Tagged: 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! 

 

Cubs Sweep The Buccos

IMG_1751.JPGWhat a glorious day!  What a glorious weekend.  Crawly Senior and I had the pleasure of wattching the Cubs pound Pittsburgh 13-3 on Sunday, completing their second straight sweep of the Buccos.  Not only that, but St. Louis got crushed and Eric Gagne blew a save for Milwaukee, putting the Cubs in first place!!!  Hey Hey!!  The Cubs offense is just clicking on all cylanders, as the Cubs hit 29 runs in the weekend series with the Pirates.  The starting pitching is still not where it needs to be, but I am sure enjoying this April a ton more than I did last season.  Listening to sports talk radio, I heard people wondering if this team is real or not, claiming that they are just beating teams with losing records.  Look, the Cubs didn’t make their schedule and not only that, they are winning the games they are supposed to, something that hasn’t happened over the last few years.  All I am saying is that I am happy that the Cubs are in first place. 

There are many things that excite me about this team.  I love the 1-2 punch of Reed Johnson and Ryan Theriot.  In the bottom of the fourth inning in Sunday’s game, Johnson was hit by a
Lee Homers 4-19.jpgpitch.  Theriot was up next, showed bunt, but the pitcher threw two pitches out of the strike zone.  With a 2-0 count, Johnson was running, Threriot hit the ball to the right side of the infield, and Johnson scored from first with Theriot advancing to second when Nady’s throw to home plate was late.  The Cubs are also a more patient team and that is allowing them to score more runs.  Do you realize the Cubs are second in MLB in runs scored, third in hits, fourth in total bases, have the fifth highest in average, second in on base percentage, and second in on base plug slugging percentage?   How about the Cubs being fourth in the amount of walks drawn?  Still feel like that clogs the bases Dusty?  The Cubs are also seventh in stolen bases.  Lou Pinella and hitting coach Gerald Perry have turn this team from a bunch of hackers into a disciplined hitting team.   

Do I think all is well in the world of the Cubs?  No.  Are starters are struggling to get past the fifth. Are bullpen is again giving up too many walks.  Questions remain on where to bat Soriano when he comes back from his injury.  Will our left handed starters begin pitching
Wood closes 4-10.jpgbetter?  Is Kerry Wood going to stay healthy?  These are all areas of concern for the Cubs,
but at the end of the day, there is only one stat in baseball that matters most: Wins, and right now,  the Cubs keep racking them up.  Now, the real test comes for the Cubs.  Starting Monday, the Cubs have a two game series with the Mets, then fly to Colorado for another two game series.  They travel to Washington for three (that one shouldn’t be difficult), then they play three with Milwaukee at home, travel to St Louis for three, Cincy for three, and then come back to Wrigley to fave the hottest team in baseball in the Diamondbacks and one of the toughest pitching staffs in San Diego, who will play in a four game series.  The Cubs then have three more games at Wrigley, than go to Houston and Pittsburgh.  When the dust clears on May 22, I believe this will really tell if the Cubs are for real or not.  If they can stay close to the top of the division after this schedule, I like our chances. 

Us Against The World

So, apparently Cubs fans are the most hated, obnoxious, and racist fans in baseball.  All week, Cubs fans have heard how horrible they are from all sides.From old man  Marty Brennaman’s crabby rant, to ironically the most hated and obnoxious columnist in Chicago, to jealous Brewer’s bloggers ,  people have been taking shots at us from all sides.  That’s fine that we’re the target of all their jealousy and rage.  Real Cubs fans know that there are no better fans in baseball.  Are there idiot Cubs fans?  Absolutely.  Are there obnoxious Cubs fans?  Of course.  Are there racist Cubs fans?  Unfortunately.  Just like their are idiotic, obnoxious, racist fans in every ballpark in every city in the United States.  Are there no drunk stupid fans in Milwaukee? OOOOhh, of course not. Everybody goes to Brewers games in suit and ties and keeps score.  In fact, they don’t even sell beer at Miller Park.  And there is absolutely nooooooo racist fans in Cincinnati.  Everyone knows that Cincinnati is the most tolerant city in the US.  So to all those haters out there, keep hatin’. Cubs fans piss people off because we will go anywhere to cheer our team on, including other teams’ ballparks.  Then we really get them mad when our cheers are louder than the cheers from the home team.  They hate us because we have fun, we love our ballpark, and we love our team.  Do we do
IMG_1270.JPGstupid thing?  Yeah.  Are we going to do stupid things in the future?  For certain. But we’re going to keep doing what we’ve always done; root, root, root for the Cubbies!   And most importantly, we will follow this team anywhere in the world, and if you don’t like it, learn to deal with it.

We are everywhere!!

Go Cubs! 

Cubs are Back to their Winning Ways

W Flag.jpgAfter the Cubs suffered a bit of a let down on Thursday, they came right back to beat Ian Snell and the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2.  Rich Hill got the first win for a lefty starter this season and the Cubs were able to do just enough to get past Ian Snell.  Hill, who confidence was in the dumps, was able to give the Cubs five innings, giving up one run on three hits and three walks with four strikeouts. 

“It was a start in the right direction for him,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “Like I told him, he needs to build on this now. He went out there and threw the ball. There were a couple rough spots, but it was a vast improvement. He threw the ball well today and let it go.”


