Slumping Cubs Miss Golden Opportunity

Marquis and soto 4-29.jpgBoy, the ones I really feel sorry for are the poor Cubs fans who sat through this miserable game at Wrigley.  The Cubs were once again defeated by the Milwaukee Brewers and are now tied for first with St.Louis.  The Cubs had a golden opportunity to get a win, with Brewers ace Ben Sheets throwing off a mound to live batters in two weeks, and boy was he rusty.  Sheets was out of the game by the fifth, giving up 4 runs.  He only gave up three hits but set a career high in walks, giving up seven of them.  Think about that.  Five innings, and ten runners on base and we only get 4 runs?  The Brewers on the other hand pounded the Cubs pitching staff.  They finished with 10 runs on seventeen hits and four walks.  Jason Marquis was horrible, also going five innings but giving up 5 runs on ten hits and one walk.  Big time PED user Mike Cameron came back to the Brewers line up and did a ton of damage, Cameron, Corey Hart, Bill Hall, and JJ Hardy all had three hits against the Cubs pitchers.  Just as bad as Marquis was the middle relief.  Kevin Hart came into the game in the sixth inning and gave up two single and a walk.  With the bases loaded and no out, Hart got Ryan Braun to hit into a fielders choice and Prince Fielder to hit into a double play.  Then in the seventh, everyone in the bullpen decided to stink it up at the same time.  Hart struck out Corey Hart, then gave up two more singles.  Lou brought in Sean Marshall to face lefty pinch hitter Tony Gwyn Jr, and proceeded to walk him to load the bases with one out.  Lou pulled Marshall for Michael Wuertz, and Wuertz walks Jason Kendall with the bases loaded to give the Brewers another run.  Wuertz got Weeks to line out to the shortstop, but then gave up a single to Cameron, scoring two more runs.

Fontenot his a bases loaded double off of Solomen Torres in the bottom half of the inning, which cleared the bases and cut the Brewers lead to 9-7.  Jon Lieber gave up a double to Fielder and with two outs, JJ Hardy singled Prince Fielder home.  That made it 10-7 and that would be the final score.  The offense was just brutal, with Reed Johson having his worst day
Fuku strikes out 4-29.jpgas a Cubs, going 0-5.  Theriot was 1-5, Lee was 1-4 with a walk and a home run, Ramirez was 1-2 with three walks.  That means the 1-2 combo of Johnson and Theirot went 1-10.  Not going to win like that.  Fukudome also did terrible, going 1-5 with no walks.  Thanks for putting him on the cover Sports Illustrated. Fukudome has gone into a tailspin, and so have the rest of the Cubs.  Fukudome has hit .211 in the five games at Colorado and Washington and that average will go down after tonight.  The once red hot Cubs offense can’t get a clutch hit to save their lives.  They better get it together quickly.  They still have two more with Milwaukee and three more with St. Louis.  The Cubs still have to face Jeff Suppan, who the Cubs lost to in the opening series, and Yovany Gallardo pitching on Wednesday.  Gallardo may be the most talented pitcher the Brewers have.  He will face off against Zambrano, which means Z can’t pitch against St. Louis.  The Brewers have taken three of the first four games these teams have played.  Can the Cubs respond?

Go Cubs!

Still the Cubs

Pinella 4-24.jpgTo be fair, he warned us.  Uncle Lou told us

“This is a long season. Let’s not get all crazy about this thing. Let’s just stay cautionary and let’s just keep playing good baseball, that’s all.”

But how could we not get crazy.  We swept the PIrates, We pounded the Mets, we got win number 10,000 in Colorado, we were winning 1-run games, we were blowing teams out, we were drawing walks, hitting in the clutch, stealing, hit and runs, we were on fire.  Even Ronnie Cedeno told reporters that the Cubs were thinking about the World Series!!! How could we not go crazy??!!

