Archive for September, 2007

Game 147 – Preview

Friday, September 14th, 2007

Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
Carlos Zambrano – Zambrano snapped his career-high five-game losing streak in his last start Saturday in Pittsburgh, and is being given an extra day of rest so he can face the Cardinals. He’s 2-0 this season against St. Louis. Against the Pirates, Big Z gave up one run on two hits over six-plus innings and struck out eight. The only concern was the five walks issued. He has walked 10 in his last two games.

Adam Wainwright – Wainwright has been bumped back from the finale in Cincinnati to the opener against the Cubs, setting up a delicious ace-vs.-ace matchup at Busch Stadium. He will be pitching on six days’ rest, so there’s some question about sharpness, but Wainwright has been as good as anyone in the second half. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in six straight starts and 10 out of his past 12.

Additional Notes on Wainwright

  • Assets: Has good, sinking heat that can hit 93 mph. Also has quality pitches in his change-up, curve and slider. Nasty against right-handed pitchers.
  • Flaws: Doesn’t always have great command over his breaking stuff. Left-handed hitters paste him.
  • The 3rd, 4th and 5th innings are where he’s most vulnerable to get hit hard.
  • 2-1, 1.93 in last 18.2 IP

    What to Watch For
    It’s safe to say that this series is do or die for the Cardinals. If they want to have any chance, they have to sweep us. That being said, do the Cubs want it as bad? Now is the time to announce our presence with authority a la Nook LaLoosh.

    News & Notes

  • Derrek Lee is expected to be back in the lineup tonight after being a late scratch for Thursday’s contest.
  • Cliff Floyd is thinking about retiring, especially if the Cubs win the World Series.


    View the game preview from Baseball Reference for all sorts of useful information including how our guys have faired against today’s starter, bullpen rest report, and much more.

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  • Game 146 – Let’s end the season today

    Friday, September 14th, 2007

    September 13th, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Chicago 4 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0   6 11 0
    Houston 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0   2 8 2
    W – S. Trachsel (7-10) L – W. Williams (8-15) S – None
    Homeruns: A. Soriano (25) C. Floyd (7) A. Ramirez (23) D. Ward (3) C. Lee (28) M. Loretta (4)

    Box Score

    Yesterday afternoon in an impressive recap of the Brewers game, one in which I called Derrick Turnbow – Dustin Turnbow, I said we can’t get ahead of ourselves but if we could win last night and today we could go back into first place on our own. Voila and it’s done and we are .5 games in front of the Crew. See how simple it is people.

    Tonight’s pitching match up
    In probably one of the ugliest pitching match ups of the season Steve Trachsel climbed the Minute Maid bump to take on Woody Williams. Since Trachsel became a Cub he is 0-2 in 2 starts with a 10.13 ERA. That ERA is worse than I thought (he probably could have won his first start).

    Woody Williams has strong numbers against the Cubs this year, which is unbelievably frustrating because he is just not very good. But in four starts against the Cubs this year he has a 2.25 ERA and averages six innings per start.

    Make a statement early
    Life is much easier if you can put a four spot on the board early in the game. Soriano (who again maddeningly swung at first pitch after first pitch throughout the whole game) hit a hanging curve ball into the Left Field bleachers. No camera shot actually spotted the ball, which was crushed, making the viewer believe that the ball might have actually left Houston (probably not I guess, since Houston is the fourth largest city in our nation behind New York, L.A. and Chicago, which is a fact that always surprises me.) Mike Fontenot then got an infield single (he started at second and DeRosa got the say off). Cliff Floyd, who was batting third with Derrek Lee getting the night off to rest a hurting knee, walked. Then A-Ram hammered a three run home run. The Cubs scored four in the first inning, with ten men batting.

    The Cubs added solo home runs from Daryle Ward in the fifth and Cliff Floyd in the seventh. I know that it was in a small ballpark, but the Cubs have been hitting more home runs lately. We’ll see if that keeps up when we get to St. Louis.

    Batters 1 through 5 in the lineup were a combined 7 for 22 with four home runs, six RBI and six runs scored. Jacque Jones was 2 for 4 batting seventh in front of Ryan Theriot who was hitting eighth. Every starter had a hit, except for Ryan Theriot. (In case you’re looking for something to be unhappy about or someone to rip…which it seems is the happening pastime these days…though Soriano did hit a home run to lead off the game, he continues to hit poorly and make mental mistakes – did everyone see the other day when he finally dropped a pop up doing that arrogant hop?)