Hill 4-18.jpgIt was another stomach turner for the Cubs. Hill walked the first batter he faced, Nate McLouth, on four straight pitches.  Luckily he was able to calm down.  The offense also struggled in the beginning of the game.  The Cubs had runners in scoring postition in the first, second, and third innings and failed to score a run. The worst of these blown opportunities was in the bottom of the third.  The Cubs were down 1-0 and had one out in the third when Ryan Theriot hit a triple.  With D-Lee and A-Ram coming to the plate, it looked like the Cubs would be able to tie it, but Lee grounded out to the pitcher and Aramis flied out to right.  It looked like it was going to be one of those days.  But Fukudome led off the fourth inning with a triple.  Mark DeRosa singled, tying the game, and then Geovany Soto hit a double, putting runners at second and third with no outs.  Boy, when Soto is out of the lineup, it really hurts the Cubs.  Reed Johnson hit an infield single, scoring DeRosa and giving the Cubs the lead.  For the second day in a row, there was a mix up with the signals, and Rich Hill grounded  into a fielders choice instead of bunting, but Eric Patterson hit a ground ball to short, allowing Soto to score and give the Cubs a 3-1 lead.  That insurance run would be the difference in the game.

After Hill was pulled in the fifth, it was up to the bullpen to preserrve the win.  Jon Lieber and Sean Marshall combined to work the sixth inning, giving up no runs.  Then Carlos Marmol
Wood closes 4-18.jpgcame out to pitch the sixth and struck out the side.  Then, Lou had him go back out in the eighth, and Marmol ran into some trouble. McLouth led off the inning with a solo home run, making it a one run game.  He got the next two batters, Luis Rivas and Freddy Sanchez out, but then walked Jason Bay and gave up a single to Xavier Nady.  With the winning run at second and two outs, Marmol got Adam LaRoche to strike out swinging.  Kerry Wood came out and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to get a new winning streak started.  Let’ see if the Cubs can beat Tom Gorzelanny for the second time this season.  The Cubs will be sending Jason Marquis to the mound.

Lou News

Two bits of Lou news that I thought was worth noting.  First off, Lou will have Reed Johnson bat lead off.  Good to see Lou is reading Crawly’s Cub Kingdom!!  With Fontenot, Theriot, and Patterson not doing much at lead off, it will be nice to see if Johnson can set the table for the big boys. Johnson has six hits the last two games and is hitting .375 for the season.

Lou also stepped to the plate for Cubs fans after senile old fart Marty Brennaman ripped Cubs fans for being “the most obnoxious fans” for throwing a bunch of balls on the field after Dunn hit a homer the other day.   Pinella told reporters

“Marty’s a Cincinnati guy, obviously he’s rooting for the Reds.  But I don’t think our fans are obnoxious. They get into the ballgame, they enjoy coming out to a ballgame and that’s why they draw here the way they do. It’s a fun environment and they get into it.

“As far as winning the division — hey, I like Marty Brennaman, I really do, I was over there for three years — but he has nothing to do with the Cubs winning or losing, I can tell you that,” Piniella said.

Brennaman.jpgPut that in your Depends and smoke it old man.  Mark DeRosa also weighed in on Brennaman’s comments, and either knowingly or unknowingly hit the nail on the head.

“I don’t want to get into a war of words with him,” Chicago’s Mark DeRosa said. “I respect how he handles his profession, but I didn’t agree with what he said. I think he could’ve used different wording.

“They’re very passionate people and passionate fans,” DeRosa said. “You’re torn in situations like that [when they threw balls back] — you get a chuckle out of it, and at the same time, it wastes 10 minutes of your life. I don’t think he needed to go that far with the comments. Obviously, he has some deep-seated hatred for Chicago.”

There are probably tons of reasons that Brennaman has deep seated hatred towards Chicago.  He probably is still bitter his son Thom (nice spelling Marty) was not being moved quicker up the ladder at WGN and that Harry Caray was pushing to get his grandon Chip into the booth.  Marty was always jealous of Harry and his popularity. 

Let’s go for two in a row tomorrow.

Go Cubs! 

Missed Chance

L_flag.gifUggh Just when the Cubs were looking great, they take a step back.  Look, I know its hard to sweep any major league team, and I know that you can’t win’em all.  It’s just the way we lost this game that was irritating.  It was just a bunch of bad baseball, and Ted Lilly is not making Cubs fans any less nervous.  After being a hero the other night, Mike Fontenot also stunk it up.  Even the coaching was a mess.  All in all, a pretty crummy day.

All though the box score show that Lilly had a bad game, six hits, five runs, and three walks in six innings, he at least looked better than he did in last Saturday’s loss to the Phillies.  The walks really hurt him and Joey Votto really hurt him.  Like last Saturday, Lilly was cruising
Lilly 4-17.jpgthrough the first three innings, giving up only one walk and one hit.  And like last Saturday, the fourth inning killed him.  He got Griffey to strikeout to lead off the inning, but then walked Adam Dunn, gave up a single to Jeff Keppinger, and then walked Edwin Encarnacion to load the bases.  Votto than doubled, clearing the bases.  With the Cubs still in the game down only 3-1, Lilly got Keppinger to ground out to lead off the sixth.  Encarnacion doubled, and than Votto hit a home run to give the Red a 5-1 lead.  The scary thing is that it doesn’t seem like Lilly has his velocity where it needs to be.  He’s not going to get to many major league hitters out with an 86 mile per hour fastball out.

