September 2007

Our enemy finally has a face and it is the face of a slitherin menace. The Mets collapse (yeah 1969 karma is a b-tch) will send us to the Valley of the Sun beginning Wednesday. I'll break down the Dbacks further this week but it appears rotations have been set, at least for the first 3 games: Game 1 Wednesday @ Arizona: Carlos Zambrano vs Brandon Webb Game 2 Thursday @ Arizona: Ted Lilly vs Doug Davis Game 3 Saturday @ Wrigley: Livan Hernandez vs Rich Hill Things will get considerably more interesting starting with Game 4 as both teams will have the options of going with their "ace" on 3 days rest and it very well might matter which team is down 2-1. Then of course the decision on Game 4 will effect Game 5's starters. If the Cubs and Dbacks both decide to let their pitchers get their full rest than it'll likely be Jason Marquis and Micah Owings in Game 4 although Marquis's last few performances seem to have Lou rethinking that decision.
Game Chat Ted Lilly vs Homer Bailey Lineups:
Soriano LF Keppinger SS
Fontenot 2b Hanigan C
Lee 1B Votto LF
Floyd RF Encarnacion 3B
Ramirez 3B Cantu 1B
Jones CF Coats CF
Cedeno SS Ellison RF
Kendall C Lopez 2B
Lilly P Bailey P
It's not only important for young Cubs players to learn the finer points of pitching, fielding, hitting, and base-running, it's also important for them to learn "Why We Fight" and which teams need to be targeted in a special way for defeat. So in what is the Arizona Instructional League version of the Windy City Classic, the Cubs defeated the White Sox 6-4 this morning at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa.

 

CUBS WIN

 

 

DIVISION

 

Box Score, Play by Play, Photos

W- Zambrano (18-13), Cubs Fans Everywhere. Setting up your rotation for the playoffs. L- Arroyo (9-15), for one night, at least, talk of Cubs' history. Magic Number - 0 (Brewers Lose 6-3.) Things to Take from This Game 1. Cubs Clinch the Right Way
We're playing baseball in October, folks. Check out this picture, courtesty of our own "Brick." It's too large to really be done justice inside of a Word Press column.
2. Resting Easy, Early
Soriano led off the game with another solo Home Run. Theriot added a sacrifice fly in the second, and Zambrano looked to be in command of his pitches and his emotions early.
3. Power Game
Besides Soriano, Lee hit a two-run homer in the fifth, and Jones had a blast of an opposite-field, two-run double in the eighth. Really, from the second inning on, you just felt that we had this game in hand. But it was good to see the Cubs keep pouring it on.
4. Great pitching.
Z had no troubles at all with the Reds injury-riddled lineup, and neither did Howry or Dempster. Not a lot of strikeouts tonight (just 5), but really few serious rallies or even hard-hit balls.
your 4 years in waiting details, below.
Game Chat : BR Preview : Game Notes Carlos Zambrano vs. Bronson Arroyo Lineups:
Soriano LF Hopper CF
Kendall C Keppinger SS
Lee 1B Votto 1B
Floyd RF Phillips 2B
Ramirez 3B Encarnacion 3B
DeRosa 2B Valentin C
Jones CF Coats LF
Theriot SS Ellison RF
Zambrano P Arroyo P
The hopes of all Cubdom rest on the broad shoulders of Zambrano, who has pitched well in three of his last four starts. The clinker in that bunch, unfortunately, was a 5-2 loss to the Reds, who have already beaten Carlos four times this season. Zambrano's strikeout numbers are down significantly in '07; he's had particular trouble missing Cincinnati bats (just 11 K in 28 2/3 IP). Importantly, though, Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey, and Josh Hamilton--combined 1.112 OPS against Zambrano this year--are all sitting this one out with injuries.
The day that will forever be branded into our memories like a Rick Sutcliffe fastball blown by a helpless Joe Orsulak - followed by a leaping Jim Frey as he rushed onto the field tucking his cap into those classic 1984 away pullover jerseys. Maybe it'll be like 1989, with the tying run less than 90 feet away, the Wild Thing saves the day yet again in dramatic fashion versus an overmatched Mike Fitzgerald. And while the play-in game in 1998 was tense enough, there stands a good chance that if we do clinch tonight it'll be similar to waiting around for Neifi Perez to beat the Giants in game 162 rather than a glorious Cubs victory being the defining moment. And the last 3 games for the Northsiders were certainly an unfortunate bump in what will hopefully be an ever-growing road to the promised land, but the Cubs played 156 games before the Marlins series that put them in the position to sustain a pothole or two. And the Cubs might just back into a Central crown or they may win the next 3 games by a combined score of 35-3, just as long as they're playing on Wednesday. Random ranting after the jump....
Compare and contrast:
You can just look in their dugout and it's just like panic mode. Guys are pacing up and down the dugout.

