Archive for August, 2012

Game 127: The Horror

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Brewers 15 @ Cubs 4

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

There are explosive stomach viruses that are more enjoyable than last night’s Cubs game. I’m talking about the kind of illness that necessitates a trip to the hospital and the purchase of a new couch. Seriously–I’d rather be curled up in the fetal position on the shower floor, softly crying in a shallow pool of my own sick than watch another game like that.

The suspense is terrible… I hope it’ll last. For starters, the evening was interminable. Start to finish, the colonoscopy game lasted a bloated three hours and forty-three minutes. That’s enough time to watch Lawrence of Arabia–which would have been a much better use of the time. I haven’t been as annoyed with Justin Germano as some of you have been, but he seemed to work a little extra-slow last night. The Brewers’ starter Marco Estrada didn’t help anything. I must have missed it last week, but he’s got an incredibly annoying habit of dipping way down into a crouch before every pitch, almost like he’s picking the ball up off the ground to begin his windup. When the game is dragging on, it gets more and more frustrating. For the rest of the year, I’ll be rooting for him to take a liner off his shin or quad–not enough to take him out of the game, but just to give him something to think about every time he takes another dip.

Thank you, Sir, may I have another? Of course, it didn’t help the speed of the game that the Brewers pounded out twenty-one hits on the Cubs tonight. Twenty-one hits–right now that would constitute a good week for the Cubs. Every starter in the Brewers’ lineup had a hit, and two of them–Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez–each had four.

Boy, that escalated quickly. In spite of that, this was a close game for most of the evening. The Cubs actually enjoyed a lead for a while on the back of some clutch hitting in the third. With two outs in the inning, Anthony Rizzo, Alfonso Soriano, and Starlin Castro drove in three consecutive runs, and the Brewers briefly looked like they might give this one away. That feeling and the Cubs’ lead didn’t last long. It would come back briefly in the sixth (the feeling, not the lead), after Brett Jackson hit a solo homerun and the Cubs loaded the bases, but that’s the last time they’d come close to posing a threat to Milwaukee.

No matter where you go, there you are. The 32,541 fans in attendance got a good reminder of the damage Aramis Ramirez can do when he’s hot. He hit two homers and a double to drive in four runs. Monday’s game was one of those nights when Ramirez could impose his will on opposing pitchers. Bob Brenly called his second homer–it came in the ninth inning off the first pitch he saw, in the middle of back-to-back-to-back bombs from Braun, Ramirez, and Corey Hart.

Oh, I hated the Colonel, with his wee beady eyes and that smug look on his face! The only Brewer who had a more productive evening was Mr. Superhuman Testosterone Levels himself, Ryan Braun. He drove in five runs on four hits, including a bomb that appeared to land in the tree at the corner of Waveland and Kenmore. That’s far. Like Barry Bonds-, Mark McGwire-, Manny Ramirez-, Ken Caminiti-, and Jose Canseco-far.

What would you say… ya do here? It probably goes without saying that the Cubs pitchers were at their lousiest Monday night. Germano was bad–giving up five runs on ten hits–but his was a minor contribution to the collective dumpster fire. Lendy Castillo was the final rotten cherry on top of this misshapen, curdled sundae–he was brought into the apocalyptic ninth to stop the bleeding after the Brewers had already scored five runs on the inning, and proceeded to give up another four while recording only two outs. But the winner of Monday night’s Billy Madison Award (for the most utterly useless performance) goes to Alex Hinshaw. He was the Mrs. O’Leary’s cow of the evening. Here’s how his brief appearance went: walk, single, homerun, homerun, homerun. If I hadn’t been so blindingly furious with him, I probably would have felt sorry for Alex.

Forget it, Donny, you’re out of your element! After the performances of Hinshaw and Castillo, Dale decided to turn the game over to Joe Mather. With two outs and two runners on base, Mather became the first position player to take the mound for the Cubs since Garry Gaetti did it in 1999. He gave up a run on one hit before recording the final out of the game, making him one of the better Cubs relievers to take the mound Monday night.

