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Boy oh boy, these last two weeks are gonna be fun. We're pretty much reduced to personal milestones and the .500 mark, so here's a handy clip-and-save for the last twelve games: * Greg Maddux needs three more wins to get to 15 wins for the 18th straight season, and the Cubs will juggle the rotation so he gets a shot. * Carlos Zambrano needs two more wins to match his career high of 16, set last year. If he gets those two wins, he'll have 50 for his career. He's already set a career high in strikeouts, and is over 200 IP for the third straight year. * Zambrano is also currently hitting .303, easily the highest mark of his career and the best batting performance by a Cub starting pitcher since Mike Krukow hit .314 in 1979. His SLG of .474 is the highest by a Cub pitcher since Dave Roberts slugged an even .500 in 1978. * Derrek Lee is 6 homers away from 50, 6 extra-base hits away from 100, 12 hits away from 200, and 27 total bases away from 400 for the season. He also has a five point lead in the batting race, a race I ridicule and make no mention of unless a Cub has a chance at winning it. * Jeromy Burnitz is 2 homers away from 300 for his career, while Todd Walker is 2 away from 200. Walker also has a good shot at a new career best in SLG. *Michael Barrett is 1 homer and 8 RBI away from tying his career highs (16 and 65), set last year. He's also in range of new career best in OBP and SLG. * Henry Blanco has a good shot at career highs in AVG and SLG.
SOUTHERN LEAGUE (AA) CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES GAME 3 THREAD (JAXX LEAD BEST-OF-FIVE SERIES 1-0) [PARACHAT] WEST TENN DIAMOND JAXX (83-56) @ JACKSONVILLE SUNS (79-61) PRINGLES PARK, 6:35 pm CDT, RADIO: Dixie 1310 WDXI TV: Internet Video Feed
The Suns took Game 2 by a score of 1-0 in a terribly umpired game to level the series. Now the Jaxx are back home, where they'll stay until this series is over and the Championship decided. Tonight Ricky Nolasco takes the ball in an absolutely pivotal game, and the teams lineup so...
The weekend is coming, the Cubs were on the losing end of the division-clincher (sort of, maybe) last night, and not even the fact that the game was called on account of rain with the tying run on-deck can excite me enough to string together a full column. Who knows, maybe Jose Macias would have gotten on, and then Mighty Jerry would have hit a game-tying grand slam, but we'll never know, will we? Anyway, on to the bullets... * I flipped on Wednesday night's game when I got home from Washington D.C. and it was the bottom of the 10th inning, and I swear to God, the first thought that went through my head was, "how are the Cubs going to blow this game?" It's sad, but what's even sadder is that they managed to do it in the very next inning by walking the leadoff batter, making the wrong throw on a sacrifice bunt, and making the wrong throw on a sacrifice fly. Van Buren, Hill, and Hairston thus add themselves to the long, long list of Cubs who apparently never learned the fundamentals of the game. I haven't seen a team this poor in the basics since I don't know when. By the time Sean Casey hit his inevitable bases-clearing double, I didn't have the energy to complain about why Hairston was playing so shallow. It's just demoralizing sometimes. * Since I turned on the game late, I missed Michael Barrett getting hit in the head, but it looks like he could be back in the lineup as soon as today. He appears to have avoided a concussion, which is good news. * How about that Matt Murton? It's Small Sample Size City, but it looks like maybe he can make it at the major league level. Hopefully the 100 ABs he got this year will convince Dusty to give him a shot at a full-time job next spring. Bruce Miles has some advice for Dusty on how to take credit for Murton's success. * If you want to read Paul Sullivan's version of the exact same notes that are in Mike Kiley's piece, it's right here. Kiley does scoop Sullivan on the whole "Nomar and Mia are class acts" story, but other than that it seems like the beat reporters' seasons are winding down, too. * Former TCRer Derek Smart writes about What Went Wrong this year over at Baseball Anaylsts. Good stuff. We'll have our own versions up in the next few weeks. * Predicted Cardinals line-up for today's post-clinch game: CF: So Taguchi 2B: Hector Luna 1B: Chris Duncan LF: Reggie Sanders 3B: Scott Seabol RF: John Mabry SS: Abraham Nunez C: Mike Mahoney [UPDATE 2:00 PM] GAME 148 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (94-54) @ CHICAGO CUBS (72-75) WRIGLEY FIELD, 7:05 pm CDT, TV: WGN, Fox Sports Ohio
Glendon Rusch, LHP
6-8, 4.62 ERA
99/49 K/BB, 11 HR in 126.2 IP
Matt Morris, RHP
14-8, 4.04 ERA
104/30 K/BB, 17 HR in 171.2 IP
SS David Eckstein LF 3rd Generation Mediocrity
CF * Jim Edmonds SS #I Control Dusty's Brain
1B Albert Pujols 1B M.V.P.
