Archive for April, 2012

Game 17: Patience Pays Off (Bigtime!)

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Cardinals 2 @ Cubs 3

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right:

  • Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro both reached base on infield hits in the 1st inning, and Barney scored on a sacrifice fly from Alfonso Soriano.
  • Matt Garza was his usual, solid self for six of the seven innings he pitched.  In the 1st through 3rd and the 5th through 7th, he was stellar, holding the Cardinals to two singles and a walk, along with five strikeouts.  If not for the fourth inning, this would have been a career start for Garza.
  • Tony Campana stole two bases in one at-bat.
  • The Cubs came up against Cardinal closer Jason Motte in the bottom of the 9th, down a run and not showing many signs of life.  Soriano struck out swinging to lead off the inning, and the Bryan LaHair pinch hit for Jeff Baker.  LaHair’s patient at-bat was spectacular.  He saw twelve total pitches, including six straight foul balls after the count was full.  And then…
  • Before I go on, I want to stress how game-changing LaHair’s walk really was.  I’m not sure I can overstate its importance.  Seriously–it was the kind of at-bat opposing hitters usually have against the Cubs.  You know the ones, where it feels like we might be able to hold on, but then you can feel it slipping away with every foul ball.  When the batter is totally locked in and he refuses to miss anything.  Those at-bats are infuriating if your team’s in the field.  I wish I could have watched it unfold in a room full of Cardinals fans.
  • Anyway, back to the bottom of the 9th.  Geovany Soto came up to bat after LaHair, and drew another quick walk from Motte.  Then Steve Clevenger pinch hit in the pitcher’s spot and grounded to first, moving both runners over.  And then Joe Mather, who already had a hit and a walk on the night, and who may have descended from the same super-utility bloodlines as Mark DeRosa, smacked a single up the middle into centerfield and punched a couple million (roughly) Cardinals fans in the gut.

What Went Wrong:

  • LaHair’s patience in his lone at-bat was particularly uncharacteristic for the Cubs tonight, who freely swung at everything Jaime Garcia had to offer.  A staggering 61 of his 85 pitches were strikes, and he threw first pitch strikes to 21 of the 28 batters he faced.  Garcia looked good tonight, and the Cubs were happy to help.
  • So, about that sub-par 4th inning for Garza.  Here’s how it unfolded: IF single, double, run-scoring groundout, hit-by-pitch, run-scoring sacrifice fly, walk, wild pitch (both runners advanced), walk, fly out.  Not what you’d call vintage Garza.  Fortunately for him, LaHair, Mather, and Co. found a way to bail him out.
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Cardinals Series Preview

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The Cardinals are coming to town today, which means now would be a PERFECT time for the Cubs to break through and finally win a series.  The Cards bring with them an 11-5 record, an NL-best +36 run differential, and a 4-game lead over the rest of the division.  But they’ve had some injury issues already–we still won’t see Fat Elvis Lance Berkman, who is now on the DL.  Can the Cubs string together enough hits to be competitive?  Will the Carlos Beltran continue to treat Wrigley Field like his home-away-from-home?  Can Rafael Furcal continue to defy age and reason for another year?  Will Joe Mather or Tony Campana get the starts in CF?  What can new reliever Michael Bowden do to help steady the Cubs’ shaky bullpen?  (And not that it matters to many of you, but can the Blackhawks win in regulation at home tonight and force a Game 7 against the Coyotes?  Because I’m about one more OT away from a heart attack.  Seriously.)

Probable Pitching Matchups and Scouting Reports

Monday at 7:05pm CT – Jaime Garcia vs. Matt Garza

Garcia brings 2 wins and a 3.06 ERA to Wrigley, but he has yet to throw 90 pitches in a game.  A little patience at the plate tonight might help us get past the Cardinals number two starter–who Jonah Keri considers one of the 10 most underrated players in the bigs–in his first start against the Cubs this season.  And since he’s St. Louis’ only lefty, expect Dale to go with a right-handed lineup tonight behind Garza.  With Dempster on the DL, Garza gives the Cubs their best chance to hold back the Cardinals’ offense.  Let’s assume the two 2-run bombs he gave up in Miami were an anomaly, and that he’ll be back to his usual lock-down self back in the Friendly Confines, where he’s only surrendered 2 runs in more than 14 innings of work this season.