But no, Lou was right.  After dropping two out of three against the lowly Nationals, we are r
Lilly 4-27.jpgeminded that the Cubs are still the Cubs, and we still have a long way to go.  The Cubs really needed Sunday’s win, but fell short and ended up with a 2-3 record on this last road trip.  Ted Lilly had another decent start, striking out seven, and giving up only two runs on four hits and two walks over six innings.  He had one bad inning, the second, where he gave up back to back RBI singles to Willy Mo Pena and Will Nieves with two outs, scoring two runs for Washington.  Lilly and the bullpen only gave up one hit after the second inning, but that still wasn’t good enough to win.

 Washington’s starter, John Lannan, pitched seven innings, giving up four hits, four walks, three strikeouts, and zero runs.  The Cubs had Lannan on the ropes a few times, but they could not get the clutch hit again.  Lannan had a no hitter going untl the fifth inning until Ronnie Cedeno and Henry Blanco hit back to back singles.  Cedeno stole third and Blanco advance from second when Lilly missed a bunt, but Lilly struck out, leaving runners at second and third with one out for the top of the lineup.  Reed Johnson made a great play to beat out an infield single, loading the bases up for Ryan Theriot with one out, but Theriot hit into a 6-4-3 double playing, ending the threat.  The Cubs had another chance to put some runs on the board in the top of the sixth, but came away empty handed.  Lee led off with a walk, but Ramirez hit into a double play ball, but Aramis hustled and the Nats only got one.  I have seen Aramis hustling more this first month of the season than I have since he got here in 2003.  You know the Nats didn’t rush the play because they thought Ramirez wouldn’t hustle, but he beat it out.  Fukudome hit a ball that Willy Mo Pena misjudged, putting runners at second and third with only one out.  Then, DeRosa grounded out to the pitcher and Cedeno grounded out to second, ending the threat.  The Cubs never came close again.

If the Cubs win 2 ou
Fukdome out 4-27.jpgt of 3, we would have been feeling could.  If the Cubs would have swept the Nats, like we could have, we would have been going nuts, but now we come home with our tails between our legs.  A mighty mighty Milwaukee team is coming to town Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, followed by a three game set with the surprising Cardinals, who are now 1/2 a game back of the Cubs for first place.  The Brewers have much more thump then the Nationals, and their pitching is just as good.  The Brewers were able to take the opening series with the Cubs, 2-1.  Can the Cubs bounce back?  Can they make believers of us again?  We’ll find out when Jason Marquis takes the mound against Milwaukee ace Ben Sheets, who missed his last start because of tricep tightness.  Zambrano faces Jeff Suppan in the second game, and Yyovani Gallardo, who missed the opening series, will face Ryan Dempster.  This is not going to be easy folks, so hold on to your hats.

Go Cubs!

 

Zambrano and Cubs Blank Nats

W Flag.jpgAfter losing a heartbreaker the night before, the Cubs won in decisive fashion were able to avoid their first three game losing streak of the season.  With Saturday’s win , the Cubs have matched the highest April win total in franchise history with No. 16 — and there are three more games remaining. The team also won 16 in April 1969. Lou said before the seasson started that he wanted to get the Cubs off to a hot starts, especially since their are very few home games in September.  The Cubs still hold a 1 1/2 game lead over second place St. Louis and have a chance to make this a winning road trip with a win over the Nationals tomorrow.

Friday Night Heartbreak

It was a game that we have gotten used to the Cubs winning, but in the end,  backup catcher Wil Nieves’ hit a two-run, walk-off home run off Bob Howry for the win.  It was Neves’ first career home run.  The Cubs could not get a clutch hit, leaving ten men on base, including an eighth inning one out bases loadedsituation.  The loss took away from an incredible Reed Johnson catch that is being called one of the best catches ever. Ryan Dempster also pitched well, giving up only two earned runs in seven innings.  Dempster went deep into the game and other than a bad first inning, really should have gotten his fourth win.

