Archive - 2005

May 23rd

ASTROS 1 CUBS 4
Recap | Box Score | Play-by-play | Game Chart
W: Glendon Rusch (3-1) L: Wandy Rodriguez (0-1) S: Ryan Dempster (3)
If there were any reservations as to whether or not Glendon Rusch's 2004 was just a case of sheer luck, he's not doing too bad a job of dispelling them so far this year. In his four starts in place of Kerry Wood, he's put up a 2.71 ERA, carrying on where he left off as a reliever. Today, albeit against the Astros' woeful offence, he was pretty masterful, painting the outside corner with his fastball at will in particular, and allowing just the single run through eight blisteringly fast and very economical innings. The solo home run he allowed to Brad Ausmus in the second inning, which was all that blighted the shutout, was the first he'd given up all year, a far cry from the four in just four innings I remember him allowing in a single Spring Training game! Keeping the ball in the park so well thus far this season has allowed him to get away with being uncharacteristically wild, but if he can tame that and keep everything else up, and the single walk today and his track record suggest that free passes really aren't a problem (which makes a refreshing change for the Cubs), I think we may have to start thinking about which of Rusch and Maddux is the better pitcher at this stage. That is, of course, pretty staggering, because I certainly don't remember Maddux being cut by the Rangers about 14 months ago! The Cubs didn't quite get to Wandy Rodriguez as you'd perhaps like, and they're still short of offence, which will probably be underlined by Roger Clemens in the second game of the series, but they did manage to plate four despite the wind blowing in. Hairston reached and advanced to third on a well executed hit-and-run with Neifi, and then Derrek Lee absolutely nailed yet another pitch (the quality of the contact he's making right now, still, is staggering), and Hairston tagged up and scored. Later Corey Patterson hit his ninth home run of the year (a solo shot, of course, as they all have been), and Burnitz later followed with a gopher ball of the two-run variety to give the Cubs a cushion of three. Ryan Dempster needed just four pitches to work a scoreless inning for the save, with the Astros displaying impatience that'd make Jose Macias blush. Speaking of Jose Macias, he's had just six plate appearances the entire month in games he hasn't been spot-starting for Ramirez. Enrique Wilson has picked up the bat just once. Certainly, it makes you question just why we have the two on the bench if we're (rightly) not going to use them, and Dusty should have figured it out long ago that Macias, for a lemon, doesn't have much of a tang, but this is a belated step in the right direction and I think Dusty, dude, deserves some kudos. That is, if I'm not speaking too soon.
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GAME 42 PREVIEW HOUSTON ASTROS (15-28) at CHICAGO CUBS (19-22) Wrigley Field, 7.05pm CT, TV: CSN, Fox Sports SW
SP *Glendon Rusch SP *Wandy Rodriguez
CF Willy Taveras 2B Jerry Hairston
LF *Todd Self SS #Neifi Perez
2B Craig Biggio 1B Derrek Lee
1B #Lance Berkman 3B Aramis Ramirez
3B Morgan Ensberg RF *Jeromy Burnitz
RF Jason Lane LF Jason Dubois
SS Adam Everett CF *Corey Patterson
C Brad Ausmus C Michael Barrett
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot
They're like buses - you wait ages for one, and then two come along at once. Rookie opposition starters that is. Yesterday the Cubs got Brandon McCarthy, but they didn't manage to actually get to him. In fact, McCarthy was very impressive, striking out the first ever major league batter he faced (Hairston) and pitching a very solid five and a third innings before Guillen very cautiously lifted him. Today the Cubs get Wandy (yes, Wandy) Rodriguez, who starts in place of Andy Pettitte, and hopefully they'll at least give one of these two rookies a major league welcome to make them wish they'd never been promoted. Rodriguez doesn't have the same prospect calibre of McCarthy though, nowhere near - he's a 21, no, 25, er 26 year-old soft-tossing lefty out of Venezuela with a fastball, changeup, curveball arsenal that he throws for strikes, and at best he projects as the lefty out of the 'pen that makes up the numbers. He's going on just three days of rest and will be looking to end a five-game Houston losing streak. [Update] According to Bruce Levine at least, the Cubs are about to pull off a big trade, but that's all he's saying! Talk about keeping us on tenterhooks! Anyway, speculate away amongst yourselves. All I have to say is that I hope that Corey Patterson, whose name seems to be getting bandied around quite a bit, isn't involved. This is no time to give up on him.

With a quarter of the season in the books, it's time that our foes in the NL Central got the once over.