Tuesday at 7:05pm CT – Adam Wainwright vs. Jeff Samardzija

The last time the Cubs saw Wainwright, they tattooed him for 8 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks over 3 innings.  I would be ecstatic if he could cough up another such performance tomorrow evening.  If he wasn’t a Cardinal, I’d have sympathy for him and his struggles returning from Tommy John surgery last year.  But he is, so I don’t.  He’s facing off against the converted pirate reliever, who has something to prove again after his last couple outings.  So far this season he looked great against the Nationals, sketchy against the Cardinals, and downright awful against the Marlins.  Considering the weakness of our relief pitching, if the Shark can’t go deeper into games with more success, he might eventually find himself back in the bullpen.

Wednesday at 1:20pm CT – Lance Lynn vs. Chris Volstad

Lance Lynn is another one of those infuriating, St. Louis-patented, come-out-of-nowhere surprises.  It was supposed to be a good thing that Chris Carpenter started the season on the DL.  Instead, Lynn pops out of the bullpen to become one of the league’s most dominant starters.  So far this season, he has surrendered 3 runs on 10 hits, or the equivalent of one or two innings of work for Volstad.  I expect this one to be ugly.  Like break-up-the-no-hitter-in-the-5th ugly.  It’s almost a mortal lock that Volstad will still be looking for his first win since last July 10 when he makes his next start.

Notes from the Enemy

Courtesy of Matt Philip from Fungoes

Jaime Garcia vs. Matt Garza

The lone lefty in the rotation, Garcia has started 2012 impressively, with a 2.83 FIP. His strikeout rate is a bit down (5.09 in 2012, 7.03 career) as is his groundball rate (45.6%, 54.5% career). The key has been that none of his flyballs have left the park, something he’ll have to be concerned about in Wrigley, where he hasn’t been as sharp (.350 OBPA).

Adam Wainwright vs. Jeff Samardzija

Although the Cubs pounded Adam Wainwright on opening day at Busch Stadium and he now has an unseemly 9.88 ERA in his first three starts of 2012, he has an expected Fielding-Independent Pitching of 3.18, lower than his career number. That’s in large part because he has been unlucky with fly balls (35.7% HR/FB; career: 8.1%) and runners left on base (46.7% LOB; career: 76.6%).

Lance Lynn vs. Chris Volstad

Lynn has been the team’s most pleasant surprise. Filling in for Chris Carpenter, the right-hander is second in the rotation with a 4.25 K/BB and leads in line-drive rate with a meager 13%.

Who’s hot

Shortstop Rafael Fucal has a .500 OBP over his last seven games.

What to watch for

Carlos Beltran enjoys the friendly confines of Wrigley, bashing Cub pitching over the years with a .488 OBP and .743 SLG. He has hit nine home runs in 122 plate appearances.

Odds and ends

The Cardinals will be without Lance Berkman, who went on the DL (backdated to Thursday, April 19). But Skip Schumaker has returned from his disabling.

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The Farm Report: 4/22

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

TRIPLE-A: Iowa 2, Memphis 1

Chris Rusin got the start for the Cubs and pitched masterfully to help snap a five game losing streak for Iowa. He picked up win number two on the season, going eight strong innings of shutout ball while scattering just two hits and striking out four. Blake Parker came in for a save in the 9th, allowing a run in the process. Thankfully that was the only damage as the Cubs offense was, for the most part, non-existent. Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson were a combined 0-for-7. Both are less than impressive at the plate so far. Anyone thinking that the deal to move Marlon Byrd means that Jackson is packing his bags for Chicago is sorely mistaken. Jackson, to put it kindly, is not ready.

DOUBLE-A: Tennessee 6, Chattanooga 7

Down two runs heading in the bottom of the ninth, the Smokies were primed to at least send the game into extras.  Jim Adduci and Elliot Soto led off the inning with back-to-back singles.  Logan Watkins brought home Adduci with a fielder’s choice, cutting Chattanooga’s lead to 7-6.  After Jae-Hoon Ha flew out and Justin Bour singled, Rebel Ridling stuck out to end the game. Ryan Searle gave up three runs over the third and fourth innings to give the Lookouts a 4-3 lead.  Searle allowed four runs on seven hits in four innings of work.