Where’s the Tylenol? So let’s try to end this on a slightly more upbeat note. I have a couple bleacher seats for Wednesday night’s debacle game, and I’d like to give them away to a VFTB reader. I’m not interested in groveling or anything like that–simply state the clearest, cleverest, or heart-warmingest case for why you should get to go to the game in the comments section of this post and I’ll pick a winner before tonight’s game starts.

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Brewers Series Preview

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Probable Pitchers

Courtesy of

Monday at 7:05 pm CT – Marco Estrada vs. Justin Germano

It took 16 starts, but Estrada finally earned his first win of the year on Tuesday against the Cubs. It was arguably his best outing of the season, as he tossed six shutout innings, surrendered two hits and struck out nine. Germano will face the Brewers for the second straight game. In his last start, he gave up seven runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings and took the loss. He’s done better at Wrigley, posting a 3.18 ERA in four games.

Tuesday at 7:05 pm CT – Yovani Gallardo vs. Travis Wood

Gallardo threw seven innings for the fifth straight game on Wednesday, when he allowed just two solo home runs against the Cubs. The 26-year-old righty is 5-0 with a 2.02 ERA since Zack Greinke was traded at the end of July. Wood lost to the Brewers in his last start, but drew praise from Ryan Braun, who said the lefty threw a cutter “that’s tough to differentiate.” Braun did hit an RBI double and home run off Wood, so he figured him out.

Wednesday at 7:05 pm CT – Mike Fiers vs. Jeff Samardzija

Fiers 6 2/3 inning, three-run effort in Pittsburgh was a bounce-back after he allowed 12 runs over seven innings in his previous two starts. He also logged his first Major League hit, a bunt single that snapped an 0-for-22. Samardzija looks to extend his string of deep outings after going seven more innings in three of his last four outings. In his last start against Colorado, Samardzija burned through 60 pitches in three innings but made it through seven.

Thursday at 1:20 pm CT – Shaun Marcum vs. Brooks Raley

Marcum looked sharp in his return from a two-month stint on the disabled list before coming unraveled after an error in the fifth inning at Pittsburgh. The Brewers would like to trade him before Aug. 31 if they can. This will be Raley’s fifth big league start, and the Cubs are going to monitor his innings. Don’t expect him to go more than five. In his last start, he gave up two runs on five hits against the Rockies. He has a 4.09 ERA in two home games.

Our Take

I know you’re probably still cleaning up from your “Chris Volstad Won a Game” parties from last night, so I’ll be brief.

Prior to yesterday’s game, Jedi and I were talking about what the rest of the season might look like. With another month and some change, we tried to gauge where this Cubs season might land on the spectrum between Awful and Historically Awful. We never did land on a final number–we were stopped short by the fact that they’d only won 5 (now 6) games all month. It was no surprise they had been bad, but all the losses start to bleed together after a while, and it was a jolt to look back at the schedule and be reminded of just how bad they’ve been.

Now, will the end of Volstad’s winless streak propell them to greater things for the rest of the year? Not likely. But the Brewers are a beatable team. And after this series, we still have 3 more games against Colorado and 6 more against Houston to look forward to–that should be at least 6 more wins right there. Anything we can do against Pittsburgh (7 games), Cincinnati (3), St. Louis (3), Washington (3), Arizona (3), and San Francisco (3) is gravy.

Basically at this point I’m rooting for whatever it takes to keep St. Louis out of the postseason–if that means laying down for the Pirates and the Reds, so be it. The rest of the season is about small victories, but if we can help keep the Cardinals out of the playoffs, that would be huge.

Series Prediction: A 2-2 split is an improvement, albeit an unfulfilling one.

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Game 126: Starlin Catalyst To Volstad’s Win

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Rockies 0 @ Cubs 5 (Final in 8)

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Chris Volstad
Vying to become the No. 2 starter for the Cubs (at least for the rest of the season), Volstad tamed the Rockies lineup for 6 innings. When Dale trotted him back out for the 7th, Jeremiah and I were skeptical of his ability to maintain the slim 2-0 lead. Volstad was yanked with two on and two out, but Corpas made quick work of his one batter – getting a forceout at second to finish the 7th. Volstad’s final line; 6.2 IPs, 3 hits, 0 runs, 3 BBs, 3 Ks, 101 pitches. It was his best outing as a Cub – by a lot.

