Archive for September, 2007

Tuesday Morning Coffee Thread

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

I’m stealing a page from Scott over at Rays of Light on this one. It’s probably going to be a regular feature in the off-season, so why not try it now. Let’s discuss something today.

With the Bears at 1-2, who’s your QB? Why?

Discuss!!!

Update: – Also, what do you think of the morning coffee thread idea in the off-season?

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From Right Field – Very Superstitious

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Sports and superstition. They go hand in hand. Athletes have their pre-game rituals, meals, stretching routines. I like to get to my games an hour before hand, to stretch, do a little running, throw for a while, and more importantly, flap my gums with the fellas. A nice way to unwind before you have to get down the business between the lines. As fans, we all have our little superstitions too.

Since I’ve recently moved to new digs, I haven’t had much time to settle into any rituals for Cubs games. To me it’s throwing off the whole feng shui, karma, greek god, magical hole, balance to the universe type thing. I’m a nut for watching sports and having to do certain things in certain situations. In 2001, my wife bought me a Brian Urlacher jersey. I wore it for their first round playoff game against the Eagles. They lost. I wore it again in 2003. They lost again. I wore it last year for the Superbowl…..you know where this is going…..they lost. The jersey has been relegated to non-Bears game watching now. It’s obviously cursed.

Besides that particular superstition I have, at least for the Bears, I had quite a few in 2003 for the Cubs. First and foremost, I’d start each game sitting on the same side of the couch. Once the game started going poorly, I’d flip over to the other side. If that seemed to change the luck of the Cubs fortunes, I’d stay on that side. This process would continue all game long until I got to the side that seemed to be getting results. My wife blames the ultimate demise of that couch on the 2003 Cubs. The cushions couldn’t take any more of my flip flopping.

During 2003, one event that seemed to constantly change the Cubs favor during the games was my lovely wife’s visits to the bathroom. It was like clockwork. She’d get up, head down the hall and within seconds the Cubs would mount a furious rally, or bury whoever they were facing. It became more apparent against the Braves in the playoffs, as she missed both of Kerry Wood’s game altering hits. We were on to something, and whenever the Cubs were in need of a little punch of luck, I’d send her to the bathroom. Oddly, it worked every time, except for game 7. It’s become the running joke between us this year.

“Honey, it’s that time again.”
“I swear I should get a medal for doing this, especially if they win the World Series. I miss all the good stuff, just so they can win.”
“It’s a honorable sacrifice. I’ll hold a parade for you.”

I’m a little overboard, but hey, if it gets results in the Cubs favor, I say do it.

How about any of you? Strange game rituals?

Matt’s “From Right Field” appears every Monday on VFTB.

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Quick Brewers Update

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

The Cubs now sit two and one half games in front of the second place Brewers after the Braves won today’s game in extra innings 4-3.

The Brewers really blew a chance today missing some opportunities in the top of the tenth inning against the Braves. I was pretty nervous because they were in a position to win this game after taking the lead in the tenth and with Franciso Cordero having two outs in the bottom of the inning. If the Brewers beat both Hudson and Smoltz and went home it might be interesting…even more interesting that its’ already going to be.

John Smoltz had a no hitter going against Milwaukee into the sixth inning. The first hit of the game was a JJ Hardy home run following a Rickie Weeks walk to tie the game at 2. The game went into extra innings.

In the top of the tenth Corey Hart led off the inning with a home run to give the Crew the lead. The Brewers then got runners at the corners with only one out. This part gets confusing, and might really come back to hurt Milwaukee. With runners at first and third with one out Craig Counsell came to bat. They tried to bunt in the run, but not using the suicide squeeze, rather using the safety squeeze. Counsell got two strikes and instead of calling off the bunt (remember a fly ball and probably a ground ball still scores the run) Ned Yost kept the bunt on and Counsell bunted foul for strike three. The inning ended 3-2 Brewers.

Cordero came on to try to get his 45th save. He got two quick outs. Then Scott Thorman came in to pinch hit. He crushed a two out game evening home run. The ESPN radio announcers said this was only Cordero’s second surrendered homer of the year. Which, if true, means that the Ramirez home run in that amazing Friday afternoon game in June was the other one. Two pretty big shots.
In the eleventh Mark Teixeira hit the game winning single for Atlanta.