It’s baffling,” he said. “My confidence is still there, for the most part. Obviously I’m not as confident as if I were 4-0, but I still feel good about what I’m capable of doing. I’m just losing patience as far as wanting to give us a solid outing and a chance to win. I certainly owe that to my teammates.”

Not like the offense was much better.  After getting so many clutch hits the last few days, the Cubs fell short on Thursday.  The Cubs went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Fontenot, Fukudome, and Henry Blanco all struggled today and left way too many men on
Aramis 4-17.jpgbase.  Fontenot went 0-5, leaving seven men on base.  Fukudome went 0-4, leaving 4 men on base.  Blanco was 1-4, leaving seven men on base.  Theriot and Lee were’nt much better, both going 1-5.  It was the first time the Cubs saw Reds pitcher Edison Volquez, but they also didn’t hit the Reds’ bullpen either.  There were tons of missed opportunities to blow the game open and shift momentum.  The Cubs had the bases loaded and only one out in the bottom of the second, when Henry Blanco struck out.  Lilly was up next and drew a walk, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead.  Fontenot grounded out to end the inning.  In the third inning, Theriot singled to lead off the inning, but that vanished when Volquez struck out Lee and Theriot was caught stealing.  In the fourth inning, DeRosa walked and Reed Johnson singled, putting runner at first and second with no outs. For some reason, Henry Blanco, batting in front of the pitcher Lilly, struck out attempting to bunt.

I don’t know what happened there,” Piniella said. “We never had the bunt sign on the whole at-bat. I thought Henry might be trying to leg out a bunt single or something. I don’t know exactly what happened. Obviously it was just a mix-up in signs.”

“We miscommunicated on the first pitch,”Third base coach Mike Quade said. “Because of our series of signs, that messed up the rest of the entire at-bat. Whether the bunt was on, the bunt wasn’t on. Whether we were playing hit-and-run, we weren’t playing hit-and-run. Henry is one of the most reliable guys on this club. He doesn’t miss signs. He gets everything. He has executed the hit-and-run, the squeeze, all of that.”

With the Cubs only down 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Fukudome grounded out.  DeRosa singled and Johnson doubled, putting runners at second and third with one out. Blanco reached on an infield single, making it 5-3, but Johnson couldn’t advance to third.  With runners still at first and second and only one out, pinch hitter Daryl Ward flied out and Fontenot grounded out to end the threat. 

Then, in the top of the seventh, the defense fell apart. Jon Lieber came in and Norris Hopper to ground out to Theriot, but Ryan booted the ball and Hopper reached on the error.  Then, Ryan Freel bunted to move Hopper to second, but with Lieber and Lee playing the bunt, Fontenot forgot to cover first and everyone was safe.  With the wind blowing to right center, Ken Griffey Jr hit home run number 596, making it 8-2 and ending any chances for the sweep.

Fontenot has been struggling since being moved to the leadoff spot after Soriano’s injury, going 2-for-15.  I wonder if it wouldn’t be better if Reed Johnson hit lead off and Theriot or Fukudome hitting second.  I guess there is no need to panic since it was only one game.  What is making me panic is that Rich Hill will be making the next start for the Cubs as they open the next series against the Pirates and Ian Snell, who is having a terriffic season so far. You know the Pirates want to kick some Cubbie butt after we swept them at home.  We missed Snell last time too. 

Brennaman Blows

Brennaman.jpgMarty Brennaman went off on Cubs fans after the ball throwing incident Wednesday night.  After Adam Dunn hit a homer, people started throwing balls onto the field.  I wasn’t happy that Cubs fans did it, but Brennaman took it a step too far.   Brennaman said ;

“This is the kind of thing that makes you want to see this Cubs team lose.  Among all baseball fans….far and away the most obnoxious fans in baseball in this league are those that follow this team right here.

That is so typical of Chicago Cubs fans (throwing the balls onto the field)

You simply root against them.  I’ve said all winter, they talk about this team winning the division and my comment is they won’t win because at the end of the day, they are still the Chicago Cubs and they will figure out a way to screw this whole thing up.”

Screw you Brennaman and the high horse you rode in on.  You are now considered an enemy of Cubs fans everywhere.  I agree with you that it was stupid of those fans to throw the balls on the field, but you had no right to blast all Cubs fans.  This is not over old man. I look forward to the next Cubs Reds game I go to so I can heckle you in the booth.  Your cranky old *** is not welcomed at Wrigley anymore and remember, Cubs fans have a long memory.  Maybe if the Reds knew how to draw fans, you might realize that there are always a few bad apples in the bunch . Cubs fans in general, are smart, caring, and loyal fans.You sound just as idiotic as your smug, idiotic buddy Joe Morgan.  This isn’t over Brennaman, not by a long shot.

Go Cubs!

 

Old Fashioned Pounding

 
W Flag.jpgWow, I was not expecting that!  One day after beating Cub killer Aaron Harang and losing left fielder Alfonso Soriano for two weeks, I was worried that there would be a little let down.  But no way was there a let down as the Cubs put a beat down on the Reds.  It was fun to finally watch a game that doesn’t make you pull out your hair and give you heartburn. 

