Cubs Recap

Just when you let that little piece of hope back in, the Cubs yank it out of you like their Mola Ram from Temple of Doom. Rich Harden left his change up in the zone all game and paid for it as the Brewers knocked him for 5 runs in 3 innings. The first two courtesy of back-to-back two out hits by their 8 and 9 hitters in the 2nd. In the third, Aramis backed up on a chopper by Ryan Braun with a man on first. The ball went past him and one of the nicest gift doubles was awarded to Braun by the official scorer. That changed the whole inning, because instead of a man on 2nd and 1 out, you've got 2nd and 3rd and Prince Fielder up. He was intentionally walked and after a Casey McGehee sac fly (should have been the 2nd out and wouldn't have scored a run), Harden walked another and got a fielder's choice that would have ended the inning in theory and kept the game at 3-0(or possibly 2-0). But after seeing Alcides Escobar flail at 2 change-ups down and away, Harden went to the well one more time but missed right over the plate and Escobar pretty much ended his night (UPDATE: It appears they changed their mind and gave Ramirez the error afterall, just 2 ER for Harden last night).

It looks like it may have ended Harden's career as a Cub as well, as the team announced this morning that he will be shutdown the rest of the season. I imagine his agent is thrilled with the news considering his impending free agent status. I imagine the Cubs are thrilled at the prospect of not getting those two draft picks for his Type A free agent status. Tom Gorzelanny will slide into the rotation.

(UPDATE #2: Looks like Sullivan had a case of the jump to conclusions, as Muskat is reporting that Harden is just being skipped a turn in the rotation and there's nothing wrong with him).

The Cubs got 2 back in the bottom frame and were looking for more, but Milton's epic September slump continued, thanks to a fine play by Escobar to end the threat. That was Bradley's last at-bat of the game, as Lou curiously double switched, even though he has a 12-man pen and brought in Micah Hoffpauir to play RF and David Patton to pitch. Patton coughed up a run in the 4th and three more in the 5th, although two scored after Justin Berg relieved him. The Cubs battled back to make it 9-5 on an Aramis Ramirez home run and Bobby Scales RBI, but that was all the scoring for the night and the Cubs 3-game win streak ends.

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Randy Wells continued his dominance of the Houston Astros last night. He's started three times against them this season, won two of them and has yet to give up an earned in 20.2 IP, with just one unearned run last night in the 7th. The win last night was his 10th on the season, the first Cub rookie to accomplish that since Kerry Wood in 1998. I took a look at some of the more advanced metrics too see how fluky Wells' season may have been and you know, it's not to bad. While a low 3 ERA is probably a bit much to ask for next year, his .285 BABIP isn't ridiculously out of whack, like let's say his ROY competition J.A. Happ and his .249 BABIP. Wells' FIP (Fielding Independant ERA) is 3.85 and his xFIP (a fancier version of FIP that tries to 'normalize' for expected home runs per flyball) is higher at 4.30, which is still pretty respectable for a guy that will barely make over the league minimum next season.

I think if they did vote today, J.A. Happ would likely win the Rookie of the Year vote with a better ERA in a tougher park, nicer win-loss record(thanks Cubs bullpen) and the strength of a better team. A quick look at some of the other competition.

J.A. Happ: 2.63 ERA, 10-3, 143.2 IP, 97 K, 51 BB

Tommy Hanson: 3.15 ERA, 9-3, 88.2 IP, 73 K, 32 BB

Randy Wells: 2.90 ERA, 10-7, 133.1 IP, 82 K, 35 BB

Chris Coghlan: 9 HR, 301/377/446/823 OPS in 422 PA's

Colby Rasmus:  14 HR, 259/315/427/742 OPSin 418 PA's

Andrew McCutchen: 11 HR, 288/362/495/857 in 354 PA's and 15/18 in SB's

Garrett Jones:  17 HR, 295/365/614/979 OPS in 233 PA's

(I missed McCutchen and Jones on the first pass)

Today's must-win lineup is Fukudome, Blanco (wtf?), Lee, Bradley, Fox, Fontenot, Baker, Hill and Lilly.

I watched not one second of Friday's affair. I managed about 10 minutes of Internet access and caught the 2-1 score, posted this premature comment and then later flipped on my XM radio to catch the final 5-2 win. The good news is the Cubs got a win and Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano went a combined 6/6 with 1 HR, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 2 Runs Scored and 2 BB's. The bad news was the comedy of errors from the offensive heroes and the Cubs needing a dramatic come-from-behind win against a team missing their five best players.

Some links and notes after the jump...