HIGH-A: Daytona 6, Lakeland 2

I didn’t get a media release on this game so I’m not quite sure the reason for this note, but it makes me scratch my head just a little. Matt Loosen made a start on April 5th and went 0.1 innings, allowing 3 ER thanks to 4 BB. It’s a quick hook, but he probably looked terrible. His next outing was yesterday, almost three weeks later. He went two innings, allowing no earned runs and was done for the day. My only thought is that either A) He was hurt after that first start (though I don’t remember seeing him go on the DL) or B) He just hasn’t built up arm strength, but then why wait almost three weeks in between starts?

LOW-A: Peoria 2, Lansing 0

PJ Francescon turned in the first quality start by a Chiefs pitcher not named Michael Jensen Sunday earning his first win of the season. The right-hander went a career-high seven innings, allowing just one hit, walking one and striking out five. The shutout was the first of the season for the Chiefs. The game lasted a season-low two hours and seven minutes (my kind of game). Zeke DeVoss was 2-for-2 out of the leadoff spot with a walk and a run scored.

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Game 16: At Least We Didn’t Get Swept

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Reds 4 @ Cubs 3 

Box Score / Highlights

 

I have to admit something, other then opening day this was the first Cubs game I have watched from start to finish in the young 2012 season.  Unexciting players and just plain bad, predictable baseball have kept me from being able to watch a game in it’s entirety.  Today neither team looked pretty as errors, walks, and limited offense played a huge part.

The Cubs are sporting a 4-12 record and have yet to win a series this season.  This game was the epitome of Cubs baseball in the 2012.  As for the Reds, this was an example of why they will remain competitive.  They are struggling at the moment and still managed to win a series against a division opponent on the road.

 

The Good

 

  • Randy Wells struggled to throw strikes all day but managed keep things in control and put together a decent outing.  His line was 5 inn 6H 2ER with 5BB and 2 K.  The Reds helped his cause by going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
  • The Cubs did display some plate discipline today, sometimes it was almost too much patience as we witnessed a few backwards K’s.  They did manage to cobble together four of their walks against the Reds ace, Johnny Cueto, and Aroldis Chapman, who was yet to issue a walk this season.  I may be reaching here, but hey, we need to lean on the positive, even if it is tainted with some negative.
  • Bryan LaHair came up with a clutch two out single to center field scoring Castro from second.  LaHair went 1-for-2 with an RBI and a walk in the cleanup spot today.  He was then promptly pulled in favor of right handed hitting for the remaining four innings.
  • Starlin Castro increased his current hit streak to 10 games going 2-for-4 with two runs scored.  He was plunked on the elbow by Cueto and Cubs fans near and far had a quick scare as he went down to the ground writhing in pain.  He then got up and took his base and appears to be fine as he stayed in the game.  He wore a protective pad on his elbow for his next plate appearance.
  • Scott Maine and Shawn Camp looked good in relief.  The pair posted a total of 3.2 innings and struck out 6 with two walks and only one hit.  Maine started off a little rough with as hit batsmen and a walk but settled down and looked almost un-hittable with that nasty slurve that he throws.

