave up two hits and one earned run while striking out six, he also walked five batters and threw 103 pitches in only four innings. Harden needs to show he can be more efficient.

September 17th - Dave Bush vs. Randy Wells
Bush has pitched well in his last two starts going seven innings in both contests while only giving up three earned runs combined. He also struck out 11 batters on only 97 pitches in his last start against the D-Backs.

Wells was on the wrong end of some bad defense in his last start, which usually doesn’t bode well for a sinkerball, contact pitcher. Can’t really put the fault on Randy for that one. The last time Wells faced the Brewers was during his 2009 debut on May 8. He pitched five scoreless innings.

Conclusion
It amazes me that a team with so much offensive power as the Brewers have can have such a bad season. Then again, it amazes me that a team with as high a payroll as the Cubs can suck so much.

So I guess all we have left to play for is pride. I don’t want my team to lose to a team from Wisconsin. Wisconsin only exists to serve as a playground for Illinois. I am convinced that everyone who resides in Wisconsin is a hired actor. The place is just a gigantic theme park.

Go Cubs.

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Series Preview: Cubs vs. Reds

Series Preview
Match-Ups
Overview

Why do I love the Cincinnati Reds? Simple friends. They are a team with so much young talent, yet they are being run into the ground by a manager who overuses their arms and refuses to use their skill in the field as long as a subpar veteran is available instead. Life sure must suck in the Queen City. At least they had “Hard Knocks”, right? That show was sweet.

The Cubs have had their fair share cupcakes recently, and this weekend will be no different. Unfortunately, this is all for not as the teams that the Cubs need to catch keep winning (Last 10 games: St. Louis 8-2, Colorado 9-1, Cubs 6-4).

However, the Cubs are in position to offer two scenarios to their bipolar fan base.

For the pessimists, it is over. The Cubs will not catch the Rockies or Cards. It's nearly impossible. Feel free to drown yourself in beer or to thrown on your favorite Bears jersey in preparation of a football-induced hibernation.

For the optimists, the Cubs still have a chance…mathematically speaking. The schedule is loaded with easy W's and it only takes one big winning streak for the Cubs to potentially get back into this at the very last second. Let’s...go…Cubs…(starting slow clap).

Pick your poison Cubs fans. Personally, I prefer to have a few drinks and start yelling at the umpires inappropriately for no reason Rep. Joe Wilson-style.

The Matchups
September 11th – Justin Lehr vs. Rich Harden
Last time the Cubs saw Lehr, he threw a complete game shutout on four hits. Since then, things have been getting worse for Lehr (0, 1, 3, 6, 5, 4…earned runs given up in consecutive starts since August 5). Sounds like a young Reds pitcher to me.

Last time the Reds saw Harden, he threw 6 innings giving up two earned runs in the loss. It wasn’t a bad effort for Rich and he still got 9 strikeouts, so I wouldn’t expect much from a Reds team that lacks real coaching. Let the Hackfest begin.

September 12th – Johnny Cueto vs. Randy Wells
In three starts against the Cubs, Cueto is 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA. In three starts against the Reds, Wells is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA. Nuff said.

September 13th – Homer Bailey vs. Ted Lilly
Bailey is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his last four starts. Wow-zah. But his name is Homer for crying out loud. Could there be a worse name for pitcher?

Lilly has been a steady beacon of consistency since coming of the DL. He has struck out 78 batters and only walked 15 in his last 92 innings pitched. That’s some serious control brother. His middle name is Roosevelt. Bad ass.

Conclusion
In the immortal words of Chad Ochocinco, “Child, please.”

The Cubs should easily be able to pick up at least two games and continue their quest to a 90-win season. Although they will probably not make the playoffs even if they get there, at least my level of depression will be upgraded from “crippling” to “oppressive.”

Go Cubs...and Braves (playing the Cards) and Padres (playing the Rockies).

Tip for Purchasing Tickets Online


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marketplaces in the secondary market charge a service fee during
checkout regardless of what you are purchasing, such as Chicago Cubs tickets
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Series Preview: Cubs at Pittsburgh

Series Preview
Match-Ups
Overview
It's the Cubs against the Pirates ... one team is suckier than we ever imagined they could be, and the other team plays in Pittsburgh.  I'm pretty sure Rob is there for at least some of these games, hopefully he can provide us with some feedback on his experiences as the week progresses.