It all started in the bottom of the first after Mike Fontenot grounded out to first to start out the game. After that first out, the next five Cubs all got on base.  Theriot doubled, Lee hit a single, and Aramis drew a walk.  With the base loaded and one out, Fukudome worked it to a 3-2 count and hit a ball down the third base line that was just foul and shattered his bat.  So what does he do next?  He hits a double down the first base line to clear the bases.  Bob Brenly put it best when he said  “How do you defend against that guy?”  Good question Bob.  DeRosa hit a double, scoring Fukudome and the Cubs had a 4-0 lead.

After getting Brandon Phillips to strike out in the top of the second, Zambrano walked Adam

Z pitches 4-16.jpgDunn.  Then Edwin Encarnacion hit a single to put runners at first and second.  The next batter, Joey Votto, hit what looked like an easy pop fly, but DeRosa, who started out the game playing left field, saw the wind take the ball over his head and bounce into the bleachers for a ground rule double.  The score was now 4-1 with runners at second and third and only one out.  All eyes were on Zambrano, to see if he would melt down, but the Cubs luckily got a little lucky.  Javier Valentin grounded out to Zambrano, who caught Encarnacion in a run down off third for the second out.  Then Josh Fogg looked like he had a basehit up the middle, but the ball hit the mound, popped up, and landed in Theriot’s glove.  Theriot tossed it to Lee and the threat was over.  Zambrano had smooth sailing from there. 

Lee homers 4-16.jpgDerek Lee started off the third with a homer to center.  That was Lee’s sixth homer of the season.  That equals his home run total for the entire first half of last season.  I just find that amazing.  After that, the next three batters reached base, Aramis walking, Fukudome hitting a single, and DeRosa walking, before Geovany Soto hit a two run double.  That was it for Fogg, gone without retiring a batter in the third.  With DeRosa at third and Soto at second, Reed Johnson hit a sac fly.  Then Zambrano helped his own cause by hitting an rbi single to score Soto.  Fontenot eventualy scored on a nice play and by the end of the inning, the Cubs were up 10-1.

At that point, iit was no longer a game, just a party at Wrigley.  Zambrano gave up two runs on eight hits over seven innings for the win. He also had three hits, including a double and an RBI, and had hits from both sides of the plate.  Reds starter Josh Fogg was charged with nine earned runs and seven hits over just two-plus innings.  Major a-hole Kent Merker, the guy who got in some altercations with Steve Stone, gave up a double to Z, threw a wild pitch, and gave up a run on a Fontenot single. Wednesday’s loss was the fifth in a row for Cincy, and the Cubs are 7-3 in their last ten games.  After St. Louis beat Milwaukee again, the Cubs are now in sole possession of second place in the NL Central. 

Slight Negative

balls on field.jpgAdam Dunn finally snapped out of his slump, hitting a monster home run onto Sheffield.  As usual, someone threw the ball back onto the field, and then 20 more balls littered the field.  I have talked about some of the negative behavior I have witnessed at Wrigley over the last few years.  I don’t know why people do stuff like this.  Don’t say alcohol.  I have been drunk at thousands of Cubs games and have never thrown anything onto the field of play.  It just makes Cubs fans look bad.  After hearing how stupid the Phillies fans sounded booing their home team constantly last weekend, I would hope that Cubs fans would learn a thing or two.  I really wish these people who are acting like idiots would go do it  somewhere else. 

Keep it Rolling

Winning these first two games were huge for the Cubs.  Now Ted Lilly, who has struggled this season, has no pressure to win this game. If he pitches well, great.  If not, we still won the series.  He can focus on improving his game and contributing to the team.  How nice would it be to sweep Dusty and his Reds out of town.

Go Cubs! 

Welcome Back Dusty

W Flag.jpgThe Cubs bats greeted Dusty Baker and his slumping Reds by breaking out their whooping sticks.  Even before the first pitch, Cubs fans were nervous.  Aaron Harang, who always pitches well against the Cubs, was on the mound and we had our number 3 starter, Ryan Dempster going.  Then, in the first inning, Alfonso Soriano does his little hop to catch a fly ball and injures his calf.  He had to have Ryan Theriot on the field.  Soriano never gets injured his whole career, then he comes to the Cubs and has three leg injuries in less than a year and a half.  136 million dollars down the toilet. Mike Fontenot came in to lead off the game and Mark DeRosa moved from second to left. 

 Things got worst in the top of the second when Dempster walked the first two guys he
DeRosa hr 4-15.jpgfaced.  With no outs and runners at first and second, Edwin Encarnacion hit a ball to left to drive in Brandon Phillips.  With runners still at first and second, Dempster got Joy Votto to strike out, Paul Bako to fly out, and Harang to ground out.  The Cubs were able to strike back in the bottom of the second when Fukudome led off the inning with a single.  Mark DeRosa, who always kills the Reds, crushed a home run to left center to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead.  The good times didn’t last though, as Jeff Keppinger singled and Ken Griffey Jr hit his 595th home run, putting the Reds back ahead 4-3.  Luckily, Dempster was able to stay out of trouble for a while.

In the bottom of the fifth, Dempster hit a fly ball to center for the first out.  Mike Fontenot then hit a double and his canjun twin, Ryan Theriot, walked.  Wow, how nice is it to have table setters.  Ask Derek Lee, as he crushed a hanging slider to give the Cubs a 6-4 lead.  After the home run, Theriot and Fontenot, all 5’10 of them, waited for Derek Lee at home plate.  Lee looked like Willy Wonka and Theriot and Fontenot looked like oompa loompas.  The great thing is that this is Lee’s fifth home run.  Lee didn’t have five home runs until June 1st last year.  He already has that in two weeks.  The combination of Lee, Theriot and Fontenot also was key in the top of the seventh, this time for their defense. 

