September 2008

Brad Boyer put the Giants on the scoreboard with a solo home run in the bottom of the 6th and the Cubs were held to just three singles, as the Giants shutout the Cubs 2-0 in AZ Instructional League action at Indian School Park Field #2 in Scottsdale this afternoon.

RHP Billy Petrick, hampered by shoulder weakness since the start of Spring Training and on the Daytona Cubs DL since the end of May, got the start for the Cubs today, and he looked OK. He was removed with one out in the bottom of the 2nd inning after throwing 20 pitches (15 strikes), during which time he allowed one hit (a harmless single) and no walks, with one strikeout, a pop-up, and two ground outs.  

I'm a little under the weather, so bear with me and this rather bare bones preview...all the substance, none of the fluff.

I never understood the positional breakdowns that many folks do for a series or playoff preview. I understand a team is only as good as the sum of its parts, but Derrek Lee will never have to battle against James Loney at any point in the series. It's more about how one team's pitching and defense will fare against the other team's lineup.

Cubs Offense vs. Dodgers Pitching and Defense

Cubs Hitting: .278/.354/.443 .797 OPS(1st in all those except BA, which they were 2nd), 87 SB's at a 72% success rate (8th in NL)

Dodgers Pitching: .251/.315/.376 .691 OPS, 3.68 ERA (1st in all those except BA, which they were 2nd)

Cubs Hitting vs. Right Handers: .274/.350/.443 .793 OPS

Dodgers Pitching vs. Right Handers: .239/.300/.361 .661 OPS

Dodgers Pitching vs. Left Handers: .268/.334/.396 .730 OPS

Cubs are 64-48 when a right-handed pitchers starts the game.

Dodgers Defense: .693 DER (9th in NL), .825 RZR (12th in the NL)

Dodgers Rotation: Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Greg Maddux

--At the Baseball Analysts, Ross Roley explains why the Cubs have a 22% likelihood of winning the World Series. That's the marginally bad news. The good news is, that's the highest probability for any of the competing playoff teams, according to Roley. The Brewers come in second at 16%. The Angels, with the best record in baseball, weigh in at just 13%. Predicting the result of a short series is an inexact science at best. Still, it's nice to see a headline that reads, "Why the Angels Won't Win the World Series (and the Cubs Will Win It All)."

--At ESPN.com, Tim Kurkjian poses Five Questions relevant to the Dodgers/Cubs series and so as not to ruin it for you, I'll just provide the answers here: considerable, yes, very, as much as possible, and a good thing. Kurkjian likes the Cubs in five games.

--Tim Dierkes at The Hardball Times also likes the Cubs in five, pointing to the Cubs' superior hitting and fielding over the Dodgers' miniscule edge in starting pitching.

--There was a lunchtime rally of Cubs fans today in Daley Plaza with Jim Belushi "among the luminaries," according to the Tribune. I must have missed the last luminaries election, but I wouldn't have voted for Jim Belushi.

Matt Downs clubbed a grand slam home run to cap a nine-run 2nd inning, and the Giants coasted to a 9-4 victory over the Cubs in AZ Instructional League action this afternoon at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa. 

How the Cubs and their NLDS opponents stacked up in a variety of statistical categories. (Team's National League rankings appear in parens; "DER" refers to Defensive Efficiency Ratio and "RZR" refers to Revised Zone Rating. Throughout, * means stats are through Saturday, 9/27. ) 

CUBS
  L.A.
 Hitting
855 (1st) RS
700 (13th)
184 (5th) HR
137 (13th)
.355 (1st) OBP
.333 (6th)
.445 (1st) SLG
.400 (13th)
 800 (1st) OPS
733 (11th)
     
 Pitching
668 (2nd) RA
645 (1st)
3.87 (2nd) ERA
3.68 (1st)
2.30 (3rd) K/BB
2.51 (2nd)
711 (2nd) OPS vs.
691 (1st)
66% (4th) SV %
65% (5th)
     
