Game preview

A little late on this, but as many of you know I live in a mixed marriage...the wife affectionately known as the AngelFan Wife around these parts. This morning I reminded the 5-year olds that the two clubs play each other today and the rarity of the scenario, gauging their reaction to see where their allegiences may be swaying. My little Gracie, who has an incredible ability to figure out exactly the opposite thing you want her to do or say, jumped on the Angels. You're dead to me blue eyes. This left Katie to redeem all my hard work over the last 5 years. Her eyes darted around the room nervously between my wife and me, unsure of who she wanted to please more. Then with a big toothy smile, she exclaimed, "Cubbies!" A pony for you. I walked upstairs for a few minutes to finish getting ready before heading off to work and could hear them exchanging chants of  "Cubbies"..."Angels" for the next few minutes reminicent of "Left Field Sucks" and "Right Field Sucks" that you'd hear at the bleachers.

It's the little things...

Kazmir vs. Silva is happening right now, no score through three. If the Cubs win this series, the AngelFan wife promises the Angels will take Derrek Lee and Ramirez's contracts off the Cubs hand. If the Angels win, I'll let the girls date before they turn 21.

The Cubs and White Sox square off for the first time to try and win the BP Crosstown Cup. Each member of the winning team gets an oily bird delivered to their doorstep.

The lineup for the Cubs from Muskat over twitter:  rf fuke, 2b riot, 1b lee, cf byrd,
lf sori, 3b tracy, c hill, ss castro, p wells

And the White Sox lineup: Pierre lf, Ramirez ss, Rios cf, Konerko 1b, Jones
rf, AJ c, Beckham 2b, Nix 3b, (Peavy)

According to a caller on WSCR, Randy Wells was out partying with Ryan Dempster and the Blackhawks into the wee hours of the morning. Might as well just warm up Gorzelanny along with Wells to start the game.

Last, but not least, Mordecai Hill has these flattering words to say about your 2010 Cubs.

"It was a perfect situation for the Brewers," Hill said. "They had a guy up there at the plate [in Counsell] who takes a lot of pride in what he does and he practices those situations, so when it does come up, he gets the bunt down to the right side of the field. They have the perfect guy on first base [in Gomez], who is one of the fastest guys in the league, and they had one of the worst fundamental teams on the field, so it was a perfect situation for them."

eh, Go Cubs?

Losers of seven of their last eight games and four in a row, the Cubs try to salvage the finale of the three-game series with the Marlins.

From my office window, I see lots of clouds, fog, and in the alley behind Mr. Beef, a couple guys who look like they're ready to start throwing punches. Forecast says there's a 70% chance of rain by 3pm. I foresee a nearly 100% probability that I'll be disgusted by the second inning.

Unbeaten Randy Wells (3-0, 3.45) matches up with lefty Brian Burres (1-1) as the Cubs try to avoid their first sweep at the hands of the Pirates since 2006. Burres comes into the game with an ERA of 6.00, i.e., about 7 runs per game lower than Charlie Morton, who frustrated the Cubs last night.

A couple wrinkles in the Cubs batting order tonight (aren't there always?):

Cubs: Theriot 6, Byrd 8, Lee 3, Nady 9, Ramirez 5, Soriano 7, Soto 2, Baker 8, Wells 1

Pirates: Iwamura 4, LaRoche 5, McCutchen 8, Jones 3, Doumit 2, Church 9, Milledge 7, Cedeno 7, Burres 1

Finally, this interesting, depressing tweet from @CarrieMuskat: "#Cubs batting .251 on road, but if subtract Milw series 4/23-25 stats, they're only hitting .220 away from Wrigley."

Cubs try to take three of four from Arizona and end the homestand 4-3. Feels a lot like last weekend, when the Cubs were trying to salvage a road trip that started awfully, with three losses in four games at CitiField, then ended on an up note with the sweep at Milwaukee.