In the top of the seventh, Dempster was starting to run out of gas. Bako started out the inning with a single, then pinch hitter Scott Hatteberg drew a walk, putting runners at first and second with no outs. That was all for Dempster, who managed to scatter five hits and walked five over six-plus innings, striking out three. Out of the bullpen came Carlos Marmol to
Lee fontenot theriot 4-15.jpgface former Cub Corey Patterson.  With runners at first and second, Pattesron bunted hard back to Marmol, who made an ill advised throw to second.  Everyone was safe and the base were loaded with nobody out, going into the heart of the Reds order.  The next batter, Jeff Keppinger, hit a ball that should have gone to centerfield to tie the game, but Mighty Mike Fontenot made an amazing diving stab, and flipped the ball from his glove to Theriot.  They only got one out, and the Reds scored on the fielder’s choice to make it 5-4, but that play changed the momentum of the inning.  Marmol got the next batter, Griffey Jr, to ground into a 3-6-3 double play, Lee to Theriot, back to Lee.  It was amazing and the crowd went nuts. The Cubs never looked back, with Ramirez, DeRosa, and Theriot all driving in runs.  Theriot hit a two run homer.  Michael Wuertz struggled again out of the pen, but Wood closed it out for a 9-5 win.

Look, I’m not stupid.  Even though Soriano is struggling, the Cubs are still a better team when he’s healthy, but his injury may show the importance of DeRosa and the need to upgrade at second base.  DeRosa filled in nicely for Soriano, and played left field well.  He is perfect to have when someone gets injured or needs a day off.  With Fontenot at second, the Cubs were a much better defensive team.  If DeRosa was at second in the top of the seventh, he doesn’t come close to that ball Keppinger hits, two runs score, and there would still be no outs.  You need to be tight defensively up the middle, and that’s what Fontenot brings.  He also has a great swing and would be a nice number two hitter.  Now Fontenot started out hot when Aramis went down last season and DeRosa moved to thrid.  He then cooled off.  No one know how long Soriano is out, but it will be interesting to see if Fontenot can cut it offensively in the big leagues.  He is also another left handed bat.

Tonight also proves why Marmol should not be the closer.  Lou loves to use Marmol when the game is on the line.  He was the best when it came to stranding inherited runners last season, and he is keeping runners from scoing this season.  Without Marmol, it doesn’t matter who your closer is because you won’t have the lead in many games.  Marmol puts out a lot of fires for Lou and there is no one else who could fill that role.

Beside Wuertz’s poor outing, the other negative of this game was Felix Pie.  He was bad.  Read bad.  Not even close.  On a day when every single batter got a hit, including pinch hitter Reed Johnson and Ryan Dempster, Pie was 0-4.  Not only that, it was an ugly 0-4, with three strike outs and four men left on base.  I wonder if Corey Patterson looked into the hometeam dugout and saw himself when he was a young ballplayer.  I hope they can fix Felix’ swing, or Pie may end up like Patterson, a journeyman centerfielder.

Hopefully the Cubs can take the second game of the series.  On paper, it looks like we have the advantage,with Zambrano going against Josh Fogg.  Fogg has never impressed me, so let’s see how the Cubs’ lineup looks tomorrow.  Let’s hope the bats keep cooking and the Cubs keep winning.

Go Cubs! 

Dusty Hoopla

Big deal.  Dusty Baker is coming back to Chicago.  Do I hate the guy? No.  Do I think he was an overrated manager who blew a chance of the lifetime to get to the wrold series?  Yes.  Do I hold him responsible for Steve Stone leaving the Cubs?.  Yes.  Do I still think he held back the development of younger players like Ryan Theriot by playing guys like Neifi Perez?  Yes.  Do I think that he played the race card when things didn’t go his way? Yes.  Do I believe that he made excuses for himself and his players and never held himself or anyone on the team accountable? Yes

Ok, I changed my mind.  I do hate Dusty Baker.  And now, Dusty and his new team, the Reds, are coming into town.  Baseball if a funny game.  The Reds took 2 out of 3 from the Brewers, in Milwaukee.  Then, the Reds lose three in a row to Pittsburgh, who the Cubs swept the series before.  Will the Reds be extra amped up to win one for their new skipper, especially with the negative reception Dusy will get?  The Reds finally have a solid pitching staff, but now their bats have gone cold.  Over the three game series in Pittsburgh, the Reds were 6-for-35 (.171) with runners in scoring position and stranded 32 runners on base. They did not hit any home runs.

The Cubs have their own problems, especially with starting pitching.  Carlos Zambrano struggled in his last start, and our two lefties look awful.  Ryan Dempser, who surprisingly has been the best of the Cubs pitchers so far, will take on Aaron Harang, the Reds ace, in game one of the series.  Big Z will see if he can bounce back against struggling Reds’ starter Josh Fogg.  In the last game of the series, Ted Lilly will look to solve his 08 woes against Edinson Volquez, one of the two dynamic young pitchers the Reds have starting.  The other, Johnny Cueto, won’t be ptiching in the series.  