--Florida's Cody Ross, speaking of your Chicago Cubs

Randolph, who rarely says anything while walking through the clubhouse with reporters present, saw a cluster of reporters crowded around Wagner and said to no one in particular as he passed by, “We’re still going to win this thing, we’re still going to win it.”

--New York Times

Flushed by the Fish

Box Score, Play by Play, Photos

W - Olsen (10-15) L - Trachsel (7-11), ridiculously high left-field scoreboards that convert homers into doubles. My efforts to will the Cubs to victory by wishful thinking. S- Gregg (31) Magic Number - 2 (Brewers have LOST 9-5) Things to Take from This Game 1. Weak Starts Olsen and Trachsel had quite similar performances - they couldn't finish off hitters with two strikes, struggled early, found something resembling "grooves" for a couple of innings before running into trouble again, and getting run from the game early. Trachsel's splitter actually got a lot of swings and misses, but nothing else was working. 2. Attempted Comeback The Cubs got a big lift in the sixth when Cabrera threw away what should have been an inning ending double play. It led to three runs. 3. Great relief work by Wood, Marlins Kerry Wood inherited a bases loaded, no outs jam from Eyre in the sixth. A strikeout and 5-3 double play later, and we were out of it with no runs scored. He hit 97 on the gun, and looked totally locked in. Provided a big lift to the dugout, but we couldn't translate it into any success against the Marlins bullpen. Pinto in particular looked very vulnerable, coming with two outs after Ramirez had doubled high off the left-field wall. He walked the first two batters faced to load the bases, but then struck out Jones. Dempster pitched a shakey eighth, giving up an insurance run. 4. Middling Infielders Derosa and Theriot went 0-9 with a run scored and ten (TEN!) combined left on base. We left a combined 19 on base - the Marlins left 16. No matter what happens tonight, we're going into game 160 in first place. The still-worrisome details, below.
Game Chat : BR Preview : Game Notes Steve Trachsel vs. Scott Olsen Lineups:
Soriano LF Ramirez SS
Theriot SS Uggla 2B
Lee 1B Hermida RF
Ramirez 3B Cabrera 3B
DeRosa 2B Jacobs 1B
Soto C Linden LF
Monroe RF Olivo C
Jones CF De Aza CF
Trachsel P Olsen P
Paul Sullivan reports that following last night's loss, Steve Trachsel was shouting profanities at reporters from across the Cub locker room. It wasn't clear if something precipitated the behavior or if it's just an adorable quirk. Swearin' Steve is 1-2 in his second stint as a Cub, averaging about 4 1/3 IP, 7 hits and 4 runs allowed per outing. With all that's riding on today's result, no way Lou Piniella will let Trachsel anywhere near the fifth inning if he's struggling. Are the Cubs playing "tight"? After last night's game, Lou said he thought they were, and some of what we're seeing on the field--the constant chirping at umpires, the mental mistakes--would indicate the manager is right. Maybe last night's Brewer loss to the Cards will loosen everyone up. Also, I'm thinking that after losing every game they've played against this fifth-place team this year, the Cubs are at some point bound to have a victory land in their laps. Chicago-area native Olsen (3 no-decisions, 3.94 ERA lifetime v. Cubs) gave up eight unearned runs in his last start, against the Mets. That's a new Florida franchise record. I bet his family in Crystal Lake is proud.
Thursday was "Circus Day" on The Mickey Mouse Club, but Thursdays are "Camp Day" for the Cubs Arizona Instructional League team.   While some of you might think "Camp Day" is a day where the coaches take the Cubs players on a trip to the zoo or to the local water park, that's not exactly what it is.
...to Tony LaRussa and the team formerly known as the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, for all the untoward things the writers and readers of this site have ever written, implied, or even thought about you. (All those Red Schoendienst jokes were WAY out of line.) We couldn’t have reduced our magic number to 3 tonight without you. In fact, if we drop a few more turds like this one, we might not be able to reduce it any more without additional third-party help. Anyway, thanks for the helping hand. (And getting Yost tossed? Nice touch.)
Game Chat : BR Preview : Game Notes Jason Marquis vs. Daniel Barone Lineups:
Soriano LF Ramirez SS
Theriot SS Uggla 2B
Lee 1B Hermida RF
Floyd RF Cabrera 3B
Ramirez 3B Jacobs 1B
DeRosa 2B Linden LF
Jones CF Treanor C
Kendall C De Aza CF
Marquis P Barone P
Young Barone makes his first-ever start against the Cubs, hoping to capture his first-ever win as a Major League starting pitcher. Barone has appeared in 15 games this season, five as a starter. In those five, he's pitched to an 8.31 ERA, given up 9 home runs in 21 2/3 IP, and walked more men (11) than he has struck out (10). Sounds like the kind of guy who gives us trouble. The Marlins' Jeremy Hermida, whose second-inning double was a key moment in Tuesday night's Florida win, is hitting .335 since the All-Star break. He went 2-for-3 with a home run against Marquis when the Marlins beat the Cubs on May 29th at Wrigley. This will be Marquis's final regular season start unless the Cubs and Brewers need to meet in that Game 163 playoff, in which case I will be dead from stress and disappointment so I won't see it anyhow, therefore I'm counting tonight as Marquis's final regular season start no matter what. Nasty outing last time for Jason going up against the Pirates and the Wrigley Field jetstream, in which Marquis gave up seven runs in just 2 2/3 innings. Let the magic number reduction begin. Please.
In a possible preview of the World Series (well, maybe the 2015 World Series), the Cubs played the Angels this afternoon in Arizona Instructional League action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa, and even though MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was not at the game (at least I don't think he was there), his presence was felt at the end, as the game was called after nine innings tied 1-1.