Match-ups
Ted Lilly vs. Daniel McCutchen
One looks like Bill Murray.  The other has a name that belongs in the wild west.  While Lilly is better than Sheriff McCutchen, it's just been one of those seasons for the Cubs. 

Ryan Dempster vs. Zach Duke
It's the bad luck ace against the guy who, back in Dusty's day, used to dominate the Cubs with a kind of ruthless authority.  It just goes to show how incompetent Dusty was that he couldn't seem to teach his players how to hit lefties.  Seriously.  Brutal.

Carlos Zambrano vs. Kevin Hart
Since joining the Pirates, Kevin Hart is 1-4 with a 6.35 ERA.  In other words, he fits in there perfectly.  Carlos, meanwhile, joins Ryan Dempster in a quest to escape the season with more than 9 wins ... a 10-win year would hardly be something brag about for the multi-kazillionaire ace, but with only about 5 starts to go for him he very well might miss the mark.  Which would be pathetic.

Conclusions
On the road or not, the Cubs should dominate these jabrones.  But will they?  Stay tuned to find out!  (Or, I dunno, maybe you could do something with an actual chance of entertainment and enjoyment, like spending an afternoon catching up with your incontinent elders, or something.)

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marketplaces in the secondary market charge a service fee during
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Series Preview: Cubs at New York



Overview

Two percent. That’s the chance coolstandings.com gives the Cubs of making the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus is slightly better at 2.8 percent.

Some you are still holding out hope for a 2ish percent chance at the playoffs, but I’m just hoping Lou will bench Soriano.

How many times is he going to let this guy burn us offensively and defensively before he realizes it’s time to give guys like Jake Fox and Sam Fuld more playing time?

Soriano just can’t play, even worse though, he might not want to play. I’m tired of seeing a bunch of players out there who look like they don’t care. Lou told Milton Bradley earlier in the season he wasn’t a ballplayer. Well why don’t you check out the rest of the team?

Put the guys out there who want to play and who have something to prove. Piniella has already done this with Koyie Hill by banishing Geo Soto to pinewood Purgatory. Now make this a team-wide plan. What do we have to lose at this point?

The Matchups
September 4th – Carlos Zambrano vs. Bobby Parnell
In my humble opinion, no one deserves the boo-treatment this season more than Zambrano. He is being out-pitched by a guy who traditionally can’t stay healthy, a guy who didn’t even pitch in the playoffs last season, and a guy who started the season in Iowa. In his two “starts” since returning from the DL, Z has given up 11 earned runs over 7.2 innings. Ace my ass.

The Cubs faced Bobby Parnell in his last start and roughed the guy up. Nine hits and eight earned runs over 4.2 innings – not pretty. Like I said in the preview for the Mets series at Wrigley, Parnell isn’t that great on the road. Alas, he is less sh!tty at Sh!tty Field. Opponents are hitting .271/.348/.392 at home. Still not very good, but they are a lot better than his road numbers…trust me.

September 5th – Rich Harden vs. Nelson Figueroa (according to the Chicago Tribune)
Harden finally came back down off of his high against the Astros and pitched much more like the Rich Harden we all know and get frustrated with. Although he struck out nine ‘Stros, he also gave up five earned runs and walked six guys. Six! The Mets strikeout the least of all NL teams, so it could be a tough night for a guy who relies so much on K's.

Another game against the Mets and another pitcher the Cubs have faced recently. Figueroa threw a gem at Wrigley going 7 innings and giving up only one run on six hits. He also had 10 strikeouts. But don’t fear the Fig my friends. He sucks it hard in NYC. He has a 6.87 ERA at Citi Field as compared to 1.32 on the road.

September 6th – Randy Wells vs. Mike Pelfrey
See, this is what I’m talking about. Randy Wells has been pitching for his Major League life all season and I think we can all agree he has earned a position in next season’s starting rotation. Randy is a perfect example of the kind of player I want on my Cubs team. I want a guy who wants to win and feels like he has something to prove. Right now, we have too many asshats (Z, Sori, Dempster, Bradley) who are satisfied with their abilities. Wells is a perfect example of a guy who can succeed despite not having the best physical talents or hype.