    Don’t let the score fool you
    Steve Trachsel was worse than his numbers showed tonight. But he got the win and that is all that matters of course. His numbers: 5ip 7h 2ER 3BB 4K. He worked out of a first and third jam with a double play in the second. He gave up a lead off hit to Woody Williams in the third and got out of a first and second one out jam with a double play. He gave up two solo shots in the fourth to Carlos Lee and Mark Loretta. He stranded two runners in the fifth. Not great numbers, but they won…who cares about numbers???

    The bullpen did the job with Eyre, Wood, and Marmol giving up only one hit and no runs in four innings.

    Sidenotes
    Lou made some interesting comments about hitters not taking more pitches and swinging at the first pitch. While not naming names, he said that it is too late in the season to try to change things now. He said that if you want hitters to take more pitches, those are the kind of guys you need to sign in the off season. He said that he is happy with the team he has now.

    The Cardinals lost again today. They have lost seven in a row and went 0 for 7 on their current road trip. They sit five games out and even a split in this series probably ends their season.

    The Cubs have set their rotation for the remainder of the year. I heard that this might be Trachsel’s last start, and then I heard that it won’t. But with two days off remaining the Cubs will eventually go to a four man rotation.

    The foul poles at Minute Maid Park were sponsored by Chick-Fil-A and said “Eat More Fowl.” Is there anything that cannot be sold or sponsored? Why don’t we have Chick-Fil-A’s in Chicago? My wife loves the place, which means that every time I travel to Atlanta or anywhere with a Chick-Fil-A I need to buy Chick-Fil-A’s to bring home. They are always soggy and smell up whatever vehicle I am traveling cross country in…but it’s about sacrifice (right gentlemen?)

    Is there anybody else whose favorite player is rapidly becoming Jacque Jones? Tonight in the ninth inning he adeptly backed up on a Luke Scott deep fly ball, reached out for the wall, jumped up and stole a home run. The coolest thing about it, was that when he landed he paused, took a couple steps forward, then got a huge smile on his face that said “Yeah, I got it.” Then he flipped the ball out of his glove and threw it back in. My words do not do this justice…if you can see it check it out.

    On a final note, I know we have a long way to go, but I am wondering which pitchers we will take and leave for the playoffs. Assuming you take 1o pitchers on a playoff roster you take: Zambrano, Lilly, Hill, Marquis, Marmol, Eyre, Howry, Dempster and who? (2 spots to fill with Marshall, Wuertz, Wood, Ohman, or Trachsel-who was added on August 31 and I think is eligible for the playoff roster.)

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    Game 146 – Preview

    Thursday, September 13th, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
    Steve Trachsel – Trachsel will be pitching on short rest. In his last start Sunday against the Pirates, he threw 47 pitches over two innings before he was pulled. He also gave up six runs in that brief stint. The Cubs made the switch because they wanted to push Carlos Zambrano back so he would open a series Friday against St. Louis.

    Woody Williams – Williams pitched a solid game against the Mets but was rewarded with nothing more than a loss, having the misfortune of starting opposite Tom Glavine in vintage form. Williams allowed three runs over six innings, but in doing so, matched his career high with 14 losses. He’ll look to avoid setting a new personal low against the Cubs, a team he holds a 2.25 ERA against this season.

    Additional Notes on Williams
    Assets – Williams throws a cutter, a 90-mph four-seamer, a curve and a good change-up. He is a fly-ball pitcher who works the strike zone up and down.
    Flaws – Because Williams works the plate up and down, he is prone to giving up the longball. If he’s not on, his pitches hang in the strike zone and are greeted with open arms by opposing hitters. It often takes a rough first inning to get his head in the game.

    What to Watch For
    Williams is having a down year from a career standpoint and is on the wrong side of 40. He has been good of late, but, he’s been considerably more vulnerable at night than during the day, with an ERA of 5.41 at night and 3.81 during the day. He gets an average of 4 runs of support a game. He tends to be vulnerable in the first inning and then gets stronger as the game progresses. Watch for the Cubs to try to get him early in the game or not at all. If he gets out of the first inning unharmed, it could be a long night for the Cubs until the get to the bullpen.

    News & Notes

  • The Cubs acquired Marcos Mateo from Cincinnati to complete the Buck Coats trade. (View Mateo’s Player Page)
  • The Cardinals lost to the Cincinnati Reds 4-5 this afternoon. They could be five games back by the end of this evening.

    View the game preview from Baseball Reference for all sorts of useful information including how our guys have faired against today’s starter, bullpen rest report, and much more.