RF Reggie Sanders RF *Shows Up, Hits, Goes Home
2B Mark Grudzielanek 3B Will Play Third For Pennant
RF So Taguchi 2B *I Left Boston For This?
C Yadier Molina CF *0-4, 4 K
3B Hector Luna C Perfectly Adequate Backup
P Matt Morris P *Just a Swingman
LaRussa is playing a whole lot more veterans than I thought he would. Unfortunately, so is Dusty.
SOUTHERN LEAGUE (AA) CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES GAME 2 THREAD (JAXX LEAD BEST-OF-FIVE SERIES 1-0) [PARACHAT] WEST TENN DIAMOND JAXX (83-56) @ JACKSONVILLE SUNS (79-61) THE BASEBALL GROUNDS, 6:05 pm CDT, RADIO: Dixie 1310 WDXI TV: Internet Video Feed
The Jaxx connected twice yesterday, which is worthy of mention not just because it leads to silly titles such as the above, but also because the Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville is one of the most pitcher-friendly in all of baseball, with most of the outfield between left-centre and right-centre well over 375 feet from the plate. Anyway, the Jaxx won't have to put up with too many enormous cans of corn, because after tonight's game they'll head back home to Jackson, West Tennessee, where the series will be decided once tomorrow's off-day is out of the way.
The West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx opened their first Southern League Championship Series in four years last night, and I missed it, because the scheduling change slipped my mind. But at least the Jaxx won (recap, box, play-by-play), and how! With the recent promotions of Felix Hernandez, Francisco Liriano and Matt Cain to the big leagues, yesterday's starter for the Jacksonville Suns, Chad Billingsley, is most probably the best pitching prospect in the minors right now. He throws a lively fastball anywhere from 93 to 97 and has superb secondary stuff in the shape of his plus-plus slider and hard curveball. In his last seven starts prior to yesterday's contest, Billingsley had a 46.2 IP, 17 H, 3 HR, 15 BB, 46 K, 0.96 ERA line, and if 17 hits allowed in his last 46.2 innings pitched wasn't ridiculous enough, try 12 in his last 40.2. Or 0 in his last 7, for it was only last Thursday that Billingsley combined with reliever Jonathon Broxton to pitch a no-hitter, in the process picking up his sixth consecutive win. All in all, I think it's fair to say that the kid, for he's only 21, was on a roll. And did it bother our Jaxx one bit? Well, let's just say that...
GAME 145 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CINCINNATI REDS (67-76) @ CHICAGO CUBS (71-73) WRIGLEY FIELD, 7:05 pm CDT, TV: WGN, Fox Sports Ohio
Carlos Zambrano, RHP
13-5, 3.18 ERA
180/78 K/BB, 15 HR in 195.0 IP
Eric Milton, LHP
7-14, 6.63 ERA
111/47 K/BB, 39 HR in 165.2 IP
2B Ryan Freel CF Jerry Hairston Jr.
SS #Felipe Lopez 2B *Todd Walker
LF *Adam Dunn 1B Derrek Lee
CF Wily Mo Pena 3B Nomar Garciaparra
1B *Sean Casey RF *Jeromy Burnitz
C Jason LaRue C Michael Barrett
3B Edwin Encarnacion LF Matt Murton
RF Chris Denorfia SS #Neifi Perez
P *Eric Milton P #Carlos Zambrano
Just kidding about the title, we can hopefully agree that this is about the best lineup we can hope for with the current Cubs personnel. Don't forget to listen in on the Jaxx quest for the Southern League championship. It's currently 4-2 Jaxx in the top of the second, 3 of the runs coming in on a Brandon Sing homer off Dodger uber-prospect Chad Billingsley. Jae-kuk Ryu is going for the Jaxx. Go Cubs!!!