The Bad

  • Alfonso Soriano was horrendous on both sides of the ball.  In the first inning he misplayed a ball in left for the umpteenth time in his career.  Yes, it was windy, but a good outfielder catches that ball.  He basically misjudged a can of corn and it dropped in front of him.  He then managed to go 0-for-4 with seven runners left on base.  He was up twice with the bases loaded and produced a big goose egg.  The first time was early in the game with two outs.  The second time was in the second inning with only one out.  He struck out on a pitch that bounced in the dirt of left handed batters box resulting in his patented “my bat is too heavy and I cant stop it from going around” check swing.  Is it too soon to release him? Addition by subtraction anyone?
  • Rodrigo Lopez also had a doozy of an inning….or should I say 1/3 of an inning.  After the Cubs tied the game at two in the bottom of the fifth, Rodrigo took the mound to start the sixth.  He started off by walking the number 8 hitter, Ryan Hanigan, which would be the second time Hanigan would start the inning off getting walked by a Cubs pitcher.   As if the pitching wasn’t bad enough, next Rodrigo would show his fielding prowess.  Lopez stood by and watched from the mound as a bunt from Cueto went half way between first base and the catcher.  Instead of racing to the ball he sat on the mound watching as Geo chased it down and made a hurried throw with a bad angle up the line.  The throw hit Cueto in the back and he was safe.  Zack Cozart came to the plate next and bunted a ball halfway up the third base side and Rodrigo gave the same reaction….nothing!  Soto was forced once again to run halfway up the line and field the ball inducing a slightly wild throw that pulled DeWitt off the first base bag buy an inch or two…….one walk and two throwing errors charged to Soto and the bases were loaded with no outs.  Lopez finally got Drew Stubbs to ground into a force out but a run would score.  That was the end of Lopez for the day.  Scott Maine came on and cleaned up his mess but not before he would hit a batter and then walk another to plate the fourth run, which was charged to Lopez.   Two runs scored and not a single ball was hit out of the infield.  Reds 4 Cubs 2
  • Geovany Soto continued his wonderful season at the plate.  He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and played pretty much emotionless baseball.  He did hit two balls hard right at an outfielder for whatever that is worth.  He also got the credit for two errors in the sixth inning but I lay those on Lopez and his inability to even attempt to field a bunt.
  • The Cubs were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
  • Sean Marshall finally showed his face in the series closing the game out, but not before teasing the Cubs a bit by relinquishing a third run.

 

Once again, a lack of offense, even though the wind was blowing dead in and the temps were in the forties, spotty pitching, and poor fielding was the culprit for the Cubs abysmal play.  This game could have been a lot worse if the Reds took advantage of some opportunities.

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Farm Report: April 21 – Good pitching, early season surprise, and an early look at stats

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Triple A - Memphis 12, Iowa 7
Iowa lost their fifth straight game on Saturday against the visiting Memphis Redbirds. Casey Coleman pitched a good game, going six innings while giving up two runs on five hits and four walks while striking out a season high seven batters. Jeff Beliveau was able to finish the seventh inning, but things fell apart for him and the bullpen in the eighth:

Walk
Double
Single
Pitching change – Manny Corpas
Walk
Single
Single
Wild Pitch
Wild Pitch
Home Run
Single
K
K
Home Run
K

Nine runs. I think it’s time to give Manny Corpas his unconditional release.

With Tony Campana called up to Chicago, the lineup now features Brett Jackson leading off. He had his first multi-hit game in a week, going 2-5 with a double and one K. Dave Sappelt was the offensive player of the game, 2-4 with a walk and a home run, three runs scored, two RBI and one for two on steal attempts.
Anthony Rizzo and Adrian Cardenas chipped in two hits, and after a scorching hot start, Josh Vitters was 0-3 and saw his average drop to .269 on the year. How quickly those small samples change.

Double A – Chattanooga 2, Tennessee 4
Tennessee’s bullpen performed much better in this game, and was able to lock down the win for starter Nick Struck. Struck went five innings, gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks while chipping in five K’s. Jeffry Antiqua and Marcus Hatley combined for four scoreless innings.
The 3, 4, 5 hitters for the Smokies went a combined 7-10 with a walk and a stolen base, but the team did not have an extra base hit in the game.

High ATampa 2, Daytona 13

A blow out as Daytona scored in six of their eight innings at the plate with seven of the nine starters had multi-hit games. Matt Szczur was 2-6 with two runs and a stolen base, hit fifth of the year. Ronald Torreyes added two hits (five in two days) and a walk while scoring three times.
Eric Jokisch started, pitching 5.2 innings, giving up seven hits, two runs, three walks, and adding two K’s. The bullpen gave up just one hit in 3.1 innings of work.

Low AGreat Lakes 2, Peoria 1
Surprise performer of the early year goes to Peoria’s starting pitcher, Michael Jensen. He went seven innings and only gave up two hits and a walk, while striking out six. His season stats are below, but at first glance, Jensen appears to be off to the best start among minor league pitchers.
Unfortunately he wasn’t able to get the win, as the offense was shut down by Great Lakes starter, Jarret Martin, and the bullpen who combined to strike out 16 Chiefs on the day. The 1, 2, and 3 Chiefs batters had eight of those K’s.
Zeke DeVoss was the lead off man and Pin-Chieh Chen batted second; both went 0-4 with three K’s. Oliver Zapata continues to make the most of Reggie Golden’s injury and went 2-4 with a stolen base.