 Fielding*
.706 (1st) DER
.693 (9th)
.832 (6th) RZR
.825 (12th)

 

Here's another interesting set of numbers—the performance of the Dodgers offense before and after the acqusition of Manny Ramirez:

Game times have been released for the first three games of the NLDS:

5:30 pm CST for Game 1 @ Wrigley on Wednesday, October 1st

8:30 pm CST for Game 2 @ Wrigley on Thursday, October 2nd

9:00 pm CST for Game 3 @ Dodger Stadium on Saturday, October 4th

I imagine they'll wait to see how the other series are doing before they announce game times for games 4 and 5. I'm a little surprised they could get clearance for such a late start on Thursday at Wrigley, but so be it. Stock up on your favorite stimulant and stay up late to enjoy your Cubs.

It's all settled, the Dodgers and their league-leading pitching staff will roll into Chicago starting Wednesday. The Cubs were 5-2 against them this season, including a three game sweep at home in three low-scoring games. They split a four game set in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers ride into October with a 17-7 record, albeit it against an extremely easy schedule (Padres, Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies, Pirates).

I think the Cubs are the far superior team, but the Dodgers do have a good staff and the games will probably be close and low-scoring. That means a lucky break or two and the Dodgers can make this interesting.

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SP Angel Guzman SP *C.C. Sabathia
0-0, 7.04, 6 K, 4 BB, 7.2 IP (NL)
10-2, 1.78, 121 K, 24 BB, 121.2 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soirano CF Mike Cameron
SS Ryan Theriot 2B #Ray Durham
1B Derrek Lee LF Ryan Braun
3B Aramis Ramirez 1B *Prince Fielder
CF Reed Johnson SS J.J. Hardy
RF *Micah Hoffpauir RF Corey Hart
2B Ronny Cedeno 3B *Craig Counsell
C Henry Blanco C Jason Kendall
P Angel Guzman P *C.C. Sabathia

 

First, Paul Sullivan writes that despite his recent travails (5.40 ERA in September), Jeff Samardzija has made the post-season roster and that Chad Gaudin will likely be a spectator.

As for today's game, Mark DeRosa (calf strain) was hoping to get in a few swings so he
didn't have to go into the playoffs cold. Alas, he is not in the starting
lineup. Geovany Soto (sore hand) is also sitting.

The Brewers begin play tied with the Mutts for the Wild Card, with a one-game tiebreaker tomorrow at Shea in the teams' futures if things don't get settled today. (As I post this, the Marlins and Mets are waiting out a rain delay at Shea.)

 

"It's not going to matter because, well, it is going to matter but it's not going to matter,"

Translated into English, it means that Lou Piniella decided that Carlos Zambrano would not pitch the first inning or two of today's regular season finale at Milwaukee and Angel Guzman will.

Translated into Sullivanese...

Tony Campana had four RBI, Logan Watkins scored three runs, Josh Vitters had two doubles and a walk, and Jake Optiz smashed a double and a triple, as the Cubs rallied from a 7-3 deficit to defeat the Angels 9-7 in AZ Instructional League action this morning at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa. 

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SP *Ted Lilly SP Ben Sheets
16-9, 4.17, 180 K, 63 BB, 198.2 IP
13-8, 2.98, 157 K, 45 BB, 196 IP
       
RF *Kosuke Fukudome CF Mike Cameron
SS Ronny Cedeno 3B Bill Hall
1B *Micah Hoffpauir LF Ryan Braun
LF *Daryle Ward 1B *Prince Fielder
CF Reed Johnson SS J.J. Hardy
2B *Mike Fontenot RF Corey Hart
3B Casey McGehee 3B Rickie Weeks
C Henry Blanco C Jason Kendall
P *Ted Lilly P Ben Sheets

 

A Brewers win and a Mets loss (Mets currently up 1-0 in the 3rd) and the Brewers would clinch and the Cubs would know their opponent for the NLDS. To honor the occasion, Lou has trotted out the "B" squad. The game should be on Fox for most of the country I believe.

