It's going to be a pretty laid back way week for the Cubs as they ready themselves for the playoffs. The only kink in that plan is they're playing two of the teams fighting for a playoff spot. Lou has already indicated that you wont' be seeing anymore lineups like Sunday:
"I can't let these guys all sit," Piniella said. "We have to use them
to keep them as sharp as possible. We'll play our regular lineup in
these games [against New York]. The worst thing that can happen is
Major League Baseball calls us and tells us, 'Hey, you people have a
responsibility,' and we're going to honor that.
I'm not exactly sure that's the worst thing that can happen, the worst thing that could happen is that Soriano gets nailed with a fastball or Ramirez shreds a hamstring, etc, etc. But Lou is right that you just can't sit them for a week. As I discussed last week, I think Lou should be weary of using his starting pitchers versus the Mets. When it comes to the question of unfamiliarity between a pitcher and a hitter, I think the advantage goes to the pitcher. The less a team has seen a pitcher, the bigger the disadvantage. Now I don't worry much about Jason Marquis going tonight since he's been in the league long enough that many of the Mets hitters have seen enough of him already and he probably won't pitch against them if they are the Cubs first round opponent. But the rest of the week has Harden vs. Johan, Zambrano vs. Perez and Lilly vs Pedro. First, let's applaud the Mets for having two pitchers who are simply known by their first names.
Second, I understand that you don't want to completely sit your starting pitchers and risk getting them rusty, but I do hope Lou sticks with a plan to limit them to 5 innings and no more than two times through the lineup. If you look at some of the numbers, Harden has only faced one Mets hitter at least 10 times and that's Carlos Delgado. Lilly is in much of the same boat, with only Delgado and Luis Castillo getting more than 10 AB's. Zambrano being a native National Leaguer, has faced most of the Mets lineup quite a bit more, including a one-run effort earlier in the season.
All in all, it's probably not a big deal, but what else are we going to worry about this week?
Some random notes after the jump....
Cubs Clinch Division, First Back-to-Back since 1907-1908, Earliest since 1932
W - Lilly (16-9), You, Me, Santo, Harry, 104-year-old-dude-who-threw-out-the-first-pitch, all Cubs fans.
L - Pineiro (6-7), the rest of the NL Central
S - Wood (32)
Things to Take from This Game
1. A bases loaded three-run single for Soriano
Well, two rbis and an error leading to the third run. In the bottom of the second Soriano lined a single right at Brian Barton in left. The ball kicked off his glove and rolled to the wall, clearing the bases. The Cubs raced out to a 3-0 lead.
2. More fielding problems, more runs.
The Cubs got two more runs in the fourth, as Soto began the inning by smashing one through Glaus at third. DeRosa hit a double high off the ivy to score Soto, and after advancing to third on a Fukudome ground out, scored on a nicely executed suicide squeeze by Lilly. 5-0 Cubs through four innings.
3. Glaus homers in 4-run Sixth
Lilly looked great, very economical, through five. In the sixth Felipe Lopez gets an RBI single on a smash up the middle off Theriot's glove, and Glaus unloads a no-doubt three-run home run into the left field well. Suddenly we had a close game. 5-4 through six.
4. Lilly Recovers, Marmol and Wood close it out
Other than a leadoff walk to Glaus in the ninth, the last three innings passed uneventfully as Lilly pitched the seventh, with Marmol and Wood doing their jobs to close out the game. A soft fly out to Edmonds off the bat of Aaron Miles ended the game, and a happy Cubs team celebrated between the pitcher's mound and first base.
The Back-to-Back NL Central Champion Details, below.
The Cubs are at the point now where they can plan their starting rotation and begin to make bullpen choices and start thinking about final roster selections for the NLDS.
Here is how I think the Cubs should do it:
|SP||Adam Wainwright||SP||Carlos Zambrano|
|9-3, 3.20, 84 K, 26 BB, 121 IP||14-5, 3.41, 127 K, 65 BB, 182.1 IP|
|CF||*Skip Schumaker||LF||Alfonso Soriano|
|LF||Ryan Ludwick||SS||Ryan Theriot|
|1B||Albert Pujols||1B||Derrek Lee|
|2B||Felipe Lopez||3B||Aramis Ramirez|
|3B||Troy Glaus||CF||*Jim Edmonds|
|RF||*Adam Kennedy||RF||Mark DeRosa|
|SS||*Aaron Miles||2B||*Mike Fontenot|
|P||Adam Wainwright||C||Henry Blanco|
|C||Jason Larue||P||#Carlos Zambrano|
In his post-game press conference Thursday, a giggly Lou Piniella implied he was planning to go out last night to tie one on in celebration of the spectacular comeback victory. (I believe the exact quote was, "This is going to be a bad night for me.") It's a relief then, looking at today's lineup, to see Lou didn't stumble into the lockerroom still drunk and blindly pencil Koyie Hill into the leadoff spot as his second baseman or give a spot start to Michael Wuertz.
Geovany Soto gets the day off owing to irritation of a joint in his left hand. He is listed as day-to-day.
Our man Zambrano makes his first start since last Sunday's no-no at Milwaukee. I took a look at the last ten National Leaguers to throw complete game no-hitters before Zambrano to see how they fared in their very next outing.