The scary thing is that both Lou and Dusty are saying the same things.  Both want to go with faster lineups to manufacture runs.  After having most of the weekend off, Felx Pie will  be back in the lineup.  Ronnie Cendeno may get the start at second, but Mark DeRosa has an excellent career average against the Reds.  Speaking of excellant career averages, the Reds hope that Adam Dunn will again kill the Cubs.  Dunn has been struggling this season,  going 6-for-36 with five RBIs overall this season with 10 strikeouts and only one home run.  Dunn’s 20 homers, 43 runs and 43 walks at Wrigley Field since 2001 are the most by a Cubs opponent. Personally, I’d be happy if he keeps slumping.

The Brewers face off against the Cardinals, which means this is a great opportunity to gain some ground in the division.  The Cubs need to get the bats going, and the pitchers need to avoid walks.  Hopefully we can start playing better in all aspects of the game

Go Cubs! 

Cubs Win First Road Trip

W Flag.jpgI feel like somehow I keep getting transported to the past, maybe by a time machine, to Cubs seasons’ past.  This 2008 version of the Cubs seems very similar to the 2007 Cubs after the first two weeks.  Bad baserunning, bad defense, bad bullpen, walking to many batters, not taking enough walks, and no clutch hits.  There are two big differences beween the 08 and 07 Cubs.  In 07, the Cubs at least had some starting pitching.  This season, the Cubs bullpen has worked more innings then any other team in baseball.  Both of their starting lefties, Rich Hill and Ted Lilly, cannot get out of the fifth inning.  The other big difference is that somehow, some way, the Cubs are actually winning games, especially one run ballgames and extra inning games.  As bad as it looked in Pittsburgh and Philly, the Cubs actually are coming home after a winning road trip after taking the final game of the series against the Phils, 6-5.  Some of those bad breaks that went against the Cubs last year are starting to go our way.

Marquis 4-13.jpgJason Marquis, recovering from strep throat, was able to weasle out of plenty of jams and keep the Cubs in it.  Marquis loaded the bases with one out and only gave up one run.  The Cubs were able to jump out in front thanks to three singles by Henry Blanco, Alfonso Soriano, and an RBI single by Reed Johnson.  Derek Lee then hit a double, driving in two more runs and giving the Cubs a 3-1 lead.  Jason Werth made it 3-2 on a leadoff homer by Jason Werth, in the bottom of the fifth, but Mark DeRosa returned the favor by hitting a leadoff homer in the top of the sixth that went over the foul pole.  Phils’ manager Charlie Manuel was thrown out after arguing with the third base umpire.  With the Cubs leading 4-2, Marquis was done for the day and Michael Wuertz, who has been one of the most reliable relief pitchers came into the game.  Wuertz gave up a solo home run to Eric Bruntlett to start out the inning, then gave up three singles in a row, tying the game 4-4.  With runners at first and third and no outs, Sean Marshall came into the game and got Chase Utley to fly out, but the go ahead run crossed the plate.  Marshall and Marmol finished the inning with the Cubs now down 5-4. 

In the top of the eighth, former Cubs Tom “Flash” Gordon came into the game.  He got Fukudome to strike out swinging, but then walked Mark DeRosa.  DeRosa was replaced by pinch runner Ronnie Cedeno.  Ryan Theriot hit a single, and the Cubs had runners at first and second with one out.  Felix Pie was announced as the pinch hitter, but then the Phillies changed pitchers, bringing in lefty JC Romero to pitch.  Lou called Pie back and brought in Geovany Soto.  Cedeno then stole third on a very close play, putting runners at first and third.  Geo Soto then tried to check his swing, but the ball hit the barrel of his bat and inbetween the first and second baseman, tying the game. 

Theriot tags out taguchi.jpgCloser Kerry Wood came into the game in the bottom of the eighth, and only gave up a single.  The Cubs did nothing in the top of the ninth, and then the bottom of the ninth was heart pounding.  Tell me if I am the only one that thinks this, but once again, my time machine came and took me back to 1989.  When Kerry Wood comes into the game, do you feel like you did when Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, came into the game.  You are either going to see amazing stuff, or be scared half to death, or both.  In the bottom of the 9th, he walked the first batter he faced, Pat Burrell.  Burrell was pulled for pinch runner and former Cardinal So Taguchi.  The next batter, Pedro Feliz, bunted the ball and Wood made a dangerous throw to second to get Taguchi out.  He then hit pinch hitter Greg Dobbs, putting the winning run at second with only one out, but he got Eric Bruntlett to strike out.  With two outs and runners at first and second, Derek Lee made an amazing play to snag the game winning double from Carlos Ruiz to keep the game alive. 

In the top of the tenth, pitcher Rudy Seanez walked Ronny Cedeno to lead off the innign.  Cedeno advanced on Ryan Theriot’s sacrifice and Geovany Soto walked.  With no more
Zambrano 4-13 hit.jpgposition players on the bench, Lou called on Carlos Zambrano to pinch hit for Kerry Wood,. Z hit a ball to the shortstop for what would’ve been a 6-4-3 double-play, but Z was hustling down the line and Chase Utley’s throw was short and got past first baseman Ryan Howard.  Cedeno was able to score the go-ahead run.  Of course, nothing is easy for the Cubs.  Bob Howry came in for the save and quickly got the first two batters out.  He then gave up a double to Chase Utley that was about one foot away from being a home run.  With Utley on first, Howry intentionally walked Ryan Howard.  The next batter would have been Burrell, but he was lifted in the ninth for a pinch runner and So Taguchi took his place.  Taguchi grounded out to end the game. 