It looks like Pelfrey is starting to lose his command. In his last two starts, he gave up five walks (both season highs) and lost both games. The Cubs don’t draw a lot of walks or have a particularly high team OBP, but we’ve seen this team display some patience before. Make Pelfrey throw strikes guys. Sometimes the offensive game plan just writes itself.

Conclusion
The Mets are about as bad as a team the Cubs will face for the remainder of the season. While I enjoy watching them beat up a bunch of minor leaguers as much anyone else, this series offers Lou another chance to get a head start on 2010 by finding out who WANTS to play.

Lou might or might not be here next season, but he certainly can have an impact on the team that will take the field come April if he would just pull his head out of Soriano’s ass.

Go Illini…(errr)…Go Bears…(getting closer)…Go Cubs.

Tip for Purchasing Tickets Online
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marketplaces in the secondary market charge a service fee during
checkout regardless of what you are purchasing, such as Chicago Cubs tickets
or anything else. Typically you can walk through the first few steps of
checkout to find out if there will be any additional charges.  From
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Series Preview: Cubs vs. Astros

Series Preview
Match-Ups
Overview

From Steve Stone’s Twitter page on August 30: “A few cub fans have given up on this years playoffs. Take a close look at the schedule and the rockies current losing streak. Still a chance”

Stoney never struck me as an optimist, but I guess there are still some of you out there that have faith in this team. If believing the Cubs can win the Wild Card (5.5 games back) helps you sleep at night, then by all means continue to believe.

I, on the other hand, am about to walk out the door to watch the Cubs play tonight in what I consider a meaningless game. It will be the first time in 3 years that I have been to a meaningless game at Wrigley Field. One only knows where that can lead...

As I said in my preview for the Mets series, 2010 is already here for me. While it appears that the team is set outside of one or two additions for next season, I have to disagree with Lou’s philosophy in the waning hours of 2009. Instead of playing veterans like Soriano, Fontenot, or even Soto, why not give guys like Fox and Fuld more PT. I’d particularly like to see Fox get some starts at catcher.

Anyway, the AssBlows roll into town for three games. Sweet fancy Moses do I hate these guys. From their team name to their uniforms to Miguel Tejada, I cannot stand Houston’s baseball team. Like the Nationals though, the Astros have a high team batting average (.264, fifth best in the NL), so this could be a tough series for a pitching staff that looks more hittable everyday.

The Matchups
August 31st – Roy Oswalt vs. Rich Harden
Before his last start in St. Louis, Oswalt hadn’t lost a game in more than two months. By "ace" standards, Oswalt isn’t having that great of a season, but Houston’s offense hasn’t exactly been helping him out. He is 0-1 with a 3.68 ERA against the Cubs this season.

After being claimed by Minnesota, Harden remains with the Cubs for the rest of 2009. As such, the Cubs have been enjoying the kind of dominance that only a pitcher auditioning for a new job can provide. Harden gave up two earned runs to the Nationals in his last start and he remains the most dominant pitcher on this staff since the All-Star Break. Harden’s overall ERA now sits at 3.99 while his second half ERA is 1.80.

September 1st – Brian Moehler vs. Randy Wells
MLB.com’s probable pitchers section says Brain Moehler has a “far better” ERA on the road than at home. So a 4.35 ERA is "far better" than a 6.14 ERA? That’s like deciding between being punched in the face or kicked in the nards. They both suck, but I guess one is “far better” than the other.

Everyone was talking about how the Nationals ripped up Zambrano in his first start back from the DL, but Wells didn’t have the best performance against D.C. either (five runs, five hits, four walks). It was the first time a “bad” team had any real success against Wells all season, so one might think that Randy is starting to get tired as the year comes to an end. Can't fault the guy for that. He is given everything the Cubs asked of him and more.

September 2nd – TBA (ESPN says Felipe Paulino) vs. Ted Lilly
In his three starts since coming back from the DL, Lilly has a 1.86 ERA but no wins. Lilly is 3-0 against the Astros this season with a 3.57 ERA. This will be the first time he faces them at Wrigley in 2009. Did I mention his ERA at home is 1.92? “W” time.

