September 2008

The Chicago Cubs—Your 2008 NL Central Executioners

Out of the corner of my eye last night, the one corner that wasn't marveling at how grotesquely obese Prince Fielder has become, I noticed what was happening to a couple of our National League Central friends:

The Cardinals, who were officially eliminated from the division race last night, were continuing to get their brains beaten in (six straight losses, five straight road losses, and 10 road losses in their last 11 tries), and the Astros were continuing to not hit (a 5-1 loss at Florida, which means Houston has scored two runs in three games).

Most everyone agrees that the Cards overachieved all season long and that they haven't been viable contenders for quite a while. However, if LaRussa & Co. had any flickering hopes, the Cubs went a very long way toward snuffing them out with their series win in St. Louis last week.

As for the Astros...

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Just a Few Things to Say

- I like Lou. I think he does far more good than harm as baseball managers go. Yeah, he'll make some questionable decisions as all managers do, but he's been more right than wrong in his 2 years with the Cubs. Of course, no one ever notices the right decisions, they're just taken for granted as the way it's suppose to happen.

That all being said, STOP USING BOB "HOME RUN" HOWRY. Just knock it the fuck off. You're not turning him around, you're not gonna get him going before the playoffs. He's a lost cause and needs to be banished Scott Eyre style.

Lou says he's trying to figure out the middle innings and seems to not trust the youngsters. But how the hell do you trust a guy with a 5.43 ERA?

Brewers Fire Yost...the Chicago Way

Dan Fox offers a historical perspective on the Brewers' firing of Ned Yost while in the thick of the race for the post-season.

Turns out the 1932 Cubs were the first team to change managers mid-season (Rogers Hornsby out; Charlie Grimm in) and then go on to win the pennant. The 1938 Cubs repeated the maneuver (Grimm out; Gabby Hartnett in) and again, the result was a National League championship.

Cub-related names are all over this phenomenon:

Is This Really Happening?

5 innings...goose egg in the you-know-what column for Lilly.

Words fail me...

At least I'll be around to watch this one.


ANSWER: No it isn't. Lilly makes it through six with a no-hitter, but then a kind error call on Ramirez before a soft single to right field by Mark Loretta. Cubs prevail though and knock their magic number down to six. If they sweep the Brewers AND the Astros lose at least one game to the Marlins they will clinch the division.

Zambrano Answers Questions About Arm Issues with No-Hitter

Well that was kind of awesome...except I walked out right before Derrek Lee's double in the third. So I'll have to relive the glory through those who were witness.

I found out about the no-hitter when I opened my email and one of our readers sent me the parachat screen grab from the end of the game.

Cubs and Astros Postpone Two Games

The Cubs will get at least a two game rest after tonight thanks to Hurricane Ike bearing down on the Texas coast. There were thoughts of moving Friday's night game up to a day game and then likely a doubleheader on Sunday. Now it seems like they'll try and get a doubleheader on either Sunday or Monday and one game in on the other day with both teams having a scheduled off day Monday.

The Lillyhammer Drops

UPDATE: Thanks to reader "The Joe" for finding the video of the collision which is at the bottom of the post.


With the Cubs in desperate need of a dominating pitching performance to take the pressure off the struggling offense, Ted Lilly delivered. 90 pitches, 8 IP, 5 H, 5 K,1 ER and a KO. All good for a 73 game score that could have been a bit higher if Lou didn't curiously go to Kerry Wood in the 9th. Padding save stats is nice and all and I'm sure Kerry's bank account will appreciate it next year, but when your team is in a funk and Lilly retires 11 straight and is only on 90 pitches, I'm not sure it's the best time to just give Kerry some work.

Nonetheless, the Cubs prevailed and our pals at TLFC couldn't be more thrilled with the performance. The other play of note was Lilly knocking over and knocking out Yadier Molina. In the theater of baseball, it was one of those plays that makes you stand up and cheer and hope it riles up the team to reel off 10 straight wins. When you think about the foolishness of your pitcher leading with his throwing arm to bowl over someone who outweighs him by 40 pounds, the shine wears off pretty quick. 

But damn, it sure was fun to watch (Pictures after the jump)...

Game 145 Thread / Cubs @ Cardinals (2 of 3)

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SP *Ted Lilly SP Braden Looper

13-9, 4.43, 161 K, 60 BB, 176.2 IP
12-11, 4.09, 87 K, 41 BB, 174 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano SS Cesar Izturis
SS Ryan Theriot 3B #Felipe Lopez
1B Derrek Lee 1B Albert Pujols
3B Aramis Ramirez RF Ryan Ludwick
C Geovany Soto C Yadier Molina
RF *Kosuke Fukudome LF Josh Phelps
2B Mark DeRosa 2B *Adam Kennedy
CF *Felix Pie P Braden Looper
P *Ted Lilly CF *Skip Schumaker

 

With the NL Central race now firmly under his team's control, Cubs manager Lou Piniella sounds like a guy who is prepared to enjoy a low-stress wind-down to his team's regular season before he has to deal with the high drama of the National League playoffs.