Stopper Comes Through

The Cubs needed a good pitching performance to end a two game lossing streak, and he had another great outing.  This is by far the best Z has pitched in April.  Zambrano threw seven
Zambrano 4-26.jpgshutout innings, allowing five hits and striking out five.  He did walk four batters, but was able to get himself out of trouble every time.  The last three Cubs starters, Marquis, Dempster, and Zambrano all went seven innings, a relief for a bullpen that was definately taxed.  The Cubs were sparked by tablesetters Reed Johnson and Ryan Theriot.  WIth Washington’s Matt Chico on the mound, Johson, Theriot, and Lee were 6-6 in their first three at bats.  Johnson and Theriot led off the game with back to back singles, followed by a Lee single to score the first run of the game.  Aramis popped out, but Fukudome walked to load the bases.  DeRosa hit a single to score Theriot and Lee, making it a 3-0 ballgame.  In the top of the third and one out, Johnson singled and reached third on a Theriot single.  Both runners scored on Derek Lee’s double, and after just three innings, the Cubs led 5-0.  They may have scored more, but Derek Lee was caught stealing third base while Ramirez was up.  More on that later.  Aramis would later hit a two run double to give the Cubs a 7-0 lead.  Michael Wuertz looked a little better and Jon Lieber closed the game.

Stealing Bases

I know that Lou wants the Cubs to be more aggressive, especially when it comes to stealing third.  The only trouble is that the Cubs have gotten caught twice trying to steal third in the past two games.  It didn’t really cost them on Saturday, but it did on Friday.  With one out, Reed Johson was hit by a pitch.  He scored on a Ryan Theriot double, cutting the Nationals lead in half, 2-1.  With Derek Lee up to bat, Theriot was caught trying to steal third.  Lee would walk and Ramirez would reach on an infield single.  Who knows what may have happened if Theriot wasn’t thrown out?  Theriot was later thrown out at second on a strike’em out throw’em out.  Pinella still feels it was the right move. 

Theriot knocks out the ball 4-10.jpg“A lot of good things are happening that are not noticed by the casual fan,” Piniella said of his strategy. “One, pitchers are slide-stepping against us a lot more. Two, infielders are holding runners on, which are creating more holes, and catchers are calling more fastballs, and those are all advantages.

“You don’t want to see a baserunner thrown out with your [Nos.] 3, 4 hitters coming up.”

Theriot ran on a changeup, which was a good pitch to run on.

“You take a risk,” Piniella said. “With certain release points and also reports on how the catcher is throwing, certain times dictate you run and the percentages are in our favor. Unless you stumble, fall, or get a real bad jump, you’ve got an 85-percent chance of making it. When you do it, it works great.  We’re creating opportunities and forcing teams to adjust to our style of play.  Nothing’s going to work 100 percent, but if everything works 80 percent in your favor, you have to take advantage of those things.”

Fair enough.  The one thing that Bob Brenly mentioned after Theriot was caught Friday and Lee on Saturday is that the runners are not getting good secondary leads and they need to be moving towards second as the pitcher is winding up instead of flat footed.  I am sure Lou and his staff will adress this soon.

Cubs Need Lilly To Come Up Big

The Cubs would love nothing more than to win tomorrow, take the series, make this a winning road trip, and get some momentum going into a big three game set at home against Milwaukee.  Lilly will start for the Cubs while John Lannan will go for the Nationals.  Like Odalis Perez, the Nats’ starter on Friday, Lannan has pitched well but his record doesn’t indicate this because of Washington’s lackluster bats.  Lilly had a good outing last time and looks to build on that start.  Let’s hope the Cubs can continue to make franchise history on this road trip, winning it’s seventeenth game in April.

Go Cubs! 