It Ain't Easy.

Box Score, Play by Play, Photos

W- Willis (10-15), losing quickly, "getting 'em tomorrow." L- Lilly (15-8), wide outside corners, getting ejected for talking to a teammate, the fight against high blood pressure, hypertension, and generalized anxiety disorders. S- Tankersley (1), the last threads of hope for Brewers fans. Cubs Magic Number: 4 
  • Brewers Magic Number: 8
  • Combined Games Left: 10
Things to Take from This Game 1. How did we let this guy beat us? Willis pitched 8 strong innings, and struck Soriano out three times swinging at mid-80s fastballs over the plate. Both pitchers were helped by a generous strike zone, but I still don't quite get how Willis dispatched with us so quickly, inning after inning. Only a long Monroe HR in the 8th kept us from being shutout 2. Some bloops and blasts in the 2nd Lilly didn't look too bad himself, with the big curve seeming to be his best pitch tonight, at sharp-but-not-dominant. He gave up a couple of weak bloopers to Willis and Ramirez, and a couple of shots to Uggla and Hermida, resulting in four runs in the second. Wuertz and Hart both looked quite strong in relief 3. Lack of Right-handed Pop off the Bench With an entirely right-handed lineup in against Willis, our first two hitters off the bench were Cedeno and Kendall. In the 9th, with Murton due to face right-handed Lee Gardner with two outs and representing the tying run, Piniella went to Floyd, which in turn brought in left-handed pitcher Tankersley. Floyd acquitted himself well against the lefty, but his lineout to deep left-center ended the game. 4. Loose Lips In the 9th, Derosa exchanged words with the home plate ump after a strike three call on a pitch that appeared to be well off the outside corner. The same pitch was called a strike on Ramirez, who later in the at bat flew out. On the way back to the dugout, he passed along some thought or another to Murton, within ear-shot of the umpire. Gets ejected. We'll have to hear the full story on this, later... Your not-yet-panicking details, below. (And the moment I type that, Bill Hall hits a three-run HR to make it a 7-1 Brewers lead. Nuts...)
Game Chat : BR Preview : Game Notes Ted Lilly vs. Dontrelle Willis Lineups:
Soriano LF Ramirez SS
DeRosa 2B Uggla 2B
Lee 1B Hermida RF
Ramirez 3B Cabrera 3B
Murton RF Jacobs 1B
Soto C Olivo C
Monroe CF Linden LF
Theriot SS Carroll CF
Lilly P Willis P
Just 16 days short of four years ago, the Cubs hooked up with Willis in Miami, Aramis Ramirez clubbed a first-inning grand slam, and every Cub fan on the planet was scrambling to figure out who he would have to bribe, suck up to, or kill in order to get himself a World Series ticket. Now only Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano and Kerry Wood remain from that star-crossed Cub team, and the sights will be set a little lower for the moment, with the focus on getting the Cubs one step closer to locking up the NL Central. Willis was a winner in his only start against the Cubs back in May. Lilly lost to the Marlins in the finale of that same miserable series, a three-game Florida sweep in Wrigley that left the home team 22-29, six games behind the first-place Brewers, and looking almost completely hopeless. At cubs.com, Carrie Muskat points out that the 9-4 Cub loss on 5/29 was so bad, it prompted a players-only meeting before the game on 5/30...which the Cubs then went out and lost 9-0 behind Lilly. I'm glad it's now and not then. Among the current Cubs, Alfonso Soriano has had the most luck against the Florida lefty (8-for-17 with a home run). Overall, the Cubs have won 10 of 12; the Marlins have lost 7 of 8.
Only two players have played over 1,000 games with the Cubs without ever playing for another Major League baseball franchise. One is Ernie Banks. Who is the other?
The Cubs took a 3-1 run lead early, scoring two runs in the first inning and one in the second, but were unable to hold the lead, as the Oakland A's Arizona Instructional League team rallied to defeat the Cubs Arizona Instructional League team 6-4 this afternoon at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa.
It's time once again to check the email inbox, and answer questions submitted by you, the loyal readers of TCR.
Dear Transmission, I am a former child star who is trying to regain a normal life. At a very young age, I was thrust into the limelight for all to gawk at this gangly, slightly awkward, annoyingly precocious kid. Not unlike Wil Wheaton. Like so many, I quickly flamed out from over-exposure. I ran through a series of talent-managers, each of whom made very questionable decisions on when and how to cast me. I burned out, and have spent the last several years in therapy and seeing one doc after another. I'm back in the business now, and have landed a modest but recurring role back on TV, with room for my character's role to grow. Yet I can't help but feel that the joke is on me, that my appearances are treated as something as a novelty act. Do I have any chance of regaining my early glory and being treated as a serious performer again, or am I doomed to halcyon recollections of glory years long past?

