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SP Ryan Dempster SP Chris Volstad

13-5, 2.92, 139 K, 62 BB, 157.1 IP
4-2, 3.03, 26 K, 18 BB, 38.2 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano SS Hanley Ramirez
SS Ryan Theriot LF *Luis Gonzalez
1B Derrek Lee 3B Jorge Cantu
3B Aramis Ramirez 1B *Mike Jacobs
RF *Kosuke Fukudome 2B Dan Uggla
C Geovany Soto RF *Jeremy Hermida
2B *Mike Fontenot CF Cody Ross
CF Reed Johnson C *John Baker
P Ryan Dempster P Chris Volstad

 

The Cubs end the brief road trip with a chance to win yet another series and take the season matchup with the Fish, which currently stands at three victories each.

Ryan Dempster, who is profiled by Alan Schwarz in Sunday's New York Times, goes up against 21-year-old Chris Volstad, who pitched well in an ND when the Marlins were in Chicago.

Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee return to the starting lineup.

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SP Carlos Zambrano SP Josh Johnson

12-5, 3.22, 101 K, 48 BB, 151 IP
3-0, 3.19, 28 K, 14 BB, 36.2 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano SS Hanley Ramirez
SS Ryan Theriot RF *Jeremy Hermida
1B Derrek Lee 3B Jorge Cantu
CF *Jim Edmonds 1B *Mike Jacobs
C Geovany Soto 2B Dan Uggla
3B Mark DeRosa LF Josh Willingham
2B *Mike Fontenot CF Cody Ross
RF Reed Johnson C *John Baker
P #Carlos Zambrano P *Josh Johnson 

The Cubs attempt to extend their 8-game road winning streak with Carlos Zambrano trying to recover from a 4-inning+ outing against the Cards last Saturday in which he seemed to be channeling Bob Howry, i.e., allowing a whole big bunch of hits (10), homers (4), and runs (9).

Josh Johnson makes his second start this season against the Cubs. He served up solo home run balls to Geovany Soto and Reed Johnson but little else, a in an ND start on July 25th at Wrigley. (That was the game the Marlins won on a ninth-inning homer by Jeremy Hermida against you-know-who.)

Speaking of that four-game series, which the teams split, that's also the last series the Cubs played and didn't win.

Friday's Game Notes highlight:

The Cubs' seventh and eighth place batters are hitting a combined .301 this season, which is best in MLB. In the series at Turner Field, the #7 and #8 guys went 11-for-25 (.440) with 9 RBI.

And to think—we've expended all that energy this year debating who should hit leadoff.

By the way, no matter what happens the rest of the way, I think the Cubs should definitely go after Michael Phelps as a free agent.

Wednesday night the Brewers won their 8th consecutive game, and the consensus is that the streak grew directly out of the dugout shoving match-turned-public apology involving Prince Fielder and Manny Parra. (Note to consensus: the fact that the Brewers have been playing the Nats and the Padres might also be a contributing factor.)

The Cubs have been doing just fine, thank you—7 consecutive road wins,11 victories in 14 games overall, maintaining a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL Central—but still, it's nice to know that we could conjure an 8-game run whenever we needed it simply by initiating a little Cub-on-Cub action.

Hell, it's not like we don't have the boys with backgrounds in intramural brawling: Lou Piniella (grappled with Rob Dibble to a draw), Ted Lilly (TKO over his Toronto manager, John Gibbons), and Carlos Zambrano (knocked out Michael Barrett, all the way into the National League West!).

Sure, we could follow the Milwaukee match-making strategy and have Lee (our Fielder) take on Marshall (our Parra), or we could be a little more creative.

Some ideas:

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SP Rich Harden SP Jorge Campillo
(NL)
1-1, 2.10, 47 K, 9 BB, 30 IP
7-4, 2.83, 81 K, 21 BB, 114.1 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano CF *Gregor Blanco
SS Ryan Theriot SS Yunel Escobar
1B Derrek Lee 1B *Casey Kotchmann
3B Aramis Ramirez C #Brian McCann
CF *Jim Edmonds LF Omar Infante
2B Mark DeRosa 2B *Kelly Johnson
RF *Kosuke Fukudome 1B Martin Prado
C Henry Blanco RF Jeff Francoeur
P *Rich Harden P Jorge Campillo

 

Cubs go for the day/night sweep. Blanco gets the start behind home plate. Otherwise, it's the same group with Theriot moving up to the 2-hole and Fukudome moving down to seventh.

Lots of the same faces in the Braves' order as well. Slumping Jeff Francoeur gets a start and the chance to see what it's like to slump out of the eighth spot.

Harden is starting the nightcap after telling Piniella he prefers to work at night.

Oh, my God—we traded for a vampire!

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SP Chris Carpenter SP Ryan Dempster
  0-0, 1.00, 4 K, 2 BB, 9 IP   12-5, 2.93, 133 K, 59 BB, 150.2 IP
       
CF *Skip Schumaker LF Alfonso Soriano
LF Joe Mather RF *Kosuke Fukudome
1B Albert Pujols 1B Derrek Lee
RF Ryan Ludwick 3B Aramis Ramirez
3B Troy Glaus CF *Jim Edmonds
C Yadier Molina 2B Mark DeRosa
2B
*Adam Kennedy C Geovany Soto
P Chris Carpenter SS Ronny Cedeno
SS #Cesar Izturis P Ryan Dempster


Amazing game, this baseball.

