Archive for October, 2007

NLDS Game 2 – Live Blog

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

Pre-Game
I’ll be here throughout the night after each inning with my thoughts. I’ll also be responding to questions if you have any. Feel free to talk it up in the comments. Let’s get a good start from Lilly and get on the board right away.

Dick Stockton mentioned the decision by Lou to take Zambrano out yesterday, and I wanted to let everyone know that I was OK with the move last night when he did it.


First Inning

  • What was Soriano swinging at for strike three? The pitch he struck out on bounced a foot in front of the plate. No excuse for that from a leadoff man.
  • Theriot’s single comes with a 1-2 count. His AB was the polar opposite of the Soriano AB. I know Soriano is our leadoff man this year, but I wonder if Lou would consider a change next season.
  • We catch a break on a high throw from short that should have finished out a double play. Is it just me or does it seem like the Cubs have hit into more double plays in the last half of the year, when we’re playing better, than the first half of the year when we were playing like crap?
  • Ramirez strikes out to end it and we start another game without a run in the first inning. Another runner is left on base. It would have been nice to see a run in the first inning, but I’m confident we’ll get to Doug Davis the second time through the order, although the first inning has been Davis’ weakest this season.
  • I love it when the foul balls go straight back and scare the crap out of the people behind a screen. I know they can’t help but flinch, but there is something devilishly enjoyable about watching them nearly pee their pants when the ball is coming at them.
  • Not a good start to walk the leadoff man, especially seeing that he can run.
  • Two walks for Lilly, who has had good control this year. Let’s not let this bite us. I come away from that half of the inning feeling a little deflated and yet we didn’t even give up a run. Let’s pick up a run or two and kick that negative feeling. Second Inning
  • TBS flashed on the screen that Doug Davis led the ML with 8 pickoffs this year. Let’s make sure we’re careful on the bases tonight.
  • Jason Kendall, you may want to get comfortable on the bench, cause Soto is going to be the man this postseason.
  • Ron Darling and Dick Stockton are talking about how Zambrano is one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball. I’m going to disagree, as I always do on this topic. Zambrano is a hack that hits the ball hard. That’s not the definition of a good hitter. A good hitter is Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine. They may not hit the homeruns, but they know how to handle the bat based on the situation at hand. Zambrano doesn’t get that part of hitting yet.
  • Did Soriano really just strike out again on the exact same pitch as in the first inning? Show some discipline, please!!!
  • Lou complained about the groundscrew wetting the area in front of home plate to favor the ground ball pitcher, Webb. Personally, I’m fine with this. It’s all part of the home field advantage that a good field crew can give your team. If you know things about your pitcher or the opposing pitcher than you can adjust to, go for it. What the D-Backs did yesterday was not against the rules.
  • Chris Young just sat on that pitch and crushed it. Lilly was ahead in the count 1-2. That should not have happened. We should have never gotten to 3-2.
  • Buckle up, cause this one has the makings of a long, wild game. Third Inning
  • Very nice double play by Theriot and DeRosa gets Lilly a fairly easy inning, which is something he desperately needed if he plans on getting through five or six innings.
  • Soto shows some fielding prowess going to the screen and making a catch to end the inning. Fourth Inning
  • If DeRosa would have beat the ball out and Jones comes up with the infield single, do you pinch hit for Ted Lilly this early in the game?
  • The Cubs have now struck out 17 times in just 13 innings of postseason play. Disgusting!!! This team is beating itself.
  • Get Lilly out of there NOW!!!! Fifth Inning
  • I’m sick of the runners left on base. I’m sick of the strikeouts. I’m sick of staying up late to watch a team beat itself. I’m sticking it out for at least the top of the 6th. If we show absolutely nothing, I may retire to the bed and hope to wake up having missed a miraculous comeback win.
  • Augie Ojeda just sent me to bed. Down five runs, with no end in site. I’m heading to bed. The only thing we can do at this point is hope we can put a good game together on Saturday with Hill on the mound and take it from there. What I do know is that this is a series that we’re beating ourselves in.
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    NLDS Game 2 – Preview

    Thursday, October 4th, 2007

    Scouting Today’s Starters from MLB.com
    Ted Lilly – Lilly has been the Cubs stopper. He was 9-1 with a 3.79 ERA in 16 starts following a Cubs loss. From June 15-July 25, he was 7-0 with a 2.77 ERA, and the winning streak was a personal high. Lilly, who signed a four-year deal with the team in December, is the first left-hander to win 15 games for the Cubs since Greg Hibbard did so in 1993. He has ranked among the NL leaders in strikeout-to-walk ratio, and has reached double digits in strikeouts twice — fanning 10 on April 15 against Cincinnati and again on June 21 against Texas. He began the season by throwing quality starts in his first five outings. Lilly has pitched in two Division Series with Oakland. In 2002, he pitched in relief in two games against Minnesota, giving up six runs on 10 hits over four innings and took a loss. In 2003, he did not get a decision in two games (one start) against Boston.