"After that little rough patch on the last homestand, it's good to see us clicking again," Piniella said following Tuesday night's one-sided win against the Cardinals. "We're playing like we expect to win and doing the things that got us here. It's fun to watch this club play right now."

Cubs September Swoon

Another day, another disappointing Cubs loss....

One of the many sad parts of this run of losing is that the Cubs have been competitive in all but one of these games. Scores of 5-2, 5-3, 3-0, 9-7 (11 innings), 3-0, 10-2, a 14-9 win, then back to back 4-3 losses. The pitching hasn't been great, but good enough to win a couple of those games. The bats though have certainly struggled since August 30th:

Game 144 Thread / Cubs @ Cardinals (1 of 3)

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SP Ryan Dempster SP Kyle Lohse

15-6, 2.99, 167 K, 72 BB, 183.2 IP
13-6, 3.76, 106 K, 44 BB, 182 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano CF *Skip Schumaker
2B *Mike Fontenot 3B Troy Glaus
1B Derrek Lee 1B Albert Pujols
3B Aramis Ramirez RF Ryan Ludwick
RF Mark DeRosa LF *Rick Ankiel
CF *Jim Edmonds C Yadier Molina
C Geovany Soto 2B #Felipe Lopez
SS Ronny Cedeno P Kyle Lohse
P Ryan Dempster SS Cesar Izturis

 

The Cubs and the Cardinals meet in the first of three at Busch and the first of six matchups between now and the end of the season. The Cubs lead the season series, 5-4, and have won 10 of their last 15 in St. Louis.

Dempster won his only start this year against the Cardinals, allowing 2 ER over 6 2/3 in a 6-2 Cub victory in early August. Lohse is 0-1, 6.92 in a pair of starts this season vs. the Cubs, but is otherwise having a fine year, producing more ground balls, yielding fewer long balls, and allowing fewer walks than at virtually any other point in his MLB career.

Living On a What, Now?

After yesterday's heart-ripper-outer of a game, the Cubs have lost seven of
eight for the first time since last June. They still have a four-game division
lead and an 84.5% chance
of winning the division, thanks to the Brewers losing five of their
last seven, so things are not actually as bleak as they may seem.

Cubs Slump Continues

I was in beatiful Fresno, CA this weekend for a baptism and was forced to follow the Cubs through cell phone updates. First, hanging out in 96 degree weather is not fun, I don't care how damn dry the heat is. And driving up to Fresno has all the charm of driving through the nine circles of hell. I can't tell you how many wonderful smells we discovered along the way.

What also sucks is checking updates on the game to see the Cubs go up 3-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth with the Brewers getting shellacked and thinking all will be well with the world, only to check an hour later and have my heart drop when I saw the 4-3 Reds win. I quickly checked the play-by-play info and when I saw "Two runs score on a double to shorstop Ronny Cedeno", I knew this wasn't your garden variety 9th inning blown save. This was one to chalk up with the many legendary Cubs meltdown games.

Sigh. That sure makes for a miserable off day.

I thought it was time to start looking just how alarming this September swoon is compared to some past World Series winners. Is losing seven of eight something that happens to the best of them or are the Cubs approaching epic failure status?

Thread for Games 142, 143 / Cubs @ Reds

Update: We decided to try the losing thing all over again. A brutal, brutal, brutal 9th inning made possible by Kerry Wood's lack of control, Ronny Cedeno's inability to field a ground ball, and the offense's inability to take advantage of the myriad opportunities it had to crush a horrible team.

Good news—the Brewers lost and nearly got themselves perfect-gamed by Chris Young of the Padres, thus ending a 2-5 homestand which included a four-game split with San Diego. What's more galling: splitting four with the Padres at home or losing two of three to the Reds in Cincinnati? (There appeared to be so many Cub fans at the Great American Ballpark this weekend, I think these games should go against our home record.)


Update: The losing streak is over; the winning streak has begun.

Jason Marquis gave up just two ER over 7 1/3 Saturday night, and Cub hitters beat the Cub bullpen, 14-7.

Micah Hoffpauir started in right field, and Dave van Dyck writes that former Rookie of the Year candidate Kosuke Fukudome may want to get used to the view from the dugout.


If adversity really does build character, the Cubs are on their way to having a locker room full of Albert Schweitzers and Abraham Lincolns. Since August turned into September, the Cubbies, losers of six in a row for the first time since last June, are hitting .228 and the pitchers have a cumulative 6.32 ERA.

Game 141 Thread / Cubs @ Reds (1 of 3)

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SP *Ted Lilly SP Bronson Arroyo

13-8, 4.23, 160 K, 57 BB, 174.2 IP
13-10, 4.97, 137 K, 57 BB, 166.2 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano CF *Chris Dickerson
SS Ryan Theriot SS Jeff Keppinger
1B Derrek Lee 2B Brandon Phillips 
3B Aramis Ramirez 1B *Joey Votto
2B Mark DeRosa 3B Edwin Encarnacion
CF *Jim Edmonds RF *Jay Bruce
C Geovany Soto LF Jolbert Cabrera
RF *Kosuke Fukudome C Ryan Hanigan
P *Ted Lilly P Bronson Arroyo

 

That well-known rabble-rouser, Mark Sheldon of mlb.com, is billing this series as a showdown between NL Rookie of the Year candidates Geovany Soto and Joey Votto.