 

Rockies End Cubs Six Game Winning Streak

L_flag.gifWell, we weren’t going to win every single game, but it kind of felt like we would.  The Cubs saw their six game winning streak come to an end at the hands of Rockies’ sinkerballer Aaron Cook.  Those red hot bats finally cooled, that great defense had a costly error, and a real weakness of the team was exposed.  I am still happy with a split against Colorado.  Everytime you roll through that lineup, it is full of great hitters.  Helton, Holliday, Atkins, Hawpe, Tulowitzki.  Just scary, and the Cubs still won the first game and came close to winning the second game.  The Cubs just need to bounce back against the Nationals. 

Jason Marquis gave the Cubs a quality start, going seven innings, and giving up two runs on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts.  Unfortunately, one of those hits was a solo home
Marquis 4-24.jpgrun to Chris Iannetta in the seventh inning to pur the Rockies ahead 2-1 in the seventh.  Nice to see Marquis have a quality start. 

“I feel like I’m taking a step in the right direction,” Marquis said. “I’ve been working hard between starts to be as consistent as possible. I’m trying to be real aggressive in the strike zone and make good pitches.”

 On the flip side, Cook was able to cool off the hot Cubs’ bats.  Therior, Lee, Ramirez, Fukudome, and DeRosa all went hitless.  When your 2-6 hitters don’t get any hits, you aren’t going to win many games.  Yet, even with such a bad offense day, the Cubs were still very much in it and had a chnace to win the game.  Down 2-1 in the top of the eighth, the Cubs looked like they would pull off another miracle win.  Geovany Soto started out the eighth with a single and Ronnie Cedeno came in to pinch run.  Felix Pie, the only Cub with multiple hits on the day, hit a single up the middle to put runners at first and second.  Pinch hitter Daryl Ward drew a walk to load the bases with one out.  Mike Fontenot hit a groundball towards second base, but he hustled to first to break up the double play.  With the game tied and only one out and Derek Lee on deck, Ryan Theriot hit the ball right at first baseman Todd Helton, who doubled off Fontenot to end the inning.  Wednesday night, Theriot gets it past Helton for the game winning hit and he’s a hero. On Thursday it ended a potential big inning for the Cubs.

With the game tied in the bottom of the eighth, the Cubs big weakness so far was exposed. 
Hart 4-24.jpgThe Cubs starters, other than Zambrano, have struggled to get past the fifth inning.  Lilly, Hill, Dempster, and Marquis have only been going four or five innings, putting a lot of miles on the Cubs bullpen. Every one of the Cubs bullpen staff has pitched ten or mroe innings.  Not only that, but two of them are really struggling, Kevin Hart and Michael Wuertz.  Wuertz was second in the league in stranding inherited baserunners last season, behind his teammate Carlos Marmol.  This season, Wuertz has ptiched 10.1 innings , given up 12 hits, seven earned runs, and three home runs.  Hart came up late last season and looked impressive, making the playoff roster over Jason Marquis, but this season he has struggled.  Hart took the loss today, but it wasn’t entirely his fault.

In the bottom of the eight, Hart gave up a leadoff double to Holliday.  Atkins grounded out to short, moving Holliday to third.  Lou then had Hart intentionally walk Brad Hawpe to get to Troy Tulowitzki.  Hart did exactly what he was supposed to, get Tulowitzki to ground into an inning ending double play, but Theriot dropped the exchange from Theriot, allowing the go ahead run to score.  Ryan Spilborgh hit a two-out, RBI single gave the Rockies another run and giving the Rockies a 4-2 lead.  After the game, Theriot admitted to rushing the play;

“Yeah, you’re trying to rush it,” Theriot said. “If you don’t turn it, they score. So of course you’re trying to do it pretty quick. But the bottom line is you gotta catch the ball first and see what happens.”

 The 136 Million Dollar Question

Alfonso Soriano told reporters he won’t be going to the minors to rehab from his right calf injury he suffered on April 15th. 

”Last year I didn’t do a rehab [assignment after a quadriceps injury], and this year I won’t do a rehab,” said Soriano, who fared well in his first on-field batting practice since last week’s injury.”