    Doug Davis – Davis was scheduled to start Sunday’s regular-season finale, but those plans were scratched once Arizona clinched the NL West and home-field advantage. That means the left-hander’s final outing of the year was Sept. 25 when he allowed two runs on five hits over five innings in a 6-5 loss to the Padres. After a slow start to the year, Davis hit his stride in July and he won eight of nine decisions between July 13 and Sept. 4. He relies on location and movement rather than velocity so always talks about giving “80 percent” on the mound as a way of reminding himself not to overthrow. When he does try to do too much, his ball tends to straighten out and his location suffers. Davis struggled with his mechanics in September and slumped to a 1-1 record and 5.33 ERA. He is familiar with the Cubs, having spent the previous three-plus seasons with the Brewers, and he faced them once this year, on Aug. 25 at Chase Field. He got the win, allowing one run over seven innings.

  • Has a very good fastball with late action, which is juxtaposed nicely with a good curve and change combination. His stamina is good and growing.
  • Needs to buckle down and concentrate on the hitter a bit more with runners aboard. The lefty could use some improvement in his approach against right-handed hitters. What to Watch For
    I will be doing some live blogging tonight, posting after each inning throughout the game. Be sure to log on and post your thoughts in the comment section.
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    NLDS Game 1 – WHY?

    Thursday, October 4th, 2007

    Why is it that a team that has not won a World Series in 99 years is making pitching decisions planning in game one for what might happen in game 4?

    Why when you are down by a run and your number eight hitter leads off an inning by getting on second base do you let the pitcher swing away (Though he did get a double earlier)?

    Why is there so much Alfonso Soriano love? (Have you seen his career postseason numbers and his numbers against the 1 or 2 starters for a team?)

    Why do I have to listen to Dick Stockton do the game? There was another gem. From the guy who gave us “Adolpho Soriano.” Today we get “Rodrigo Ramirez”…instead of Aramis.

    Why am I so frustrated about losing a game that I thought we were probably going to lose in the first place?

    Did you want to jump out a window after the first hitter? Think about this. For days we have heard the book on Webb was to take some pitches and make him work. That has been the book about the only way to beat him. So for days after hearing this over and over how does our leadoff king begin the game and set the tone? By swinging at the first pitch…Absolutely brilliant.

    Zambrano looked real good tonight. 6IP 4H 1BB 8K 1ER. The announcers kept saying that he worked out of a lot of jams, but I didn’t think so. He seemed pretty together except for the one bad pitch that he threw to Stephen Drew for a crushed home run.

    The story of the game pitching wise had to do with Lou pulling Zambrano from the game in the sixth to pitch Marmol in the seventh. Z had only thrown 85 pitches. Lou had planned to pull Z early because he was pitching Sunday on short rest. Lou said that he trusted his bullpen and thought it was the best way to go. This is somewhat valid and somewhat not. Marmol gave up a long home run and a sac fly. It was 3-1 going into the eighth and it seemed over. Bottom line is that Marmol needs to come through or we won’t win any series. He went for a period this year without giving up a run for 23 innings. Tonight he was nervous and overthrowing. His slider missed and missed and his fastball got hit.

    People will talk a lot about Lou’s decision in this game. But Brandon Webb looked like he was throwing wicked stuff. Having said that, the Cubs had loads of chances and left runners on base all game. In the third Zambrano doubled to lead off the inning, only to have Soriano, Jones, and Lee follow with strike outs. In the sixth Theriot drove in the Cubs only run with an infield single. Then Z struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning.

    Really ugly offensive numbers: the Cubs were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position. The 1-5 hitters- Soriano, Jones, Lee, Ramirez, Floyd- were 1 for 20 with 10 runners left on base. UGLY…

    This one is hard to take because the Cubs did have a chance to beat Webb, but their goal was to leave Arizona 1-1. The stopper Ted Lilly comes out tomorrow to try to have that happen.

    Matt’s Notes:

  • Rob pretty much summed up what I thought. Why are we worried about a Game 4, when this could be over in three? Bad move Lou. If Z was around 90 pitches, maybe.
  • I took one class in broadcasting in high school. I still remember the one lesson we were taught. Learn players names, and more importantly how to pronounce them. Good grief. Mike Quaid? Augie O”he”da? And as Rob pointed out, Rodrigo Ramirez? Dick Stockton needs to go back to FOX.
  • I hate saying games are must win, but tonight is it. Last night was there for the taking. A typical trend of not getting guys around in scoring position came back to bite them.
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    Let’s Get It Started…CUBS WOO!!! CUBS WOO!!!

    Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

    I feel like we have already been through another month of the season since we began the Florida series last week. Think about the roller coaster of emotion that we have been on since last Tuesday. Well, it all rebegins again tonight. That’s good news. How do you feel about this? I have to tell you the truth, I cannot pick any of these series. All of the teams seem equal. The American League teams seem really good with a few holes here and there. The National League teams seem good with more holes here and there.

    So to distract us before the game begins tonight I have been reminded about the nightmare that is Ronnie Woo Woo Wickers again this week. If we are looking for a reason the Cubs are cursed forget the Called Shot, slay the Billy Goat, ignore the black cat, forgive Steve Bartman, and on and on…blame it on Wooman.

    I have some memories of Ronnie Woo Woo. I remember hearing him as a kid and just being befuddled by who, what and why??? with a little how thrown in. I remember growing up and being disgusted by his antics sitting in the bleachers one day when “fan (in quotes)” after “fan” came up to him and handed him a cell phone to scream some memorized cell phone thing that he did at some friend of theirs on the other line. (How many friendships ended that day?) I read the stories of the benevolent dentist that graciously fixed Ronnie’s teeth for free after a newspaper push from Rick Telander. I have mentioned before that I heard Ronnie Woo Woo screaming for innings in a row a few years ago while the Cubs played at Miller Park in Milwaukee, where the announcer’s booth is about ten feet above a fan’s walkway. Then this Monday at the Cubs rally downtown I was listening on WGN while “Cubs Woo”‘s from the crowd punctuated the ENTIRE speech of Illinois’ governor Rod Blagojevich. Today I heard a report that Ronnie Woo Woo flew to Arizona for the Cubs playoffs and “Wooed” throughout the entire flight. If you believe this doesn’t seem possible, go to youtube and type in: Ronnie Woo Woo at 35,000 feet. You have to see this clip! And take a look at the reactions of the other people on the flight.
    Here is a comment from the replies to the video:
    “I am sorry…but if that piece of s— was on my flight I swear to god they would have to do an emergency landing because I would seriously strangle the man.”

    Now here are some questions:
    How does he get a ticket to every game?
    Who is flying him to Arizona?
    Who is paying for his hotel?
    Who is giving him food money?

    Growing up my dad would take me to a lot of White Sox games where a guy named “Andy the Clown” was kind of a Ronnie Woo Woo unofficial White Sox mascot. When the White Sox moved to US Cellular field, I am pretty certain that they said that Andy could no longer come to the ballpark as the clown. It makes you think a little…

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    NLDS Game 1 – Preview

    Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

    Scouting Today’s Starters from MLB.com
    Carlos Zambrano – Zambrano set a career high in wins this season with 18, but it wasn’t easy. He had a roller-coaster ride. The Opening Day starter for the third straight season, he was unable to get a win for the third straight time. Zambrano scuffled in the dugout with then-teammate Michael Barrett on June 1, then declared a new season and went 5-1 in July with a 1.38 ERA, winning NL Pitcher of the Month honors. He then lost five straight decisions. Zambrano can dominate, but at times gets rattled by bloop hits or bad defense behind him. The often-animated Zambrano also is a threat at the plate. He belted six homers in 2006 and has hit two this year. This is the fifth straight season he’s topped 200 innings. Zambrano didn’t face the D-backs this season. He’s made four starts at Chase Field in his career, going 1-2 with 4.88 ERA.

    Brandon Webb – The 2006 NL Cy Young Award winner, Webb is an elite pitcher who pounds hitters with a devastating sinker. He was untouchable from July 20-Aug. 22, running off a 42-scoreless-inning streak on his way to a career-high 18 wins. Webb will make his postseason debut against a team he’s had success against, going 4-1 with 2.53 ERA over seven starts against the Cubs in his career. Though still stellar, Webb fared worse at home than on the road this season, posting an 8-5 record with a 3.17 ERA at Chase Field.

  • He’s got a tremendous arsenal, topped by an amazing two-seam fastball and possibly the best sinker in baseball. Works himself out of jams very well.
  • While he manhandles right-handed hitters, left-handed hitters have a much easier time. Also needs to work on his effectiveness in the later innings. What to Watch For
  • That I don’t fall asleep on the couch before the end of the 3rd inning (Stinkin 10:07 EDT start times)
  • Webb has been flat out wicked in the first inning, so don’t look for too much in that inning. The inning to get him appears to be the 2nd and the 6th. Hitters are hitting .359 this year in the 6th inning against him.
  • A strong outing from Zambrano, who has been less than impressive on a consistent basis this year. Let’s hope we get the good Carlos for another month.I truly believe that if we can take this first game, we will win this series with ease. I really think we’re the better team, and now just need to go out and show it.