GAME 144 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CINCINNATI REDS (66-76) @ CHICAGO CUBS (71-72) WRIGLEY FIELD, 7:05 pm CDT, TV: CSN
Greg Maddux, RHP
12-11, 4.28 ERA
116/32 K/BB, 24 HR in 189.1 IP
Aaron Harang, RHP
9-12, 3.60 ERA
146/50 K/BB, 16 HR in 185.0 IP
2B Ryan Freel CF Jerry Hairston Jr.
SS #Felipe Lopez SS #Neifi Perez
2B Rich Aurilia. 1B Derrek Lee
LF *Adam Dunn 3B Nomar Garciaparra
1B *Sean Casey 2B *Todd Walker
RF Austin Kearns RF #Jose Macias
C #Javier Valentin LF Matt Murton
CF Wily Mo Pena C Henry Blanco
P Aaron Harang P Greg Maddux
As I pointed out in this week's organizational report, Maddux has 4 more chances to win 3 games and they may skip someone else's start so that he gets 5 more chances. I'm not sure how I feel about that, forcing your way to a record doesn't seem like the right way to go about things, on the other hand skipping what most likely will be a Glendon Rusch start, doesn't mean anything to me either. What's worse, Macias starting, or Macias hitting ahead of Murton? Tough call... The Cubs march on.... Go Cubs!!!
West Tennessee's MVP shortstop Ryan Theriot has been called up for today's game, a move necessitated by Ronny Cedeno breaking his left hand on Saturday, being most probably out for what's left of the season, and therefore leaving the Cubs light up the middle. Due to expanded rosters, Cedeno avoids the disabled list, but Kerry Wood has been shifted to the 60-day DL to make room for Theriot on the 40-man roster. Daytona infielder Carlos Rojas will replace Theriot in the Jaxx's championship series versus the Jacksonville Suns, which now begins on Tuesday rather than Wednesday after a scheduling change. Congratulations to Theriot, but wouldn't you hate to leave your team when they're on the brink of a championsip, even if it's just the Southern League? And why do we need him with the big club? Neifi will play shortstop, Walker plays second and the combination of Hairston, Macias and Nomar can back all those positions up. It seems pointless, especially when you have Mike Fontentot already on the 40 man roster. I suppose there's a reason behind this and it might actually be good, but quite a blow to the Jaxx and their championship aspirations. As for Theriot's skills, he's been considered an absolute defenseive wizard through his years with the farm system and a lightweight with the bat. That is until this year, when he scrapped switch-hitting and went to hitting exclusively from the right side. He's way old to be considered a prospect (he'll turn 26 in December), but he did hit a robust .304/.365/.391, stealing 24 bases in 34 attempts with 45 walks to 38 strikeouts.
I had a chance to go to Saturday's game at SBC Park, what will most likely be my only chance to see the Cubbies up close this year. Here's a few things I noticed, pardon my bullet pointing: - Did the insane thing of driving up from L.A. to San Francisco for the day(and then back). Don't ask why, but I have my reasons, none of them were all that comforting when I was up at 4:00 am though. I made the trip with a pal of mine who's never been to SBC park and then introduced me to the Carl's Jr. breakfast burger, which we affectionately named "Death on a Bun". Not only does it include hash brown nuggets on the burger, they throw an extra dose of hash browns as a side order, for an extra cost you can purchase a defibrillator.
Abbreviated organizational report this week since the minors league seasons are over except for the AA Jaxx. I'll get a post up with the final minor league numbers in the next few weeks. For more info on the Cubs' minor league system, check out Rudy Kamman, writing at Road to Wrigley. Team Records updated through 9/12/05
Organizational Records
TeamW-LGB/Pos.Last 10
Chicago Cubs71-72(Div)19.5/3rd
(WC)5.5/5th
8-2
Iowa Cubs64-758.5/4th3-7
West Tenn Diamond Jaxx*39-31
83-56
0.0/1st5-5
Daytona Cubs34-34
69-66
4.0/5th6-4
Peoria Chiefs33-37
68-72
4.5/6th5-5
Boise Hawks34-423.0/3rd5-5
AZL Cubs9-19
19-37
9.0/9th4-6
Cubs Ex W/L: 72-71; (2003) 76-67; (2004) 79-64 * West Tennessee swept their first round series over the Carolina Mudcats and face the Jacksonville Suns for the Southern League championship starting on Tuesday, September 13th.

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