Year to Date Stats

AAA
Brett Jackson (CF):    254/346/493, 2 HR, 9/21 BB/K, 2/0 SB/CS
Anthony Rizzo (1B):    369/406/708, 7 HR, 3/15 BB/K
Dave Sappelt (OF):    237/286/407, 2 HR, 4/9  BB/K
Adrian Cardenas (2B):     333/365/561, 2 HR, 4/3  BB/K
Josh Vitters (3B):    269/328/308, 0 HR, 5/6  BB/K
Luis Valbuena (2B):    348/439/543, 2 HR, 8/14 BB/K
Welington Castillo (C): 333/457/583, 2 HR, 6/9  BB/K
AA
Logan Watkins (2B):     290/380/355, 1 HR, 8/10 BB/K, 4/1 SB/CS
Jae-Hoon Ha (RF):     276/358/328, 0 HR, 6/14 BB/K, 2/1 SB/CS
Michael Burgess (OF):     267/346/444, 2 HR, 6/11 BB/K
HiA
Matt Szczur (CF):    194/296/210, 0 HR, 8/12 BB/K, 5/2 SB/CS
Ronald Torreyes (2B):     256/360/372, 0 HR, 5/6  BB/K
Rubi Silva (OF/2B):     356/420/467, 0 HR, 5/10 BB/K
LoA
Zeke DeVoss (2B):     224/318/362, 1 HR, 6/13 BB/K (4 errors)
Marco Hernandez (SS):     111/153/185, 1 HR, 3/15 BB/K
Rafael Lopez (C):     283/346/370, 0 HR, 5/5  BB/K

AAA
Casey Coleman:    21.1 IP, 3.80 ERA, 10/18 BB/K, 2 HR, 1.27 WHIP
Travis Wood:         17.1 IP, 5.19 ERA, 5/18  BB/K, 2 HR, 1.50 WHIP
Jay Jackson:          15.1 IP, 5.87 ERA, 7/11  BB/K, 2 HR, 1.43 WHIP
Randy Wells:          14.1 IP, 9.42 ERA, 6/10  BB/K, 3 HR, 1.53 WHIP
AA
Nick Struck:             22.0 IP, 2.45 ERA, 10/21 BB/K, 0 HR, 1.23 WHIP
Brooks Raley:          19.1 IP, 2.79 ERA, 2/8   BB/K, 1 HR, 0.93 WHIP
Dae-Eun Rhee:        17.0 IP, 4.76 ERA, 4/13  BB/K, 2 HR, 1.29 WHIP
Trey McNutt:          11.2 IP, 0.77 ERA, 7/11  BB/K, 0 HR, 1.29 WHIP
Jeffry Antigua:       11.0 IP, 4.09 ERA, 4/12  BB/K, 2 HR, 1.36 WHIP
HiA
Eric Jokisch:           23.2 IP, 4.56 ERA, 10/17 BB/K, 2 HR, 1.44 WHIP
Austin Kirk:             23.1 IP, 1.54 ERA, 5/9   BB/K, 0 HR, 0.90 WHIP
Hayden Simpson:  12.2 IP, 7.11 ERA, 5/3   BB/K, 3 HR, 1.82 WHIP
LoA
Michael Jensen:     24.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 5/18  BB/K, 1 HR, 0.71 WHIP
Ben Wells:                 14.1 IP, 6.28 ERA, 2/11  BB/K, 0 HR, 1.47 WHIP
Kyler Burke:            11.1 IP, 1.59 ERA, 1/9   BB/K, 0 HR, 0.97 WHIP

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Game 15: Quick, Before We Forget the Lyrics to “Go, Cubs, Go!”

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Reds 1 @ Cubs 6

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right:

  • Almost everything.
  • Paul Maholm gave up another lead in the first inning–it was the sixth first-inning run he’s surrendered in his three starts.  But from there he buckled down, giving up only two more hits over the next five innings.  He also recorded five strikeouts on his way to his first win as a Cub.
  • For the first time in what seems like forever, the Cubs had productive hitters up and down the lineup.  DeJesus, Castro, and Mather each had two hits, and Barney and Clevenger had three a piece.  And they weren’t cheap hits, either–the Cubs combined for four doubles and Castro legged out a triple that was just shy of the basket in left field.  Their fourteen hits today constitute a season high, and the four-run second inning was arguably the best the team has looked at the plate all season.
  • Wonder of wonders–our relief pitchers provided actual relief today.  James Russell did surrender two hits, but they could have just as easily been ruled errors on Tony Campana.  Well, maybe not the second one–either way, the bullpen was efficient today in the kind of game they’ve been apt to throw away lately.
  • Reed Johnson continued his tradition of being the man by coming in to pinch hit in the eighth and belting a leadoff double down the left field line.