Conclusion
I’m going to wrap this up quickly so I can practice my heckling skills on my dog before the game starts. Carlos Lee has no idea what he’s getting himself into tonight.

The Astros are a junk team that the Cubs should be able to win at least two games against starting with tonight. I only worry about the Wells start.

For those of you still holding out hope, the Rockies/Giants (Wildcard leaders) both have the night off while the Braves/Marlins (ahead of the Cubs in the WC standings) play each other. The Cubs have a solid chance of passing either the Braves or the Marlins this series while also picking up some ground on the leaders. Sleep tight optimists.

Go Cubs.

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Series Preview: Cubs vs. Mets



Overview

Do you remember where you were for the first game of the 2009 season? I was at a bar (big surprise) in Champaign watching the game with a few close friends. Soriano hit a lead-off home run, Zambrano was dealing for six innings, Ramirez smacked a dinger, Fontenot had three hits, a unicorn was born, and everything was right with the world.

Now only a few months later, we’re playing mop-up games against the equally disappointing Mets after losing a series to the worst team in baseball at home. Eff-in-a.

If you read past the title of this post, then I commend you. I know many of you have given up on 2009 (myself included), so I’m surprised you’re taking the time to read on as opposed to buying Jay Cutler Fatheads.

There really isn’t much to look forward to as NYM rolls into town. The Mets are throwing what has essentially become a minor league squad onto the field as most of their stars are hurt.

Still, there is some value in these games. First, you could drink yourself silly in public if you happen to be attending (Remember, beer in stomach and not on Hawaiian people). Second, you can teach children sitting nearby that being a Cubs fan will most likely result in their early deaths due to stress-related issues. Or third, you can start over.

Since I believe the Cubs will have an extremely similar lineup in 2009 as they will next season due to some untradeable contracts, let’s start getting ready. Welcome to Opening Day 2010.

The Matchups
August 28th – Pat Misch and Ted Lilly
Misch will be making his first start for the Mets this season and his first start since last season. He isn’t exactly known as a strikeout pitcher (13 K’s in 18.2 innings), so the Cubs should be able to make contact all day. Also, Misch is from Northbrook. To the people of Northbrook: your mall sucks because it’s too clean. That freaks me out. Stop it.

TRL has been a beast at home this season going 6-1 with a 1.86 ERA. His goal in this game should simply be to shut down the Mets like I want to shut down those stupid ass Shaq/Ben Stein Comcast commercials. This game is all about focus and mental toughness for Lilly.

August 29th – Bobby Parnell vs. Ryan Dempster
Of all the starters the Mets will be featuring in this series, Parnerll has the most experience (and I use that term lightly) with 62.0 innings pitched. Too bad he has an 8.82 ERA as a starter in 2009. Woof. Lefties have a .389 OBP against Parnell and opposing hitters have a .404 OBP when he pitches on the road. That might have something to do with the ERA. Just saying.

Although Dempster’s ERA is just barely above 4.00, the guy has really struggled this season. Some attribute this suckery to the fact that Dempster has never pitched back-to-back successful 200-inning seasons. Speaking of which, Dempster has thrown 143.2 innings of baseball this year (the most on the team). The guy just isn’t a horse and he can’t be relied on as such.

August 30th – Nelson Figueroa vs. Carlos Zambrano
It’s almost insulting the lack of talent New York has on their team. Could you imagine if we were Mets fans? I’m not sure if we’re better off though. Most of the major contributors on the Cubs are healthy yet they still suck. No excuses there. Anyway, Figueroa enjoyed success against the Fish because he said they were unfamiliar with all five of his pitches. Cubs have seen Figueroa a bit and he is 0-4 against them. Rut Roh.

Many will argue that Milton Bradley has been the biggest distraction on the 2009 team, but I’m going to give that honor to the Sullivan-branded Lay-Z-Boy. Bradley’s a nice player with a lot of talent that I like, but Zambrano’s stuff is just untouchable, yet he is unable to maximize even half of his potential. I would say Z should have a good game against this pea-shooter lineup, but who knows what will happen after the Nationals incident.

