Archive for September, 2007

Game 160 – The Playoff Beard Starts Now!!!

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

September 28th, 2007

Teams

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
Chicago 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 2 0   6 10 0
Cincinnati 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0   0 8 1
W – C. Zambrano (18-13) L – B. Arroyo (9-15) S – None
Homeruns: A. Soriano (32) D. Lee (22)

Box Score


(AP Photo/Al Behrman)

With the mystery of if we were going to hold on now over, it’s time to take a break this weekend. I’m going to post my playoff roster in this post and leave it up till Monday. On Monday I’ll have the audio interviews that I did with Jeff Samardzija and Tyler Colvin and then Tuesday we’ll start taking a look at the playoffs. I’ve never blogged the playoffs before, so I would love some ideas on what you’d like to see. In the meantime, here are the 25 guys I’m taking to the LDS if it were up to me.

Starting Pitchers

  • Carlos Zambrano
  • Ted Lilly
  • Rich HillBullpen
  • Michael Wuertz
  • Jason Marquis
  • Bob Howry
  • Carlos Marmol
  • Scott Eyre
  • Kevin Hart
  • Kerry Wood
  • Ryan DempsterCatchers
  • Jason Kendall
  • Geovany SotoInfielders
  • Derrek Lee
  • Mark DeRosa
  • Ryan Theriot
  • Aramis Ramirez
  • Mike Fontenot
  • Ronny CedenoOutfielders
  • Alfonso Soriano
  • Jacque Jones
  • Cliff Floyd
  • Matt Murton
  • Felix Pie
  • Sam Fuld Explanations

    1. I make Rich Hill my third starter because of the fact that over the course of the season, he’s been better and more dominant than Jason Marquis. He’s in our rotation of the future and I’d like to give him a shot to throw one game in the LDS.

    2. I left Sean Marshall off the roster for the simple fact that he’s not needed. Kevin Hart has earned his spot since coming up from AAA and he can serve as a long relief man with Jason Marquis. I know it leaves the bullpen with just one lefty, but do you really want Ohman or Marshall in there as a LOOGY anyway? I don’t.

    3. I include Sam Fuld in the mix based soley on his hustle, speed, and ability to come in late as a defensive sub or pinch runner.

    4. Hank White gets the boot because of his fragility and Geo’s hot bat since being recalled.

    That’s all I’ve got this morning. I want to hear from you. Maybe you want to post your roster. Maybe you just want to pick apart or make tweaks to mine. Whatever your ideas, let’s here them. Post your comment this weekend.

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    Game 159 – Preview

    Friday, September 28th, 2007

    Scouting Today’s Starters from MLB.com
    Carlos Zambrano – Zambrano had to come out of his last start against the Pirates because of cramping in his forearm and leg. It’s not the first time this has happened, and the Cubs aren’t sure what to do to stop it. He gave up three hits over six scoreless innings and struck out six, including the first four batters he faced. Big Z is expected to be matched up against Aaron Harang again. He hasn’t beaten him in four starts so far.

    Bronson Arroyo – Arroyo pitched seven scoreless innings but was a 2-0 loser on Saturday vs. the Giants, as the Reds lineup went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight on base. The right-hander gave up five hits and struck out two and tied a career high with five walks and hit one batter. But he worked out of early danger in what was a strong outing. Cincinnati scored two runs or less in 14 of Arroyo√≠ 33 starts — including three shutouts. The club is 12-21 in his starts despite 21 quality outings.

  • He’s an economical pitcher who locates his pitches well. Right-handed hitters find him particularly tough.
  • Needs to work on his ability to pitch beyond the sixth inning and isn’t as effective from the stretch with runners on.
  • 1-0, 2.45 in last 18.1 IP

    View the game preview from Baseball Reference to see various features like the bullpen rest report, information on today’s starters and much more.
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    Who is the Best of the Best?

    Friday, September 28th, 2007


    As we head into the last weekend of regular season baseball and the races come down to the wire, I thought Cub fans would need a break from analyzing every game, inning, pitch, error, etc. Especially since the Marlins have not been kind to us and the Cubs have forgotten how to hit, pitch and field for that matter.