Sunday's lineups:

D-backs: 1. Abreu (2B)  2. Drew (SS)  3. Upton (RF)  4. Reynolds (3B)  5. Young (CF)  6. Ryal (1B)  7. Gillespie (LF)  8. Hester (C)  9. Jackson (P)

Cubs: 1. Theriot (SS)  2. Fukudome (RF)  3. Lee (1B)  4. Byrd (CF)  5. Tracy (3B)  6. Soriano (LF)  7. Fontenot (2B)  8. Soto (C)  9. Gorzelanny (P)


The St. Louis Cardinals magic number sits at 11 before game play started today. That means there is a slim shot they could be clinching against the Cubs this weekend. And whether they do it this weekend or next week or the last day of the season isn't really a big deal, but I'd rather avoid watching the spectacle and the future highlights. So here's a rundown of what would need to happen this week with the Cubs at Milwaukee for four and Cardinals at Marlins for three.

To piggyback on Cubby Blue's guest post, now that the Cubs finished that four game warm-up they can start the second half. And before we get too excited about leapfrogging the Brewers and gaining ground on the Cardinals, a quick look at the schedule shows the Brewers still have eight chances to beat down that Nationals piñata and the Cardinals another four, while the Cubs just have a three-game set versus the league slumpbuster.

Speaking of the schedule, starting on September 11th, this is the Cubs last four weeks of regular season baseball in 2009.

Brewers vs. Cubs

I'm taking the weekend off from TCR to spend some much needed time with the family, although I probably will be around parachat for some of the games. We did have a decent chat crowd last night for the opener which always makes it more fun.

....Neal Cotts had Tommy John Surgery.

....Alfonso Soriano will be back at leadoff and left field today.

...Aramis Ramirez, Reed Johnson and Angel Guzman should be back Monday, goodbye Kevin Hart, Sam Fuld and ? (I assume one of Fox, Hoffpauir or Fontenot). Honestly, that Jeff Baker trade is making no sense. I assumed Ryan Freel was going to be the casualty of Aramis returning, but the Cubs created a bigger log jam with the acquisition. There's no doubt that Fox is hot and can handle major league pitching and while he sure hasn't been smooth in the field, he's made the plays so far. Ramirez isn't going to be able to play every day, so wouldn't you want Fox around on those days that he can't play and to give Bradley and Soriano some breaks (a lot more breaks)? I could see Fontenot getting sent down as he's just stunk up the joint, particularly over the last month, but that means committing to a Blanco/Baker second base platoon and having only three middle infielders which Lou doesn't seem to like.  I think Blanco is safe by virtue of being the only capable back-up shortstop on the team, safe at least until Aaron Miles returns.

I guess the answers will come Monday...Happy 4th!

We have the big holiday weekend coming up and the big four-game series to go with it. The Milwaukee Brewers lead the NL Central by a game over the St. Louis Cardinals and 3.5 up on our Cubs. The Brewers are fourth in the NL in runs scored...the Cubs 15th. On the flip side, they are 10th in Runs Allowed and the Cubs are third. As the saying goes, something has to give...

As you'd expect, the pitching matchups favor the Cubs the entire weekend - Seth McClung versus Dempster tonight,  Suppan vs Zambrano tomorrow, Looper vs. Harden on Saturday and Mike Burns vs. Ted Lilly to close the series on Sunday. 

Soriano will sit again tonight, but will be back at the top of the lineup tomorrow. Reed Johnson and Aramis Ramirez start a rehab assignment in Peoria tomorrow and should be joined by Angel Guzman in rejoining the team on Monday.

Tonight's lineup: Fuld (LF), Theriot, Lee, Bradley, Fox, Fukudome, Soto, Fontenot and Dempster.

Go Cubs! 

As mentioned earlier, Aaron Miles has been activated and slugger Jake Fox has been sent down giving the Cubs the worst bench that has ever been assembled. Okay, tonight's actually isn't so bad with the lefty Wandy Rodriguez on the mound: Fontenot, Hill, Blanco, Fukudome and Hoffpauir. But for the next couple of weeks, assuming the normal starters of Fukudome, Fontenot and let's say Miles at second base, the bench will be: Hill, Johnson, Hoffpauir, Scales and Blanco. 