What Went Wrong:

  • Very little.  There were a couple of mistakes in the field, but none of them proved to be costly.  Castro lost the handle on a couple sharp grounders, and Tony Campana came up short on a couple fly balls–one that he appeared to lose in the sun at the last second.  You can find things to gripe about in a game like this, but what’s the fun in that?

Game Notes:

  • Ryan Demptser joined Kerry Wood on the DL today with a quad injury, opening a spot for the aforementioned Campana to rejoin the team.  Dempster was scheduled to make a start tomorrow, and the word is Randy Wells will be promoted to take his spot in the rotation.  However, the Cubs won’t need to demote anyone to make room for Wells because…
  • The Cubs traded Marlon Byrd to Boston for reliever Michael Bowden and a player to be named later.  Like many Cubs fans, I always appreciated Byrd’s hustle, but he hasn’t been the same player since he was hit in the face (by the Red Sox) last season, especially at the plate.  We all knew he didn’t have a future with the Cubs–this was inevitable.  Give credit to the Cubs front office for finding a taker after Byrd’s horrific start to the season.  Cubs fans will get a chance to say goodbye in mid-June when the Red Sox come back to Wrigley Field.
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The Farm Report: April 20- Ronald Torreyes Shows Off the Contact Skills

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Transactions

I normally put transactions last, but since all the transactions impacted the MLB club, I will lead with those today. With Kerry Wood on the DL, the Chicago Cubs called up Iowa Cubs left handed reliever Scott Maine. Maine had given up just one run in six and one-third innings in Iowa this season, and itched a scoreless inning in his season debut for Chicago. Maine was replaced on the Iowa roster by left handed pitcher Sheldon McDonald, a 33rd round draftee last season who had not pitched above short season ball. Based on that, I kind of doubt McDonald will be in Iowa long, but was just easy to send to Iowa very quickly. There has been no official transaction yet involving starting pitcher Randy Wells, but he was sent to Chicago to potentially start for Ryan Dempster on Sunday. Dempster had an MRI done on his calf, but there have not yet been reports of the results. The most I have seen is that he is “doubtful” to start on Sunday.

Triple A- Iowa 4, Albuquerque 5

The Iowa Cubs were swept by Albuquerque on Friday night. Frankie De La Cruz and Esmailin Caridad, both relievers to this point in the season, made a decent effort in their attempt to combine to replace Randy Wells, who was supposed to start this game before being sent to Chicago. They gave up five earned runs in seven innings, although on just six hits and three walks. Offensively it was not a great game for the I-Cubs, with only Alfredo Amezaga and Edgar Gonzalez reached base more than once. The bigger name prospects, Brett Jackson, Anthony Rizzo and Welington Castillo, did not reach base, although Jackson did not strike out for the third game in a row. Presumably if he keeps making contact, some of those hits will start falling for a left handed speedster like Jackson.

Double A- Chattanooga 2, Tennessee 3

Brooks Raley had another strong start for the Smokies, going six innings and allowing only two runs. He only struck out three, but also only allowed one walk and induced a lot of ground ball (seven ground outs compared to three fly outs). Kevin Rhoderick and Alberto Cabrera pitched three scoreless innings out of the bullpen to finish the game. On the offensive side, shortstop/second baseman Logan Watkins, outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha and catcher Juan Apodaca all reached based multiple times, which Ha and Apodaca collecting two hits and a walk a piece. Ha has been interesting this season in particular. Prior to this season, he was a good defensive outfielder with good contact skills, but he didn’t draw walks or hit for power. The defense is still strong and he still is not hitting for power, but Ha’s walk rate has jumped from 4.5 percent last season to 9.5 percent this season. Unfortunately, his strike out rate has nearly doubled as well. If he can add at least consistent doubles power, though, he could be a very good major leaguer.