    So let’s talk Cy Young Award Race 2007

    The Cy Yound award can be defined as an annual award given by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to the pitcher voted the most effective in each of the two leagues. Well, here is where the debate can start. How exactly do you define most effective? Is it the most dominant? Does durability matter and if it does, it is more important than lights out dominance? How do you judge? Who do you pick? It is not black and white and that makes it so fun to argue about.

    For the record, let’s get this out of the way now. In my opinion, pitcher A does not deserve the Cy Young award simply because he has won the most games in the league. The win-loss record in my mind is still overrated by most fans. Pitchers don’t need flashy win totals to have a good season, although I did in fact list their records. Lets take a look at the contestants, shall we?

    American League

    Josh Beckett (Boston Red Sox)
    W-L 20-6
    ERA 3.14
    K 188
    W 40
    WHIP 1.12

    The Cool Kid, Beckett’s the American League’s first to win 20 games since Bartolo Colon won 21 and the first for the Red Sox since Curt Schilling (21) in 2004. Beckett benefited greatly from the 6.66 runs per start the Red Sox scored for him, about a run more per game than received by C.C. Sabathia, two runs more than Fausto Carmona, and a run-and-a-half more than John Lackey. Still, he is the top five in WHIP and ERA, and the top 10 in strikeouts and quality starts. Also, according to ESPN, the only Red Sox starters in the last 50 years who had a full season with this many wins, this low an ERA and a winning percentage as good as Beckett are Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling. Now that is not bad company. Also,never underestimate the media’s fascination will all things East coast.

    C.C. Sabathia (Cleveland Indiana)
    W-L 18-7
    ERA 3.19
    K 205
    W 36
    WHIP 1.14

    The Workhorse, Sabathia put together 10 straight starts of two earned runs or fewer. He also posted a 5.69 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which would be the second-best by any left-handed starter since 1901. The Indians offense didn’t always treat Sabathia well: In seven starts from July 24 to August 24, Sabathia allowed 12 earned runs, and his record in those starts was 1-3. He matched up against Johan Santanathree times, twice in the final five weeks, and won all three games. Sabathia has a strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.69) better than all AL starters.

    Johan Santana (Minnesota Twins)
    W-L 15-13
    ERA 3.33
    K 235
    W 52
    WHIP 1.07

    The Longshot, most pitchers would dream of having the year he is having. He’s within range of leading the league in ERA and strikeouts. Fewer hitters reach base against him (.272 OBP) than against any starting pitcher in either league. In the five losses to the Indians, the Twins scored a total of eight runs.

    Honorable mentions include, Fausto Carmona, Cleveland Indians, Dan Haren, Oakland Athletics, Chien-Ming Wang, New York Yankees and if you believe closers are in the mix, J.J. Putz, Seattle Mariners.

    Who do I think will win? Beckett, it is hard to beat Red Sox nation, dominance, or 20 wins for that matter. Who do I want to win? Sabathia, I have a special place in my heart for durability. For those pure statistic guys – statically the two are pretty even. Although Beckett has two more wins, Sabathia has been pitching deeper into games, their ERA is statistically identical, as is their WHIP. Sabathia has an even better K/BB rate than Beckett, and has won 17 games while receiving over a run less per game in support than Beckett.

    National League

    Jake Peavy (San Diego Padres)
    W-L 19-6
    ERA 2.36
    K 234
    W 64
    WHIP 1.03

    The Triple Threat, it is really hard to argue against Jake Peavy, period. Consider this, Peavy could be the NL’s fourth pitching Triple Crown winner (first in wins, ERA and strikeouts) in the last 40 years. The others — Steve Carlton in 1972, Dwight Gooden in 1985 and Randy Johnson in 2002 — all got a Cy Young out of it. He has stopped 11 losing streaks — most in the big leagues.For the doubters out there, Peavy has been better on the road (9-1, 2.13) than at home (8-5, 2.68).It also never hurts when you one up the next closest contender for Cy Young award in a head-to-head competition. Yes, I am talking to you Brandon Webb.