Kid Wonderful

Dear KW,

Fall Blowout Special

Box Score, Play by Play, Photos

W- Zambrano (17-13), getting your playoff tickets early, exchanging temporary-farewell gifts between players and fans, streaking into the playoffs. L- Gorzelanny (14-9), pessimism. Magic Number - 4 (Brewers lost today.) Things to Take from This Game 1. A fitting end to the regular-season at Wrigley A beautiful day, Cubs chasing down a division title, and a dominant performance by the Cubs pitchers and offense. The grounds crew does a fine job with the Stretch, and the fans are cheering every moment. Let's do it again in October 2. Dominant Performance by the Ace Zambrano had his A+ stuff going today. The fastball wasn't just alive, Z also spotted it very well throughout the game. The only concern is that after running hard on a double and then scoring on a single in the sixth, Z left the game after trying to go out for his warmup pitches in the 7th. Initial report is cramps. Wood pitched two even more dominating innings to follow him up, with impecable command of both the fastball and the sharp, biting slider. 3. Ronny Cedeno, playoff-chasing Hero. Filling in for Theriot, Cedeno had a couple of scratch hits, one for an RBI, and then a real lined shot of a two-run HR to put the game away at 8-0. 4. Lee stays hot. Two hits, three RBIs, including a two-run HR that barely gets out to right-center. He also pulled a double down the line, seems to be hitting the ball with power to all fields, now. 5. One of two things is going to happen. With six games to play and a magic number of 4, either the Cubs are going to the playoffs on the strength of a terrific September, or they're going to give us a new line in our history of epic tragedies. I'm banking on the former. Your rapid response, no-one-has-left-Wrigley-at-the-publishing-of-this-recap details, below
Game Chat : BR Preview : Game Notes Tom Gorzelanny vs. Carlos Zambrano Lineups:
Morgan CF Soriano LF
Bautista 3B DeRosa 2B
Sanchez 2B Lee 1B
LaRoche 1B Ramirez 3B
Nady RF Murton RF
Bay LF Soto C
Paulino C Monroe CF
Izturis SS Cedeno SS
Gorzelanny P Zambrano P
If Eric Patterson had only known how much impact his tardiness would create in the 2007 playoff picture. When Corey's little brother was sent down to the AA Tennessee Smokies playoffs as the consequence of his reporting late to the ballpark, little did he realize he just might have Wally Pipped himself. In a quasi-punitive measure, Cubs GM Jim Hendry sent EPat out and recalled Sam Fuld.