It’s really nice to be up by 2 1/2 instead of 1 1/2 going into tomorrow with Zambrano against Gorzelanny for us and the Brewers going against Braves pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes who has a 6.98 ERA. Chris Capuano will return to the rotation for the Brewers tomorrow to replace Ben Sheets. Hopefully, tomorrow’s start is just the icing on the cake of Capuano’s very bad year.

By the way the Cubs are 8-2 in their last 10. Lou said that he thought they could get hot once more. Again he was right. How about the awakening of the Cubs bats?
Today I think Len and Bob said that there was a chance that Geovanny Soto was going to replace Henry Blanco on a potential post season roster. So that might answer that question.

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Game 155 – It’s a Wild Wild Wild Wild Series

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

September 22nd, 2007

Teams

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
Pittsburgh 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1   5 8 1
Chicago 2 1 2 0 2 0 2 0 X   9 15 0
W – R. Hill (10-8) L – Z. Duke (3-8) S – None
Homeruns: A. Soriano (30 & 31) A. Ramirez (26) D. Lee (19) N. McLouth (13)

Box Score

When I was a child, my mom hyped up a movie called It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. She told me all about how good it was, despite being made seemingly forever ago when you’re a kid. I watched it reluctantly and actually enjoyed it. It reminds me about this series in a way. I watch it reluctantly, with three lefties on tap to face the Cubs. I had apprehension about the prospect of losing all three games based on the struggles we’ve had. Thankfully, like the movie, I’ve found this series very pleasing to the eyes. A sweep might be in the works tomorrow.

  • Today marked not only the 31st start by Rich Hill this season, but also his 10th win of the year. When I saw the numbers in the first inning for Hill, it got me thinking about something that Len would mention later in the game. I can’t tell you how many times that has happened this year, but it’s a lot. It seems like every time I notice something and think about expounding on it, Len mentions in later in the game and makes it look like I was just using his info. Today the topic was the fact that the Cubs have four starters in the rotation with at least 30 starts. Last year, just Zambrano made over 30. Before that, you have to go all the way back to the magical season of 2003 when Clement, Wood, Prior and Zambrano all had 30 + and Shawn Estes just missed it with 28. We all know what happened that year, so maybe we’re in for good things again this year. It’s nice to see rotation durability, especially for a team that has gone through so much disappointment in that area over the last few years. It’s nice to have five guys who take the ball every time out.
  • Alfonso Soriano continues to be on a tear this month and could be a legit candidate to win the player of the month in the NL. If he can stay hot this week and see Matt Holliday cool off a little, he’ll probably win it. It’s funny because I wondered aloud if the Cubs would get a 30 HR guy this season just a few weeks ago and now I wonder if maybe we could have a 40 HR guy. Obviously Soriano would have to go on one of the most awe inspiring tears ever, but the way he’s been hitting this season, I wouldn’t put it past him. I’d love to see 35 this year though. What amazes me is that as hot as he’s been, think about how hot Sammy Sosa was the year he hit 20 homeruns in the month of June. I don’t know that we really appreciated that number as much as we should have when it happened.
  • There were some really weird double plays today on bad baserunning. In the first inning, with Rich Hill in trouble after the first two batters reach base, he gets Freddy Sanchez to hit a lazy fly to right. For some reason, Nyjer Morgan decides it would be appropriate to advance to third before tagging. Murton makes the catch and fires a terrible short hop throw to second to double off Morgan and essentially get Hill out of trouble.In the 6th inning, with Lee on first after a single, Ramirez pops the ball up to Freddy Sanchez. Sanchez appears to fake out Lee and make him think he was going to drop the ball. He made the catch easily and doubled Lee off at first. Lee should have known better. On a play like that, you stay put and take your lumps for being thrown out at second if he drops it. Minimize the possible damage. Shame on him.

    In the 7th inning Sam Fuld, who is on the roster because of the September callups, made an electrifying leaping grab into the wall in right and turned to fire a strike to Lee for yet another double play on a popup / flyball. Gotta give the kid some love for being brave enough to go full speed into the bricks. He’s either naive or completely fearless.