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  • Game 145 – Maalox Moment

    Wednesday, September 12th, 2007


    September 11th, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Chicago 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0   3 8 0
    Houston 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1   2 8 1
    W – R. Hill (9-8)  L  - M. Albers (4-8) S – R. Dempster (26)
    Homeruns: C. Floyd (6) M. Loretta (3)

    Box Score

    If there’s one way I can sum up my feelings about this season, this game is pretty much it in a nutshell. I’m tired of my stomach tickling my throat each and every game. The difference between 2003, and this year’s squad seems to be just bad luck, and whole hearted attempts to play themselves out of wins. It’s why I’m still so apprehensive about really getting behind this team. Tonight was no different.

    Rich Hill looked sharp, which he needed to do after his last not so good outing against the Bucs. Seven strong innings of one run baseball, with a good looking curve, and a nice controlled fastball. Rich seems to always bounce back after a poor showing, now I wish he’d really start to string outings like this together. His only mistake was a pitch to Mark “Man-woman” Loretta, for his third (yes, third) homerun of the year in the 7th inning. Until that point, he was in complete control.

    The Cubs scored three runs, two by Cliff Floyd. Cliff “Claven” Floyd delivered an awesome home run, and an equally hard hit triple over the head of the Astros’ Hunter Pence. If you can give anything to Mr. Floyd, it’s that he hits everything with authority. When you do that, hits are sure to follow.

    Obviously, the big story was the ninth inning, with everyone’s favorite whipping boy Ryan Dempster in for the save. After Mark Loretta (there he is again), hit that bouncing 0-2 count ball toward Derrek, I was feeling pretty good. Then it hit first base and bounced toward second. How on earth does this stuff happen? Watching Derrek’s mouth during the replay is exactly what I was thinking, “Did you just see that?” Lamb’s one run triple had me clutching at my gut. I had pizza for dinner, but I’m quite sure these Cubs have given me an ulcer. These nonsense has to stop. Thanks to a squib hit from Luke Scott, and a double play later, it thankfully was.

    As I said earlier, these Cubs seem to try and play themselves out of wins. Just like last night, they don’t seem to be able to go for the juggular. Score three, and ride it out and see what happens. As Dusty might have said, “no good, dudes.” They need to stomp on these teams when they get them down early, just like on Monday. You cannot let up, especially at this level. It’ll bite you in the rear everytime.

    I’m really hoping this is a turning point. Although, we’ve said that so many times this year, I’m not sure it’s worth repeating. It’s a big win to get back into a tie for first, as Milwaukee is once again showing they’re just as incapable of wanting this division as the Cubs are. It’s time to get a hot streak going boys. C’mon, before I buy Walgreen’s out of antacid.

    Matt’s Notes:

  • Soriano is hardly my favorite player on this team, but I’m getting tired of him getting Outfield Assists for throws he makes after he misplays balls. Sooner or later, it’s going to not work out as nicely. Like when we need him to make a clean play in the playoffs, and he boots one to the wall instead. And quit swinging at first pitches. You’re a lead off hitter for cripes sakes.
  • After Craig Biggio made his tenth error of the year, I wondered what goes through the mind of a guy retiring in 17-18 games. Is that the one error he really remembers since it was so close to the end?
  • Jason Kendall showed why he is probably the best situational hitter on the team. His perfectly place slap hit in the second inning to get DeRosa to third (who didn’t take off like he should of), was simply baseball being played like it should. The dude is a team player with terrific fundamentals. Take that Soto lovers.
  • Someone please tell Mark DeRosa that he is not fast. His baserunning is scaring the you-know-what out of me. He could have been called out twice, and probably should have been once.
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  • Game 145 – Preview

    Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
    Rich Hill – Hill struggled with consistency in the Cubs’ 6-1 loss on Friday in Pittsburgh. He threw 85 pitches, 65 for strikes, and only walked one and struck out two. But he gave up six runs on nine hits. “It wasn’t a very good outing,” Hill said afterward. “Take it and move on. I made some good pitches that got hit.”

    Matt Albers – Albers will start in place of Patton, who’s out with a sore shoulder. Albers lasted just three innings in his last start on Sept. 5 in Milwaukee, allowing seven runs, including two three-run homers. Prior to that outing, Albers made two solid starts, allowing two earned runs over 14 innings.

    Additional Notes on Albers

  • 1-1, 7.20 in last 10 IP (Cold)
  • He has pitched in three games against the Cubs in his career, all coming out of the bullpen. He has an ERA of 8.10 in those outings.
  • When he’s won, he’s been really good. When he’s lost, he’s been really bad.

