First Star:  Aramis Ramirez  (.201 WPA)

Second Star: Geovany Soto (.187 WPA)

Third Star: Derrek Lee (.147 WPA)


Have you heard the news? Lou is retiring at season’s end!  We got to hear about it every inning tonight and then some.  It only got mildly annoying.  The funny thing is once the Cubs started playing better they mentioned it a little less.  If you watched this game, you know what I mean.

Around the sixth inning this game went through a lobotomy and changed course on a dime.   If you take a look at our trusty graph, compliments of Fangraphs, you will see what looks like a roller-coaster.  This game required shoulder harnesses at all times to keep us buckled in.  At one point I wanted to jump out!   At any rate, I decided to continue my detailed game recap strategy as some seemed to enjoy the information timeline.

Pitching:

Ryan Dempster……. 3.57 Era…. 8-7 record…..throws right

Wesley Wright ………5.59 ERA ……0-0 record……..throws left

Wind blowing out to left center…..Bob Brenly says this is a “hitter’s wind” (yah think?)

1st:

  • Dempster’s opening inning was like a breath of fresh air in comparison to Carlos Silva and his first inning adventures from the series opener.  He threw 13 pitches for 10 strikes and three balls andputs them down one , two, three……with a little help from Starlin on a nice grab in shallow left for the first out of the game.
  • Len Kasper and Bob Brenly mention how accommodating and helpful the Cubs coaching staff was to them throughout the tenure so far.  I like Lou and his staff and I feel like they have dealt with a serious amount of distractions each season…..just thinking out loud….back to the game.
  • Castro gets on base with a nice piece of hitting as he drove a change up into left, but Lee and Ramirez follow up with back to back strikeouts.  Just a little memoir from the first half I guess.

2nd:

  • Clouds over Wrigley look ominous and I am hoping that there is no rain delay…….
  • Astros grab the early lead as Johnson smacks a ball past Castro.  Carlos Lee scores on the play from second.
  • On what should have been a inning ending double play, Theriot makes a poor throw to second with Castro covering and it ends up in left field.  A run scores because of the error.  I can see why Lou needs to retire.  This play almost defined the word frustration…….it certainly defined the word “crap”! If I was Lou I would drink myself to death in the dugout every night while watching this stuff.
  • The wind is blowing out so hard that the flags on the scoreboard in center field are horizontal.
  • Oops, bases loaded and Dempster plunks Angel Sanchez.  There’s another run…….the Astros should just show up and let the Cubs beat themselves…..oh wait, that is exactly what they are doing.
  • The Merry go round keeps going as Dempster walks Berkman and another run scores.  Thats four runs this inning so far, it should have been one.
  • No Joke, I got up to relieve myself at the commercial break and then put in a load of wash. By the time I got back the Cubs half of the inning is already over.  Leadoff man (Byrd) got on…….Soriano = double play…….Soto pops out after two pitches. I give you Cubs baseball, The 2010 edition!

Houston 4

Cubs    0

3rd:

  • Ahhhh, back to normal as Dempster has a rather uneventful third inning.   By the way, this has officially become the Lou Piniella game. It is literally all they are talking about. I guess when the team stinks this bad you have to deflect the attention.
  • Second inning in a row where the leadoff man gets on base but the offense can’t capitalize.   I will give Dempster credit for bunting him over however Colvin looked puzzled after his strikeout and Castro, well Castro swung at the first pitch and grounded out.  Nuff said?

4th:

  • The sky is looking more peaceful as we move into the fourth.   Oh and in my last recap I spoke of the second half bandwagon.  Well, it is on the side of I-94 somewhere with smoke pouring out of the hood. If you want it, you can have it.
  • I am pretty sure Starlin Castro just chased a pop fly to the warning track.  He kind of tried too hard on that play???? Byrd had to pull up and the ball dropped in. CASTRO, DON’T TRY SO HARD!!!!!!!
  • Pence drives a ball past Castro and Sanchez scores.  The Astros must be in first place, right???
  • Carlos Lee scores Berkman on a shot up the middle…..Where’s the booze?
  • Aramis launches a ball into the left field seats!!!!   As I watched it clear the basket and travel into the bleachers I could not help but notice they are half full. Tickets anyone?