In his absence, the Cubs are 8-2.  When he was leading off for the Cubs, they were 7-4. NOt a huge difference, but what the Cubs have enjoyed is Reed Johson’s presence at leadoff.  Johnson is an ideall leadoff hitter, taking pitches, able to bunt, and has a high on base percentage.  Johnson is hitting .311 with a .394 on base percentage.  He also has a team first philosophy.  When he is behind in the count, he chokes up on that bat and makes contact.  He really makes pitchers work and is a pesky out.  Soriano is an All Star, but people have always questioned if he should hit leadoff, especially since the leg injuries he
Soriano injured 4-15.jpg suffered last year. He swings at a lot of bad pitches and he is a very streaky hitter.  When he’s hot, he can carry the team on his back, but when he’s cold, he looks really bad.  So with Soriano coming off the DL on May 1st, what will happen to Johnson?  Will he platoon with Pie, or is that a bad idea since Pie seems to be hitting the ball al little better lately?  One thing that we know, Lou has to bat Soriano in the leadoff spot.  He mopes when he doesn’t bat lead off and then becomes an automatic out in the middle of the lineup.  Lou tried it earlier in the year and quickly pulled the plug on that experiment. Lou told reporters that as soon as Soriano is ready, he is back in the leadoff spot;

”We want to make sure that he can do all the things that a leadoff hitter needs to do,” Piniella said. ”We don’t want to take any chances here early in the year, bringing him back too soon, and all of a sudden we’ve got another problem on our hands. But, yeah, when he comes back, he’ll go to left field and lead off.”

You know Cubs fans aren’t going to tbe happy with this, but there is a reason that Lou is 14th on the all time list for winningest managers.  I know that somehow, someway, he will do the right thing.

New Streak

The Cubs need to get a new winning streak started on Friday when they head to the Capital to face the Washington Nationals.  Despite a new ballpark, the Nats haven’t been too impressive.  The Nats will throw three lefties against the Cubs.  That means Johnson will lead off for those three games.  Ryan Dempster takes on lefty Odalis Perez.  Dempster hasn’t lost a game and Perez hasn’t won a game.  Perez has pitched well and has been a victim of horrible run support and bad defense.  Zambrano will take on Matt Chico in the second game of the series and Lilly will square off against John Lannan for the finale.  Let’s get back to our winning ways!

Go Cubs! 

 

Cubs Get Win Number 10,000

W Flag.jpgLadies and gentleman, if I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.  I’m going to be honest with you, I really thought the Cubs were going to lose this game.  No one gets this lucky.  No one gets this many clutch hits.  Sooner or later the breaks stop going your way.  I wasn’t that disappointed, with the Cubs having won five in a row.  But wait!!!! The Cubs were having none of that, came back, and stole a game from the Rockies.  The Cubs won an unbelievable ballgame tonight, 7-6 in extra innings to become only the second team in MLB history to reach the 10,000 win milestone.  If this is one of my beautiful Cubs dreams, don’t wake me up! Let me sleep!!

I don’t even no where to start.  How about the Cubs hitting to triples, one from Fukudome and one from Lee?  How about Lee and Soto having four hit nights.  How about that homer by Soto in that second?  How about Rich Hill and the Cubs leading 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth before giving up five runs and going through four pitchers? 

Could you believe that the Cubs had the bases loaded in the top of the seventh with only one
Ramirez jacks it 4-23.jpgout and one runner already in, before DeRosa lined out and D-Lee was doubled off second?  That should have been the ballgame.  All momentum should have gone to the Rockies.  The Cubs should have just hung their heads and given up?  But no, this team has fight.  After Bob Howry set down Holliday, Atkins and Hawpe in order in the bottom of the eighth, the Cubs had one more chance to win it.  Derek Lee started off the inning with a single.  Then to the surprise of Len and Bob, every member of Cubs nation, and Derek Lee himself, Lou pulled him for a pinch runner, Felix Pie. No pinch runner was needed as Aramis jacked one to deep left center off of Manny Corpas, who blew a game the night before, to give the Cubs a 6-5 lead.

