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!
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.