    Around the Blogosphere

  • 1060 West – Posted an NLDS roundtable discussion
  • The Hardball Times – Why the Cubs will beat the Diamondbacks / Why the Diamondbacks will beat the Cubs
  • Bleed Cubbie Blue – Thoughts on a Division Series
  • The Cub Reporter – Will Jim Hendry’s S*** work in the Playoffs?
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    The Roster Is Set

    Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

    Cubs Playoff Roster

    Pitchers:
    Carlos Zambrano
    Ted Lilly
    Rich Hill

    Jason Marquis
    Kevin Hart
    Scott Eyre
    Michael Wuertz
    Kerry Wood
    Carlos Marmol
    Bob Howry
    Ryan Dempster

    Position Players
    Alfonso Soriano
    Jacque Jones
    Cliff Floyd
    Derrek Lee
    Mark DeRosa
    Ryan Theriot
    Aramis Ramirez
    Geovany Soto

    Bench
    Jason Kendall
    Ronnie Cedeno
    Mike Fontenot
    Daryle Ward
    Felix Pie
    Matt Murton

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    Big Z and the Four Seasons

    Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

    winter spring summer autumn

    Been quite a year for Carlos Zambrano. No single individual player on the Cubs roster elicited more debate in 2007 than Big Z. While Ted Lilly, Rich Hill, Jason Marquis and Sean Marshall quietly went about their job of turning in consistent quality starts (more or less), Carlos inexplicably ran hot and cold, and we’re not just talking on the field here. As streaky as anyone in baseball, it seemed the club more or less went with him on the roller coaster. When he thrived, they thrived. When he tanked, so did the club. Which makes Game One tomorrow absolutely pivotal.

    On June 6 Carlos publicly declared that he was starting over, that his second season had just begun. It was a bold statement indeed but one he delivered on.

    But the case could be made (or else I wouldn’t have written this) that Carlos Zambrano didn’t stop at just two seasons in 2007, but in reality went through the entire calendar and has given us all four seasons in order: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.

    Winter of Our Discontent
    April 2 – June 2 (Z 5-5) (Cubs 22-31)

    Cold, miserable, all you want to do is sit with a good book by the fire. Who wants to be outside playing baseball when it’s so frigid out there? The first 53 games of 2007 left many of us wondering if Z and the team got the memo that the season had indeed started. Carlos didn’t even look like the 4 of clubs, let alone the ace of the staff.

    In winter, all I feel is frustration; the ice, the cold, the snow. I hate winter. Frustration also dogged Zambrano, as evidenced in the infamous dugout brawl between him and soon-to-be ex-teammate Michael Barrett. Cub fans didn’t know it then, but that altercation, coupled with Lou Piniella’s carefully orchestrated ejection the day after would catapult the team right through the vernal equinox and into Spring!

    Spring Forward
    June 3 – August 4 (Z 9-2) (Cubs 36-20)

    Everything comes to life in Spring; flowers, fields, gardens, the trees and Carlos Zambrano and his Chicago Cubs. Easter celebrates resurrection in Spring. Days grow warmer & brighter, smiles broaden and everyone seems to have an extra skip in their step as we jettison the Winter’s blahs. That is precisely what happened to Carlos and the team as a whole. The Ace reestablished himself as the Number 1 starter on this squad. Even the two losses suffered during his Spring season were quality starts, including a stellar complete game 2-hit performance against San Diego on June 16th. Zambrano’s masterful outing resulted in a 1-0 defeat, a game no one remembers other than the Derrek Lee/Chris Young fight. At 14-7, some were even speculating that Big Z might attract some consideration for a Cy Young Award.

    Dog Days of Summer
    August 5 – September 7 (Z 0-5) (Cubs 13-18)

    Timing, as the clichÈ goes, is everything and Carlos could not have chosen a worse time personally to be entrenched in his worst stretch of the season. On August 17th he signed a well publicized $91 million contract extension making him the highest paid Cub in the clubhouse. The stress and strain began to show. Five starts, five losses, five horrific losses where he tossed 28 2/3 innings, allowing 30 earned runs. As the temperature soars in Summertime, the fans and Zambrano each seemed to suffer from a bad case of prickly heat. They booed, he reacted.