Kerry Wood came in to close it out, and looked phenomenal, getting Tulowitzky and Torreabla out on consecutive strikeouts.  But then Rockies manager Clint Hurdle put in long time Cubs nemisis Scott Podsednick into the game.  Podsednick killed the Cubs when he was a Brewer, killed the Cubs when he was with the White Sox, and now he was standing at home plate against Wood.  I knew he would score.  Podsednick singled and scored the tying run on a Spilborghs double.  Ok, now the Cubs really should have lose.  The closer comes in, blows the game after the Cubs took the lead in the ninth, and again Colorado has the momentum

Then, in the top of the tenth, Kip Wells took over for Corpas.  Soto singled to lead off the inning and was lifted for pinch runner Mike Fontenot. Cedeno bunted to move Fontenot into scoring postition.  Daryl Ward came in to pinch hit for Wood and was intentionally walked.  With one out, Reed Johnson worked the count, but popped out to short left field.  With two outs and his Canjun twin on second, RyanTheriot hit a single down the first base line, scoring Fontenot.  Just to make things interesting, Carlos Marmol had to pitch the 10th and face Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, and Garrett Atkins, with Mark DeRosa playing first base!!  No sweat for Marmol as he retired them in order and the Cubs win. 

This was an amazing game and I am just going to soak this up.  My brother was at the game and will email me photos soon.  Jason Marquis will take the hill tomorrow against the Rockies in a day game, 2:05 start.

Go Cubs! 

Cubs Win Game Number 9,999

W Flag.jpgThe Cubs don’t have to convince the Mets that they are for real, not after the Cubs put another beat down on them, this time 8-1.  The Mets have got to be thankful this was only a two game series.  The Cubs hit a combined 15 runs off the NY, while the Mets could only manage two meager runs.  Not only that, but the Cubs did it in front of a nation wide audience, and now the Cubs are beginning to open a lot of people’s eyes.  Lou is trying to keep Cubs fans from going too crazy;

“This is a long season,” Piniella said. “Let’s not get all crazy about this thing. Let’s just stay cautionary and let’s just keep playing good baseball, that’s all.”

 

Sorry Lou, but the Cubs haven’t started out this good since 1975. Heck, old Crawly still wasn’t even born yet!   Not only that, but the Cubs are playing great baseball.  Did you realize that the Cubs are in the top five of every important hitting category?  They are in the top five in average, runs, onbase percentage, slugging, on base plus slugging, and stolen bases.  Great defense, smart baserunning, high on base percentage, cluch hits, and hopefully the pitching is starting to come around. Ted Lilly finally got his first win of the season, and will hopefully
Lilly pitches 4-22.jpgpitch like the Lilly we saw last season.  Lilly went six innings, giving up only four hits and one run.  The real test in this game came in the fourth inning.  For whatever reason, Lilly has had trouble this season in the fourth inning, but today he overcame that.  The Cubs blew a bases loaded no outs oppotunity in the second, when Ronnie Cedeno struck out and Henry Blanco hit into a double play.  Then it was the Mets’ turn.  In the top of the fourth, Lilly had a no hitter going.  He got the first batter, Jose Reyes, to strike out.  Then, former Cubs Angel Pagan hit a double to break up the no no.  Lily walked the next two batters, David Wright and Carlos Beltran, to load them up with only one out.  Lilly kept his composure and was able to get Carlos Delgado and Dameon Easley to pop out, ending the threat.

The Cubs offense came roaring back in the bottom of the fourth.  After Ramriez flied out to start the inning, Fukudome hit a single to right.  Mark DeRosa hit a fly ball for the second out, but Ronnie Cedeno, fresh off the heroics from Monday nights game, hit a double, and Fukudome flew around the bases to score.  Is Fukudome not the most fun player to watch?  The Mets intentionally walked Henry Blanco to get to the pitcher, Ted Lilly.  With runners at first and second and two outs, Lilly hit a soft liner in between the pitcher and first base, and Delgado and pitcher Luis Figueroa thought the other would get it and Lilly was safe, loading the bases.  That’s when Reed Johnson singled, scoring Cedeno and Blanco and making it a 3-0 game.