Just two days ago, we were aglow over the possibility that this weekend set could end with the Cardinals nine games behind the Cubs and all but out of the NL Central race. Then on Saturday the league's highest-scoring road team bludgeoned the Cubs' nominal pitching ace and suddenly, St. Louis has a chance to win this series and close to within five games of first place with the Brewers once again also breathing down the Cubs' necks.

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SP Braden Looper SP *Ted Lilly

10-9, 4.29, 65 K, 32 BB, 134.1 IP

11-6. 4.35, 129 K, 50 BB, 140.2 IP
       
LF #Vince Coleman LF Alfonso Soriano
CF #Willie McGee SS Ryan Theriot
2B #Tommy Herr 1B Derrek Lee
1B Jack Clark 3B Aramis Ramirez
RF *Andy Van Slyke RF *Kosuke Fukudome
3B #Terry Pendleton C Geovany Soto
C
Mike Heath CF *Jim Edmonds
SS #Ozzie Smith 2B Mark DeRosa
P *John Tudor P *Ted Lilly

UPDATE: Screw LaRussa, I have to get back to work. Let's see how he does with Mike Heath in the lineup from 1986.


(I'm posting this without a Cardinals batting order. Based on what Bernie Miklasz is reporting here, Tony LaRussa is waiting to see if Rick Ankiel and his strained abdominal muscle are ready to go before he posts the lineup.)

At around 8:45 this morning, I saw a middle-aged couple walking hand-in-hand in downtown Chicago, wearing matching St. Louis Cardinals t-shirts. This reminded me of two things: first, that the Cards were in town to play the Cubs, and second, that middle-aged couples should never wear matching t-shirts.

As for baseball, all of the analysis of the Cards' unexpected success this season has overlooked the obvious—Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan are witches.

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SP Brandon Backe SP Jason Marquis

6-10, 4.72, 100 K, 56 BB, 129.2 IP

6-7. 4.68, 64 K, 45 BB, 117.1 IP
       
2B #Kaz Matsui LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Hunter Pence SS Ryan Theriot
1B #Lance Berkman 1B Derrek Lee
LF Carlos Lee 3B Aramis Ramirez
SS #Geoff Blum CF *Jim Edmonds
3B Ty Wigginton 2B Mark DeRosa
CF *Darin Erstad RF *Kosuke Fukudome
C Humberto Quintero C Geovany Soto
P Brandon Backe P *Jason Marquis

 

What a surprise!

I returned Tuesday night from a wonderful vacation on the East Coast, and based on the news mix I got from the all-sports radio station in Boston, I assumed all of MLB had gone on hiatus while the Red Sox negotiated their divorce arrangements with Manny Ramirez.

Turns out the Cubs had, in fact, stayed busy, eviscerating the Brewers and taking two-of-three from the Bayless Bucs while building a 5-game lead in the Central. This afternoon they try to even up their season mark against Houston—currently they're 5-6—while capturing yet another series win. In 18 series so far this year at Wrigley, the Cubs are 14-3-1.

Jason Marquis, winless in his last six starts (0-4, 5.25), goes for the home team. Brandon Backe, the losingest pitcher on Cecil Cooper's staff, has an ND and loss against the Cubs this season.

Hey, I see the Cubs are stumping for permission to play some of their home night games on Fridays and Saturdays. Why not? Then Erin Andrews could cover the games in a cocktail dress.

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SP Josh Johnson SP Ryan Dempster
  0-0, 3.86, 10 K, 3 BB, 11.2 IP
11-4, 3.05, 111 K, 51 BB, 132.2 IP
       
SS Hanley Ramirez LF Alfonso Soriano
RF *Luis Gonzalez SS Ryan Theriot
3B Jorge Cantu 1B Derrek Lee
1B *Mike Jacobs 3B Aramis Ramirez
2B Dan Uggla RF *Kosuke Fukudome
LF Josh Willingham C Geovany Soto
CF Cody Ross 2B *Mike Fontenot
C Paul Hoover CF Reed Johnson
P *Josh Johnson P Ryan Dempster

 

With Jeff Samardzija (last name = 29 Scrabble points) in a Major League uniform for the first time and the Brewers so close you can smell the Miller High Life and cannibal sandwiches on their breaths, the Cubs go for a second win in a row against the Fightin' Fish.

Kosuke Fukudome returns to the starting lineup, as does Mike Fontenot, who has gone 14-for-41 (.341) with four homers and a 1260 OPS since the first of July.

Michael TokarzCrain's Chicago Business reports Thursday that Tribune Company has asked two of the bidders for the team and Wrigley Field to pool their resources and make a combined bid. According to the Crain's source, the two bidders are 58-year-old Chicago native Michael Tokarz (pictured) of MVC Capital Inc., and Sports Properties Acquisitions Corporation, a New York company formed for the purpose of acquiring a professional sports franchise. Sports Properties is headed by Tony Tavares, former president of the Washington Nationals, and Hank Aaron—yeah, that Hank Aaron—sits on its board.

Tribune Company is said to feel that the two bidders' strengths are complementary: Sports Properties' team includes people with baseball experience, and Tokarz, formerly of the legendary New York equity firm, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, is stinkin' filthy rich.

Also this afternoon, the Tribune reports that the family of Joe Ricketts, founder of Ameritrade, is one of the groups that has advanced to the second round of the sale process.  

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