As announced earlier, Ryan Dempster will go Game 1 and he'll be followed by Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden and finally Ted Lilly if a  Game 4 is necessary.

I would have preferred Dempster, Harden, Z and then Lilly, but Harden's start last night where he seemed to be topping out at 90 mph most of the game was worrisome, although he still managed to never really get hit hard. If the series does go five games, the Cubs will start with Dempster and then it will be possible to use Zambrano on four days rest, followed by Marmol and Wood to finish it.

That makes the Cubs 7th inning problems, seem not so problematic.

The Angels shutout the Cubs 2-0 in AZ Instructional League action at Angels Minor League Complex Field #3 at Diablo Park in Tempe this afternoon.

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SP Ryan Dempster SP Jeff Suppan
17-6, 2.99, 183 K, 75 BB, 201.2 IP
10-10, 5.06, 85 K, 66 BB, 172.2 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano CF Mike Cameron
2B *Mike Fontenot 2B *Ray Durham
1B Derrek Lee LF Ryan Braun
3B Aramis Ramirez 1B *Prince Fielder
RF *Micah Hoffpauir SS J.J. Hardy
C Geovany Soto RF Corey Hart
CF *Jim Edmonds 3B *Craig Counsell
SS Ryan Theriot C Jason Kendall
P Ryan Dempster P Jeff Suppan

 

The Cubs continue their Spoiler Tour 2008 and will do their best to knock out their division rivals. The only thing that probably really matters for the Cubs is that the races are still undecided on Sunday as the Phils, Brewers and Mets have their aces scheduled. Meaning if they have to use them, they won't be able to go again until Game 2 at the earliest and possibly not until Game 3 of the NLDS. Of course if the Brewers end up winning the wild card, none of that will matter to the Cubs either as they'll see the Dodgers and Derek Lowe in Game 1.

As for personal goals, Dempster goes for win number 18 and will try to keep his ERA under three for the season and Geovany Soto is looking to match or pass up Billy Williams Cubs rookie record of 25 home runs - Soto is at 23.

So maybe you and a group of acquaintances divvy up some Cubs season tickets. Now that the boys are going to the playoffs and playing an as-yet-undetermined number of games at Wrigley, what do you do? What else—you sue!

The Tribune offers this story about litigious Cub fans, including Laurence Wright, a Northbrook businessman who is sick of getting ground under the heel of The Man...even when The Man is an 84-year-old with heart and hip problems.

In what may be a preview of the World Series, the Cubs defeated the Angels 3-2 in AZ Instructional League action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this afternoon.

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SP Rich Harden SP Pedro Martinez
(NL) 5-1, 1.66, 85 K, 25 BB, 65 IP
5-6, 5.50, 78 K, 40 BB, 103 IP
       
LF *Felix Pie SS #Jose Reyes
SS Ryan Theriot LF *Daniel Murphy
1B *Micah Hoffpauir 3B David Wright
CF *Jim Edmonds 1B *Carlos Delgado
2B *Mike Fontenot CF #Carlos Beltran
3B Casey McGehee RF *Ryan Church
RF *Kosuke Fukudome 2B Ramon Martinez
C #Koyie Hill C Robinson Cancel
P *Rich Harden P Pedro Martinez

 

The Cubs play their last-ever regular season game at The House That Jesse Gonder Built. In 44 years of play at Shea (the Mets played their first two years in the Polo Grounds), the Cubs have a 146-164 record.

Mark DeRosa and his strained calf muscle will enjoy tonight's game from the bench. Rich Harden makes his first-ever start against the Mets and Pedro Martinez, who is making his first start against the Cubs in 11 years, when he was still with the Expos.

A Cub win will give the team 97 wins for the first time since 1945.