High A- Daytona 9, Tampa 2

The Daytona Cubs actually dominated an opposing team, logging just their third win of the season in fourteen tries.  Starting pitcher Austin Kirk went seven innings while only giving up one run. Third-baseman Greg Rohan put the game out of reach early with a second inning grand slam that made gave Daytona a 7-0 lead. Ronald Torreyes showed the elite contact skills he was reported to have after he was acquired in the Sean Marshall trade, going three for three with two doubles and a triple, as well as drawing a walk. First baseman Richard Jones also logged three hits. High ranking prospect Matt Szczur only logged one hit in five plate appearances, but it was a double.

Low A- Great Lakes 7, Peoria 5

Unlike his counterparts at Tennessee and Daytona, Chiefs’ starting pitcher Wilengton Cruz did not have a good day, giving up five runs in five and two-thirds innings. Offensively, the Chiefs drew seven walks, but also only had five hits. Outfielder Pin-Chieh Chen had a two RBI double in the second inning, and outfielder Oliver Zapata, who had been absolutely on fire since being called up to replace the injured Reggie Golden, was held to just one single.

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Game 14: Match Burns Three Times

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Image

Reds 9 @ Cubs 4

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

My Dad has this little trick with matches – he can make them burn three times.

Offense: Don’t let the final score deceive you, the Cubs’ offense did NOT look good today. Homer Bailey is NOT a good starter. Sporting a 5.40 ERA coming into play, he surrendered a single earned run. The Cubs refused to take pitches; Bailey walked no one (he’d walked 7 in his first two games) – they wouldn’t let him (another game gone by without a single player seeing 20 pitches). Sure a few guys are hitting the ball hard, but with only 3 starters and PH Blake DeWitt getting a hit today, this offense is headed nowhere fast if we can’t find a way to put more than one guy on base in an inning. Both innings in which we put more than one guy on base today were the direct result of Reds’ errors.  It wasn’t a good day for the Cubs at the plate.

With the right kind of match, you can fashion the base into a combustible tip; effectively double-tipping your match.

Defense: You could easily the blame the weather for some of the fielding troubles on this day. The two teams combined for five errors; the Reds’ errors were actually more costly (they surrendered 3 unearned runs to the Cubs to 1). If you didn’t watch the game, know that Castro’s error today was self-preservation (not one of those nasty ‘lack of focus’ errors we see from him too often). With Drew Stubbs running in the first inning, Geo’s throw to second tailed violently into Stubbs’ path. Castro alligator-armed the catch – as Brenly pointed out – likely to save his left wrist from a collision with Stubbs’s chest/face. It’s a good thing Gary Darling didn’t turn around to watch the play at second any earlier, Soto’s throw would’ve drilled the second base umpire in the head. Anyway, it was Byrd kicking the ball around that led to the unearned run surrendered by the Cubs. LaHair’s error was ugly, and Soto looked crossed up far too often, although he escaped the day without being statistically punished for his defense. It was a bad for the Cubs’ in the field.

Strike the tip of the match against the box. Match burns once.

Pitching: Cubs’ pitching is beyond awful. Volstad seems unable to keep his pitch count low – and he’s not even our worst starter. Tomorrow we get Paul Maholm. Gross. We have guys who come in from that mound/bench area in left field…I’m not going to call them relief pitchers – they don’t relieve anyone. They’re distress pitchers, as in ‘I’m greatly distressed at who we’re bringing in now.’  They apparently feel it’s their ‘right’ to give up a run or two.  It was a terrible day for the Cubs on the mound.

Strike the base of the match against the box. Match burns twice.

Takeaway: I wish someone would take the beginning of this season away. A really rough first two weeks here. Today the Reds recorded their franchises 10,000th win, and have every reason to expect to leave Chicago with 10,002. When you can’t get a single hit from your 5-9 spots in the order (save DeWitt’s PH double), you won’t win much…the Cubs are proving that beyond a reasonable doubt.

With the base of the match still burning, rub out the flame on the skin of a curious onlooker. Match burns three times.

That’s how I feel about the Cubs right now; watching a game is akin to being the onlooker who unwittingly extinguishes the flame. The joke is on us, this team is terrible and that’s not changing anytime soon. Like the 2012 season, this game was over nearly as soon as it started.