 

Pos Team W-L PCT GB   RS RA Pythg   Home Away 1-run Extra
1 Cardinals 27-16 .628 --   228 187 26-17   12-9 15-7 9-7 1-0
2 Brewers 20-23 .465 7.0   188 173 23-20   11-9 9-14 7-5 1-2
3= Cubs 19-22 .463 7.0   179 178 21-20   10-10 9-12 8-9 2-2
3= Pirates 19-22 .463 7.0   161 178 18-23   7-13 12-9 3-8 1-1
5= Astros 15-28 .349 12.0   159 198 17-26   13-9 2-19 4-10 0-3
5= Reds 15-28 .349 12.0   190 253 16-27   10-12 5-16 7-9 0-1


May 22nd

In doing my research for this weeks organizational report, I came across this small, buried nugget at Inside the Ivy (subscription may be required to access link). Pitcher Dave Crouthers, one of the three prized players we received from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Mr. You-Know-Who, has decided to RETIRE from baseball. Reasons were not given.

WHITE SOX 3 CUBS 4
Recap | Box Score | Play-by-play | Game Chart
W: Mark Prior (4-1) L: Luis Vizcaino (2-2)
After yesterday, not to mention his own last few outings, Mark Prior came to the realisation that he simply can't trust his bullpen. So he went the distance himself and averted a potentially very embarrassing sweep by the White Sox in our own backyard. In the end, thanks to Jason Dubois and the return of the much-missed three-run shot, Mark Prior didn't quite need to throw that perfect game I was speaking of earlier, though he did retire the first ten hitters he faced with ease, effectiveness and efficiency, four of them by strikeout. A solo home run by Tadahito Iguchi though tied the game at one (Henry Blanco had put us ahead!), and Mark Prior, as is becoming slightly unnervingly common, fell apart a little. Aaron Rowand doubled, Paul Konerko followed with a walk as Prior started to pull his fastball down and away from right-handers as he does, and AJ Pierzynski hit a line drive. Derrek Lee saved the day and the tie by leaping to snare the ball and then throwing to second for the double play. That at least made up for his horrendous earlier error that cost the Cubs a run. Lee, who had been at first, paused at second on a Burnitz double upon the say-so of Juan Uribe, who alledged the ball had gone foul. By the time Lee realised he'd been duped, he could only make it to third, where Ramirez stranded him by lining out to left. Ramirez made some good contact today, two lineouts, a warning track shot and a walk, and his .233 batting average on balls in play won't last, so don't worry about him too much. The tie didn't last though. Jermaine Dye put a good swing on a fastball to lead off the fifth, and Prior didn't truly settle down again until he managed to strike out impressive debut pitcher Brandon McCarthy on a full count. A 1-2-3 sixth for Prior followed, the pitch that got Podsednik on strikes (again) being particularly nasty. Podsednik reached just once, and his speed had no influence on the game as a result. You can't steal first base. Well, not today at least. The Cubs last year were supposedly a team overly reliant on the home run, far too inconsistent in their run-scoring, a dozen one day but not very many the next. That's changed so far this year, or at least of late, with the Cubs instead being very consistent, just scoring not very many runs at all every time out. Jason Dubois was obviously a bit fed up with that, so he launched a Luis Vizcaino offering to deep right-center, his natural power alley, and for the first time in what seems an age, the Cubs had a lead of more than a run. Prior kept it that way by pitching his way out of jams in the seventh and eighth, getting a pair of critical pop-ups and a big double play respectively. By the time Konerko hit the third home run of the day off Prior in the ninth to halve the deficit, it was too little too late. Cubs win, Cubs win! The Cubs have a critical seven days coming up. Three against the Astros and four with the Rockies, all at Wrigley. 5-2 would put them back at .500. Let's do it!