WIth last night's extra-inning battle taxing the Mets' bullpen, Jerry Manuel has said he would consider using starter John Maine out of the pen tonight if/when he has to lift Pedro, who has only won twice in his last 11 starts.

I can't wait for all of these exhibition games to end so we can get down to real baseball.

You just can't put too much stock into any of the games the Cubs play this week, even if they're against potential playoff opponents playing for everything as the Cubs play for nothing. But if you consider them the practice tests before the Cubs have to take the ACT's next week, I think a few members of the Cubs need to do a cram session this weekend.

- Ronny Cedeno continued to impress with his baseball instincts yesterday. He attempted a sac bunt and failed miserably and then was slow to get to first on a sacrifice bunt attempt to first by Jose Reyes. In isolation these events wouldn't mean much, but the pattern has been there for as long as he's been with the Cubbies. I can't wait until the game is on the line in the playoffs and it's up to Cedeno to come through. Sadly, the Cubs have little choice but to put him on the playoff roster. He's the only backup shortstop on the team (no Mark DeRosa does not count) and the Cubs can't risk Ryan Theriot getting hurt early in the series and not having a viable defensive option to play there. And even if you thought DeRosa counted, he's now nursing a left calf strain that you probably don't want him testing at an unfamiliar defensive position as demanding as shortstop.

- The bottom of the 8th inning sure was a weird one last night. I can excuse Samardzija for giving up hits to Carlos Delgada and Carlos Beltran, they're good hitters and well that's just gonna happen from time to time. All pitchers get themselves into trouble, it's their ability to get out of it that sets them apart from the pack.  And Samardzija executed wonderfully on Ryan Church for the strikeout and then got the clog-footed Ramon Castro to ground out. And this is where things got weird.

Lou decided to intentionally walk Endy Chavez for some reason. Now I understand wanting to face the right-handed hitter, but it's Endy Chavez. A career .270 hitter that's hitting .280 against righties this year. On top of that, Samardzija has actually done better versus lefties this year - .170 BA vs .268 BA for right-handed hitters in nearly the same amount of plate appearances. And the true crime of the intentional walk was that it completely cut-off Samardzija's escape route. He was now forced to throw strikes to Ramon Martinez, something that he's been struggling with over the last month.

I'd like to believe that Lou was just testing Samardzija to see if he can throw strikes and get an out when absolutely needed. In which case, Samardzija failed worse than I did on my high school trigonometry exams. But it's more likely that Lou thought he was playing the percentages when he really wasn't. Samardzija still should be able to get that out there, but it certainly wasn't putting your players in the best position to win.

- On the flip side, the Mets are terrible. The Cubs tried to give them a gift and even tore off half the wrapping paper and the Mets still couldn't guess what was inside. Three times the Mets got a runner on third with NOBODY out and could only score run out of it. And that one run was thanks to the previously mentioned poor managing/poor execution by the Cubs.

Fukudome at bat after the 10th inning ARam HR. Click on the link to enlarge the fan behind the home plate ump.

The Brewers took advantage of four errors and seven walks to defeat the Cubs 10-1 at Maryvale Baseball Complex Field #7 in AZ Instructional League action this afternoon in Phoenix.

While the main purpose of "Instructs" is to provide lots of coaches and instructors and a less-pressurized, more low-key environment that allows pitchers to work on a new pitch or on their secondary stuff and position players to try a new position, make adjustments as a hitter, or improve their baserunning, the fact is somedays the Cubs youngsters look better than they do on other days. And today was just not one of the good days.