Wittenmyer though says the plan is to give Jake Fox regular at-bats so that they can call him up in 11-12 days so he can sit on the major league bench again when interleague games begin. I suppose he'll DH a bit, but he'll have to fight Hoffpauir for those at-bats and Fox is on the short side of that platoon.  Also, don't be too suprised if Lou changes his mind on all of this in a week and a half and realizes he wants to give some regulars a break by DH'ing them and Fox's defensive limitations get him passed over by the Miles, Scales and Blancos of the world.

Lineup for tonight: Soriano, Theriot, Bradley, Lee, Johnson, Soto, Scales, Miles, Zambrano

versus

Bourne, Tejada, Pence, Lee, Berkman, Blum, Kata, Quintero, Wandy.

Also, the Astros have been flipping starters for tomorrow's finale between the originally scheduled Mike Hampton to Roy Oswalt back to Hampton and currently settling on Russ Ortiz. It's like Cecil Cooper wants to get fired.

This last week was about as fun as mistaking Icy Hot for a tube of KY Jelly...painful and unsatisfying for all the parties involved.  Clearly my absence from TCR of late has greatly affected the morale of the Northsiders, so I'll suck it up and watch the game today. A loss would drop the Cubs back to .500 on the season, with just over a quarter of the season done.

Lou's desperation is showing batting Reed Johnson third versus a righty. If things get ugly again today, I recommend Derrek Lee taking a swing at Chris Young again just for good measure.

(Looks like a late lineup change, Hoff in, Johnson dropped to 5th)

Soriano LF Eckstein 2B
Theriot SS Hairston CF
Hoffpauir 1B A. Gonzalez 1B
Bradley RF Kouzmanoff 3B
Johnson CF Hundley C
Fontenot 2B Headley LF
Soto C D. Macias RF
Scales 3B Wilson SS
Lilly P Young P

Join the crew in Parachat today, let's stew in our misery together.

The Astros and Cubs meet in a 12:05 game at Wrigley following yesterday's washout.

The pitching matchup is a reset of what was scheduled Friday, with Roy Oswalt opposing Randy Wells. Oswalt (1-2) fell to the Cubs on Opening Night and didn't notch a win until his most recent and eighth start of the year, versus the Padres.

From mlb.com:

Oswalt, mainly a fastball-curveball pitcher, admitted he's using his
slider more, for no other reason than "I don't know what I'm doing
right now. I've kind of lost my mind."

Wells is coming off his first Major League start, in which he completed five scorless but event-filled innings against the Brewers. In his brief Major League career, spanning 5 games and 10 1/3 innings for the Blue Jays and Cubs, the 26-year-old righty is still unscored upon.

With Wells going today, Sean Marshall moves into the bullpen until Thursday, when he will go against the Cardinals.

About the Theriot story...I'm no great fan of Rick Telander, but I think he's dead on when he says that MLB owners and players have wrought a situation in which any and every player can find himself the subject of suspicion simply for displaying a sudden power surge or otherwise seemingly uncharacteristic jump in performance.

For the record, Telander said he was pretty sure that the notion was Theriot was a steroids-user was "ludicrous," but that's just the point: none of us, not the fans, not the reporters can be certain any more about anybody. And for that, we can thank Mr. Selig, the owners, Mr. Fehr, and the members of the players union who have opposed testing.

 