Big Day for the Big 3

Box Score, Play by Play, Photos

W-Hill (10-8), Keeping pressure on the Brewers, Home Runs, pennant-chase baseball on beautiful september days. L- Duke (3-8), Sam Fuld's noggin and shoulder. Magic Number - 6 (with Brewers loss factored in) Things to Take from This Game 1. The Big 3 Soriano had two HR, including his first opposite-field blast at Wrigley, a double, and 5 RBI. Lee went 4-5 with a HR, Ramirez had a two-run HR. All three have been on huge hot-streaks at the moment when it matters the very most. Theriot also had 3 hits and scored twice. 2. The Other Big 3 (+1) Hill got pulled after 5 effective innings and 73 pitches, with only a series of scratch hits in the second leading to 3 unfortunate runs. Marmol, Eyre, Howry and Dempster then closed out the game. A bit odd that all four pitched in a game that was 7-3 when Hill left. Marmol looked sharp, Howry and Dempster got hit around a bit, Eyre got saved on a spectacular play by... 3. Sam Fuld Fuld made a terrific play to turn a run-scoring extra-base hit with one-out in the seventh, into an inning-ending double-play that revved up the fans. Nyjer Morgan stroked one to the right-center wall. Fuld ran back, lept into the vines, crashing hard against them, to catch the drive. A strong throw to Lee doubled-up the runner, and kept us out of a potentially big Pirate inning. Fans just loved it. The closing in on the division details, below.
Game Chat : BR Preview : Game Notes Zach Duke vs. Rich Hill Lineups:
Morgan CF Soriano LF
Bautista 3B DeRosa 2B
Sanchez 2B Lee 1B
Phelps 1B Ramirez 3B
Nady LF Murton RF
Paulino C Soto C
Pearce RF Monroe CF
Kata SS Theriot SS
Duke P Hill P
The magic number is 8, just like every other division leader in the NL - spooky. Happy to see Lou take my advice and keep the same lineup versus a lefty.
While most Cubs fans were watching some stupid, meaningless, late-September game between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field, the REAL fans were gathered at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa.
Game Chat : BR Preview : Game Notes Paul Maholm vs. Jason Marquis Lineups:
Morgan CF Soriano LF
McLouth LF DeRosa 2B
Sanchez 2B Lee 1B
LaRoche 1B Ramirez 3B
Nady RF Murton RF
Bautista 3B Soto C
Paulino C Monroe CF
Izturis SS Theriot SS
Maholm P Marquis P
Welcome, everyone, to Jeff Bennett Day at The Cub Reporter! In their 2007 annual, the Baseball Prospectus gang describes Pirates starter Paul Maholm as "a pitch-to-contact, ground-ball lefty." Sounds like Cub Kryptonite to me. The fact is, however, despite having lost to Maholm twice already this season, the Cubs have hit him hard--8 earned runs in 14 1/3 innings, including homers by Ramirez, Pagan, and a catcher who is now dead to us in a losing cause back on May 10th.
Game Chat Brewers vs Braves tonight in a crucial game. If you need your fix, game chat is open.
With Cubs manager Lou Piniella announcing that Rich Hill, Carlos Zambrano, and Ted Lilly will pitch the final three games of the regular season at Cincinnati (with Jason Marquis to pitch the Game #163 tie-breaker at Wrigley Field, if necessary), and with Pirates manager Jim Tracy announcing last night that Cub-killer Zach Duke will make his first start since June 28th on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field, the pitching match-ups for the Cubs final nine games now look like this (all still subject to change): PIT at CUBS FRI - Paul Maholm vs Jason Marquis SAT - Zach Duke vs Rich Hill SUN - Tom Gorzelanny vs Carlos Zambrano MON - OFF CUBS at FLA TUE - Ted Lilly vs Dontrelle Willis WED - Jason Marquis vs Sergio Mitre (or Scott Olsen) THU - Steve