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SP Carlos Zambrano SP *Oliver Perez
14-6, 3.77, 128 K, 68 BB, 184 IP
10-7, 4.10, 168 K, 97 BB, 184.1 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano SS #Jose Reyes
SS Ryan Theriot LF *Daniel Murphy
1B Derrek Lee 3B David Wright
3B Aramis Ramirez CF #Carlos Beltran
RF Mark DeRosa 1B *Carlos Delgado
CF Reed Johnson RF *Ryan Church
2B Ronny Cedeno C *Brian Schneider
C Henry Blanco 2B #Argenis Reyes
P #Carlos Zambrano P *Oliver Perez

 

After a lifetime spent listening to ballgames on the radio, I have come to associate certain parks with a certain tone, a certain pitch in the crowd sound. Obviously, my ear is well attuned to the way that Wrigley Field crowds come across on-air. Same with Dodger Stadium, Fenway Park, and the Metrodome. (Loved hearing all those Twins fans Tuesday night!)

Shea Stadium is another one of those parks. Unlike what you hear over the radio from those other parks, however, the crowd sound that goes out over the airwaves from a raucous Shea isn't one of collective joy. It's much more coarse, much more dangerous, a wild, unruly roar—like the sound of inmates rooting on two guys aiming to shank each other in the middle of the yard.

One of the many toys at Baseball Prospectus is something they call "Secret Sauce". BP has successfully cracked the code to playoff success and nailed the last 45 World Series winners. What? How have you never heard of this amazing prediction system? Because I made that last part up, but nevertheless a fun tool to look at as we await our playoff opponent.

I looked back through 2000 and BP did predict three World Series winners and six of the 16 participants in the World Series correct. You scoff, but what's your playoff prediction success rate?

The formula is simple enough and rather intuitive to what is commonly believed among baseball folks that power pitching, a good closer and good defense wins in the playoffs. In this case, BP uses FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average), EqK9 (Equivalent Strikeout Rates per 9 innings) and WXRL (Win above Replacement Pitcher for the team's closer) and comes up with a score.

Their predictions and the 2008 rankings after the jump.

Junior Lake drove in three runs, Matt Cerda had three hits, and Brandon Guyer belted a solo home run, as the Cubs defeated the Giants 5-2 this afternoon in AZ Instructional League action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa.

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SP *Johan Santana SP *Sean Marshall
14-7, 2.65, 187 K, 58 BB, 217.1 IP
3-4, 3.62, 50 K, 19 BB, 59.2 IP
       
SS #Jose Ryes LF Alfonso Soriano
2B #Luis Castillo SS Ronny Cedeno
3B David Wright 1B Derrek Lee
CF #Carlos Beltran CF Reed Johnson
1B *Carlos Delgado 2B Mark DeRosa
C Ramon Castro 3B Casey McGehee
RF *Ryan Church RF *Kosuke Fukudome
LF Nick Evans C Henry Blanco
P *Johan Santana P *Sean Marshall

 

You'd think Lou would let his regulars get some hacks against Johan, since they may see him in the first round, but he seems to have gone the opposite route and sits most some of his regulars. Curious.

The Cubs want to try and take 2 of 3 or at least 1 of 3 from the Mets and hope the Brewers take 2 of 3 from the Pirates or sweep them. That would set up a tie between the Mets and the Brewers heading into the final weekend and increases the odds of them having to use their aces (C.C. or Johan) late in the season. That's more of a concern with the Mets when it comes to the Cubs playoff situation, but the more innings C.C. racks up now, the better chance he'll be less effective by the time the Cubs may face him in the playoffs. The Cubs also need to win 5 of 6 for 100 wins assuming the Monday make-up versus the Astros is not played.

Well there isn't much to do this week but speculate, so let's take a look at the potential Cubs first round playoff opponent. There's a poll at the end of the post.

- Sean Marshall will start Tuesday and Rich Harden will start Thursday. Letting Marshall start Tuesday means he'll likely get the start for the likely season finale on Sunday as well. Lou also said he won't be lightening any workloads for Harden or Zambrano this series. Pushing Harden to Thursday also means Lilly will get moved to a Saturday start.