    What to Watch For
    Matt Albers tends to be fairly decent early in the game, but then begins to struggle around the 3rd and 4th innings. Watch for the Cubs to hopefully take advantage the second time through the order against him. On the other side, Rich Hill has very limited experience facing the Astros. Hopefully that will be to his advantage. No one in the lineup has faced him for that 6 times and as a team, the Astros have hit .196 against him.

    News & Notes

  • Road to Wrigley has a breakdown of each game for the Tennessee Smokies in the playoffs (Source)
  • John Sickels, who has been dealing with some terrible family issues, takes some time to write about Jeff Samardzija’s weird year. (Souce)
  • Ken Rosenthal writes that baseball needs to “lead this battle” against drugs. Good luck on that. (Source)
  • “Sometimes I think we need to be more aggressive and go for the throat. Sometimes you can settle for getting a guy over, which is good fundamental baseball. But sometimes it’s all right to be aggressive, try to score all the runs, really put some pressure on the other team.” ~ Derrek Lee

    View the game preview from Baseball Reference for all sorts of useful information including how our guys have faired against today’s starter, bullpen rest report, and much more.

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  • A Chance to Tie…Again

    Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

    The Brewers game just finished up. Things started to get a little choppy there for a while. The Pirates got off to a strong start and took a 4-2 lead into the eighth. The Brewers tied it and had runners on first and third with one out. Shawn Chacon gave up a triple, struck a guy out and then loaded the bases on a hit batter and a walk. Not good. Next up Geoff Jenkins with the bases loaded. The count went to 3-0 on Jenkins before the reliever worked his way back and got Jenkins to ground out on a full count.

    For the bottom of the eighth, potential Cub MVP Derrick Turnbow, came into the game. He gets Adam Laroche on a strike out but then walks two guys…then a single and a triple and the Pirates lead and win the game 7-4.

    So the Brewers go one and two against the Pirates as we did. Hopefully Rich Hill can have a good game tonight and Trachsel can bounce back tomorrow against Woody “Cy Young” Williams (What kills me about continuing to lose to Woody Williams is that I just sit there screaming “I know we can beat this guy. We’ve done it before…). Not to get ahead of ourselves but if we win tonight and tomorrow, which is doable we could be up by a half game. But thats getting ahead of ourselves.

    So I want to reiterate a question from earlier: Who will be the hero or goat for these two weeks?

    I was mentioning today that being a Cub fan and facing these last two weeks is so hard because we have been trained to be so pessimistic in order to cope…However there is something so apocalyptic about it all because you really think that if we don’t get there this year we might not even be close for like ten years. I remember thinking the day after the Cubs blew it in 2003 “Well, we might not ever get that close again in my lifetime.”

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    Looking Toward the Finish Line

    Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

    Awhile back, I mentioned that the Cubs simply need to follow three easy steps to win this division. Today, I want to take a lot at what’s on tap for the remaining few weeks of the year. Hopefully this will come as an encouragement to you. If you’re anything like me, you need as much encouragement as you can get down the stretch.

    Remaining Games

  • Milwaukee: 18 (10 Home)
  • Chicago: 18 (6 Home)

    This doesn’t discourage me as much as I thought it would because of the fact that we’ve played decent on the road. We’re just a game under .500 on the year away from Wrigley Field.

    Winning Percentage of Opponents

  • Milwaukee: 413-450 (.479)
  • Chicago: 323-397 (.449)

    Final Week

  • Milwaukee: @ ATL, vs. STL (3), vs. SD (4)
  • Chicago: vs PIT (1), @ FLA (3), @ CIN (3)

    What I see is somewhat encouraging. If the Cubs can get to that final week of the season tied or down no more than one game, we should be able to have enough of an advantage from a schedule standpoint to win the division. Milwaukee has some tough assignments down the stretch. With Atlanta still alive in the race and San Diego fighting to lock up their spot, Milwaukee has two teams with a lot to play for on their plate. Sure, you can make the argument that teams out of the race are just as dangerous, but I’d rather have to face those kind of teams any day compared to teams with legit reasons to care about the game. Let’s get back to even today and stay at or above that till that final week. It’s not a tall order. Now let’s make it happen.

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  • Game 144 – 15 left on base…any questions

    Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

    September 11th, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 X R H E
    Chicago 0 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 10 0
    Houston 0 1 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 1 5 10 0
    W – R. Dempster (2-6) L – B. Lidge (4-2) S – None
    Homeruns: M. DeRosa (9)

    Box Score

    It all comes down to that. You probably can’t win many games when you strand 15 runners.

