Strategy for Mets Series

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....

Game 153 Recap: Cubs 5, Cardinals 4

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)

Box Score, Photos

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.

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Game 152 Thread / Cardinals @ Cubs

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

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.

Game 151 Recap: Cubs 7, Brewers 6 (12 Innings)

Brewers Give the Cubs a Game, Cubs Happily Accept

 

W - Wood (5-4), Rob G's childlike faith in spells, fairies and magical comebacks
L - Villanueva (4-7), Brewers' base-running coaches.

 

 

Things to Take from This Game

 

1. Harden reprises Marquis
Like Marquis the night before, Harden got into all sorts of trouble in the first before settling down.  The difference between the two starts being that Harden escaped with only one run allowed. Three very economical innings allowed him to get to the fifth, where Harden again struggled.  There he snuck out of a bases loaded jam with 115 pitches thrown, and just the one run from the first.  Velocity looked good, but Harden had no command on the fastball.  6 walks, 9 K's

 

2. DeRosa struggles at 2nd, Cubs struggle in 6th.
DeRosa had a throwing error in the first as he chose to try to turn a very tough DP instead of going to first.  The first run of the game scored on the play.  A bobbled grounder in the sixth helped spark a big inning for the Brewers, abetted by Samardzija's struggles to throw strikes.

 

3. Solo Scoring
Edmonds and Ramirez hit solo home runs, but that was the extent of the Cubs scoring.

 

4.  Crazy-ass rally.
The Brewers ran into two outs on the basepaths in the top of the ninth, squandering a chance to blow the game out.  Instead it's "just" 6-2.  Bottom of the ninth, two outs, and Ramirez squeaks a double just under Braun's glove. Edmonds and DeRosa single, scoring Ramirez.  Soto, who had made a nice block of the plate and nice throw in the top of the inning, takes the first pitch from Salomon Torres and hits a game-tying 3-run homer.

 

5. Lee wins it.
With runners on 2nd and 3rd in the bottom of the 12th, Lee singles up the middle to drive in the winning run.  The Brewers had 25 (yes, TWENTY FIVE) runners LOB to the Cubs' 11, plus the running gaffes.  The Cubs certainly had their issues between Harden's wildness and DeRosa's early-game defense, but overall the Brewers deserved to lose this.

 

The almost-there details, below.

 

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