As I watch this home series I’m trying to convince myself that but for a few pitches, this team could be 4-2 heading into today instead of the 2-4 that we are. I want to believe. I’m a huge fan of building the pen from within with young talent and spending money in more important places. I haven’t lost faith that this group can be a good, solid crew. It’s got to start soon. We need more than just Marmol and Marshall capable of having any trust. This series I need to see one other guy come in and get outs. I need someone to show me they belong. I’m going to go out on a limb and say we’ll see good things from Justin Berg and James Russell this series.
In addition to a name that needs to step up in the pen, I need to see the heart of the order start driving in some runs and bring home some of these guys that have been stranded in scoring position in the first two series. I don’t know how to make that happen other than guys just need to start stepping up. I love the homeruns we’ve seen so far. I love scoring via home run, as long as it’s not the only or even main way we score runs. So far that’s been the case.
Ryan Dempster v. Doug Davis
Davis endured an awful first inning against the Rockies on Wednesday, throwing half of his 40 pitches out of the strike zone, including two in the dirt that eluded catcher George Kottaras. But he limited the damage to three runs and then settled in nicely, throwing 29 of his final 48 pitches for strikes while the Brewers rallied for a 5-4 win. Davis happily settled for a no-decision, and so did his manager. “He got out there into the fifth [inning] and it wasn’t completely ugly,” Ken Macha said. “It could have been a blowout there in the first inning.” Davis is 9-6 with a 3.20 ERA in 16 career starts against the Cubs including 3-2 with a 1.93 ERA in six starts at Wrigley Field.
Dempster gets the call to start the home opener. The right-hander should have a win after pitching six solid innings against the Braves on Wednesday. He struck out nine and gave up one run on three hits. But a high pitch count — he threw 95 in six innings — forced his exit. Last year, Dempster was 7-4 with a 3.97 ERA in 14 home starts compared to 4-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 17 road games. He faced the Brewers four times in ’09 and had the upper hand, posting a 3-1 record and 3.67 ERA.
Randy Wells v. Dave Bush
A rare blown save by Trevor Hoffman cost Bush a win in his season debut, but the good news for Bush and the Brewers is that the right-hander appears back on track after a 2009 season marred by injury. He worked 5 2/3 innings against the Cardinals and was a strike away from getting through the sixth inning with only one run on the board when Matt Holliday connected for a two-run homer. It would prove Bush’s final pitch, but he was looking at the bright side. “It’s been about 10 months since I’ve been out on the mound and felt like I didn’t have anything to hold back on,” said Bush, who wasn’t the same last season after a Hanley Ramirez line drive struck him near the elbow. He’s just 2-8 with a 5.13 ERA in 16 career appearances against the Cubs, 15 of them starts.
Wells didn’t get his first win last year until his eighth start. This season, the sophomore picked up his first “W” and the team’s first win in his first start. Wells threw six scoreless innings against the Braves, giving up six hits and striking out one. He was helped by three double plays. If he keeps the ball on the ground, he’ll do fine. Against the Brewers last year, Wells was 1-1 in three starts with a 3.60 ERA.
Carlos Zambrano v. Jeff Suppan
Suppan gets the nod as the Brewers’ fifth starter over left-handers Chris Narveson and Manny Parra despite a decidedly subpar spring in which he allowed 14 runs and 21 hits in 16 1/3 innings while dealing with a neck injury. That ailment — cervical disc pain — landed Suppan on the 15-day disabled list to start the year but he made a rehab start at Class A Wisconsin on Friday and appears set to debut against the Cubs. Suppan has a very respectable 3.63 ERA in 23 career starts against Chicago, including a 3.77 ERA in 12 starts at Wrigley Field. He’s in the final season of a four-year contract.
Zambrano redeemed himself after a disastrous Opening Day start. The right-hander struck out nine over seven innings against the Reds on Saturday for his first win. It was a much improved outing after lasting just 1 1/3 innings back on the season opener. This will be Big Z’s first start at home, where he was 2-5 with a 5.03 ERA last season compared to 7-2 with a 2.73 ERA on the road. In his career, Zambrano is 46-39 at Wrigley compared to 59-30 on the road.
All reports on the pitching matchups courtesy of MLB.com
Golden Nuggets from Brewers Camp
This series our opponent notes come courtesy of the good folks at Brew Crew Ball:
Seeing Jeff Suppan back on the mound at Wrigley Field should be good news for Cubs fans everywhere. Suppan pitched relatively well against the Cubs last season (0-3, 3.80 ERA in four starts), but also walked 14 batters in 23.2 innings. He’s making his first start of 2010 this week after pitching in the Midwest League on Friday, allowing seven hits and three walks but just one run in 4.1 innings. He’s almost certainly not a major league caliber pitcher anymore, and the Cubs will get an opportunity to prove that this week.
Fortunately for the Brewers, they do have a relatively strong bullpen behind Suppan, although one of its members will likely have to be sent down or DFA’d to make room for him on the roster. Through Saturday’s games the arms charged with getting the ball to Trevor Hoffman (LaTroy Hawkins, Todd Coffey, Carlos Villanueva and Mitch Stetter) have combined to allow one hit in eight scoreless innings. Trevor Hoffman is Trevor Hoffman: He’s blown a save already this season but got hit hard on a good pitch. And with both Chris Narveson and Manny Parra stretched out in the pen, they’re positioned to yank a starter early if needed (Suppan).
The lineup has a few question marks and works in progress, and I’m not sure anyone knows exactly what to expect from them at this point. Carlos Gomez led all players this spring with 11 stolen bases and parlayed that success into a 4-for-5 performance with a home run on Opening Day, but is just 1-for-16 since (through Saturday). Gregg Zaun was one of the Cactus League’s best hitters, but is off to an 0-for-16 start. The Brewer lineup is strong in the middle, but has too many easy outs right now.