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Zambrano okay… for now

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Zambrano news good, could return in Houston

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Cubs Nation can stop panicking — at least for the moment — as today’s news is good on Carlos Zambrano.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said today’s MRI confirmed his theory that Zambrano has rotator cuff tendinitis. If things go well, Zambrano will pitch in Houston during the Sept. 12-14 series.

This is good news. Tendinitis is a minor deal, and something that Z will be able to pitch through. And his velocity was more than adequate on Tuesday, so it does not look that will be a problem.

The same story says that Zambrano missed the MRI yesterday for family reasons.

As Matt pointed out in the comments, there are also rumors that Zambrano has been clashing with teammates. It is thought that this is connected to Zambrano calling Ryan Theriot out for his inability to throw out Hunter Pence on Tuesday night on a routine ground ball. Theriot deserved to be called out on that play, but it appears that several teammates did not appreciate Zambrano’s approach to that situation. Maybe last year was not all Barrett’s fault?

Hopefully Zambrano, and the Cubs, will be able to get over that and starting playing good baseball again.

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Cubs take 2 of 3 from Cardinals

Monday, August 11th, 2008

There is nothing quite like beating the St. Louis Cardinals. While sweeping the Brewers in a four game serious is/was exciting, that rivalry simply has a long way to go before it can match the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry. And of course, the rivalry is intensified when both teams are playing well. The Cubs, expected to play well all season, have done that and then some. The Cardinals, expected to see a steep drop off this season, have more than outplayed expectations.

Which brings us to this past weekend. The Cubs welcomed the Cardinals into the Friendly Confines leading the NL Central by 5.0 games over the Brewers and 6.0 games over the Cardinals. The Cubs just needed to take care of business as they had been doing, winning 8 of the last 10, while the Cardinals had won 6 of the last 10.

After the mighty Henry Blanco came through in the first game if the series, delivering a win in the bottom of the 10th inning, and seeing Carlos Zambrano then follow that up with one of the worse games of his career, the Cubs went into the final game of the series needing to win to take the series.

And, luckily, the Cubs went into the game with their ace on the mound – Ryan Dempster.

Huh?

Ryan Dempster, ace? Who would have thought a year ago that we would be calling Ryan Dempster the Cubs’ ace. But lets take a look:

Carlos Zambrano Ryan Dempster
ERA+ 140 156
VORP 39.9 43.2
Pitching Win Shares 14.7 14
WPA 1.41 2.76
Expected Win/Loss 10.3-6.6 12.0-5.7

Raise your hand if you expected Ryan Dempster to outperform Carlos Zambrano on the mound this year.

So going into last night’s game I had high expectations, even though we were facing the Cardinals new/old ace, who had recently been activated form the DL, but had pitched very well in his two previous starts.

The Cubs got to Carpenter in the second, helped by an error and two sacrifice flies which allowed Aramis Ramirez to score and give Dempster and the Cubs a 1-0 lead. And then it would turn into somewhat of a pitchers’ duel, with little occurring until the 6th inning. Of course, the “little occurring” was helped a lot by another great catch by Edmonds in CF.

The Cubs finally broke things open the 6th, and after a double, an RBI single, and a walk, Carpenter was forced to leave the game with a triceps injury. The injury would only make things worse for the Cardinals, as the Cubs would tack on four more runs in 6th to give Dempster a 6-0 cushion.

Dempster would give up two runs in the 7th and make way for Samardzija, Wood, and Marmol to finish the game. The three relievers would combine to pitch 2.1 innings, giving up just one hit (a double from Pujols off of Samardzija), and the Cubs would win 6-2 to wrap up a series win against their hated rivals.

Last night involved everything – good pitching, good hitting, and very good defense. And, of course, a win.

The Cubs end the weekend four games up on Milwaukee and seven games up on the Cardinals. What is amazing about the Cubs is that they are not just winning, but they are dominating. The Cubs have outscored their opponents by 139 runs this season, leading all of the major leagues in that metric by over 30 runs. The Cubs are actually under-performing, at least according to their Expected W-L record. And if the Cubs just go .500 from here on out, they will win 93 games.

The season is not over, and the Cubs still have some work to do, as the Brewers will not be going away anytime soon. But lets enjoy the day off, and enjoy the very good baseball the Cubs continue to play, and cheer for the Nationals this afternoon!

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