Starlin Castro
It wasn’t Alfonso Soriano’s day at the plate – he made the final out in four different innings. But that meant that Castro led the Cubs’ attack in four different innings. His line; 2-for-3, 2B, BB, K, 3 runs scored. Starlin had a lot of help scoring those runs from ‘useless’ productive outs.

After a double in the 2nd, he advanced on a flyout and scored on a groundout. After a walk in the 6th, he advanced to second and then to third on back-to-back groundouts, ultimately scoring on a single. And after an infield single in the 8th, he advanced to third on successive walks that loaded the bases, scoring on Mather’s pinch-hit sacfly. The Cubs scored Castro 3 different times with just one hit while he was on base (and 2 walks to go with 5 ‘productive’ outs).

Eighth Inning
After Castro scored the third run of the game in the 8th, William Harris uncorked a wild pitch that scored Brett Jackson (sliding head first into home) and surrendered a single to David DeJesus that scored Barney. When we took a series from the Astros in the middle of the month I declared us #29! After the 8th inning today, I’m going to revise that…We’re 28! We’re 28!

Volstad’s Drought
The win was Volstad’s first since July 10, 2011 as a member of the Florida Marlins – a team that no longer exists!  On that day:

  • Gas was $3.62/gallon (now $3.76)
  • First Class Postage was $0.44 (now $0.45)
  • NASA was flying manned missions into space
  • Muammar Gaddafi and his blonde lady-bodyguards ruled Libya
  • Amy Winehouse was alive
  • So was Kim Jong-il
  • Jerry Sandusky was just some guy you’d never heard of
  • And the Cubs lost on 7/10/11 to then future and now former Cub Paul Maholm and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jeff Baker hit fourth that day. The Cubs used 14 players in that loss and only Castro, Barney, Soriano, and Russell are still with the MLB team.
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Game 125: You Know the Outcome

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Rockies 4 @ Cubs 3

Box Score / Highlights Condensed Game

The Good

Brett Jackson – There were certainly some negatives to BJax’s day today, but there were a couple big positives as well. Jackson gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead in the fourth with a wind-aided, two-run basket shot. Jackson pushed the ball to the opposite field and let the wind do the rest – either a sign that he is starting to get more comfortable on the plate or that he was slow on a fastball and got lucky with the conditions at Wrigley. The homer, his second in as many games, along with his second inning double are encouraging signs of success to come for Jackson. Of course, then there was the strike out to end the game – his 31st in 61 at-bats. We’ll keep this in the good category though be reminding ourselves that it was the second straight day that he only k’d once.

Brooks Raley – This would probably go in the “average” column if there were one, but on a day like today, we’ll label Raley’s performance as “good”.  Maybe I’m not being fair – Raley really made one big mistake in his five innings on the mound, allowing a home run by pinch-hitter Josh Rutledge in the fifth. Dale Sveum decided five innings and 80 pitches was enough for Raley though and sent him to the showers after that inning with a 3-2 lead.

The Bad

Sorry to be pessimistic today, but there was nothing “bad” today. How is that pessimism, you ask? Because I’ve dropped all of the notable negatives from this one all the way to “ugly”.

The Ugly

Double Play Balls – The Cubs entered the seventh inning tied with the Rockies 3-3, and the inning very easily could have (should have?) ended the same way. The Cubs had two opportunities to turn double plays, the first went awry when Castro’s throw pulled Anthony Rizzo off the bag on a DJ LaMahieu grounder. The Rockies scored the game winning run on another would-be twin-killing that saw Castro loft the ball towards first, hoping either Darwin Barney or Alex Hinshaw would get to first in time to receive the ball on an attempted 3-6-1or2 double play.