    Brandon Webb (Arizona Diamondbacks)
    W-L 17-10
    ERA 3.02
    K 192
    W 70
    WHIP 1.18

    The Dominator, Webb has pitched three complete-game shutouts in a row. Nobody else in the NL has thrown more than one all year.He is also the proud holder of a 42 shutout innings streak. He has racked up 23 starts of seven innings or more, most in the big leagues. He leads the league in innings pitched and complete games. While his record is 16-10, his run support (4.31 runs per nine innings) is a run and a half lower than either Peavy’s (5.75) or Brad Penny‘s (5.67). It is very hard to win back-to-back Cy Young awards, especially with a Jake Peavy in your way.

    Brad Penny (Los Angeles Dodgers)
    W-L 16-4
    ERA 3.03
    K 135
    W 73
    WHIP 1.31

    The Monster, Penny is 15-4, and he could be 19-4 if his bullpen hadn’t blown four more games he deserved to win. He has as many quality starts as Peavy (25 in 30 starts), and as many starts allowing one earned run or none (16). But Penny also has won just two of his last nine starts (with admittedly crummy run support).

    Honorable mentions include Aaron Harang, Cincinatti Reds, John Smoltz, Altanta Braves, Dan Haren, Oakland Athletics and if you believe closers are in the mix, J.J. Putz, Seattle Mariners.

    Who do I think will win? Peavy. Who do I want to win? Peavy, Triple Crown threat? You can’t do much better than that.

    All statistics provided by Yahoo Sports as of Thursday, September 27, 2007. ‚àë

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    update and some reasons to enjoy the weekend

    Thursday, September 27th, 2007

    The Brewers got drilled by the Padres tonight which cuts the Cubs magic number to two. The Cubs now enter the final three games of the season up two in the standings. Now I know that no one thought the team would get swept by the Marlins, and they are really bad record wise, however there is some spin to think about the series. The Cubs pitched their four and quasi five against the Marlins with Marquis and Trachsel. Lilly pitched game one but he pitched against Dontrelle Willis who has good potential when he pitches. There is no excuse for getting swept, but the Marlins have a lot of good hitters, and the first place teams are losing all over the league. Also the Cubs were hitting a little in the final two games, with Ramirez and Soriano both hitting shots that would’ve gone out in any park in the last game. Bottom line: we shouldn’t get swept…but we did and the magic number decreased by two in the process.

    Good news. Consider this: because the magic number is two the Cubs could clinch every game from here out. If we win any game, and the Brewers lose on the same day we’re in. Ben Sheets has been pulled from his start tomorrow and Greg Maddux will face Chris Capuano…go Madd Dog. On Saturday Chris Young will pitch against Dave Bush. Honestly, there is a chance we could back our way in without winning…but let’s not try.

    Worst case scenario right now…and a real reason to SETTLE DOWN CUBS FANS…worst case scenario the Cubs are tied with the Brewers on Sunday with Jake Peavy starting against them. Currently, Peavy is not slated to start but if the Brewers somehow win both Friday and Saturday they will then need to pitch him on Sunday in order to make the playoffs.

    On a final note: don’t turn on this team yet. How they play this week has absolutely no bearing on how they will do if they make the playoffs. Also, how they have played for the last century has nothing to do with how they will play these three games. Consider this: because they have played so amazing this month they laid the Cardinals to rest and put themselves in a position that they could play weak this series and still be in control of the division. Again, the Cubs currently have the biggest division lead in the National league. And if I am remembering right, they are something like 17 games over .500 since June.

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    Looking for ONE good start

    Thursday, September 27th, 2007

    The numbers say that this should be easier than it is. The numbers say that the Cubs should have come into Miami and taken big steps in the direction of knocking the Brewers out of the playoff picture. All say I have been running through the scenarios in my mind. One win…only one win and only one Brewers loss in four remaining games guarantees at least a game 163 at Wrigley Field on Monday. That is the second to worst case scenario (let’s not talk about the worst case scenario). Which means that if the Cubs would only split these four remaining games against the Marlins and Reds the Brewers would forced to sweep the Padres, who are also fighting for their playoff lives, or not make the playoffs. Sounds easy…

