Home Sweet Home
So the Cubs left for this road trip on the winds of winning 7 of 8 and being a half-game up on the Cardinals. They come home losing 6 of 10 and dropping 3 back (3.5 games total). It leaves their road record a paltry eight games under .500 at 25-33. To rehash the trip in all its glory...
Cubs tie it up in the top of the 7th with 2 runs, Marmol walks two in the 8th and gives up three runs total.
Cubs enter the 9th up 8-5, Kevin Gregg blows it, then Derrek Lee unblows it with a solo HR to leadoff the 10th and Aaron Heilman notches an unlikely save.
Cubs enter the 9th up 2-1 and Kevin Gregg blows it by giving up back-to-back home runs. Then notifies the team that his arm may have been tired over the weekend and he needs some rest.
Mike Fontenot's 3-run HR is most of the offense and fill-in closer Carlos Marmol tries to, but fails at blowing the game.
Fukudome leads off the game with a home run and Gorzelanny sparkles in his Cubs debut.
The Justin Lehr Game! Complete game shutout for the 32 year junk ball journeyman.
The Rockies have been playing good enough that the Cubs didn't need to handicap themselves for the series. Z doesn't make it out of warm-ups and Sean Marshall and the bullpen are called into action and the results are predictable.
It looks like the Cubs were paying attention during those Jason Marquis starts and take 5 walks and score 6 total on the game. The bullpen holds the one run lead without any drama. The Cubs still lose though when Aramis Ramirez leaves early with shoulder stiffness.
Randy Wells was due for a correction, although he probably didn't need his defense doing the correcting for him. 3 errors that the Rockies capitalized on and then finished off Jeff Stevens for the blowout win. The Cubs managed 5 runs on 17 hits.
Gorzelanny was well on his way to getting shelled anyway, but a comebacker off his ankle/foot and an odd landing trying to make a play claimed another Cub to injury. Lou deemed Esmailin Caridad as the sacrificial lamb of the bullpen and the Rockies bloodied him up over 5 innings of work with Troy Tulowitzki doing the bulk of the butchering - a cycle and 7 RBI's. A meager 9th inning rally made the score look more respectable than the game. The Cubs left about 3,241 runners on base during the 4-game set (unofficial tally).
So back to Wrigley come the Cubs, 33-19 on the year and 132-82 (.616) since Lou took over in 2007. That's probably more a reflection on the talent than any magic on Lou's part, but I suppose a flimsy case could be made that he's cracked the day-game code that has befuddled many a past Cubs team (hint: schedule more night games). The Cubs will host the Keystone state for the next 6 games, before heading back on the road to my side of the country and 7 versus the Padres and Dodgers.
First up at home though are the World Series champs, but they're also the losers of 7 of their last 10 including a sweep at home against the Marlins. They'll throw Randy Wells' Rookie of the Year competition J.A. Happ (8-2, 2.74 ERA) in the first game. The Cubs will counter with Rich Harden and his 1.80 second half ERA. Then Pedro Martinez makes his debut on Wednesday against Jeff Samardzija's starting debut. Finally Cliff "Complete Game" Lee goes on Thursday against Ryan Dempster. If the Cubs can manage 2 out of 3 wins against Philadelphia, it could bode well for a nice rebound homestand as they finish off against the Pirates who have already started their spring training.
HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC.
ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels.
M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores) the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating.
E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.
Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).
PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.