September 2007

Know Thy Enemy

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

Windy City Classic 101

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.

Game 160: Cubs 6, Reds 0: Cubs Clinch 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 160 Thread / Cubs @ Reds (1 of 3)

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.

Is Today the Day?

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....

Game 159 Recap: Cubs 4, Marlins 6

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.

Cubs Tie! Cubs Tie!

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.

Game 157 Recap: Cubs 2, Marlins 4

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...)

From the TCR E-mailbag

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,

Game 156 Recap: Cubs 8, Pirates 0

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

“…But If You Try Some Time, You Get What You Need”

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.

Game 155 Recap: Cubs 9, Pirates 5

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 154 Thread/Pirates @ Cubs (1 of 3)

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 153 Thread/Reds @ Cubs (3 of 3)

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:

The Missing Walk, The Found Infielder

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 151 Recap: Cubs 7, Reds 6

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 150 Recap: Cubs 4, Cardinals 2

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.


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