Conclusion
I’ve never considered myself a “Wait ‘til Next Year” type of guy, but I think we’re all resigned to the fate of this team. Unlike most teams that don’t reach the playoffs though, I don’t see the Cubs making any big changes in the offseason. Aside from a few bench spots, a couple bullpen roles, and perhaps a rotation gig, this team is pretty much set for next season.

So why not start treating it like next season? Say hello to your 2010 Chicago National League Ballclub.

Go Cubs.

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Series Preview: Cubs vs. Nationals

Series Preview
Match-Ups
Overview

Check out these two stat lines…

NL Team #1: 13th BA, 10th OBP, 10th OPS, 7th BB
NL Team #2: 3rd BA, 2nd OBP, 4th OPS, 3rd BB

Based on these numbers, who would you think is the team with a record above .500 and who is the worst team in all of baseball? That’s right my friends. NL Team #1 is your Chicago Cubs and NL Team #2 is the Mighty Nationals of the District of Columbia of Washington.

While I’m just as tired as you are of watching the Cubs get knocked around like a Tijuana prostitute, they can’t think they are just going to roll over the Nationals (yes, I did just type that despite their 44 wins) because they can hit suckas.

Cubs pitching actually did a decent job for the most part over the road trip, but the offense needs to catch up. Scoring against the Nationals should be easy. The operative word of course being “should.”  

The Matchups
August 25th – Garrett Mock vs. Carlos Zambrano
It appears that Mock has been used in relief for most of the season aside from the last month. He started against the Cubs on July 19 in DC and gave up 7 runs (4 earned) over 3.1 innings. However, Mock is 2-1 in August and has allowed 6 earned runs over the last 21 innings. Then again, three of those four starts came against the Pirates, D-Backs, and Reds.

While Big Z vowed to take his abdominal workouts more seriously in order to combat the back spasms that have kept him on the DL for much August, I think we’re much more likely to see Zambrano walking around with a 6-pack inside of his stomach than with one under his shirt. I’m feeling a short outing in this one despite Z's success when coming back from the DL.

August 26th – J.D. Martin vs. Rich Harden
John Dale Martin is a rookie. He has only pitched against one team with an above .500 record this season. He gives up lots of homers (7 in 34 innings). John Dale could become a very close friend of the Chicago Cubs.

On July 4, Harden gave up 7 earned runs in one game. Since the All-Star Break, Harden has only allowed 7 earned runs total. On July 4, Harden struck out one batter. Since then, he has struck out at least six in every start. I don’t know what has gotten into this guy, but Rich has got his groove back.

August 27th – John Lannan vs. Randy Wells
With his 4.03 ERA, Lannan is the “best” starting pitcher the Nationals have this season. After a dominating June and a decent July, Lannan has finally remembered what team he is on. Lannon has given up at least four earned runs in his last three starts (7,4,5). Opponents are hitting .299 with a .885 OPS against Lannan when he is pitching on the road.

After I called out Randy last week for not pitching particularly well against above .500 teams, he goes out and throws a solid game against the Dodgers. Unfortunately the Cubs were only able to get one hit and Wells got the loss. Just like old times, right? This will be only the second time Wells pitches at Wrigley this month. He hasn’t lost at home since July 12.

Conclusion
Of the final 24 games the Cubs play at Wrigley this season, 23 come against teams with losing records. I would think the Cubs NEED to win at least 20 of those games to even have a chance of sniffing the postseason.

Tonight’s starting lineup is as such (via Twitter)… riot, milt, lee, rami, fuky, sori, soto, font, Z.

Can’t say I agree with keeping Fuld, Fox, and Baker out of the lineup, but if these guys can’t score runs against the friggin Nationals then it we don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.

Go Cubs.

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Series Preview: Cubs at Los Angeles

Series Preview
Match-Ups
Overview

Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no. But then again, I’m just about ready to jump ship as the next guy.

Did you think the Cubs’ remaining schedule was more cupcake-loaded than Geovany Soto’s ass? Well guess again suckers. Now the Cubs head to L.A. to take on the National League-best Dodgers in a four-game series. Oi.