The Cubs and Nationals battled to a 2-2 tie through 6 innings, before Milton Bradley drove in his third run of the night on a fielder's choice to score Koyie Hill in the bottom of the 7th. Bradley had homered earlier in the game for the Cubs first two runs. The Cubs piled on in the 8th with five runs and ended up winning easily 9-4. 38 games left to bear unless we luck out with some rainouts.

Following up yesterday's comments, Bradley claims he has no regrets signing with the Cubs, but says he dreads extra inning home games:

"...so I can be out there the least amount of time as possible and go home."

Not quite as poetic as "I'd play this game for free", now is it?

He goes on to talk about facing hatred on a a daily basis including at restaurants, but sarcastically doesn't believe it has anything to do with race.

"America doesn't believe in racism."

That one made me chuckle.

Then he pulls a little Stuart Smalley on us.

``I feel love for me, because I love me,'' he said. ``I look in the
mirror and go out there and play and feel love for my teammates and
love for the coaching staff and for myself.''

That one made me laugh out loud.

Tail spin

Thanks to our pal Tim at Cubby Blue for the animation...

I ask, can anything save the Cubs season at this point?

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Let's never speak of last night again...

Good news is that the Cubs get a favorable pitching match-up today when Ryan Dempster faces....(shuffles papers)

(Yells at TCR Secretary)

What do you mean Cliff Lee is starting?....Who? He's just the AL Cy Young Winner....No, I don't need a sandwich Mom and don't come down here...Yes, I know it's the basement, but it's my office...and my bedroom.

alright...so bad news is that the Cubs have lost 6 of 7 and are facing last year's AL Cy Young Winner and recent Philly acquisition Cliff Lee in an attempt to avoid the sweep. Good news is that the Earth hasn't been hit by a large asteroid in a really long time.

Reader art after the jump...

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Pretty much everytime they flashed the boxscore last night after the 5th inning, I just had to cringe. Rich Harden continued his stampede to free agency with another brilliant effort. He held the arguably best offense in the league to....well nothing, for 5.1 innings and then gives up a walk to #8 hitter Carlos Ruiz before Jimmy Rollins sent one in the bleachers to tie what was looking like an easy victory. So while the Phils efficiently scored their first 2 runs on a hit, the Cubs managed 7 hits through the first six, a few double plays and line drives right at people and only 2 runs.

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The Cubs put up a four spot in the first and make it stand for the 6-3 series opening win over the Houston Astros. 

Why the Cubs Won:  Most of the regulars were back in the lineup sans Derrek Lee who took another day off as the bulging disc issue flared up again.They worked Mike Hampton over in the first inning to the tune of 35 pitches. On pitch 25, with the bases loaded, Reed Johnson lined the ball deep to the gap in left field that a diving Michael Bourn just missed and the ball rolled all the way to the wall. It had the makings of a possible inside-the-parker, but Johnson settled with the stand-up triple and the Cubs took the quick 3-0 lead. A passed ball by Gold Glover Ivan Rodriguez during Micah Hoffpauir's 10-pitch at-bat scored Johnson and the Cubs never looked back.  Another passed ball scored Johnson again in the 6th and an Aramis home run in the 7th accounted for the other runs.

Rich Harden bounced back nicely from his last outing to lower his ERA to 4.83, which would have been even better if he hadn't come out for the 8th inning where he gave up a single, a 2-run homer to Lance Berkman and another single before finally being removed. The strikeouts weren't there - just four on the night - but he seemed to get stronger as the night went on retiring 10 in a row at one point including a few fastballs in the 94-95 range before the gas ran out in the 8th.

Carlos Marmol looks like he may be finding his groove again, needing just 10 pitches (8 for strikes) to clean up Harden's mess and Kevin Gregg just needed 12 (9 for strikes) to get the three-up, three-down save.

Armchair Managing:  Rich Harden and his fragile arm were up to 92 pitches through seven innings. Not something I would normally worry about, but with a five run lead, having an at-bat in the top of the 8th and it being Rich Harden, thought Lou might might want to be quick with the hook.

Death Pool: You still have to think Bobby Scales will get sent down by Friday to make room for the starter that night, but with Bradley's suspension about to start and Lee hurting, maybe they'll DL Lee to keep a position player around a little longer.

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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)...

In one of those magic moments that seem to happen during every team's playoff run, Daryle Ward went from one of the Cubs 2008 goats to Northside hero. His three-run homer in the top of the ninth was good for a .647 WPA, which seems to be the biggest hit of the Cubs season.

fangraph

Before that astonishing at-bat, Ward was 0 for his last 10, 4 for his last 29, and 4 for 40 as a pinch-hitter this season. Nothing like a big surprise in a big package.

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