  • The Cubs set a single season attendance record this year. It doesn’t excite me too much, seeing that they added more seats last year and we were so bad that season. It was as if we were due for it this year by default.As I write this, the Brewers and Braves are tied in the 9th. Let’s get those Braves hats out and pull for a win.
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    Game 154 – The Aramis Ramirez Show

    Friday, September 21st, 2007

    September 21st, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Pittsburgh 1 1 5 0 0 0 0 0 1   8 12 3
    Chicago 4 1 2 0 0 5 1 0 X   13 16 0
    W – S. Eyre (2-1) L – F. Osoria (0-2) S – None
    Homeruns: A. Soriano (29) A. Ramirez (24 & 25) G. Soto (3)

    Box Score


    (AP Photo/Jerry Lai)

  • Aramis Ramirez was in the zone today. Two homeruns, and just missing a third. Six RBI, bringing his total to 98 on the year. The craziest thing about it though, is the fact that it wasn’t just his bat that was hot today. Soriano had a couple of hits and scored two runs. DeRosa scored a few runs, Derrek Lee hit the ball well and scored three. Even Geovany Soto got into the mix with his third long ball of the year. You knew that after Marquis let the Pirates back in the game in the fifth that if the Cubs pen could shut the door, the bats would be able to keep it going. Kevin Hart came in and pitched extremely well to close the door and the bats did their job. The magic number is down to 8.
  • Geovany Soto showed in the first inning that it’s not just Kendall that is having trouble throwing out baserunners. We’re beginning to see very clearly now that it’s not really the catchers that are the problem. This pitching staff just doesn’t hold runners on base with any amount of effectiveness. Let’s look at some numbers of our main veteran catchers and their numbers this season with the Cubs and last season.

    Name

    2007 w/ Cubs

    2006

    Diff

    Barrett 17.9 19.1 - 1.2
    Blanco 30.0 42.9 - 12.9
    Kendall 9.1 30.4 - 21.3

    Look at the major dropoff for Jason Kendall. He’s seen his ability to throw out a baserunner become almost non-existent. If we draw the Mets in the first round of the playoffs, that alone has to scare the socks right off your feet with Jose Reyes and Luis Castillo at the top of the order. For Reyes, who could be the fastest player in the game today, it would be in his best interest to run every time he reached base. We have no one who would be able to throw him out.

  • Homeruns have been coming in bunches this month and it got me wondering just where we stood in that department. We all know it’s been a year that has seen a drastic reduction in the longball, but with Soriano’s surge since returning and Cliff Floyd seeing his stroke come back for a week, the Cubs are actually becoming the beneficiary of the homerun at the best possible time in the season. Here is a list of the Cubs homeruns by month and the NL rank in parenthesis coming into today’s games.April – 19 (10)
    May – 25 (7)
    June – 30 (9)
    July – 13 (16)
    August – 19 (15)
    September – 28 (3)

    After sub par months in July and August, the Cubs have busted out in a big way with the bats. Add Soriano, Soto and two Ramirez homeruns from today into the mix and we’ve moved into 2nd place behind Milwaukee for the month of September.

  • Derrek Lee showed some hitting prowess in the first inning with a mini shift on him. With the second baseman playing virtually straight up the middle, it opened the entire right side of the infield. Lee did the perfect thing and took the ball right through that hole to reach first in a crazy first inning that produced four runs for the Cubs.
  • The 6th Inning was the game changer. After Soriano singles to lead off the inning, DeRosa lines out hard to short. With the Cubs so prone to the double play this season, you had to think that it was going to come back to bite them again. Derrek Lee hits a grounder to short and it looked to be the end of the inning due to yet another double play. Thankfully, Freddy Sanchez bobbled the ball and let it get passed him, allowing not only Soriano to reach second, but Lee to reach first on the fielders choice. Ramirez made them pay with the big homerun and later in the inning Soto did the same. It was an inning we probably should have scored none and left the field having scored five. It’s not too often that Sanchez makes a mistake, he’s was tied for first in the NL in fielding pct. for second basemen this season, but we took advantage.
  • Jack Wilson missed the game today due to the birth of a child. That’s fine with me because over the last seven days, he’s hitting .467 with a slugging percentage of 1.133. Jack, don’t you want to stay with that baby a few extra days? Come on man, do us a solid.
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    A Day at the Races

    Friday, September 21st, 2007

    One hundred and sixty two games and it will all come down to the last nine. Out of the last 34 days, the Cubs have been in first or tied for first in 32 of those days. A few weeks ago I felt the Cardinals would be the team giving the Cubs the most grief, but just as it has been most of the year; it is a two-team race. So, how many wins are enough? Can the Cubs win 85 or 86 games and take the division?