Phil Rogers suggests this all means an NLDS rotation of Dempster, Harden, Zambrano and Lilly - a plan that I fully endorse.  Rogers also provides some useful information that all four possible playoff opponents are less productive (judged by OPS) against right-handed pitchers than left-handed pitchers. Bruce Miles has some other thoughts on the rotation and Lou himself said he's not making any announcements until this weekend.

- Rogers also reports that Jason Marquis will likely head to the pen and a long relief role for the playoffs although there are no specific quotations attributed to anyone. For some reason, I thought he was left off of last year's playoff roster, but he was just bumped from the rotation.

- Congrats to Micah Hoffpauir and Mitch Atkins, the Cubs Minor League Hitter and Pitcher of the Year.

- The Cubs claimed outfielder Brad Snyder off waivers and designated Adam Harben for assignment. Snyder was the 18th overall pick in the 2003 draft.

- The Cubs made some changes to their AFL roster. Pitcher Justin Berg will go to the Venezuelan Winter Leagues instead and be replaced by righty Jessie Estrada. Also, catcher/infielder Steve Clevenger and infielder Esmailin Caridad have been added to the Mesa Solar Sox bringing the total Cubs players up to 8 (Tyler Colvin, Darwin Barney, Nate Spears, Donald Veal and Rocky Roquet being the other 5).

Tags: 

Brandon Guyer slammed a two-run homer and had three hits, and six pitchers combined to throw a three-hitter, as the Cubs defeated the A's 6-2 in AZ Instructional League Opening Day action at the Papago Sports Complex in Phoenix this afternoon.

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SP *Jon Niese SP Jason Marquis
1-0, 4.09, 9 K, 6 BB, 11 IP
10-9, 4.39, 87 K, 65 BB, 160 IP
       
SS #Jose Ryes LF Alfonso Soriano
LF *Dan Murphy 2B Ronny Cedeno
3B David Wright 1B Derrek Lee
1B *Carlos Delgado 3B Aramis Ramirez
CF #Carlos Beltran C Geovany Soto
RF *Ryan Church RF Mark DeRosa
2B #Luis Castillo CF Reed Johnson
C *Brian Schneider SS Ryan Theriot
P *Jon Niese P *Jason Marquis

 

Remember when we were all mortified by the schedule and the impending final road trip to New York and Milwaukee? Good times. Now it's nothing more than a really expensive scouting trip and a chance to play spoiler. Looking at the Mets lefty heavy lineup makes it look like Ted Lilly could be a key contributor in a possible playoff series and that Sean Marshall would make the playoff roster if we play them down the road. 

Speaking of spoiler, the best case scenario for the Cubs is that the races stay close until Sunday or possibly extend into tie-breakers so the teams are forced to use their aces late in the season and can't arrange their rotations the way they like. For example, Johan Santana is scheduled to start tomorrow and then again Sunday. Let's say the Cubs take three of four from the Mets and the Brewers can scrap together two of three from the Pirates. They'll be tied heading into the weekend and the earliest either could clinch is Saturday then and more likely Sunday, if not later.

Sit back and enjoy some tension-free baseball,
although the Cubs do need a win or a Phillies loss to secure homefield advantage.

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....

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SP Braden Looper SP Ryan Dempster
12-13, 4.06, 96 K, 43 BB, 186 IP
16-6, 3.02, 182 K, 75 BB, 196.2 IP
       
CF *Skip Shumaker RF *Kosuke Fukudome
RF Ryan Ludwick SS Ronny Cedeno
1B Albert Pujols LF *Micah Hoffpauir
2B #Felipe Lopez 1B *Darye Ward
3B Troy Glaus 2B *Mike Fontenot
LF Nick Stavinoha CF *Felix Pie
C Jason Larue 3B Casey McGehee
P Braden Looper C #Koyie Hill
SS #Cesar Izturis P Ryan Demspter

 

Nothing like the post-clinch lineup...although you have to feel a little bad for Dempster who is trying to get win number 17 and retake sole possesion of the wins lead on the team. Cubs magic number to secure best record in the NL and homefield advantage is two. A loss by the Philles and Mets and a win by the Cubs would make the season ending road trip mostly irrelevant.