    I love Lou Piniella so far but today I could not believe what I was seeing. In the eight, ninth, and tenth innings with the game tied at 4 the first hitter got on base in every inning and in every inning Lou sacrificed the guy to second to put the runner in scoring position. Now I usually think this is good, especially the way the Cubs have been hitting this year. However, the downside to it all is that you are giving the other team an out and giving yourself only two out to drive in the run. I could understand doing this once, but I cannot understand doing this three innings in a row.

    In the eighth inning Jones (who had another good game) led off with a single. Kendall bunted him to second. Ward was walked intentionally as a pinch hitter. Then Soriano swings at the first pitch (no surprise) and pops out. Then, in what was probably the most important play of the game, Theriot drills a ball to left and Carlos Lee (CUB KILLER) makes an all out diving play to steal a two run double/triple and end the inning.

    In the ninth Derrek Lee singled and Felix Pie bunted him to second. Then Aramis Ramirez walked. At this point Mark DeRosa came up. Someone who knows how to find stats should find out how many times DeRosa has grounded into a double play this year. Well, he did it again in the ninth. I wonder why Lou did not think about pinch hitting Fontenot here. He is quicker and would be harder to double up. (Although DeRosa did hit a three run homer earlier in the game).

    In the tenth Jones singled again and Kendall bunted him over. Fontenot and Soriano then both struck out. I wonder if Lou will just watch the team slide and slide without even trying to move Soriano in the order.

    The Cubs had the bases loaded in the eleventh…3 walks from a tired Lidge…and Jones hit a hard fly ball to center that was caught to end the inning.

    Dempster walked Mark Loretta with one out and Luke Scott drove him in with a triple…that Murton didn’t play well I might add…although it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

    The Cubs are back to being a game out since the Brewers lost tonight.

    Some good news:
    The Cubs did have a lot of hits and were hitting the ball hard.

    The bullpen looked very good throughout the game. Marmol, Howry, and even Dempster looked strong. The Astros did not have a base runner from the sixth through the eleventh.

    The Brewers go against Tom Gorzelanny tomorrow which means the Cubs could be tied for first again. (COULD)

    The Cardinals lost and are now 4 games out of first. Which increases the likelihood that it will be either the Brewers or us in the playoffs. I find the idea of the Brewers in the playoffs extremely bearable…except for the minor fact that it means that we would not be there.

    Is it time to ask for some predictions? Out on a limb…
    Do we make the playoffs or not?
    Who is the hero or who is the goat in the final two weeks?
    What will the story be about why or why not we turned it around?

    We will get through this.

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    Game 144 – Preview

    Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
    Jason Marquis – Marquis did not get a decision in his last start against the Dodgers. He was in line for the win, but the Dodgers rallied for a late victory, fueled by Andre Ethier’s pinch-hit homer off Ryan Dempster. Marquis notched a quality start, giving up two runs on four hits over seven innings. The only walk was an intentional pass. He began the game by retiring the first 14 batters. Some side sessions with pitching coach Larry Rothschild appear to be paying off.

    Brandon Backe – Backe’s season debut was worth the wait, as the right-hander pitched well against the Brewers despite taking the loss. He allowed four runs (three earned) in 5 2/3 innings, making his first start since undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery last year. Backe was 3-2 with a 4.32 ERA in five rehab starts at Triple-A Round Rock.

    Additional Notes on Backe
    Assets: His stuff, particularly his great curveball, can be nasty against right-handed hitters. He can work himself out of tight spots and regularly gets ahead in the count.
    Flaws: Left-handed hitters hammer him and as a starter he starts to wear down far too early.

    What to Watch For
    The Brewers did us a favor and lost to the Pirates last night, putting us back in a tie for first place. I don’t expect that to happen again tonight so it’s imperative that we win this game with Marquis on the mound. There is no question in my mind that Marquis is our number five starter. He’s stuck to the 6 and 3 rule the past two starts so let’s hope that trend continues with tonight’s outing. Watch for him to keep the walks to a minimum. In his last two starts, he’s walked one hitter in each. In those starts he picked up a No Decision and a Win. In the previous three starts he walked 12 hitters and picked up a win, loss, and no decision. Keep those walks down and we should win this game.

    View the game preview from Baseball Reference for all sorts of useful information including how our guys have faired against today’s starter, bullpen rest report, and much more.

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