Trachsel (or Sean Marshall) vs Scott Olsen (or Byung Hyun Kim) NOTE: The Marlins are skipping Mitre's turn this weekend versus the Mets and are talking about removing Mitre from the rotation for the rest of the season, and if that happens, Willis-Olsen-Kim would be the the likely starters for the Marlins versus the Cubs next week. CUBS at CIN FRI - Rich Hill vs Bronson Arroyo SAT - Carlos Zambrano vs Aaron Harang SUN - Ted Lilly vs Tom Shearn NOTE: Lilly would be held back for first game of NLDS if Cubs have clinched by SUN. MIL at CUBS (if necessary) MON - TBD vs Jason Marquis If the Cubs win the N. L. Central (and based on the current N. L. standings)... NLDS schedule: WED 10/3 - Game #1 - CUBS at AZ THU 10/4 - Game #2 - CUBS at AZ FRI 10/5 - OFF SAT 10/6 - Game #3 - AZ at CUBS SUN 10/7 - Game #4 - AZ at CUBS (if necessary) MON 10/8 - OFF TUE 10/9 - Game #5 - CUBS at AZ (if necessary)
Game Chat : BR Preview : Game Notes Tom Shearn vs. Ted Lilly Lineups:
N. Hopper CF A. Soriano LF
J. Keppinger SS R. Theriot SS
K. Griffey RF D. Lee 1B
B. Phillips 2B C. Floyd RF
A. Dunn LF A. Ramirez 3B
E. Encarnacion 3B M. DeRosa 2B
J. Votto 1B J. Jones CF
D. Ross C G. Soto C
T. Shearn P T. Lilly P
Time for the Cubbies to take a big bite out of that .00027 winning-percentage-point lead the Brewers have built in the National League Central. Lilly takes the mound on three days' rest following a well-pitched ND against the Cardinals. The lefty is 1-1 against the Reds this season, but in 18 IP, Lilly has allowed a mere 11 hits, striking out 24 and walking just 4. As for the Reds starter... When Rick Ankiel was implicated in baseball's ongoing HGH mess and went from being MLB's Feel-Good Story of 2007 to just another suspect, 30-year-old righthander Tom Shearn shot to the top of the Feel-Good list. In case you haven't heard them, the facts are these:
Game Chat : BR Preview : Game Notes Aaron Harang vs. Carlos Zambrano Lineups:
N. Hopper CF A. Soriano LF
J. Keppinger SS R. Theriot SS
K. Griffey RF D. Lee 1B
B. Phillips 2B A. Ramirez 3B
A. Dunn LF M. Murton RF
E. Encarnacion 3B M. DeRosa 2B
J. Votto 1B J. Jones CF
J. Valentin C J. Kendall C
A. Harang P C. Zambrano P
These two staff aces hooked up in Wrigley about five weeks ago. The Cubs hit Harang relatively hard, scoring five runs in seven innings. The Reds hit Zambrano harder: 13 hits (11 singles!) and six runs, also in seven innings. The two bullpens were unscored upon and the Reds won the game 6-5. (This was also the game in which Zambrano, remarkably, failed to strike out a single hitter.) Tonight's game marks the first phase of the Cubs' Great Three-Day Rest Experiment involving Zambrano and Wednesday night's starter, Ted Lilly. As previously mentioned on this page, Zambrano has never started a Major League game on just three days' rest. That being the case, last night probably wasn't the ideal night for our bullpen to pitch 4 1/3 innings, though our big guns--Marmol, Howry and Dempster--got the evening off. Perhaps Z can give the entire relief crew a bit of a break tonight.
Like many fans watching last night’s game, I imagine, I wondered why the Reds didn’t intentionally walk Mark DeRosa in the bottom of the ninth, thus creating a possible force at home and avoiding DeRosa, who had nine consecutive hits against the Reds. Here is Cincinnati manager Pete Mackanin’s answer, as reported by Toni Ginnetti in Tuesday’s Sun-Times:
''I don't like to load the bases because it puts pressure on the pitcher to make a perfect pitch all the time,'' (Mackanin) said.
How about the manager's decision to bring Norris Hopper in from center field as a fifth infielder—was that a smart ploy?