Houston 6

Cubs 1

5th:

  • Chris Johnson cleared the Juniper bushes in center field for his second homerun in the bigs. His first one came yesterday against the Cubs.   Awesome.
  • Dempster just crossed the 100 pitch mark in the fifth inning.  Outside of Lilly, do we have or have we ever had any pitchers who are efficient?
  • Len and Bob just mentioned Lou’s impending retirement keeping their “mention Lou’s retirement at least once per inning” quota going.
  • The wind is howling straight out……I think I just saw the Marlins flag tear from the flagpole and fly away!!!! Yet we have all of one run.
  • Hmmmmm….second base has been like The Bermuda Triangle tonight……Keppinger just pulled a “Theriot” and threw the ball into left field on what should have been an easy double play. Cubs mounting a rally with two runners in scoring position and no outs!!!!
  • Nady swung and missed but so did Jason Castro (the Astro catcher) and the ball got by him scoring Soto from third.  Funny thing is Nady didn’t even try to run to first.  It was a pass ball on the third strike!!!!! Take first!!!!!!  Sometimes I feel as though there is a disconnect between the brain and the ability on this team.
  • Theriot scores on a well placed ground out by Castro to the right side of the field.
  • ARAMIS!!!! Three run shot to left center in the basket!!!! We got a ballgame!  Well, at least  Aramis is taking advantage of the wind.

Houston 7

Cubs 6

6th:

  • Andrew Cashner comes on in relief of Ryan Dempster.  Dempster ended the night after giving up four earned runs over five innings.
  • Derrek Lee snared a ball down the right field line and flipped to Cashner covering first.  Beautiful play by Lee and critical to keeping the Astros at bay to start the inning.
  • Starlin Castro dives for a line drive and makes the catch.  All of the sudden we have defense? I have never witnessed this type of schizophrenia on a baseball team!!!
  • Behind some great defense, Cubs reliever Andrew Cashner has the shortest half-inning of the night.
  • Soto drives a ball to dead center on top of the Batters Eye Lounge.  Crushed and we have a tie game!!!!! Startin’ to feel the wind, be the wind, BE THE WIND!!!!!  I don’t know what that means but it excites me.

Cubs   7

Houston   7

7th:

  • They don’t call him Cash Money for nothing!  Andrew Cashner puts ‘em down in order in the seventh and it’s stretch time!!!!  Two solid innings out of Cashner tonight.  The more I see this guy pitch, the more I like him.
  • Starlin Castro opens the inning with a double off the wall  to left center that misses clearing the basket by about an inch.
  • Derrek Lee doubles to left center and drives home Castro…..is this really happening or is the rubbing alcohol I drank earlier starting to take effect?  Cubs take the lead!!!!!

(On a side note, Lee was called safe at second on the play even though the ball beat him to the bag.  The tag did not make contact with him until after he touched the bag.  Obviously this makes him safe but you would be shocked how many plays like this go the other way.  It has become common place to call the runner safe or out based on whether he beats the throw to the bag and not whether he gets tagged before reaching the bag.  It is a huge pet peeve of mine and I salute the second base ump for making the correct call! Don’t be half way about it, make the tag!)

  • Scott Sanderson is one of the better seventh inning stretch conductors in recent memory.  Not because of the singing but the banter about the game of baseball during the inning.  I eat this stuff up!
  • Lee scores on Soriano’s single to center.  Insurance runs are huge here!!!!