    There is something special about September baseball and most, well all of it has to do with the last two weeks of the season, smack dab in the middle of the playoff hunt. It is even better when the Cubs are in the middle of that playoff hunt. It really feels like a lot of times anything can happen—anything.

    Anything can happen example A, suddenly there is a chance the Yankees will make the playoffs and the Mets won’t. If the Mets season ends badly, and by badly I mean becoming the first team since 1938 to blow a seven-game lead in September, who is going to be under fire? Enter obvious contestant number one, Mets manager Willie Randolph. Among the explicit and derogatory accusations that will be made by NY fans and NY papers, inevitably the question will be asked, was Willie Randolph getting the most out of his players?

    Although the Phillies make an art of blowing playoff chances, will this year be different? NY fans will tell you no way, Phillies pitching, starting and relieving will never be able to hold off the Mets. Philadelphia fans can counter that with a team that leads the league in hitting, runs, hits, total bases, doubles, RBI, walks, slugging and on-base percentage. Stay tuned.

    Anything can happen example B, Boston’s lead in the AL East over the second-place Yankees was seven games less than three weeks ago, but has shriveled to a mere game and a half — and only one in the loss column. Of course, it is of no help to the Red Sox that Eric Gagne has had a convincing 9.00 ERA in 15 appearances or that Hideki Okajima, an eye-opener through August, has been shut down because of fatigue.

    While this is typical Yankees/Red Sox style dramatics and ESPN is drooling over it so they can devote 3/4 of their programming to the playoff hunt and the rest of the time to the New England Patriots, in reality both teams will be in the playoffs. One will be the division champ and the other the winner of the wild card.

    If the Yankees do win the East, all you will read and hear about is how the Red Sox “choked away” the division. What does that mean exactly? Will the Red Sox season hold less meaning if they only win the wild card? Or was it more important for Francona to head into the post-season with a healthy, well-rested team than forcing players to play hurt or pushing pitchers too hard in an all-out attempt to win the East?

    While all that drama is going on in the AL East, quietly a race has shaped up in the NL West too. The funny thing is the Diamondbacks are sitting in first place in the NL West, sporting the best record in all of the National League and what do we really hear about them? Despite recent struggles, the Diamondbacks still hold the reigns to their success.

    The Padres aren’t going away either. On Wednesday night, Hairston’s homer gave San Diego its sixth straight win and allowed the Padres to stay one game off the NL West lead behind Arizona and 2 1/2 games over Philadelphia, in the wild card race. Recently Mr. Padre himself Tony Gwynn predicted the Padres will win the division title and the Dodgers are going to come back and take the wild card. While that prediction may be based on sentiment rather than logic, who knows how this race will play out.

    And I didn’t even touch on the wild card. In the NL there are six teams that are in striking distance albeit some further than others. San Diego leads the group with Philadelphia 2.5 back, Colorado 4.5 back, Atlanta 5.5 back, Los Angeles 4.5 back and Milwaukee 6.0 games back. Try figuring that one out.

    The AL is easier to figure out, well besides the whole Yankees/Red Sox teeter totter we are on. It is almost safe to assume the wild card champ will come out of the East, with Detroit and Seattle being 5.5 and 6.5 games back respectively. Then again we all know what happens when one assumes.

    Like I said before, anything can happen. Anything.

    All standings are as of Thursday morning, 9/20/2007

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    Dempster vs. Dumpster?