    Steve Trachsel was bad again…I mean bad. Following up on the bad from Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis, Trachsel was just as bad. It seems to me that each start from Trachsel was worse than the numbers suggested and today was like that as well…even though his numbers were bad enough. It has been consistently nice to be behind two or three runs in the second or third inning of each game in the series. Trachsel gave up a lead off double to Hanley Ramirez. He scored on a sac fly by Mike Jacobs. Trachsel got out of the first with only one run damage, the Marlins stranding runners and Trachsel throwing 30 pitches in the inning. The Marlins scored two more runs in the second inning as the Marlins scored two runs through their bottom of the order. Trachsel went one, two, three in the third and fourth. In the fifth Hanley Ramirez homered to lead off the inning and Dan Uggla followed with a walk. Trachsel was pulled and Kevin Hart gave up a run scoring double, that was debatably fair, and the Cubs were down 5-1. Dempster pitched the eighth, with the score now 5-4. and gave up a lead off walk and an insurance run scoring double to put the game away. Trachsel’s final numbers: 4.1 IP 5H 5ER 2BB.

    Lou Piniella started Geovany Soto again even though he said he would be starting Jason Kendall for the remainder of the year. He also started Craig Monroe in the outfield for “defensive purposes.” DeRosa and Theriot were killer bad today going 0 for 9 and stranding 10. I am wondering if Lou should drop Theriot to eighth again and move Jones back to second. Jones was two for four again today, but struck out being over anxious in a critical bases loaded situation in the seventh.

    The Cubs stranded ten runners. They had ten hits: two for Soriano, one for Lee, four for Ramirez, one for Soto, and two for Jones. But the Marlins bullpen shut them down again as they have done all series.

    The Cubs made a game of it scoring three runs in the sixth to make the game 5-4. Scott Eyre came out to pitch the bottom of the inning and loaded the bases with none out. Kerry Wood came in and was stellar. Getting a pinch hitter to strike out and coaxing Hanley Ramirez into a double play to end the inning…no runs after bases loaded none out. It looked like the Cubs would ride this into a win. They loaded the bases in the seventh, but Jones struck out flailing at out for the strike zone pitches. The strike zone was goofy all series, as it was again today. The ump was consistently calling a very low strike and DeRosa seemed lost all series. But here’s a note to Cubs hitters: protect the plate and SWING!!! The strike zone was the same all game.

    The Cubs move on to Cincinnati to face the Reds. Tomorrow night is Zambrano against Arroyo and Saturday is Hill against Harang. Hold your breath it could get interesting.

    The Brewers begin a series against the Padres tonight. I would like to personally thank Ned Yost for the moronic move of hitting Albert Pujols with a pitch in the eighth inning of last night’s game when they were only down 3-2. He gets suspended for tonight’s game, his reliever McClung gets suspended until Sunday, and the Cardinals use that runner to break the game open. Brilliant move Ned! Anyone who thinks that retaliation was more important then keeping runners off base is clueless. Thanks again…it made today easier.

    I know this is completely maddening, but take comfort in the fact that this is happening around the league. The D-Backs have watched their lead shrink to one after losing two of three to the Pirates. The Mets are blowing it in the East after getting swept by the Nationals. The Rockies have won ten straight and are battling the Phillies, Padres, Mets, and D-Backs for the wildcard. Who will be in the playoffs next week? Who has a clue?

    And yet another reason why I like Lou Piniella: Feeling that the Cubs were pressing too much he invited Bill Murray to join the team on the field for batting practice and the clubhouse before the game.