Besides the obvious pitching woes, the Cubs offense has been spotty at best.  Lou addressed this after the game.

“We haven’t been consistent,” Piniella said. “We’ve had some good offensive days, and we’ve had other days where we haven’t done much. About the only thing I can do is start putting more speed into the lineup.  When you don’t have much speed and you’re not hitting, you look lethargic on the field. The possibility there is to put as much speed as we can and force the action a little more. We’ve done that in a few games, but I’ve basically stayed in a set lineup. Outside of that, we just have to keep working.”

“You’ve got to go the other way with the ball a little more, and stay on it longer,” Piniella said. “With our team, I think patience is not our biggest strength. One thing I can do is play a quicker team and that’s in the back of my mind.”

There.  Someone finally said it.  The Cubs are not a patient team. You can just see it, especially against pitchers like Brett Myers the other night or Cole Hamels.  The Cubs just hack away and don’t wait for the right pitch. 

The Return Of Baker

Tomorrow I will give my two cents on the whole Dusty Baker saga.  You all know where I stand on this.  The Cubs have a tough series ahead with the Cincinnati Reds.  The Reds are coming off a tough sweep to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  They will send Aaron Harang to pitch against Ryan Dempster.  Tensions will be high and it will be interesting to see if the Baker factor will add some more fuel to the fire.

Go Cubs!  

All or Nothing

L_flag.gifWell, the streak was bound to end sooner or later.  The Cubs had five wins in a row going into tonight’s game against the Phillies, and they got the fireworks started early, but it wasn’t enough to get it done.  Carlos Zambrano struggled in the first game of the series against the Phillies and the defense didn’t help much either.  As Pat Hughes put it tonight, the Cubs either hit all or nothing against Phillies starter and big A-hole Brett Myers.  The Cubs only had five hits off of Myers, but three of them were solo home runs by Lee, Ramirez, and Soriano.  The only other player to have a hit for the Cubs was Mark DeRosa. 

Lee Ramirez high five 4-11.jpgAfter getting two outs in the first inning, Myers gave up back to back jacks to Lee and Ramirez in the first inning to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead.  The good news for Cubs fans is that Lee has has now equaled his home run totals for both April and May 2007 (four) — and it’s only his 10th game of the season. But as we’ve seen so many times before, the bats went cold.  Myers threw breaking ball after breaking ball, After the first, the Cubs only had one hit, an infield single by DeRosa, until the sixth inning.  It was the same old Cubs, hacking away instead of waiting for a good pitch to hit. 

Meanwhile, Zambrano was able to keep the Phillies hitters down for a few innings, but he wasn’t locating his fastball.  He started having his Carlos meltdown in the fourth inning.  He started out falling behind Chase Utley, who eventually singled,  He then got Ryan Howard to ground to Lee, who threw to second, but Utley slid hard and Theriot couldn’t put anything on the throw to Zambrano and Howard was safe.  The next batter, Pat Burrell, hit a ball that still hasn’t landed, tying the game up at 2-2.  In the fifth inning, Z got two quick outs, then gave up a walk to the lead off hitter, Shane Victorino.  The next batter, Greg Dobbs, doubled to left-center. Kosuke Fukudome, playing center, made a back-handed catch on the run, but Soriano bumped him and knocked the ball out of his glove, allowing Victorino to score.  Lou came out to argue that Fukudome had taken a few steps, and that it should have been called an out. 

“That’s what the umpire said — it wasn’t a full transfer,” Piniella said . “He bumped into Soriano, and the ball dropped out of his glove.”

 

“I did catch the ball,” Fukudome said, “but as I ran past Soriano, the tip of the glove hit — maybe Soriano’s leg, maybe his torso — and the ball popped out of my glove. It was nothing but my fault that I didn’t hold on to it. The ball did come into my glove. I thought I made the catch.”

The funniest(or saddest) part was Soriano’s response. 

“I don’t know where it hit me,” Soriano said. “I was more scared because I saw him running to catch the ball, and I wanted to tell him to get out of the way. He didn’t see me.”

Technically, the play should have been made by Soriano, who misplayed the ball.  Fukudome made an amazing play to get to the ball.  Had Soriano moved out of the way, the Cubs may have gotten out of the inning without any further damage. 

Z pitching 4-11.jpgSoriano did make it up to the team, leading off the sixth with a solo home run, tying the game at three.  Unfortunately, Z couldn’t put them away.  Z fell behind Ryan Howard 2-0, who then hit double to left center. Burrell then hit a double that got past Daryl Ward scoring Howard with the go-ahead run.  This caused Z to start jumping around like a moron.  One of these days, one of his teammates is really going to kick the crap out of him for that (Barrett tried that once!) 

“What can I say?” Ward said. “I’m doing the best I can. It’s been three weeks since I’ve been in right field. It’s tough getting good jumps after not being out there that long. There’s not really any excuses. I gave it my best effort. It was over my head. If it was side to side, I think I had a good chance of catching it. Once I got there, it was over my head, and I tried to get it in as quick as possible.”

You really can’t blame Ward.  After Soriano tied the game at three, I though that Ward should have been taken out of the game to upgrade defensively.  I understand Lou wanting to get Ward some at bats, but you have a tie game and you need to play good defense.  That was Lou’s fault for leaving him in.   Carlos Ruiz hit a single,scoring Burrell and that put the game out of reach.  Brad Lidge saved it for the Phillies.