    Thursday, September 20th, 2007

    Over the last week or so, we’ve had some serious debate over the use of Ryan Dempster as the closer. I’ve argued that you can’t mess with a guy that has only blown three save opportunities, and regardless if he gives up a run or two, when leading by three or more runs, it’s still a save and a win. Regardless of whether or not you like his high socks, Ryan has gotten the job done this year, as well as last year, and has the perfect mental make up for the closer spot. I’m going to give you the numbers of past Cubs closers on playoff teams, to show how he stacks up against, Lee Smith, Mitch Williams, Rod Beck, and Joe Borowski. What you’ll see is that Ryan is not even as close to as bad as some of you would like to believe. In fact, he’s better in many categories.

    First up are the total numbers for each closer for each of the playoff years (1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, and hopefully 2007). Obviously, Dempster’s numbers are not complete yet (and are dated 9/17).

    Pitcher GF W L S IP ERA H R ER BB SO
    Lee Smith 59 9 7 33 101 3.65 98 42 41 35 86
    Mitch Williams 61 4 4 36 81.2 2.76 71 27 25 52 67
    Rod Beck 70 3 4 51 80.1 3.02 86 33 27 20 81
    Joe Borowski 59 2 2 33 68.1 2.63 53 23 20 19 66
    Ryan Dempster 54 2 6 28 61.2 4.09 50 29 28 29 52

    He’s finished 54 games, with a 2 – 6 record, and 28 saves. Lou Pinella has sent him out 18 other times not in a save situation. That’s a nice enough amount of innings that can skew the numbers. What strikes me as interesting is Lee Smith’s 9-7 record. Lee was thrown out there for a ton of two, and in some cases, three inning opportunities. His ERA hit 4.41 as late as July, although ERA by many is discounted. Thus far, Ryan’s looking similiar to “Sweaty” Joe Borowski. The steady hand that has a few bumps along the course of a season, which any reliever is going to have. Since everyone thinks Ryan like to get himself into trouble right off the bat, let’s check out these fellas number facing the lead off hitter in an inning.

    Pitcher AB R H BB SO BA
    Lee Smith 62 3 17 5 12 .274
    Mitch Williams 58 11 15 13 15 .259
    Rod Beck 76 9 23 3 18 .303
    Joe Borowski 64 5 12 4 17 .188
    Ryan Dempster 59 0 13 2 10 .220

    Well looky here, only two walks and no runs facing the leadoff hitter. His hits average out to about what the others had at the same time, as do his strikeouts. Seems old Dempster is a pretty tough cookie to crack when leading off the inning. Rod Becks’ numbers look really spectacular until you see that old batting average, which I know can be construed as a silly stat, but it’s obvious guys seemed to hit the ball against “Shooter.” What’s odd, is if you check Rod’s pitch counts (about half way down the page), batters knocked the snot out of the ball in pitcher’s counts, he was more effective in hitter’s counts. Ryan’s actually wicked in every count except, the first pitch, 0-1, 1-1, and 2-1. Batters never hit higher than .235 (2-0 count) at any other time.

    Then of course, we have the bigger question. Say Mr. Dempster gets himself into trouble, how does he fare with runners in scoring position (2nd and/or 3rd). We’ll do this by how many runs the opponent is within.

      AB R H HR BB SO BA
    Within 1 R 79 12 15 2 13 16 .190
    Within 2 R 134 18 32 3 15 27 .239
    Within 3 R 170 22 40 4 20 39 .235

    Basically, the guy has given up six more runs when up by two, and four more runs when up by three. That’s with a larger number of batters faced, a larger sampling so to speak. So, to say he makes save situations closer, would probably be incorrect. He’s pretty on good no matter what the situation. As you can see, he tightens down even more the closer it gets. Lets see how he does with two outs and runners in scoring position. Although, his OBP is not so nice, .301, .318 and .318 respectively. Walks can kill you if you’re not careful.

      AB R H HR BB SO BA
    2 Outs, RISP 29 6 5 0 8 6 .172

    Dempster seems to tighten down when it’s really on the line. 21% of the batters he’s face have driven in a run in this situation. Not great, but in baseball anything under a one in four shot is pretty dang good in my opinion.

    I think the real argument is not whether or not Dempster is a true stopper, but who is a true stopper these days? I can’t think of one closer in the National League that really scares me. Billy Wagner, or Trevor Hoffman have passed their prime. They still put up good numbers, but are they unhittable nowadays? I’m not so sure. I just don’t think the league has closers that scare the bejesus out of anyone like in the past.