GAME 41 PREVIEW CHICAGO WHITE SOX (31-12) at CHICAGO CUBS (18-22) Wrigley Field, 2.20pm CT, TV: WGN
SP Mark Prior SP Brandon McCarthy
LF *Scott Podsednik 2B Jerry Hairston
2B Tadahito Iguchi SS #Neifi Perez
CF Aaron Rowand 1B Derrek Lee
1B Paul Konerko RF *Jeromy Burnitz
C *AJ Pierzynski 3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Jermaine Dye CF *Corey Patterson
SS Juan Uribe LF Jason Dubois
3B Joe Crede C Henry Blanco
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot
The Cubs have managed just two runs total in the first six innings of their last four games. That simply isn't a recipe for winning a lot of games, and it puts a tremendous pressure upon the the pitching staff and the defence behind them. Zambrano yesterday was simply masterful, and given his seven shutout inning performance, the Cubs should have been in a position in the game where they could afford the odd defensive mistake. A lack of offence though and Corey Patterson's prematurely closed mitt, after fantastic hustle and pace to make the ball playable at all, cost the Cubs dear. These bats simply have to wake up if the Cubs are going to win a decent number of games. Either that, or Mark Prior and co will have to throw a perfect game. Either way, or both. Today the Cubs get to see a major league debutant on the mound for the Chicago White Sox. Brandon McCarthy was the minor league strikeout leader last year, having a fantastic campaign in the Southern League (Double-A). Though he hadn't quite been at his best so far this year in Triple-A, he did have a fantastic Spring Training with the Sox, looking so dominating that the White Sox seemed to have few qualms about inserting him into their rotation to start the year when it seemed Mark Buerhle would miss time. Buerhle's injury wasn't as serious as first feared though, so McCarthy's had to wait, but he now gets his shot while El Duque takes his annual trip to the disabled list. Hopefully those Cub bats can say "welcome to the big leagues, kid, we do things differently here". While the Cubs are labouring against the best team in baseball, the St Louis Cardinals are beating upon the worst, the Kansas City Royals, and the rest of their interleague schedule is undisputedly easier too. While with the way the Cubs are playing this year this probably will prove to be irrelevant, major league baseball really needs to look into ensuring a more balanced and fairer schedule in future. [ruz] I'm in Harrisburg PA right now, looking at houses (we found one!) so I've had to follow the Cubs solely online, here and at Exile in Wrigleyville. It hasn't been fun, but luckily Vince hasn't rubbed it in my face too much. There hasn't been a cross-town sweep since 1999, so hopefully Prior can prevent that!

May 21st

WHITE SOX 5 CUBS 3
Recap | Box Score | Play-by-play | Game Chart
W: Jose Contreras (2-1) L: Mike Wuertz (2-2) S: Dustin Hermanson (10)
Zambrano's elbow really was the least of the Cubs' worries, the big Venezuelan throwing seven innings that were all but flawless but for a little wildness. He was dealing throughout, with velocity and movement, confidence and swagger, not to mention plenty of emotion. In other words, he was just the same good old Zambrano. The offence though simply didn't show up yet again, and so when Zambrano departed after those seven innings having thrown 108 pitches, the bullpen had the slenderest of 1-0 margins to protect. Mike Wuertz didn't pitch particularly well, working too high in the zone for my liking and hanging a few breaking balls that he was lucky went unpunished. But he deserves little blame for the way the critical runs crossed the plate. In spite of some excellent defence (particularly from Neifi in the hole) that made the plays closer than they should have been, two infield hits gave the White Sox first and third with two outs, setting the stage for "Paulie", as the White Sox could all too loudly be heard chanting on the broadcast. Konerko half lined and half blooped the ball towards short left center. Corey, reading it well right off the bat and using his sheer speed to good effect, covered a lot of ground and got within a dive of the ball. He dove, but just as the fans thought he'd got it covered and was about to end the inning, he closed his glove just a moment too soon. The ball hit off the glove and squirted into left field, behind Dubois who had been backing up Corey in case it got by him. Podsednik scored from third, and Rowand wasn't so far behind him that he couldn't plate the go-ahead run. And, just like that, the Cubs' one-run lead was not only gone but they trailed by one. Damn. From there on out, there was a sense of inevitability to the game. Will Ohman came in and allowed hits to both runners he faced, and with that another two runs, and it was left to Hawkins to record the final out of the four-run rally. The Cubs got two back in the bottom of the inning (Hairston picking up a 3rd RBI and Lee a 38th), but Hawkins, left in to pitch the ninth, served up a meatball to Jermaine Dye. Then if was Bartosh's turn to make a mess of things, before Dusty finally decided he'd go to his best reliever of late, only a bit too late. Wellemeyer for closer? And so the White Sox take the series. I'm not indifferent to that.

GAME 40 PREVIEW CHICAGO WHITE SOX (30-12) at CHICAGO CUBS (18-21) Wrigley Field, 12.15pm CT, TV: FOX (blackout restrictions)
SP Carlos Zambrano SP Jose Contreras
LF *Scott Podsednik 2B Jerry Hairston
2B *Willie Harris SS #Neifi Perez
CF Aaron Rowand 1B Derrek Lee
1B Paul Konerko RF *Jeromy Burnitz
C *AJ Pierzynski 3B Aramis Ramirez
RF *Carl Everett CF *Corey Patterson
SS Juan Uribe LF Jason Dubois
3B Joe Crede C Henry Blanco
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot

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