Actually, I don't know anything about Mark Sheldon's rabble-rousing, but the comparison is not entirely off-base:

Soto, Samardzija Up For Rookie of the Month

It looks like I'm four months late on this, but it appears that Rookie of the Month honors in the MLB is voted by the fans. The Cubs have two nominees, Geovany Soto and Jeff Samardzija and they'll go up against Cardinals reliever Chris Perez and Rockies third basemen Ian Stewart. Soto is looking for his second win of the year and voting runs through Monday.

 Samardzija provided a bullpen boost for the first-place Cubs. In 14 1/3 innings, he was 1-0 and didn't allow a run. Samardzija had 13 strikeouts during the month. Soto won rookie honors in April and has continued to be a firm offensive and defensive presence for a Chicago team that has taken charge of the NL Central. Soto hit .355 in August with five doubles, three homers and 21 RBIs. Soto drew 13 walks and scored 17 runs while handling himself well behind the plate and providing a level of comfort for the Chicago pitching staff.

 

A look at Geovany Soto's year compared to other Cubs catchers of years past after the jump...

"Stephen Gryzlo"? We Have No Idea Who You're Talking About

Out of concern for the mental health of the many Cub fans who regularly populate The Cub Reporter, the authors request that, until further notice, visitors please refrain from using the following words or phrases anywhere on or near the site:

Game 140 Thread / Astros @ Cubs (3 of 3)

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SP *Randy Wolf SP Ryan Dempster

8-11, 4.73, 134 K, 64 BB, 158 IP
15-5, 2.95, 160 K, 69 BB, 176.2 IP
       
CF *Michael Bourn LF Alfonso Soriano
LF Ty Wigginton SS Ryan Theriot
SS Miguel Tejada 1B Derrek Lee
1B #Lance Berkman 3B Aramis Ramirez
3B #Geoff Blum C Geovany Soto
RF Hunter Pence RF Mark DeRosa
2B *David Newhan CF Reed Johnson
C Humberto Quintero 2B Ronny Cedeno
P *Randy Wolf P Ryan Dempster

 

Please.Win.This.Game.

Cubs Playoff Ticket Lottery

The Cubs opened up registration for playoff tickets at Wrigley Field today. Basically you register online and winners are "randomly" selected to be able to purchase tickets for either the NLDS and NLCS (you may get lucky and win both). If you're chosen, you are limited to one game and two tickets for that series. You have until noon CST on September 19th to register for any possible NLDS games at Wrigley.

For those with more experience with this sort of thing, if you are a "winner", are you guaranteed tickets or just the right to enter the Virtual Waiting Room?

Ticket prices and full schedule after the jump...

Pins and Needles

UPDATE (5:23 PM CST): Zambrano did see Dr. Gryzlo and was suppose to have an MRI today, but missed his appointment. Odd behavior. The MRI has been rescheduled for tomorrow. Sean Marshall will take his next start on Sunday versus the Reds.


Four game losing streak...unfortunate.

Offense struggling a bit...it happens to the best of them.

Carlos Zambrano going to see an orthopedic specialist...holy shit!!

And now Cub fans breathlessly await the results. The season may not hang in the balance but the difference between a dominating playoff rotation versus hopes and prayers does.

If Zambrano has to miss some starts or hit the disabled list for a few weeks, it means Sean Marshall to the rotation. In the short term, that's probably not much of a difference, especially with the way Z has pitched lately. After his last DL trip, Z returned with five starts and a 1.78 ERA before August hit, so maybe a little more rest will do him good. If it ends up being a more serious injury that puts the playoffs in jeopardy, then the Cubs will have to consider starting Jason Marquis in a playoff game and I'll have to consider slitting my wrists.

Bulletin board fodder from Carsten Charles after the jump...

Game 139 Thread / Astros @ Cubs (2 of 3)

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SP Brandon Backe SP Carlos Zambrano

9-12, 5.42, 122 K, 72 BB, 159.1 IP
13-5, 3.53, 114 K, 61 BB, 168.1 IP
       
CF *Michael Bourn LF Alfonso Soriano
LF Ty Wigginton 2B *Mike Fontenot
SS Miguel Tejada 1B Derrek Lee
1B #Lance Berkman 3B Aramis Ramirez
3B #Geoff Blum RF Mark DeRosa
RF Hunter Pence CF *Jim Edmonds
2B *David Newhan C Geovany Soto
C Humberto Quintero SS Ryan Theriot
P Brandon Backe P #Carlos Zambrano

 

While Cub fans are hoping that the team's bats will come back to life (no EBH's among the club's last 27 hits), the greater concern right now is with Carlos Zambrano.

All Cubdom would like to see that the two extra days of rest Zambrano got when his scheduled Sunday start was pushed back to this evening have proven beneficial to his "fatigued" "dead" tired arm. If nothing else, in the span of those two days, the calendar turned from August to September.

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