The boom-or-bust Cubs were a bust Sunday night on ESPN, continuing their pattern of inconsistent play. The Cubs did the right thing by sending Rich Hill to the minor leagues, now Lou has to sack up and make some other tweaks, just like he did last season. First off, Jason Marquis has got to go. He is terrible. Usually he is good for a few months before going into a tailspin. This year, he is just like Rich Hill. You have no idea what you are going to get. Most of the time, it is just bad. Marquis went 5.1 innings, giving up five runs on seven hits and five walks. That’s twelve base runners in 5.1 innings of work. He would have given up more runs if not for a spectacular play by Derek Lee to rob Chris Duncan with the bases loaded and two outs with a diving backhanded catch. The bases were loaded because Marquis walked three batters in the first inning. That’s twice in this series with the Cardinals that Cubs starting pitchers loaded the bases without giving up a hit. I wonder if that’s ever happened in a series before? The Cubs got a 2-0 lead in the top of the second after Geovany Soto doubled and Mike Fontenot walked. Reed Johnson hit an RBI double, scoring Soto and moving Fontenot to third. Soriano flied out to get a sac fly. But then Marquis gave it right back to the Cardinals, After getting Yadir Molina to ground out, Marquis gave up four straight singles to Todd Wellmeyer, Ceasar Izturis, Skip Schumaker, and Adam Kennedy to tie the game at 2. It would have been worse if Pujols didn’t ground into a double play.
Then, in the bottom of the fourth and the game tied at two, Marquis screwed up big time. He got the first batter, Wellemeyer, to ground out. He gave up a single to Ceasar Izturis, who is batting .231, but got Schumaker to ground out, moving Iztuis to second. With two outs and Adam Kennedy at the plate and Albert Pujos in the on deck circle, he friggin’ walks Kennedy on five pitches. Predictably, Pujols hit a double, giving the Cards a 4-2 lead.
The Chicago offense again had opportunities but couldn’t get clutch hits. The lineup was
really hurt by the absence of Aramis Ramirez, who is still nusing a sore wrist after getting pegged by Wainwright the other night. Soriano continued to be a drain at the lead off spot, going 1-4 with 2 strikeouts. The ESPN commentators mentioned how Soriano was not catching up to the fastball. Derek Lee had an even more frustrating night, going 0-5, popping out with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh. Fukudome couldn’t get a hit and left plenty of men on base. Mark DeRosa was 0-4, leaving five men on base. During the Cubs struggles the last few weeks, DeRosa’s average has been dropping like a rock. Right now he is at .267/
Crawly’s Managerial Advise to Lou
Now I know that Lou is 14th on the alltime wins list, and Crawly has never even managed a 16 inch softball team, but I feel I must give some advise to Lou. So I will address him directly;
Now Lou, I know you are smart and will make the right decisions like you did so often in 2007. I am here to give you some advise to improve the 2008 Cubs.
Number 1- Don’t allow players to determine if they need minor league rehabs assignments. Send them down and don’t bring them up until they can catch up to a fastball. Soriano is doing much more harm then good right now. I have no doubt that Soriano is best served as a leadoff man,but the rust of not playing for a few weeks is really showing. If it continues, look for Soriano to get booed mercilessly during the upcoming ten game homestand. Soriano’s .254 on-base percentage as a leadoff man was the worst among everyday NL leadoff men entering Sunday. Corey Patterson’s .259 was second-worst to Soriano.
Number 2-Get Ronnie Cedeno and Mike Fontenot more at bats. Rotate Cedeno between short and second and give Fontenot more playing time over DeRosa
Number 3-No more Hill, no more Marquis. Please, I can’t stomach it anymore and by reading your lips when those guys are on the mound, neither can you. I know Hill has good stuff, but he can’t handle it in the big leagues. I know that the reason Marquis was put in the starting rotation to begin with was so that he could have his usual hot start and then you could trade him before he started his second half failures, but it didn’t work. Marquis is stinking up the first half now too. Leave Lieber in the rotation and give Sean Gallagher a chance to start.
Number 4- Sean Marshall should continue to be the primary left handed specialist. He has done a good job and is definately better then Scott Eyre, who should be returning soon. And please, no more Chad Fox call ups
Number 5- No more DeRosa batting sixth. It is obvious that Soto should be batting higher. He has a great eye, has real power, and is driving in a ton of RBI’s. He needs to be behind Fukudome. With Fukudome’s high on base percentage, this will give Soto a chance to drive in more runs.