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.

Tags: 

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SP Joel Pineiro SP *Ted Lilly
6-6, 5.24, 71 K, 31 BB, 135.2 IP
15-9, 4.13, 175 K, 61 BB, 191.1 IP
       
SS #Cesar Izturis LF Alfonso Soriano
CF 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 C Geovany Soto
LF Brian Barton 2B Mark DeRosa
P Joel Pineiro RF *Kosuke Fukudome
C Jason Larue P *Ted Lilly

 

It be clinching day...we hope. Lou gets nostalgic with the lineup by letting Fukudome start again and Ted Lilly tries to tie Dempster for the team lead in wins. He'll also need to watch his head in case LaRussa  tries to retaliate for Lilly's takedown of Yadier Molina last week.

Clinch! Clinch! Clinch!

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: 

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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.

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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Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP David Bush SP Rich Harden
9-10, 4.24, 103 K, 42 BB, 172 IP (NL)
5-1, 1.65, 78 K, 19 BB, 60 IP
       
CF Mike Cameron LF Alfonso Soriano
2B #Ray Durham SS Ryan Theriot
3B Ryan Braun 1B Derrek Lee
1B *Prince Fielder 3B Aramis Ramirez
SS J.J Hardy CF *Jim Edmonds
RF Corey Hart 2B Mark DeRosa
3B *Craig Counsell C Geovany Soto
C Jason Kendall RF *Kosuke Fukudome
P David Bush P *Rich Harden

 

I sat through last night's loss at Wrigley, which I could have done without. On the other hand, I may have the distinction of having seen Ben Sheets's last-ever appearance for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Today's starters, Bush and Harden, matched up during that fateful series in Milwaukee at the end of July. The Cubs won that game, 11-4, and Bush (1-7, 5.16 lifetime against the Cubs) allowed seven runs in 6 1/3 innings. Harden fanned nine and allowed just one run in his only career appearance against the Brewers. Overall, the Cubs have won 8 of the 10 games he has started since coming over from Oakland.

On the subject of magic numbers and division-clinching, Barry Rozner of the Daily Herald points out that if the Cubs clinch the NL Central on Friday, the clinching wouldn''t be official until the Brewers play at night in Cincinnati, long after the Cubs/Cardinals matinee is over. Same thing could happen on Saturday. In other words, there might be no in-Wrigley celebration for the players or the Cub faithful this weekend.

A few players we talked to Wednesday came up with some other ideas.

First of all, they're certain the team leaders, Ryan
Dempster and Kerry Wood, will organize a group outing to a restaurant
or bar where the club can watch in private, and, if necessary, douse
each other with cheap, sticky, smelly beverages that never fully leave
your clothes.

I wish Rozner's sources had been a little more specific about the possible site of this player party. I'm thinking I'll just camp out at the TGI Friday's I know of in Oak Brook and cross my fingers.

Wait 'Till... The Weekend

 

W - DiFelice (1-0)
L - Marquis (10-9), drinking champagne on a thursday afternoon

 

Things to Take from This Game

 

1.  Horrid first four for Marquis
Marquis loaded the bases with a single and two walks, and Fielder cleared them with a double.  After that, Marquis settled down well enough, but the Cubs never overcame the deficit

 

2.  Short-Sheeted
Ben Sheets left after two innings due to tightness in his right forearm.  The Brewers emptied the bullpen, and they pitched very well.  Six relievers in six innings, no runs added on to the solo homer Ramirez hit off of Sheets.  The Cubs manage one run off of Torres in the ninth, but there never really was a sense of an imminent comeback.  Before the ninth, the Cubs had eeked out just four hits on the game.

 

3.  Who Cares, Our Magic Number Still is 4.

 

The rather uninspired details, below...

 

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