Game of the Year?

Box Score, Play by Play, Photos

W- Ohman (2-4), five-person infields, on-field celebrations, not backing in to a playoff spot, staying until the end L- Weathers (2-6), Protests, bad calls, leaving early Magic Number - 12 Things to Take from This Game 1. An Incredible Finish. If the Cubs don't make the playoffs, no one will remember this game. If the Cubs do, this will be one of those games people point to as proof of a "magical" season. Having squandered a few opportunities, suffering through bad calls and a mammoth HR that died instead at the top of the ivy, the Cubs rallied for three in the ninth off of Weathers, to win 7-6. Highlights were a Theriot leadoff walk, a Lee single, a Ramirez triple nearly robbed by a diving Hopper, and a Derosa infield single to win it. The dugout emptied onto the field, and the fans screamed along to Go, Cubs, Go!. 2. Another 5-hit game for Derosa. And two of the hits were huge - a home run to follow Floyd's two-run HR in the third, and then the game-winning single in the 9th. 3. Umps calls hurt Cubs. Reds Protest. The umps missed at least three calls that got under the Cubs skin - an unbelievably generous "neighborhood" call at 2nd base on a GIDP attempt where Phillips wasn't within three feet of the bag, a check swing strike on Soriano, and a safe call at first for Dunn, who was out by 4 inches or so. Yet it's the Reds who played the game under protest, on the grounds that Piniella first brought Soto and Eyre into the game, then (and we're talking a matter of a few seconds, here) informed the umpires that it was a double switch. A very strict interpretation of the rules might indicate that this didn't constitute "Immediate" notification, and that when Soto then came to bat, he was batting out of order. Can't imagine that this is anything even remotely worth worrying about. 4. Hill and Co. Hill looked really good early on. He was getting a ton of swinging strike threes on an unusually crisp fastball tonight. Ran into a bit of trouble, seemed to have a brief tweak of the leg, and couldn't get out of the fifth inning. But he struck out 7 and walked 1. Eyre, Hart and Ohman pitched 3.1 innings of scoreless ball - much like the B-team position players giving us a lift yesterday, the B-team relievers gave a huge assist, today. The thrilling, still-in-sole-possesion-of-first-place details, below. (And a recap of a parachat that might be one for the time capsule. Or the incinerator, I suppose.)
Game Chat : BR Preview : Game Notes Bronson Arroyo vs. Rich Hill Lineups:
N. Hopper CF A. Soriano LF
J. Keppinger SS R. Theriot SS
K. Griffey RF D. Lee 1B
B. Phillips 2B A. Ramirez 3B
A. Dunn LF C. Floyd RF
E. Encarnacion 3B M. DeRosa 2B
J. Cantu 1B J. Jones CF
D. Ross C J. Kendall C
B. Arroyo P R. Hill P
The Reds lead the season series, 7-5, and have taken three of the four series between the teams, including both sets at Wrigley. Interestingly, the Cubs have outscored Cincinnati by a whopping 63-45 in the 12 games. Arroyo is 0-2 this season against the Cubs with one well-pitched no-decision (4 hits, 2 earned runs in 7 2/3 IP); Hill has a win and an ND against the Reds this year. The victory was a 7-0 whitewash back in April, against Arroyo. All in all, the skies may be getting sunnier for the Red Legs. The team has been playing well (37-30) since Pete Mackanin became manager, and since the last time the Cubs and Reds met, Cincy summoned first baseman Joey Votto to the big club. In Votto (.438 AVG and 1.264 OPS in 32 AB), Edwin Encarnacion, Norris Hopper, Jeff Keppinger, Brandon Phillips and minor league stud Jay Bruce, Cincinnati has an enviable combination of talent and youth: the six players listed have an average age a shade under 25. But that's future talk. As for now, the Cubs need to beat the Reds. If the Cubs can win two of three, the Reds will be officially eliminated from the NL Central race. Take that, Joe Morgan!
With two weeks left in the 2007 MLB season, the Cubs lead the Brewers by one game. The Cubs also trail the Padres by four games in the Wild Card standings, in case that becomes an issue later.