Lilly was able to work out of another jam in the sixth.  After getting Wright to ground out, Lilly walked Beltran and gave up a single to Delgado.  Easley singled to the load the bases with one out.  Lou kept his faith in Lilly, and Ted got Brady Clark to ground out for the second out, but Beltra n scored, making it 3-1 with runners at first and second and two outs.  Lilly got Raul Casanove to ground out to end the inning. Bob Howry came in to relieve Lilly and worked a quick 1-2-3 inning in the seventh.  In the bottom of the inning, Aramis greeted Mets reliever Joe Smith with a single and tKoske followed that up with a double, putting runners at second and third with no outs.  DeRosa singled,scoring Ramirez and giving the Cubs a 4-1 lead.  The Cubs were able to load the bases, but couldn’t score anymore runs.

Cedeno curtain cull 4-22.jpgThen in the bottom of the eighth, it was time for more Ronnie Cedeno heroics.  With Jorge Sosa pitching, Felix Pie and Derek Lee hit back to back singles.  Aramis flied out, but Fukudome walked to load the bases.  It looked like the Cubs would miss another opportunity when DeRosa hit a ball to shortstop Jose Reyes for an easy double play ball to end the inning, but Reyes had a brainfart and threw the ball home for the foce out.  Insteasd of an inning ending double play, Ronnie Cedeno came to the plate and hit a grand slam, giving the Cubs an 8-1 lead, sealing the win for the Cubs.  Cedeno had a career high five RBI’s.

Playing the Hot Hand

It’s a good problem to have, but I wonder how Lou manages the lineup.  The team has played the last two days without Theriot, and the Cubs have really gotten on a role after the Soriano injury.  Since then, Reed Johnson has been incredible leading off and Cendeno look like an entirely different player.  Cedeno was 10-for-18 (.556) on the homestand with 10 RBIs, while  Johnson was 11-for-28 (.393) with four RBIs.  Johnson is the  prototypical lead off hitter the Cubs have been looking for since Kenny Lofton in 2003.  He works the count, takes pitches, and has had his fair share of cluch hits.  He seems to be full of hustle and has a high baseball IQ. 

“He’s a pesky hitter who works the count, puts the ball in play,” Piniella said. “Occasionally he’ll bunt for a base hit. He sets the tone.”

Reed Johnson 4-22.jpgThe Cubs actually lead the NL in on base percentage.  Kosuke Fukudome leads all Cubs regulars with a .442 OBP going into Monday’s game against the Mets, followed by Geovany Soto (.437), Mark DeRosa (.425), Derrek Lee (.419), Reed Johnson (.418) and Ryan Theriot (.408).  The Cubs are wearing down pitchers, getting men on base, and now those solo home runs are becoming 2 or 3 run homers.  Even grand slams.  With all these guys getting on base, they are putting more pressure on the pitchers and getting better pitches to hit.  Just to let you know, the last time the Cubs led the league in on base percentage-1945.

Now Pinella will have to face a bunch of questions when Soriano gets closer to being off the DL on May 1, one week from Tuesday.  Ryan Theriot, before the back spasms was also doing a great job.  So what does Lou do?  What would you do?  Nice to have these problems and nice to still be in first place.  Now the Cubs try to become the second team in MLB history to get 10,000 wins.  Let’s go get’ em in  Colorado. Rich Hill takes on Franklin Morales in game 1.   

 Go Cubs!