On the positive side, the Dodgers have actually been playing fairly craptacular baseball as of late. They have gone 7-11 in August and only have a 3.5-game lead over the Rockies in the N West. If ever there was a time to play the Dodgers, I guess now good.

The Matchups
August 20th – Tom Gorzelanny vs. Jeff Weaver
Until Tommy GoGo pitches a decent game against a good team, I will never agree he belongs in this rotation. Now he has a chance to convince me otherwise. The Dodgers have been jacking up left-handed pitching with a .289 team batting average and a .813 OPS against southpaws. Good luck Gorz.

Kurt Note
With Zambrano pitching in Peoria this weekend, Lou's going to have to figure out Gorzo's role pretty soon.  A tremendous outing from him tonight would go a long way toward creating a cluster-f**k in the rotation.  So book it.  Done.

The last time Jeff Weaver made it through the fifth inning was June 20 against the Angels. So expect this game to be another short outing. The Dodgers used four bullpen pitchers in their final game against the Cardinals last night, so maybe the Cubs can take advantage of a semi-tired group of relief pitchers.

August 21st – Randy Wells vs. Randy Wolf
When I look at the body of work Wells has put together this season, I see a guy who has won the games he was supposed to win. Wells dominates bad teams like every good pitcher should do. However, against the more talented MLB teams, Wells is only OK. In his 7 starts against quality teams (the Rockies, Cardinals, Braves, White Sox, Twins, Braves again, and Dodgers), he is 2-4 and has given up 20 earned runs in 43 innings. Could be tough night for Wells.

The other Randy threw a gem in his last appearance against the D-Backs in which he went 7.2 innings with 10 strikeouts. Wolf isn’t the type of pitcher that gives a hitter nightmares, but he has only allowed more than 3 earned runs once in the last two months. In all of those appearances, he has not pitched less than 6 innings.

August 22nd – Ted Lilly vs. Charlie Haeger
I’ve already mentioned how the Dodgers have fared against lefties this season, but TRL came off the disabled list looking good. I guess the rehab starts helped (Yes, I’m still mad about the way Lou and Hendry handled Dempster’s return). Lilly already faced the Dodgers this year on May 29 at Wrigley. He went 7 innings giving up 1 run on 4 hits.

Haeger has made one appearance this season in which he went 7 innings against the Cardinals giving up 3 runs on five 5 hits (2 of which were homers). Haeger is a knuckleball pitcher and (correct me if I’m wrong here) he will be the first knuckleballer the Cubs face this season. It could be an adventurous night for Milton Bradley and his "keen eye" for the strike zone.

August 23rd – Ryan Dempster vs. Chad Billingsley
The Good: Dempster struck out 10 against the Padres in his last start. The Bad: He gave up 4 runs on 8 hits and took the loss. Opponents are hitting .296 against Dempster since the All-Star Break and his suckiness is becoming more apparent with every start. For those of you that are advocating Lou to move Dempster back to closer, forget about it. There’s no doubt Dempster would take on the assignment if asked, but his contract is too big to move him back to the 'pen.

On a staff that doesn’t have a clearly defined ace, Chad Billingsley is about as close as it gets. His overall stats look good (12-6, 3.70 ERA), but Chad has had his issues with control ad endurance this season. He has walked four or more batters 10 times and hasn’t thrown more than 100 pitches since June 10. If the Cubs can wait him out, then they could have a big night against Billingsley.

Conclusion
The last time the Cubs were this far out of first place was back in July 2007. Think about that for a second. Two Thousand Friggin Seven.

Unlike that situation though, time is running out rather quickly on the 2009 Cubs and it isn’t getting any easier this weekend. The Dodgers don’t have a particularly strong rotation for a team with 71 wins, but the lineup can be terrifying.

Dodger Stadium is a pitcher-friendly park, but it still isn’t as cavernous as Petco, so hopefully Lou can pocket his excuses for the weekend.

This is one of the few times left in this season when the Cubs will actually have to play good baseball in order to win a series. Some signs of life would be welcomed, but I’d settle for a 2-2 split.

Go Cubs.