3 of 4 in St. Louis

Box Score, Play by Play, Photos

W- Jason Marquis (12-8), Foul home-runs, the B-Team L- Mark Mulder (0-3), Blowing teams out when given the chance S - Ryan Dempster (28) Magic Number - 13 Things to Take from This Game 1. Winning with the Reserves Soto, Monroe, Cedeno and Murton all started, and contributed with 9 hits, all 4 RBI and 2 runs scored. The big hit being Murton's 3-run home run. Soto looked just terrific at the plate, going 4 for 5 with a couple of doubles. Jones, Floyd, Theriot and Kendall all rest, and we still win. Good news. 2. Left on Base We had a chance to blow the Cards out of the game early, but left an enormous number of men on base. The Cards returned the favor later in the game, unable to convert on several good scoring opportunities, most notably in the seventh. 3. Marquis over Mulder Mulder looked like he didn't have anything at all on his pitches, and is lucky to only have given up 4 runs in 3 IP. Marquis looked really sharp, wtih lots of movement on the sinker, especially through the first 5 IP, before running into some trouble in the 6th and 7th. Marmol was wild, Howry gave up a few hits, but Dempster had a very easy 6-pitch ninth for the save. The Brewers won, keeping pace in the loss column. Your first-place details, below.
Game Chat : BR Preview : Game Notes Jason Marquis vs. Mark Mulder Lineups:
A. Soriano LF A. Miles 2B
M. DeRosa 2B R. Ankiel RF
D. Lee 1B A. Pujols 1B
A. Ramirez 3B J. Edmonds CF
M. Murton RF R. Ludwick LF
C. Monroe CF S. Spiezo 3B
G. Soto C Y. Molina C
R. Cedeno SS M. Mulder P
J. Marquis P B. Ryan 2B
Mulder is coming off two brutal starts following his return from the Disabled List. This past Tuesday, the Reds tagged him for seven hits and seven runs (two unearned) in just four innings...which was arguably better than his earlier start against the Pirates--eight hits and six runs allowed, also in four innings. Lifetime, the lefty is 2-3 against the Cubs, but has given up 54 hits in just 42 2/3 IP. Derrek Lee hasn't just hit Mulder hard, he has savaged him: 11-for-15 with a homer, five RBI and a 1.698 OPS. Cub starter Marquis, who has been better this year at Wrigley than on the road, is following a not-so-good no-decision against the Astros. Right before that, however, he had consecutive strong outings against Houston and the Dodgers. Marquis is 2-1 against his former teammates this season, including a sterling 7-inning, no-walk, no-runs-allowed start back in April. Jason, I think we'll take one of those, if you don't mind.

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