Remember mid-April, how everything was so perfect? Every break went our way and we could do no wrong. Not any more, as the Cubs continue to slide, losing to the Reds 5-3 on Monday night. How many ways can the Cubs find to lose a game? Here’s one for you. The Cubs pitchers did not give up a single earned run, but still lost the game. The offense has continued to struggle, especially with the absence of Aramis Ramirez, who had to cut his batting practice short because of the pain he still feels in his wrist. The defense really failed the Cubs, as errors led to all 5 runs.
Nearly every break went against the Cubs, starting with the first inning. After getting Ryan Freel to strike out to start the game, Ryan Dempster gave up an infield single to Ken Griffey Jr. Then Brandon Phillips got an infield single. Joey Votto hit a ball to Mike Theriot that should have ended the inning, but as he was turning to make the double play, the ball flew out of his glove and everyone was safe, loading the bases with one out. Dempster then walked Edwin Encarnacion to give the Reds a 1-0 lead Dempster got Adam Dunn to strike out, but with two outs, Jeff Keppinger hit a broken bat, seeing eye single that went between three Cubs, and gave the Reds a 3-0 lead. Lou must have been reading this blog, because he finally moved Soto to the fifth spot, before Mark DeRosa. With Ramirez out, Fukudome hit fourth and Soto hit fifth. Soto responded by going three for three with a solo home run in the second to trim the lead to 3-1. Unfourtunately, another error would cost the Cubs another two runs. With two outs in the third, Encarnacion hit a ball to DeRosa that should have ended the inning, but he couldn’t make the play. The next batter, Dunn, hit a ball that still hasn’t landed and the Cubs were down 5-1.
As usual, the Cubs fought back, chipping away at the Red’s lead. But the Cubs continued to blow chances. After Felix Pie walked in the fifth, Ryan Dempster bunted into a double play. With two outs, Soriano hit a single. Ryan Theriot doubled, making it 5-2 Cubs. Derek Lee singled, scoring Theriot and the Cubs had a nice little rally going. Unfortunately, Fukudome had a bad game and flied out to right to end the inning. Fukudome was 0-4, striking out twice. Mark DeRosa was even worse, going 0-3, striking out all three times, and leaving three runners on base. His average is now down to .259.
The dagger to the heart of Cubs fans came in the ninth. With big free agent acquisition Francisco Cordero on the mound, the Cubs got back to back singles by Fontenot and Pie. Dary Ward lined out on an at’em ball. He hit the ball hard, but right at Corey Patterson. Miraculously, Soriano walked, loading the bases with one out. But then, a slider got away from the catcher Paul Bako, and Fontenot tried to score but was easily thrown out. With two outs, Theriot walked, but Derek Lee grounded out to first to end the game.
Now the Cubs are down 1-0, and they face two of the best Reds pitchers in Aaron Harang and Edison Volquez. The Reds had lost five in a row and were reeling. This win took a lot of weight off their shoulders and you can be sure the Reds will be ready to play tomorrow. Our stopper, Carlos Zambrano will be pitching tomorrow, and all the pressure is on him to deliver, and Carlos always struggles against the Reds, especially Adam Dunn. Luckily, the Cubs are not to far out of first, but if this gets much worse, we may need to hit the panic button, The Cubs have to now win the next to games to take the series. If they don’t that will be four series losses in a row, and they will then face the best team in baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks, at home this weekend. When the 2008 Cubs schedule came out, I wrote in previous posts that the Cubs had to do well during the mid April to mid May stretch, but so far they have failed miserably. All we can do is hope the Cubs get going soon.
Go Cubs! (please)
A night after getting pushed around by the big bad Brewers, the Cubs pushed back in a big way, pounding the living daylights out of Jeff Suppan, Derrick Turnbow, and the rest of the Brew Crew 19-5. That win gave the Cubs a 17-10 record for April, the most wins in April in franchise history. The previous high was 16, set in April 1969. The Brewers had to be filled with confidence after Tuesday night’s victory, but the Cubs gave them a beat down they won’t soon forget. The Cubs score 19 runs on 15 hits with no errors. The Brewers only had 5 runs on six hits with one error. Ricky Weeks had two hits, Ryan Braun had two hits, Prince Fielder had one hit, and Mike Rivera had one hit. After the fifth inning, the Brewers cried “Uncle” and Ned Yost pulled out a bunch of his starters, including Fielder and Braun. Starting pitcher Jeff Suppan gave up 11 runs on 11 hits in only 3.2 innings. The Cubs got six runs in the first, when Reed Johnson and Ryan Theriot reached base, then Derek Lee doubled, A-Ram doubled, and Geovany Soto hit a three run homer to left field. Soto would hit another three run homer later in the game, giving him 6 RBI’s. DeRosa had RBI’s in the third and fourth inning, Ramirez added an RBI in the fourth, and SI cover boy Kosuke Fukudome had one in the sixth.
The eighth inning was a bizarre one for Derrick Turnbow and the Brewers. Turnbow came into the game in the eighth inning and got the first batter, Henry Blanco, to strike out looking. He then walked Mark DeRosa and gave up a single to pinch hitter Mike Fontenot. With runners at first and second, Felix Pie flied out for the seocnd out of the inning. With two outs, Matt Murton hit a single, scoring DeRosa. Turnbow would walk Johnson, to load the bases. Turnbow would then walk Theriot to force in a run. Ronnie Cedeno then hit a double to clear the bases. The damage still wan’t done as Daryl Ward hit a double to drive in Cedeno. Henry Blanco, who started the inning, drew a walk. That was it for Turnbow, as he gave up six runs on four hits and four walks.