Thanks for listening Lou
The Cubs now go to Cincy for a three game losing streak. The Reds are hurting, suffering a five game losing streak and 3-7 in their last ten games. They fired their GM, are talking about trading Dunn and Griffey, and Baker is already coming up with lame excuses. They are in last place in the NL central. If we can’t take this series, we are in bigger trouble than we thought.
Monday: 6:10 p.m., WCIU
RH Ryan Dempster (4-0, 3.16) vs. RH Johnny Cueto (1-3, 5.40)
Tuesday: 6:10 p.m., CSN.
RH Carlos Zambrano (4-1, 2.11) vs. RH Aaron Harang (1-4, 2.98)
Wednesday: 11:35 a.m., CSN.
RH Jon Lieber (2-1, 1.86) vs. RH Edinson Volquez (4-1, 1.27)
Let’s try to get on track and put the knock out blow on the Reds
The roller coaster ride continues. The Cubs had this one. They had it in the bank. The Cubs had a 3-1 lead going into the ninth, going for the series win, and Kerry Wood blows it in the ninth. After the joy of Wednesday night’s game, this one was particulary painful for a few reasons
1. A win Thursday would have won the series for the Cubs
2. Zambrano played a marvelous game, He pitched 6 1/3 innings, gave up one run and two walks, striking out three. He also hit a home run, tying Fergie Jenkins for most home runs by a Cubs pitcher. The Cubs had three games against Milwaukee and three against St Louis. Zambrano is not going to pitch against the Red Birds, so this great start against a division rival was wasted.
3. The Cubs had the lead in a game I was very worried about. Anyone who watches baseball knows what a great young pitcher the Brewers have in Yovani Gallardo, but we were able to take a 3-1 lead into the ninth. Last year, or most Cubs teams in the last (pick a number) years would not have been able to have been as patient and put runs across the way our offense did.
4. Lou Pinella blew it. Nobody is perfect, not you, not me, not anybody. I’ve heard it said that managers decisions are usually responsible for the outcomes of roughly eight games., meaning that in 8 out of 162 games, a decision a manager makes wins or loses his team a game. Today was that day for Pinella and he knows it. During the very short post game interview with the media, Lou was asked if he “considered” having Reed Johnson, a more able defensive player, in left instead of Soriano. It was Soriano’s first game back in two weeks and Johnson had made one of the most fantastic catches in the history of baseball a week before in Washington. Yet in the top of the eighth inning, Lou took Johnson out of the game and replaced him with Felix Pie. There was nothing wrong with having your best defender in center with a 3-1 lead, but why, why, why didn’t Lou move Johnson to left and take Soriano out of the game. Soriano has alway been a poor defense outfielder. He doesn’t read the ball off the bat well, he takes poor routes to balls, he does a stupid little hop to catch balls, and he’s scared of bumping into the wall. The only thing he has going for him is a cannon for an arm. And it’s not like Soriano was having a monster offensive game. He went 0-4 with 3 ground outs and one pop fly. With a runner on first and no one out in the ninth, pinch hitter Gabe Kapler hit a ball that should have been caught for the first out, but it went over Soriano’s head, putting runners at second and third with no outs and a two run lead.
“I think the wind got the ball,” Soriano said. “He didn’t hit it good. It was blowing out, but in that inning, it was blowing out a little harder. I think that ball carried a little bit more.”
“You’re damn right I thought about it,”(putting Johnson in left) Pinella said. “You think I’m stupid or something? God…… darn it.”
Lou was a second away from a full fledged meltdown. You know why? He knew it. He should have trusted his gut and put Johnson in right. But he didn’t.
Of course it didn’t help that Kerry Wood was awful today. A few posts ago, I wrote about how Kerry Wood as closer was the second coming of Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams. He may be brilliant one day, horrible the next. Today he was horrible. He hit the very first batter he faced in the ninth, Craig Counsell. I know Counsell is a clutch player, but he was 0-3 and is batting .275. You know how it ends when you walk, hit, or give up a single to the first batter in the ninth. It’s just going to end bad. After the hit by pitch, Kapler hit the ball that landed over Sorinao’s head. Theriot made a decent play to keep a line shot from reaching center field, but Counsell scored and Kapler moved to third. Wood then walked Ricky Weeks to load the bases. He struck out Mike Cameron for the first out of the inning, but gave up a double to Ryan Braun, and Ricky Weeks was thrown out at home by Fukudome. The Brewers took a 4-3 lead and that was it for the Cubs.