Uh-Oh

The Cubs really needed Z to pitch a great game, and he didn’t.  Now the Cubs have to face lefty Cole Hamels on Satuday and have struggling starter Ted Lilly going.  Hamels was 2-0 last year with a 1.80 ERA and is 2-1 in his career against the Cubs.  Let’s try to get another streak started.  We only have to win one more game to make this a winning road trip.

Go Cubs!   

 

Cubs First Sweep of 08

W Flag.jpgIf I told you that the heart of the Cubs lineup, Lee, Ramirez, and Fukudome went a combined 0-12, you would think the Cubs probably lost the game.  If I told you that Rich Hill’s pitch count was 72 after three innings, you could assume the Cubs got beat. But hey, we were playing the Pirates, so we were able to get the win, sweep the Pirates, and win our fifth game in a row!  What a wacky series of bad baseball games.

After burning up all the arms in the first two games of the series, we needed a good long start from Hill, and he was abysmal.  He couldn’t find the strike zone to save his life.  After the Cubs got one run in the first inning, Hill came to the mound and gave up a double, threw a wild pitch, gave up a single that scored a run, walked the next two batters, gave up a run scoring sac fly, gave up another single, and gave up another run scoring sac fly before finally getting out of the inning.  Hill managed to work a 1-2-3 inning in the second, but in the third he gave two more waks, but escaped any further damage, but by that time Lou had had enough.

Your Bus Tickets To Iowa Mr. Hill and Mr. Pie

Lou was fuming in the dugout.  After the first, he had some words for Hill, and Hill slammed
Hill 4-10.jpghis helmet.  Lou was barking at Larry Rothchild every second that Hill was pitching.  Jon Lieber was up in the first inning.  Lou also had it with Felix Pie.  With one out  and runners at first and second, Pirates pitcher Matt Morris made Pie look silly, striking him out.  Then in the third, with a runner on second, Morris again made Pie look foolish, striking him out for the second time.  After the third inning, Hill was replaced by Lieber and Pie was replaced by Reed Johnson.  After hitting the game winning hit last night, Pie was given the start and looked bad.  He just can’t figure out major league pitching. 

Lieber to the Rescue

Jon Lieber came out of the bullpen and pitched quickly and efficiently.  Lieber pitched 4.1 innings and gave up no runs, five hits, and didn’t walk a single batter.  This allowed the Cubs to start their comeback.  Fukudome led off the sixth inning with a walk, and Geovany Soto, who had four hits in the game, hit a monster home run to center field, giving the Cubs a 4-3 lead.  Theriot followed the home run with a bunt single, and moved to second on a Lieber sac bunt.  Then Theriot tried to steal third, and was easily thrown out, but third baseman Jose Bautista dropped the ball.  Reed Johnson hit a single to knock in Theriot, and then Mike Fontenot, batting second tonight, hit a home run, giving the Cubs a 7-3 lead.  Bob Howry pitched 2/3 of an inning and Kerry Wood pitched the ninth. 

Series Wrap

This was one ugly series, but we walked away with three wins.  The good news is that unlike
Soto 4-10.jpglast year, we are actually winning some close games.  The Cubs offense is cooking, scoring at least six runs in all three games of the series and scoring 35 runs in their last five games.  The Cubs have also tied the amount of extra-inning victories (2) that they had off of last season, when they were 2-8 when playing more than nine innings. The bad news is the pitching looks suspect.  Our number two starter, Ted Lilly, has been terrible in his two starts.  Our number 3 pitcher, Rich Hill, looks even worse. (Hill was considered the third started, but Lou didn’t want two lefties pitching back to back so he put Dempster in the third spot to split them).  The bullpen has given up 20 runs in 9 games.  Not good at all.  Howry and Kevin Hart have given up 5 runs, Wood has given up 4 and had his first blown save Wednesday night.  Lieber and Marmol have given up two runs, and Wuertz has given up one.  (Piggy gave up one but was sent to the minors). 

On Deck

The Cubs travel to Phildelphia next, with Big Z taking the start againt Brett Myers.  The Phillies just lost the series to the Mets 2 games to 1, losing the rubber match in extra innings on Thursday night.  Jimmy Rollins, last seasons MVP, has been out with an ankle injury.  Hopefully he will stay out of the lineup a few more days and the Cubs bats can keep rolling. 

Let’s make it six in a row!

Go Cubs!

Chi Cubs AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Soriano, LF 5 2 2 0 0 1 2 .163
Fontenot, 2B 5 1 2 2 0 0 2 .417
Lee, 1B 4 0 0 2 0 1 2 .300
Ramirez, 3B 4 0 0 0 0 0 2 .222
Fukudome, RF 4 1 0 0 1 0 1 .371
Soto, C 5 1 4 2 0 0 0 .333
Theriot, SS 3 1 2 0 1 0 1 .250
Pie, CF 2 0 0 0 0 2 3 .182
  Lieber, P 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000
  Howry, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  Wood, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Hill, R, P 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000
  Johnson, CF 2 1 1 1 1 0 0 .389
Totals 36 7 11 7 3 5 17
Chi Cubs IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Hill, R 3.0 3 3 3 4 3 0 5.00
Lieber (W, 2-1) 4.1 5 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
Howry (H, 3) 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 8.44
Wood 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6.00