Dempster was fantastic tonight, improving his record to 4-0, giving up three runs on four hits and striking out one over six innings. Bob Howry gave up a two run blast to Mike Rivera in the seventh. Carlos Marmol and Michael Wuertz both threw scoreless innings. If you would have told me that Dempster would be 4-0 in April and be one of our most consistent starters, I would have laughed. He is proving a lot of people wrong so far, myself included. This was a huge win for Dempster and the Cubs. The Cubs had lost 4 of their previous five games, Lou was very testy with the media today, and morale was low. Not anymore. Now comes a huge match up in the series, Carlos Zambrano versus Yovani Gallardo. Like the old saying goes, I hope the Cubs left something for tomorrow. Gallardo is a great young pitcher and the Cubs will have to be patient. The win tonight puts the momentum back in the Cubs corner, with the Brewers needing to respond to what happened Thursday night. Z just shaved his head, so let’s see if that makes him more areodynamic. How nice would it be to start May on a winning note, taking the series against the Brewers? Let’s hope the Cubs have another day like today. Either way, the Cubs showed that they have muscle too and I am sure both clubs will continue to battle each other throughout the season. We really needed this win.
I never thought I would be so unimpressed with a Cubs 4 game win streak. In fact, I am more disgusted then happy. Why you ask? Because the Cubs had to go another 15 innings just to beat the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. It just seems like the Cubs are not firing on all cylinders. Either the starting pitching is good but there is no hitting, or the hitting is good, but the bullpen is bad, or their are defensive mistakes or baserunning mistakes. One Monday, our number two starter, Ted Lilly, was given a ton of offense, but couldn’t hold on to the lead. Today, our number 3 starter, Ryan Dempster, pitched a beautiful game, but got no offensive support or help from his former bullpen mates. Dempster pitched seven innings of one hit ball, giving up zero runs and striking out 5 Pirates. He had a wicked offspeed pitch that had the Pirates’ hitters fooled all day. So how does Dempster not win this game? The offense and the bullpen. The offense was horrible, scoring only two runs, only one of them earned, in the first nine innings. The Cubs could never get the clutch hit to put the game out of reach. The Cubs left a total of 15 men left on base. If you do the math kiddies, if you add the 15 men the Cubs left on base on Monday and the 15 men they left on base on Wednesday, that equals 30 baserunners the Cubs left in two games !! We are not facing San Diego with their amazing rotation and bullpen, these are the friggin’ Pirates.
Carlos Marmol came in to relieve Dempster in the eighth, and gave up one run after the Pirates hit back to back doubles. The Cubs still nursed a one run lead going into the ninth, when closer Kerry Wood gave up a leadoff homer to Jason Bay to tie the game in the bottomof the ninth. Bob Howry pitched the tenth, while Michael Wuertz pitched the eleventh and twelfth, keeping the Pirates off the board. The Cubs had plenty of chances to win the ballgame, but couldn;t. Finally, in the top of the fourteenth inning, with Derek Lee on first, Aramis Ramirez hit a two run homer to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead. Unfortunately, Kevin Hart, who had pitched the thirteenth inning, gave up a two run homer to Adam LaRoche , tying the ballgame. And like Monday, Pittsburgh gave the game away again. In the fifteenth inning and one out, Geovany Soto drew a walk. Hart was supposed to bunt him over to second, but instead bunted it back to the pitcher who threw Soto out at second. Ryan Theriot singled, putting runners at first and second, with Soriano up with two outs. Pitcher Phil Dumatrait threw a wild pitch, and the runners advanced to second and third. Rather then pitch to Soriano, they decided to intentionally walk him to get to Felix Pie, who came into the game in the seventh. Pie hadn’t gotten close to a pitch in his previous three at bats, but hit the game winning double to drive in two runs. Sean Marshall, recently called up after Carmen Pignatiello threw eight straight balls on Monday, gave up a double in the bottom of the fifteenth, but was able to hold on for the save.
Again, sorry to be negative, but when you play a team as bad as the Pirats, it shouldn’t be this difficult. The Cubs have spent 118 million on this roster, compared to 48 by the Pirates. The reason I am so frustrated is that the Cubs can’t seem to go after victories. They just seem to be lucking in to them. You may be fine with that, but I am not. I remember the playoffs last season, do you? Bullpen giving up runs, no clutch hitting, etc. We are not going to face the Pirates in the playoffs. If we make it, we will be facing much better pitching, much better defense, and much better hitting. My goal, the team’s goal, any fans of the Cubs’ goal, should be a World Series championship. Do I see a World Series team on the field right now. No. I realize we have only played eight games, but after spring training, there is no excuse for playing as poorly as we are. If you remember last season, the Cubs would be a very streaky team, bad for long stretches, good for long stretches. We need to get consistently good, not make stupid plays, play defense, and get some clutch hitting, especially from our big money players. We have to start playing better. This is the second straight game we have burned up our bullpen. That adds a lot of added pressure to Rich Hill, tomorrows starter (who doesn’t handle pressure well and hasn’t been pitching well either) and Jason Marquis (who has the flu and didn’t pitch well in his first game). Let’s home we can get some innings out of them and get the sweep tomorrow. Hard to believe, but we are going for 5 wins in a row.