Two Points That I would Like to Add
Point number one, as much as it pains me to write this, Soriano is the best option in the lead off spot. You can argue with me until you are blue in the face, but that’ s just a fact. Can it be annoying when Soriano is slugging for the fences when he just needs a single? Yes. Is it annoying when he doesn’t take any ptches? Yes. Is it discouraging that he always swings at high fastballs or brreaking balls that are low and away? Absolutely. But he is a very dangerous hitter, and when he gets going, he can carry a team. He started out bad in April last season and then was out until the end of May with a quad injury. When he came back, he carried the team on his shoulders in June and July. He was flat out hitting everything. Then, on August 3rd, he injured his hamstring. The Cubs cooled off considerably until he came back in September. Soriano went on another tear, propelling the Cubs to the 2007 Central Division title and the playoffs. Reed Johnson is never going to do that. However, I am very annoyed at the fact that Soriano felt that he didn’t need any minor league starts. When did the players start dictating their recovery methods? You haven’t seen live pitching in two weeks, then you are going to start out against a phenomenal pitcher like Gallardo? Was anyone shocked that Soriano went 0-4. How hard would it have been to take a few minor league rehab starts and get your swing going? It’s not like the Cubs desperately needed Soraino to come back. They score 19 friggin’ runs the day before. Why not go to triple A, and when you feel warmed up and you’ve hit the ball well, come up and help?
”Last year I didn’t do a rehab [assignment after a quadriceps injury], and this year I won’t do a rehab,” said Soriano,
”I’m worried,” he said of where his rhythm and timing will be upon his return, ”because I’ll miss two weeks. That’s why I want to hit early [in BP]. I don’t want to take more time to get my swing.”
So instead he is going to rehab in games that count? How long does Lou wait for Soriano’s rhythm and timing to return?
Point Two. Regardless of what anyone thinks, Carlos Marmol is not your closer. I know he is the best pitcher we have. I know that he has electric stuff, but he is not your closer. Marmol is far more valuable as the go to guy when thing get bad. Take today’s game for example. Z starting running out of gas in the seventh inning. He gets the first batter out, but then gives up back to back singles. Marmol comes in and strikes out the first two batters in Milwaukee’s
lineup, Weeks and Cameron. He then faces the most difficult part of the order in the eighth; Braun, Fielder, and Corey Hart. Only Corey Hart reaches, on a bunt single. The next batter is Bill Hall, who flys out to end the inning. So for all you people who want Marmol to be the closer, who did you want pitching to get out of that jam in the seventh and face the heart of the order in the eighth? Kevin Hart or Michael Wuertz??!?! That were great on Tuesday night. (dripping with sarcasm) Bob Howry, who gave up a two run homer to back up catcher Mike Rivera (who?!) on Wednesday night? Exactly. Today’s game was set up perfectly. All Wood had to do was get out Craig Counsell who was 0-3, striking out twice and flying out once, pinch hitter Gabe Kapler, who was making his first at bat as a pinch hitter, and Jason Kendall. Even if one of those guys gets on, you have Ricky Weeks, who is batting .204. As I said before, there will be days when Wood is brilliant, and days when he is horrible. If someone has a better suggestion, I am all ears. Realize this though, take Marmol out of his role of fire extinguisher, and you won’t have many leads to hand to the closer. You would have already have given them up.
The dangerous situation now is that the Cubs must go St Louis to face the red hot Cardinals. Picked by many to finish last in the division, the Cardinals are now alone in frist place with the Cubs .5 games back. Bradon Looper will face off against (gulp) Rich Hill!! Who’s feeling confident? Not me. The Cubs were able to bounce back after Tuesday nights disappointing defeat, can they do it again on Friday. The Cubs have lost 5 of the last 7, and everyone of those losses was a game we should have won. You lose a few more and we’re in some trouble. We are going to rely on Rich Hill, Ted Lilly, and Jason Marquis to turn this thing around against a very hot team. Let’s hope we have a miracle this weekend.
Well, 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
run 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.
The 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
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.
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!