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Reds Series Preview

Friday, April 20th, 2012

PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS AND SCOUTING REPORTS

Courtesy of MLB.com

Friday at 1:20pm CT – Homer Bailey vs. Chris Volstad

Despite running his pitch count quite high in the early innings, and throwing 110 pitches over six innings, Bailey had a quality start vs. Washington on Saturday, but he had the misfortune of being opposite Edwin Jackson’s two-hitter. Volstad took the loss in his last start, against the Cardinals, giving up four runs in one inning. He’s 1-2 with a 4.34 ERA in three career starts against the Reds. He’s looking for his first win since July 10.

Saturday at 12:05pm CT – Mike Leake vs. Paul Maholm

Leake had a 5-0 lead early, but he saw it evaporate Sunday when the Nationals chipped way. He felt like he made mistakes that were hit, but he also found some of his better pitches also get hit. Maholm has given up six runs on six hits over four innings in each of his starts for the Cubs. That’s not exactly the type of consistency the Cubs are seeking. Maholm is 6-4 with a 3.81 ERA in his career vs. the Reds.

Sunday at 1:20pm CT – Johnny Cueto vs. Ryan Dempster

Cueto danced with danger against the Cardinals Tuesday as runners were in scoring position in each of the first four innings. But he only allowed one run as he slowed his tempo and became more effective over his final three innings. Last April, Dempster had a 9.58 ERA in six starts. In three starts this season, he’s done much better (1.33 ERA) but is still looking for that first “W.” In fact, he hasn’t won a game since Aug. 11, 2011. That was 12 starts ago.

NOTES FROM THE ENEMY

Courtesy of Greg Dafler from Redleg Nation

Reds fans have high expectations for a team that made substantial additions to their pitching staff in the offseason. It has been extremely frustrating to watch the Reds struggle to score runs on a regular basis in the first two weeks of the season. The Reds led the National League in scoring in 2010 and scored the second most runs last year, but have scored exactly one run six times in their first 13 games.

The Offensive Offense

Heading into play Thursday, rookie shortstop Zack Cozart (.318 AVG/.910 OPS) led the team in AVG, SLG, OPS, runs, hits, and extra base hits. Outside of Cozart and Joey Votto (.293 AVG/.873 OPS), no one else on the team has been hitting. Four regulars were sporting an OPS under .500. Prior to his 2-for-5 performance on Thursday, Brandon Phillips was 2 for 14 since returning from a hamstring injury that cost him five starts. Phillips was quoted this week, saying that he is playing at about 60%. Scott Rolen has hit worse than the bench full of replacement players who subbed for him last year, and he’s been needing a day of rest once every three games.

The Pitching is Improved

With a couple of exceptions, the pitching has been a bright spot for the Reds this year. Bronson Arroyo (2.91 ERA, 0.88 WHIP in three starts) has looked much better than he did in his disastrous 2011 campaign.

Aroldis Chapman has dialed back his fastball velocity to just under 100 mph in an attempt to establish better control.  So far, the results have been great. He is yet to issue a walk in eight innings while striking out 15 of the 27 batters he’s faced. Fans are itching to see Chapman moved to the starting rotation. In the upcoming Cubs series, he’ll likely work two innings at most.

Reds Scheduled Starters

Friday: Homer Bailey had an atrocious start to the season. He gave up 4 runs on three homeruns in the first inning of his April 7th start against the Cardinals. Since the first inning of his first game, he’s allowed just 9 hits (no homeruns) and 3 runs over 10.2 innings. Bailey had some control problems in his second start of the year and is still prone to coughing up one big inning per outing.

Saturday: Mike Leake is not off to a great start this year either, but a trip to Wrigley could turn his season around. Leake has made more starts against the Cubs than any other club he’s faced. In seven starts against Chicago, he has a 2.66 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. In his 3 starts at Wrigley Field, he has held Cubs hitters to a .221 batting average and issued just 4 walks over 21 innings while striking out 16.

Sunday: Johnny Cueto has been as good as he was last year. After throwing seven shutout innings against Miami on Opening Day, Cueto has made two starts against the Cardinals, allowing four runs in 12 innings.

Let There Be Light

The Reds are 5-2 in afternoon games and 0-6 in night games.

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