GAME 68 PREVIEW CHICAGO CUBS (34-33) at MILWAUKEE BREWERS (31-37) Miller Park, 7:05pm CT, TV: FSN, CSN
SP Tomo Ohka SP Greg Maddux
SS #Neifi Perez CF Brady Clark
CF *Corey Patterson 3B Jeff Cirillo
1B Derrek Lee 1B *Lyle Overbay
RF *Jeromy Burnitz LF Carlos Lee
3B Aramis Ramirez SS Bill Hall
2B *Todd Walker 2B Rickie Weeks
LF *Todd Hollandsworth RF *Geoff Jenkins
C Henry Blanco C Damien Miller
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot
Losing six of seven is a good way to find yourself too close to Mr 500 than is comfortable with a payroll this sizeable. The Cubs now have four against the Brewers to put this right before they head over to US Cellular Field this weekend to wrap up interleague play for the year. Meanwhile, it's becoming quite obvious that Dusty Baker neither reads The Cub Reporter nor thinks along similar lines. It may be the thinking part that's giving him the trouble there. Neifi and Corey continue atop the order, and doubtless they'll do their absolute best to sabotage Derrek Lee's already improbable triple crown bid from there tonight as always. Keep your eyes on the second base prize that is Rickie Weeks. He's a kid that's got a lot of talent but strikes out an unhealthy rate. Sound familiar? Meanwhile, note Lyle Overbay's sub-.300 average! Tomo Ohka was acquired by the Brewers from the Nationals for Junior Spivey. Ohka's peripherals say the only way his current 2.86 ERA is going is up, up, up and away! It'll be nice to see the pitchers batting again. I know I don't fit the traditionalist bill, but I really abhore the designated hitter. Besides missing out on the comedy value of pitchers hitting, it just seems wrong that a player should be allowed to play only half the game. It also makes the game so less tactical. Hey, Dusty, have you considered managing in the AL? Sorry, that's two cheap shots at Dusty in this post already, but I'm becoming increasingly frustrated with him. Don't forget to drop into the Parachat for in-game discussion! And go Cubs!
GAME 60 PREVIEW BOSTON RED SOX (32-28) at CHICAGO CUBS (32-27) Wrigley Field, 2:15pm CT, TV: FOX Greetings from Hannover Germany, where beer and cigarettes are the order of the day! Well, just the beer for me, actually, though I feel like I've been smoking for the last week. I'm checking in from my business trip to deliver some important breaking news. It seems that the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. Not only that, but they're in the middle of a series with the Boston Red Sox, who a) won the World Series last year, and b) before that, hadn't won one since 1918. Why, I had no idea! And apparently neither did anyone else in the country, since that seems to be the only storyline surrounding this series. OK, not the only storyline -- there's also the "Nomar gets his ring, sort of" story. But there's a whole lot more going on in Cub- and Red Sox-land. So here are seven other things that the national media should be talking about: 1. The Cubs have won 11 of their last 13 and are currently 1/2 game out of the wildcard spot. 2. With Kerry Wood and Mark Prior missing significant time with injuries, Carlos Zambrano (4-3, 2.94, 75K/31 BB) has emerged as the ace of the staff and one of the best young pitchers in baseball. 3. Zambrano isn't the best starter on the Cubs this year -- that honor goes to Glendon Rusch (5-1, 2.07, 42/27), who's gunning for the Mr. Unsung Award two years running. 4. Derrek Lee:hitting::German guys:beer drinking 5. N-E-I-F-I 6. The Red Sox are looking up at the Orioles, which is strange, but not as strange as the fact that they're looking down at the Yankees, and can't even see them because the Blue Jays are in the way. 7. Just like the Cubs, the Red Sox are weathering pitching injuries (to David Wells and Curt Schilling), though they're doing it mostly by climbing on Big Papi's back and letting him drag them over .500. I was going to go for ten, but I ran out of steam after two Red Sox ones and, honestly, I don't care enough about them to find three more. Go see what Evan has to say at Fire Brand of the American League if you want more Carmines info. Truth be told, the Red Sox are one of my favorite teams and I was really happy to see them win the Series last year. But I'll be even happier once El Toro shuts them down this afternoon on national TV, thereby verifying his All-Star bona fides, and Rusch does the same on ESPN tomorrow night.
GAME 57 PREVIEW TORONTO BLUE JAYS (30-28) at CHICAGO CUBS (30-26) Wrigley Field, 7.05pm CT, TV: CSN, RSN
SP *Glendon Rusch SP Josh Towers
LF Reed Johnson SS #Neifi Perez
RF Alex Rios 2B *Todd Walker
CF Vernon Wells 1B Derrek Lee
1B Shea Hillenbrand RF *Jeromy Burnitz
3B Aaron Hill 3B Aramis Ramirez
2B Frank Menechino CF *Corey Patterson
C #Gregg Zaun LF *Todd Hollandsworth
SS John McDonald C Michael Barrett
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot
It's been a hard day's drafting for the Cubs. Now they've got a ballgame to play too. Patterson and Walker return to the lineup, and Glendon Rusch, with a multitude of freshly drafted young arms queuing up behind him, takes the mound. Go Cubs!

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