Cubs Prove They Are Ready For Prime Time

A lot of people are wondering if the Cubs are real or not.  A lot of doubters point to the fact that a lot of the Cubs victories have come against some bad teams.  But on Monday night, the Cubs faced the New York Mets, everyone’s pick to win the east after signing Santana, on ESPN.  It was a matchup between Carlos Zambrano and John Maine under the lights at Wrigley.  Man, if you saw it on a nice high def TV, Wrigley Field looked just gorgeous.  The crowd at Wrigley got to witness a great game, as it was a nail biter all the way until the seventh inning, when the Cubs busted it open to take the first game of the two game series 7-1.  It’s games like these that make you feel like this may be a magical season at Wrigley.

As expected, it started out as a pitchers dual.  Zambrano was really on tonight, Big Z gave up only five hits, walked two and struck out four over seven innings. The defense also came up big, turning four double plays.  The Cubs were able to get to Maine in the bottom of the fourth, when Derek Lee led off the inning with a single.  That’s when Aramis Ramirez hit a home run to tie the game.  Ramirez has now homered in cosecutive games and it looks like he’s heating up.  In the top of the sixth, Z ran into a little trouble.  Endy Chavez started out the inning with a double that just missed being a home run.  John Maine was up next, and bunted the ball right in front of home plate.  Soto tried to throw out the lead runner at third, but Chavez got a good jump and everyone was safe.  With runners at first and third, Jose Reyes hit into a double play, scoring Chavez and cutting the Cubs lead in half.  With the double play, it looked like the inning was done, but Luiis Castillo hit an infield single and David Wright drew a walk.  That brought up Carlos Beltran with the tying run at second.  Z go Beltran to fly out to left to end the threat.

Busting it Open

With the Cubs leading 2-1, Carlos Marmol took the mound in the eighth inning.  He made quick work of the Mets, getting them out in order. Marmol made veteran pinch hitter Marlon Byrd look goofy on a knee buckling breaking ball.  With Kerry Wood warming up in the bullpen, the Cubs were looking to add some insurance runs.  The inning started out well, with Derek Lee reaching on an error by the shortstop Jose Reyes.  Relief pitcher Aaron Heilman hit Aramis, putting runners at first and second.  Then the place went nuts, chanting Fukudome’s name, and he didn’t disappoint. Fukudome fought off pitch after pitch before slapping a single to left field to load the bases with no outs.  But then it started to happen.  Mark DeRosa had a horrible at bat, striking out for the first out.  Than Geovany Soto popped out for the second out.  It looked like the typical Cubs, loading up the bases and then letting the pitcher off the hook, swinging momentum back to the opposing team.  Not only that, but Ronnie Cedeno, who was a late game addition after Theriot couldn’t play with back spasms, was up to bat.  Cedeno was 0-3 at that point, reaching base on an error by David Wright.  Down quickly in the count, it looked like the Cubs would spoil the opportunity, but then Cedeno hit a ball up the middle to drive in Lee and Ramirez and give the Cubs a 4-1 lead.  After that, Heilman was pulled and Jorge Sosa came into the game.  Lou brought in Pie to pinch hit for Marmol, and Pie jacked one to right, giving the Cubs a 7-1 lead.  Pie’s reaction was priceless.  Wood put ’em away 1-2-3 and the Cubs put on a dazzling display of ptching, defense, and timely hitting.

Is this team for real?  I don’t know.  I keep staring at stats and can’t believe how well the Cubs are doing offensively, especially when it comes to seeing pitches and taking walks.  The soft underbelly of most teams is middle relieff.  Have the pitcher throw a high number of pitches, get him out of the game  by the fifth or sixth inning, and go to town on the stiffs that most teams have in their bullpen.  I just though that Monday nights win against the Mets had one of those magical feelings at Wrigley, the kind that really get Cubs fans excited and make the doubters take notice. After struggling so bad in April last season, this is the kind of start Lou was looking for.  The Cubs play game two of the series at 1:20 tomorrow, with Ted Lilly taking on Nelson Figueroa.  Lilly wants to contribute in the worst possible way, and how nice would it be to see Ted get his first W tommorrow.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that Ted can finally get it going.

Go Cubs!