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
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!
I 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.
Jason 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.
Closer 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
position 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.