Caught Stealing – Starlin Castro’s pursuit for the Major League lead in times caught stealing took a step forward when he was gunned down trying to swipe second in the third inning with a runner on third and nobody out. The truly ugly CS happened much later in the game when, the seventh inning the Cubs looked to be in a position to get a couple runs back. Jackson led off with a walk, then Joe Mather singled a couple batters later to put two on with one out. One out later, Jackson and Mather decided to attempt a double steal and the potential rally was killed as Mather was out by a mile at second. I say they decided to attempt a double steal because that’s basically what Dale Sveum said after the game – of course, he followed that up by saying he wouldn’t have sent them because he liked the match-up they had with Josh Vitters at the plate (and since when is that a good match for any one but the opposing pitcher), so who knows what actually happened.

The Cubs have now lost 19 of their last 24 games and need to go 11-26 in their final 37 games to avoid eclipsing 103 wins and going down in history as the single worst team in franchise history. I’m revising my prediction downward to a final record of 57-105…I believe we’ll witness history in the final month of the season.

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Game 124: Jackson Goes Deep

Saturday, August 25th, 2012


Box Score  / Highlights / Condensed

Sorry no “punny” headlines tonight folks. After watching, covering, writing about cross-country and women’s soccer events all day, I’m trying to transition myself back to blog Josh. He does exist, don’t make fun.

The scores rolled across the iPhone screen as I was keeping stats for the afternoon soccer kickoff, so I missed the game live. When I saw the 3-0 deficit early, I jotted down a few general notes to check on once I got to sit down to watch the game tonight. The plan was to do some variation of a normal (Good, Bad, Ugly) post, with few more negative descriptions obviously because I am a resident pessimist here at VFTB.

However I was pleasantly surprised that at halftime when I flipped my phone over, a furious 8th inning rally was displayed on my screen. Quickly, I jotted a few more notes of things to remember to look for when watching the game and alas I am bringing them to you here.

The Great

Brett Jackson has had his well-documented struggles at the plate since arriving on the scene a few short weeks ago. His sub .200 batting average is a clear indication of that. His patience at the plate is at times his undoing, as his looking at strike ratio combined with his missed bat ratio is a large reason for his struggles. In a big spot down one run, Jackson hit his first bomb at Wrigley to right center field to tie the game and get the rally going that would ultimately win the game. I doubt a hit like this gives Jackson a turn for the best to finish out the season. I also doubt he finishes above the .200 average mark, but the flashes once every few games are enough to get a little excited for the coming seasons.

It was nice to see Soriano hit another ball out too. The guy is overpaid, if you haven’t read that enough around here, but he’s playing at a respectable level this season. His huge contract likely isn’t going anywhere this season, especially with the Dodgers/Red Sox rumors floating about, so let’s enjoy the play while it lasts I guess.

The Good

Samardzija, a week late to his own dedicated seven day extravaganza in August (yes I’m sorry CAPS and I have worn out the Shark Week jokes, consider this my last one), was solid but unspectacular. He gave up a few more home runs, something that has become a troubling trend in recent weeks, which has be a struggle of his over the last two seasons as a relief pitcher. Even still he pitched well enough to win giving up only two earned runs on the two solo shots, striking out seven guys along the way. The only player he seemingly couldn’t get out was former Cub D.J. LeMahieu, who “punished” his former club with three hits in four attempts.

Marmol got another save, but not without his mandatory free pass to second to make things interesting. I feel bad for putting him on my most hated Cubs list earlier this morning. That was a lie.

The Bad

Anthony Rizzo continues his recent downward trend. A once promising .330 start  has dipped 17 points below the .300 mark, tanking miserably over the past two weeks. Rizzo was probably over-producing when he first came up, but I expect him to snap out of his funk sooner rather than later. I’m not going to bore you with my career projections for Rizzo, but I expect him to hover .300 for a career average. He is one of the few players I enjoy watching right now and when he isn’t producing, the game can get a little boring.

Two of the three worst teams in the league get to duke it out again tomorrow in a doozie between rookies Alex White and Brooks Raley. All I know is I’m glad others get the final two games in the series because there might be some un-watchable baseball mixed in.

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