    What goes better with Summer than a nice dip in the pool or the ocean? But during Carlos’ Summer Season, all the Cubs could manage was treading water as they hoped their ace would break out of the dogged days so many players and teams endure in the hottest time of the year. On Labor Day he suffered his worst defeat of the year, giving up 8 earned runs and falling to 14-12. No one was whispering possible Cy Young honors any more.

    Autumn Breeze
    September 8-30 (Z 4-1) (Cubs 14-8)

    As the sweat and toil of Summer yields to the crisp and cool tidings of Autumn, once again I often feel reinvigorated by the smells, sights and sounds around me. The Playoffs draweth nigh and my team is within reach of the brass ring, a reality occurring but a scant 5 times in my 49 years of existence. Not a minute too son, either, as Zambrano enters his fourth and hopefully, final season of the highly unpredictable and occasionally tumultuous campaign. The Labor Day debacle behind him, Carlos is reborn yet again as he is touched for a total of just six runs over his last five starts, including no runs at all the last two times he took the mound.

    Cub fans are thus encouraged, with every right to be. Carlos Zambrano has a 3.06 ERA on the road and his night splits are better than his day. But if remains locked in as he has over his last 13 innings, it will not matter when or where he pitches. He will march to the task set before him without fear or trepidation.

    After all, Carlos Zambrano is well seasoned.

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    Tuesday Morning Coffee

    Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

    Let’s get this dreary Tuesday started right with some discussion. What makes these successful is if we really get a good discussion going. Post your thoughts and then check back and see if people have replied. Let’s get a community going around here. Here are some suggested topics.

  • How angry are you at the fact that the Cubs get the latest game times when in Arizona and will it affect how much of the game you watch?
  • In a perfect world and everyone rested, do you still start Zambrano in game 1?
  • How will this series turn out?
  • If we get by Arizona, who would you rather face between Philly and Colorado?
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    From Right Field – Champagne High

    Monday, October 1st, 2007

    Typically, I’ve written my weekly addition for View From The Bleachers, before the weekend is upon us. This week, not so much. With doing the two recaps last week, and my own baseball team in the playoffs, time was short. Well, that and I was a little lazy. So here I sit Sunday evening, trying to figure out what to write about. The Cubs are in the playoffs for only the fifth time in my lifetime, and except for 1989, which I’ve discussed before, I remember each moment they clinched. This year was no different.

    Friday night, I told my wife we were going out for a “date.” I was absolutely positively sure the Cubs would lose, and wouldn’t secure the Central Division title until Saturday. A day I had planned on just sitting at home so I could watch. So there we sat at Stir Crazy, her favorite Asian eatery munching on huge bowls of our very own stir fry creations, having a drink, and just enjoying what was a nice dinner. Before we headed out, she swung past the bar area to catch the score. Oddly, they were only showing the Milwaukee game, and the Brewers were winning 3-2 at the time.

    We decided to head over to IKEA, to just wander the mecca of home furnishing on the cheap. We’re desperate need of art for the walls, so we thought we’d check out some lovely mass produced prints that surely adorn millions of walls across the country. On the way over Pat and Ron filled the car with news on how the Cubs were winning handily, and that the Brewers were still in a tight one up north. I got uneasy, about our visit to IKEA, I now wanted to get home to catch what might be a title celebration.

    After grabbing some prints and frames, we headed for the door, and clicked on the game again. The Cubs had won, and now we were all waiting for the result of the Brewers’ game. It was 3 to 4, Brewers and still up in the air. My wife immediately turned to me, and asked if we could get the game on the radio, I had no idea. I hadn’t even tried since I was in school in Milwaukee. Magically, Bob Uecker’s voice scrambled across the airwaves, and we had instant access to the was the most important game of the night. Bob spelled it out. Khalil Greene and knocked in a three runs on his homer, and the Brewers were in dire straits. It was time to get home! I had one and a half innings to watch the celebration. 160 games of nail biting, ranting, stomach turning, begging, praying, drinking to ease the pain, was all coming to an end. The Cubs were going to be the Central Divison champs!

    I ran in the door just as the Milwaukee game ended, and watched the Cubs literally soak the place with champagne. Watching the Comcast crew interview everyone, I thought of what a wild ride this has been. After May, I was sure this team was done. After July, I thought the Cubs were going to run down the division and have it in hand by mid September. After August, I thought we’d be lucky to play for anything by this weekend. It was a Cubs season like no other, and yet just like all the others. Expect the worst, but hope for the best. This year, we got the best.

    To the players, management, the broadcast crews, our fearless leader Joe, and all of the readers, and commenters, thanks. This has been one great way to start a blogging career. Let’s go get eleven more.

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

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