    You guys may all hate on Ryan, but I’m sticking with the guy. He’s proven that he’s got the mental makeup, and the cojones to go out in tight situations, over and over without blinking an eye. Does it get a little rough at times? Yeah, sure. It was in 2003 with Borowski, and look how far the Cubs got. I’d hardly say “Sweaty” Joe cost us the chance at a Division or National League Pennant. Would you?

    This is not a definitive look at Dempster. I could go on for pages upon pages of stats, bore you sabermetrics, compare him to every other closer in the game, and throw up Marmol and Howry’s numbers to whet your appetite, as well. It’s more for you guys and gals to see the numbers, and to show that he’s not as bad as it some of you make him out to be. I know some will still call for his head, but hey that’s the fun of stat mongering, there’s a way to look at every stat to strengthen your position. This is mine, and Dempter’s my closer.

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    Game 153 – Putting an End to It

    Thursday, September 20th, 2007

    September 19th, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Cincinnati 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0   2 6 1
    Chicago 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 X   3 9 2
    W – B. Howry (6-7) L – G. Majewski (0-3) S – None
    Homeruns: A. Dunn (40) E. Encarnacion (15) A. Soriano (28) G. Soto (2)

    Box Score

    This pennant race stuff is pretty taxing on the fan. Each loss seems like it is devastating and even one loss seems like an extended losing streak. This is a huge reason why a Cubs win tonight feels so good. Tomorrow the Cubs have their first day off in over three weeks. Can you imagine how miserable it would have been to carry a two game losing streak into the day off? Think about all of the second guessing about starting Zambrano and Lilly on short rest if the Cubs had fallen to the Reds tonight. Feel all of the angst that we would have felt if the Cubs lost another series to the Reds. “If we can’t beat the Reds we are in trouble.” “We have to play them in the final series of the year.” “We are behind the Brewers in the loss column.” On and on and on. Well, just STOP. Stop it all…Stop as in STOPPER…as in our STOPPER Ted Lilly. Lilly pitched and gets his twentieth quality start of the season. He does not get the win, but he deserved it. More importantly, the Cubs did get the win, and we go into the day off with a one game lead and visions of the playoffs dancing in our heads.

    Ted Lilly is 9-1 in games following a loss this year. He will not move to 10-1 after tonight’s game, but he might as well have. Lilly was not lights out, especially at first, but he was very good. He only gave up two runs, both solo shots from Edgar Encarnacion and Adam Dunn. Dunn’s bomb should have counted for three, crashing way out onto Sheffield. Sometimes when I am away from a TV I watch innings on a computer generated gameday on MLB.com. This feature shows a red dot where the balls land on a play. Lilly had a few balls in the first few innings that had the red dot placed at or even on the wall. The Encarnacion homer was way in the stands. The Dunn homer was probably off the chart. Adam Dunn has now hit 40 home runs for four straight years. Lilly went seven strong innings: 7IP 5H 2ER 1BB 8K…STOPPER. He pitched out of a big jam in the seventh striking out two men with runners at the corners and only one out.

    Bob Howry pitched the eighth and ninth picking up the win. Howry pitched two innings because Ryan Dempster was sick and unavailable for tonight’s game. A game saving play happened in the eighth inning. With the game tied at two and with two outs, Brandon Phillips singled to left. Norris Hopper tried to score the go ahead run but was thrown out at home by another outfield assist from Alfonso Soriano.

    Soriano led off the game with a home run, on the first pitch.That was his ninth home run in 20 games. Cubs minor league player of the year Geovany Soto had a solo home run in the fifth. In the eighth inning Ryan Theriot led off the inning with a base hit and advanced to second on a Ken Griffey error. Derrek Lee got a base hit and Theriot was held at third. (On the play Ken Griffey pulled up with a bad strain…probably ending his year). Matt Murton got a base hit to score Theriot- though it was recorded as a fielder’s choice because Lee thought the ball had been caught and did not advance to second. The Cubs had nine hits but only scored three runs…fortunately that was all they needed.