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Series Preview: Cubs at San Diego

Previews
Match-Ups
Overview

The lazy, fat, stupid losers return to the Whale’s Vagina for the second time this season where they were swept in a 3-game series back in May. Remember that series reader? It was when the Cubs scored a total of 3 runs throughout the entire weekend. Gives a man nightmares just thinking about it.

Of course now the Cubs are fighting for their postseason lives and the Padres are fighting for the best fares on plane tickets to golf resorts. Needless to say, this matchup is a bit one-sided.

Let’s not sleep on the Padres though. They did give the Cardinals two tough games in St. Louis and they have a legitimate power hitter in their lineup (Adrian Gonzalez) unlike the Pirates.

For those of you scoreboard watching, the Cardinals will be just up the road in LA to take on the Dodgers for three games. If Mannywood can’t win at least one of those games, then I will burn Dodger Stadium to the ground. Then again, the series will feature Carpenter and Wainwright.

Regardless, this is the best chance the Cubs have at catching up for the next month until they go to St. Louis on Sept. 18…

The Matchups

August 17th - Ted Lilly vs. Kevin Correia
Lilly returns from the disabled list as he makes his first start since July 20. Everyone knows TRL has had a tough time pitching on the road, but he is fortunate enough to take the mound at one of America’s largest national wildlife parks. Lilly has only walked more than 3 batters once all season and I’m guessing he will enjoy success if he doesn’t give the Padres any free bases. San Diego has the second lowest team BA in the National League. Make them earn it.

With Jake Peavy gone, Correia and his 4.51 ERA take over as the team’s interim ace. Although his overall stats aren’t particularly impressive, Correia has only allowed more than three runs once in his last eight starts. He’s also coming off of four consecutive quality starts and has a 2-1 record.

August 18th - Ryan Dempster vs. Cesar Carrillo
As it’s been pointed out on this blog, Dempster basically went “Rocky IV” on us last season during his contract year and put up some sick stats. Then he got big money and returned to the .500 pitcher he has been for most of his career. Then again, Dempster has never pitched successful back-to-back 200-inning seasons, so maybe the guy is incapable of being a reliable starter. He is 1-2 with a 6.20 ERA in his last four starts at Wrigley, so Demp is probably happy to be at Petco.

He can kill two stones with one bird. The dark is afraid of him. He lives vicariously through himself.  He is the Most Interesting Man in the World. OK, not really, but doesn’t the name Cesar Carrillo sound like it should belong to the guy from Dos Equis commercials? Anyway, Carrillo was roughed up in his first Major League start by the Brewers. Now he has a 30.86 ERA. That’s…interesting.

August 19th - Randy Wells vs. Mat Latos
Nothing cures what ails ya like 17 runs of support and facing the Pittsburgh Pirates. Something tells me Wells won’t enjoy the same luxury, but I’ve been wrong before. Wells has only given up 4 homers and never walked more than two batter while pitching on the road this season. And people wonder why he is so good.

Latos is one of the top prospects the Padres have and he has been dominating since being called up July 19…except for his last start. The Cardinals put up 7 runs against Latos and he was out by the fourth inning. There is no doubt Latos is the most talented pitcher the Cubs will face in this series, but how will Latos respond to his first big league shelling? This could be a matchup of future aces.

Conclusion
You can control being fat. You can control being lazy. But you cannot control being stupid.

Jim Hendry put together a strong team on paper to begin the season, but I think we can all agree the mental toughness is just missing. Hendry might have signed some talented players, but he also signed some thick-skulled morons. A smart PROFESSIONAL athlete doesn’t let his body get out of shape. He doesn’t raid the food spread after every game like he is going to the electric chair. He doesn’t become happy with what he has.

If the Cubs don’t sweep the Padres (or at least win two out of three), then I’m not going to blame it on their laziness or their waist sizes. I’ll just finally concede that these guys are too stupid to know they are better and more talented than almost everyone they face. Disappointing stuff.

Go Cubs.

Tip for Purchasing Tickets Online
Most online brokers and marketplaces in the secondary market charge a service fee during checkout regardless of what you are purchasing, such as Chicago Cubs tickets or anything else. Typically you can walk through the first few steps of checkout to find out if there will be any additional charges. From your friends at Neco.com
, the home of transparent pricing.

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