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    Game 158 – Marquis is French for Yuck

    Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

    September 26th, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Chicago 0 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0   4 9 1
    Florida 1 3 0 0 1 0 2 0 X   7 11 0
    W – L. Kensing (2-0) L – J. Marquis (12-9)
    S – L. Gardner (2)
    Homeruns: D. Lee (21); M. Cabrera (34)

    <a href=”
    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/boxscore.jsp?gid=2007_09_26_chnmlb_flomlb_1″>Box Score

    I’m beginning to really hate when my gut feelings turn out to be right. Yesterday I predicted two loses to the Marlins in the first two games. The Cubs will win tomorrow, Friday, Saturday, and lose the season finale. I can feel it. This game really bored me to tears. “Lost In Translation” was on Encore, and I kept fighting the urge to just skip the rest of the game. And I’ve seen that movie at least a dozen times. You could tell from the get go that Marquis didn’t have his ‘A’ game. I’m not sure he had his ‘B or C’ game either. He looked lost on the mound, and completely uncomfortable throughout his short outing. Thanks to Cubs bats at least making a few whimpers here and there, Marquis was still in line for a No Decision, or even a win, when he was removed.

    Like last night, the whole team seems to be out of sync. There isn’t the happy-go-lucky feeling you saw over the weekend. Almost like they’re pressing to get the job done. Bob Brenly noted that since their arrival in Miami, the area has been hit with the usual seasonal rain storms, and that the players are getting the routines a bit fouled up because of it. No offense, but it’s game 158. These guys have all played in all of these stadiums at all different times. The Marlins have 67 wins. You’re trying to tell me because they had to hit in the cages instead of on the field it makes it that big of a difference? I don’t buy it. They look dog tired, and perhaps got into celebration mode a bit too early. Now I’m sitting here hoping the Cardinals hand the Brewers a loss, and get that magic number down to three. I don’t like that one bit. Wins are the best way to get the job done. I guess I better just set up camp with the Pepto bottle, since as we’re all used to, the Cubs can never make this easy.

    On the plus side, the Cubs did hit the ball hard, they just couldn’t capitalize on any of the hits. Cliff Floyd looks flat out locked in, as does Mark DeRosa and Derrek Lee. Soriano seems to be trying to fight off global warming all by himself with the amount free swinging he’s doing, and A-Ram needs to settle down. Is it me, or does he seem to be really fighting himself during his at bats? Almost like each one is the biggest one of his entire career. Too much pressure dude, relax.

    As I said yesterday, my record for doing recaps is horrendous. This should be my last one for the regular season. Joe and Rob seem to have better luck when they do these. I’m begging Joe to make me give up any more of these, as I’m cursed. Or you can all send checks to “Make Matt stop doing recaps” fund. Make that out to Matt, with two T’s. I’ll see you guys on the flipside. I’m handing this off to Joe and Rob.

    Matt’s Notes:

  • Hmmmm, Andy Fletcher sure likes to call those third check swing strikes.
  • Last night as my wife and I were watching the game, I got down on the floor and started rolling around. I asked her, “What am I?” She had no idea. Any ideas?
  • Marmol’s scoreless innings pitched streak ended tonight. Glad it’s now and not in the playoffs. I’m a big believer in ending streaks before playoffs. Start them all over again in the post season. So says I.
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    Game 158 – Preview

    Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

    Scouting Today’s Starters from MLB.com
    Jason Marquis – Marquis struggled in his last start against the Pirates, and gave up seven runs on eight hits and two walks over 2 2/3 innings. It wasn’t his shortest outing of the year, but it was a bad sign. He had trouble keeping the ball down, and blew a 5-1 lead. This will be Marquis’ last regular-season start. He’s in line to pitch Game 163 if the Cubs need a one-game playoff to win the National League Central.

    Daniel Barone – Barone will take the mound for Florida and get another crack at his first victory as a Major League starter. The right-hander has appeared in 14 games (five starts) since being called up from Triple-A Albuquerque in August. Barone’s last start was a loss at Atlanta on Sept. 19 in which he gave up four runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. He recorded two perfect outs in relief against the Mets on Sunday. The 24-year-old will be making his first career appearance against the Cubs.


    View the game preview from Baseball Reference to see various features like the bullpen rest report, information on today’s starters and much more.