    Playoff Push
    The Brewers lost in Houston, giving the Cubs a one game division lead again. Derrick Turnbow gave up two runs and the Astros led the game 4-2 going into the ninth. In the Brewers’ ninth Rickie Weeks hit a two run shot to right field to tie the game. On the play Hunter Pence crashed full speed into the wall chasing after the fly ball. In the bottom of the tenth that same Hunter Pence drove in the winning run and the Astros won 5-4.

    The Brewers now travel to Atlanta for four games. They are awaiting word on Ben Sheets who left yesterday’s game in the second with a strained hamstring. They are not sure when or if Sheets will return. I personally think he should rest his legs until next year. “Ben, you have a family to think about.”
    As it stands right now the Brewers will face:
    Lance Cormier
    Tim Hudson
    John Smoltz
    Jo-Jo Reyes (I’m not making this up)

    That is unless the Braves decide to roll over like the Astros. Hey, wait a minute! Didn’t the Braves used to be from Milwaukee? We better keep an eye on this.

    The Cubs face three lefties in the Pittsburgh series:
    Friday: Paul Maholm vs. Jason Marquis
    Saturday: John Van Benschoten vs. Rich Hill
    Sunday: Tom Gorzellany vs. Carlos Zambrano

    The Cubs have won 8 of 11. It doesn’t seem like it, does it?

    Side Notes

    There was an interesting article in the Sun Times that said that the Astros GM talked with Jim Hendry last week about what they were going to with the rotation. Roy Oswalt left to be with his wife who was going to be induced for labor. The Astros have dropped Woody Williams from the rotation to allow their rookies to get more starts. Cecil Cooper also called Bud Selig to discuss the rotation as well.

    Piniella has announced that Jason Marquis will be the pitched in game 163 if we must play the Brewers to break a tie at the end of the year. I might be crazy but I like Marquis’ mental make up for this type of game. Ideally, Lilly would pitch…but I like Marquis as the second option. This bonus game would be played at Wrigley if needed. For old times sake the Cubs could have Steve Trachsel pitch this game since he won the bonus game in 1998. Remember Rod Beck coming in for the save in that game? He was tired from pitching so much down the stretch and was throwing frisbees. Effective frisbees that won the game. Long live home run memories of Gary Gaetti. We rode that momentum into the playoffs where we…nevermind.

    In another instance that raises my thoughts about Lou Piniella, a San Francisco Chronicle article quotes umpire Bruce Froemming as saying that the Lou tirade earlier this year was “definitely premeditated.” Take a look at it if you can, but Froemming implies that Lou prepared them for the possibility days before. Think back about how this might have saved the season in some ways. The day before Z and Barrett were pounding each other in the face and everyone was talking about how the team was crumbling. One day later its’ all about crazy uncle Lou and his explosion. Topic changed…year changed.

    The other day I listened to Lou’s post game press conference. He was talking about how Rich Hill’s velocity dropped a lot in his final inning the other night. I have heard him talking about stats and decisions based on numbers all year. I can’t remember a Cub manager who paid attention to these details. Today an ESPN article about Lou said that he spends every plane ride reading numbers and charts and planning out how to best take advantage of the numbers and match ups. It is nice to have a manager that you feel is outmanaging the other guy.

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    Game 153 – Preview

    Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

     

    Scouting Today’s Starters from MLB.com
    Tom Shearn – In Cincinnati’s 6-5 win over the Brewers on Friday, Shearn delivered a well-pitched 6 2/3 innings to become the first Reds starter since Tom Browning in 1984-85 to begin his Major League career 3-0. The 30-year-old rookie right-hander allowed three earned runs and four hits with one walk and four strikeouts. A key in his success has been early run support. The Reds scored four first-inning runs on Friday and 15 first-inning runs for Shearn over his first four big league starts.

    Ted Lilly – Lilly will be pitching on short rest. The lefty did not get a decision in his last start against the Cardinals, but he pitched well enough to win. He gave up two runs on four hits over six innings, striking out four. His backdoor slider was his most effective pitch. Lilly seems to get better as the game progresses.

    News & Notes

  • The Sun Times is reporting that Angel Pagan is expected to be out for the remainder of the season. (Source)

    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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