Gameday Open Thread

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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SP Ben Sheets SP Jason Marquis
13-8, 2.97, 155 K, 45 BB, 194 IP
10-8, 4.36, 84 K, 60 BB, 154.2 IP
       
CF Mike Cameron LF Alfonso Soriano
2B #Ray Durham 2B *Mike Fontenot
3B Ryan Braun 1B Derrek Lee
1B *Prince Fielder 3B Aramis Ramirez
SS J.J Hardy CF *Jim Edmonds
RF Corey Hart RF Mark DeRosa
3B *Craig Counsell C Geovany Soto
C Jason Kendall SS Ryan Theriot
P Ben Sheets P *Jason Marquis

 

The Marlins took care of business for the Cubs, so it means a Cubs sweep will clinch the division. Tonight is the win they'll have to steal with Marquis on the mound against Ben Sheets. 

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SP *C.C. Sabathia SP Ryan Dempster
(NL) 9-0, 1.59, 102 K, 21 BB, 102 IP
15-6, 3.02, 173 K, 74 BB, 190.2 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 C Geovany Soto
RF Corey Hart RF Mark DeRosa
3B *Craig Counsell CF Reed Johnson
C Jason Kendall 2B Ronny Cedeno
P *C.C. Sabathia P Ryan Dempster

 

The last homestand of the regular season and the Cubs will be looking to clinch a spot in the playoffs in front of their home fans and secure their second straight division crown. Dempster goes tonight hoping to take sole possession of the Cubs win lead over Ted Lilly, who tied him yesterday with 15 (Zambrano has 14).

New Brewers manager Dale Sveum leads the troops into Wrigley and will get to send Sabathia and Sheets in the first two games. That should make him look like a geniuis. Sabathia has started 13 games for the Brewers, all good enough to be considered quality starts. The Cubs though are 28-14 versus lefties this year and 14-5 at home. My, how times have changed for our Cubs.

As I mentioned earlier, if the Cubs sweep the Brewers, they'll need the Marlins to win at least one versus the Astros over the next  3 games to clinch. If they can take two out of three, that'll give them the weekend to finish the job before they have to head out on the road again.

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SP *Ted Lilly SP Brian Moehler
14-9, 4.29, 166 K, 60 BB, 184.2 IP
11-6, 4.16, 76 K, 33 BB, 138.1 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano CF Reggie Abercrombie
2B *Mike Fontenot 2B Mark Loretta
1B Derrek Lee SS Miguel Tejada
3B Aramis Ramirez 1B #Lance Berkman
RF *Micah Hoffpauir RF Hunter Pence
C Geovany Soto 3B Jose Castillo
CF *Jim Edmonds LF *Darin Erstad
SS Ronny Cedeno C Humberto Quintero
P *Ted Lilly P Brian Moehler

 

This sure is a tough turn-around. It's like partying all night, hooking up with a few perfect 10 models and then having to drag your ass back to your job the next morning. Only your job is located in a city that smells either like fermenting yeast or a tannery depending on which way the wind blows (true story, that is how Milwaukee smells).

Cubs go for the sweep (I guess) with Ted "Knockout" Lilly on the mound. The only way to top last night's game is either a perfect game or a four homer game by one of our hitters. I expect nothing less.

[Updated 10:40 by ruz]: Whoooooooo!!!!!!! 

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SP Carlos Zambrano SP *Randy Wolf
13-5, 3.58, 117 K, 64 BB, 173.1 IP
10-11, 4.45, 146 K, 67 BB, 174 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano LF *Darin Erstad
SS Ryan Theriot CF *Michael Bourn
1B Derrek Lee SS Miguel Tejada
3B Aramis Ramirez 1B #Lance Berkman
C Geovany Soto 3B #Geoff Blum
RF Mark DeRosa RF Hunter Pence
CF Reed Johnson 2B *David Newhan
2B Ronny Cedeno C Humberto Quintero
P #Carlos Zambrano P *Randy Wolf

 

About 72 hours and one hurricane ago, the Cubs held on to beat the Cardinals, 3-2, and extend their NL Central lead over the Brewers to 5 1/2 games. As the Cubs and Astros take the field tonight at Miller Park, where they have been driven by Hurricane Ike, the Cubs' lead is 6 1/2, and the Brewers are desperately trying to hold off the Phillies and Astros for the Wild Card lead.

The Astros, who must surely have many other things on their minds right now besides baseball, have won six in a row and 14 of their last 15 to claw back into post-season contention. (They were 11 games behind the Brewers as recently as 8/27.) One of the highlights of the hot streak, and one of the lowlights of the Cubs season, was the three-game sweep the Astros pulled off at Wrigley, beginning on Labor Day. Randy Wolf, tonight's Houston starter, was the winning pitcher in the series finale, throwing a complete game shutout in one of the better efforts of his career.

Carlos Zambrano returns to action tonight, having been sent to the sidelines 12 days ago with shoulder tendinitis. Z's last start, against this same Houston club in that same nasty series at Wrigley Field, only lasted five innings before he asked to come out.

Funny pre-game note via Gordon Wittenmyer's Twitter feed:

Astros sticking it to Cubs by every means possible -- including forcing the less familiar, bigger, nicer home clubhouse on them. 

Rob G. Update: Apologies for the server crash or whatever it was this afternoon...should be fixed now.

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SP Rich Harden SP Todd Wellemeyer
(NL) 4-1, 1.50, 75 K, 18 BB, 54 IP
12-6, 3.74, 116 K, 51 BB, 168.1 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano SS *Skip Schumaker
SS Ryan Theriot LF #Aaron Miles
1B Derrek Lee 1B Albert Pujols
3B Aramis Ramirez RF Ryan Ludwick
RF Mark DeRosa 3B #Felipe Lopez
2B *Mike Fontenot 2B *Adam Kennedy
C Geovany Soto C Jason LaRue
CF Reed Johnson P Todd Wellemeyer
P *Rich Harden SS #Cesar Izturis

 

The Cubs last game for at least two days as they'll head home after the game and wait out Hurricane Ike. Rich Harden returns after skipping a start, now ready to throw 110 mph and strike out the 27 batters on 81 pitches...anything less would be disappointing.

Brewers and Phillies start a four game set, so there's a good chance one of the Cubs magic numbers will go down today although the playoff magic number is now muddled by the Cardinals and Astros who are tied with the Phillies in the lost column. The best thing is to just win tonight - let's say 15-0 - and then let the other teams duke it out while the Cubs watch the carnage over the weekend.

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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."

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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.

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.

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