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    Game 157 – Bienvenido a Miami

    Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

    September 25th, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Chicago 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0   2 3 0
    Florida 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 X   4 9 1
    W – D. Willis (10-15) L – T. Lilly (15-8) S – None
    Homeruns: C. Monroe (1)

    Box Score

    OK, I swear I really should not sign up for any more recaps. Seriously folks, the Cubs do not win when I do these. Let’s face it, Ted Lilly, with the exception of the second inning wasn’t fantastic, but he had game winning stuff. Once he found the breaking ball, he kept the Florida batters at bay by mixing speeds nicely, as he’s done all year. It was that second inning where his inability to locate the deuce, unless you count placing it over the heart of the plate as good, that got him trouble. Two bloop hits by Dontrelle Willis and the Hermida two run double was all that was needed. Dontrelle kept the Cubs hitters equally at bay with that funky leg kick, and an enormous strike zone from Andy Fletcher (more on that later).

    I’ve been flapping my gums at anyone around that wants to hear me pontificate about the Cubs, that I really believe that they’ll wrap this up on Saturday. I fear two loses in Florida, a win on Friday and Saturday in Cinci, and we’ll conclude with a loss. It’s just the gut instinct I’ve got. I don’t like the way the media and some of the Cubs seem to act as if this is a done deal. The magic number is four gentlemen, you still have five games to go. Oh, and by the way, the Cardinals are playing dead for the Brewers, so unless the Brewers shoot themselves in the foot, this is going the distance. Get out there and play ball, because tonight it certainly didn’t look like you were playing for anything. There were three or four lead off walks and the Cubs went right back to the old 6-4-3 routine that we saw so much of two weeks ago. Let’s get this thing in gear and put the beer swigging neighbors to the north away. And not on Sunday, my acid reflux is already in overdrive.

    Out of the whole mess of a lackluster game, Michael Wuertz has once again found his early season form. The changeup and the slider are mesmerize hitters, and he looks like a good specialist when needed. Oh and looky here, there’s been a Craig Monroe sighting. Nice to see you Craig, that .200 average against lefties was a nice addition, glad it showed up on September 25th. If I sound a bit miffed, I am. Obviously, it’s only game one of the series, but these are all games that the Cubs should easily win. You can’t manhandle the Pirates, and not get more that three hits against Dontrelle. He’s just not as overpowering as he was a couple of years ago.

    In any case, I’ve got tomorrow’s recap too. So buckle up. I’m sending the wife to the bathroom for the entire thing, and I’ll be turning lights on and off, as well as flopping back and forth on the couch. Anything to get that magic number to diminish.

    Matt’s Notes:

  • I feel like I rail on this way too often, but Andy Fletcher you’re an umpire, do your dang job and stop trying to be part of the show. Call balls and strikes, that are actually IN the strike zone, and go home. As Bob pointed out, Andy is known for his enormously large strike zone, and tonight was no different. Major League Baseball needs to do some serious soul searching this off season on their current roster of umpires, and perhaps making them accountable. These guys are atrocious this year. And how the heck does a home plate ump watch the flight of a pitch and the batter’s swing? Ask for help, moron. That’s why you’re on a crew.
  • Who is in charge of advertising for Cubs baseball on TV? Good god, you can’t tell me that Budweiser, Mercury, General Motors, and the Commemorative Pavers Promotion are the only companies looking to put up ads during games.
  • I just found my Vineline postcards for resubscribing, from 2005. It somewhat saddened me that the only three players in the set that still were on the Cubs in any sort of major role are Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Zambrano.
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    Game 157 – Preview

    Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

    Scouting Today’s Starters from MLB.com
    Ted Lilly – Lilly is coming off a solid start against the Reds in which he gave up two runs over seven innings. It was his 20th quality start of the season, and he’s the first lefty to do so for the Cubs since Jamie Moyer in 1988. Lilly has set a career high in innings pitched, and matched his previous single-season high in strikeouts. He will be pitching with plenty of rest in what is his next-to-last start of the regular season.

    Dontrelle Willis – He was like the Willis of old in his previous start, battling for six innings and slapping out two hits at the plate. Turning in an all-around game, Willis was in line for a win over the Mets until New York rallied. So the D-Train settled for a no-decision. Willis is on pace for two more starts, and he now has logged 194 2/3 innings. He is headed for his third straight 200-inning season. On May 29, Willis beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field.


    View the game preview from Baseball Reference to see various features like the bullpen rest report, information on today’s starters and much more.

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