Cubs  9

Houston 7

8th:

  • Sean Marshall picks up where Andrew Cashner left off.  A seven pitch inning and you know where we are headed right? Marmol Time!!!!!  C’mon, positive thoughts people!!!!
  • Derrek Lee knows the importance of insurance runs. He knocked a two run single that brought in Fukudome and Colvin.  Len mentioned that up to this point the Cubs had scored the last ten runs in the game.
  • Aramis Ramirez hit his third homerun of the game, a three run shot!!!!!!  That makes it a curtain call night for Aramis.   Correction, The Cubs have scored the last 13 runs in the game.  Be the Wind!!!!!!
  • It’s 14-7 and the Cubs still have Marmol warming up…..why am I scared?

Cubs    14

Astros    7

9th:

  • Ahhhhhh, I can breathe again.  Marmol was nothing short of perfect.

FINAL

Cubs    14

Astros    7

In closing I would like to turn it over to you guys.  If you watched this thing, you have to have an opinion……let it fly!

Danny’s Notes from the Game

What’s growing on me:

Colvin and Castro batting 1st and 2nd. There’s multiple layers in the explanation as to why this is a smart move to tinker with. First, the Cubs still lack a leadoff hitter. Theriot insists on grounding the first pitch he sees to the shortstop everyday. And I’m pretty sure Fukudome flies back to Japan in the end of April and sends in a body double for the remainder of the season. I liked these guys as 1-2 coming into the season, but after a good look, I say we hold off on this option until given reason otherwise. That leaves Colvin and Castro (sorry, Soto’s not ready for the leadoff spot just yet). As young players, I think it is important to stress the fundamentals to these guys- getting on base, taking pitches, sacrificing runners, and so on. Rather than cultivate these players as .260 hitting, free swinging power hitters- which it seems the Cubs could easily do- let’s start them on the basics while they’re still young. Piniella, you made a good move here- granted you don’t rescind on it by the end of the week.

Moving Carlos Silva to the bullpen. No, this isn’t a “welcome back” bid to Zambrano. In my eyes, he should still be sitting in the corner without dessert. But I’m worried about Silva’s second half. He hasn’t pitched a full season in quite some time. He struggling mentally, not physically; this calls for louder alarm bells. It may not be the best solution, but if he can’t give the Cubs a chance to win before they even get up to bat, then something has to be done. I’m not saying banish him to the pen for the rest of the season. But we need a long reliever, and a man named Jay Jackson just knocked on the door and is asking to come in.

What I don’t understand:

How Bob Howry still has a job. This man wakes up and his ERA rises. Why was he even signed? I think this is a mean joke on Hendry’s part. Hey, you know how you dared me to find someone worse than John Grabow? Check this guy out. I’ll admit, Howry wasn’t too bad his first time around with the Cubs. But when I read that they re-signed him this year, I was shocked- and I still can’t find any logic behind this move. And everyone sees what’s going on here, except for Hendry. I swear he has some type of bet going on this.

Why Lee and Ramirez bat third and fourth EVERY DANG BLASTED NIGHT. Umm, what other team has their three and four hitters with lower batting averages right now? Is it in their contracts that they cannot occupy any other spot in the order? Marlon Byrd should be our three hitter, case closed. Sure, Ramirez is the best fit for the cleanup spot, but I like Soriano there when he’s hot, and there’s no reason why you couldn’t give Soto a shot. All I’m saying is that when you have a team that struggles offensively, you shuffle the deck. And it’s not considered shuffling the deck if you don’t change the two biggest spots in the lineup, and instead keep the two players in there that have struggled all season.

Sorry. Had to get that off my chest. Hopefully Aramis stays hot and Lee reclaims his stroke. This is actually a solution that should have been pursued last month. Not only could it have sparked the offense, but Lee and Ramirez may have come out of their slumps sooner. Now it looks like they’re back. Still, your three hitter should not be so prone to the double play. The Cub’s three hitter should have been Marlon Byrd since May, period. Anyway, Ramirez is proving me wrong as I write this- he just sent another homer sailing into the bleachers, bringing the Cubs within one run of the Astros, with about four innings left. The Cubs may actually defeat a team within their division- stay tuned.

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Chet West is an IT professional living in Minneapolis, MN with his wife and two daughters. He has a pug named Banks and loves photography. Follow him on Twitter @chetwest19