Lou talked about the lack of intensity after the game. Says his team needs to realize they have a bull’s-eye on their back after winning back-to-back NL Central titles.
The lack of intensity was clear Wednesday afternoon. The end result – a 10-0 shutout - marked the worst effort by the Cubs this season and, a (2-4) road trip.
Chicago has scored fewer runs (95) than runs allowed (96). And that has everything to do with the offense – not the pitching.
Respectfully speaking, this isn’t a game you tip your cap to Doug Davis. The Cubs lineup was brutal. Two hits and two men in scoring position all afternoon against a guy who threw 116 pitches in seven innings – plate discipline was non existent.
And while Aramis’ return should help, it means little if the guys around him – Lee, Bradley and Soto – can’t hit.
It was fun watching Zambrano pull a role reversal on the D-backs.
And while Z fell a bit short of topping Dan Haren’s performance on the mound Monday night, he certainly made up for it with his bat – only missing a triple to complete the cycle.
Without question, Zambrano is the most dangerous hitting pitcher in the game – Micah Owings coming in second.
Yesterday, I was concerned about Soriano feeling some ill affects from being nailed in the noggin on Sunday. That worry left the yard with his three-run blast in the third.
Sori has been locked in from the opening bell. Healthy legs have brought back his power stroke and, the guy isn’t flailing at pitches out of the strike zone either.
Plus, the leadoff debate is officially over, which, keeps Alfonso happy in the leadoff spot.
Now, we can only hope the offensive outburst continues Wednesday. Another blow out would go a long way in restoring some confidence in the lineup top to bottom.
This one felt like the ’07 Division Series all over again. Cubs go to Arizona, Lilly pitches poorly – Cubs lose.
Walks can kill you. They did Monday night against Lilly. Having allowed just two free passes all season, his two walks in the fourth inning loaded the bases for the never dangerous Dan Haren.
Truly though, the pitcher’s two-run double is more of a bad break for Lilly than anything else. But give Haren credit – he put the bat on the ball and made his own break.
Soriano’s leadoff job is a big relief. You never know how well a player will respond after being plunked in the head. Let’s hope the bomb restored some confidence in Sori – assuming the beanball must have had some mental affect on him.
It appears Soto is taking his poor at-bats to the field and vice versa. Lou is sitting him for Tuesday’s game – couldn’t agree more with the manager’s decision.
- Monday July 21st – Chase Field
- Game (99): D-Backs 2 – Cubs 0
- Record (58-41) – 1st place NL Central
- 20-Games in 20-Days – (1-3)
The skinny: Tonight’s game is one the Cubs will look back on should they fail to make the playoffs.
Rich Harden allows 1-run on 1-hit with 10 K’s and losses the game.
And better, you can also figure the previous four games into this equation as well, the Cubs dropping three of four since returning from the All Star break.
During this stretch we’ve seen the Cubs waste three solid outings from its starting staff and score a grand total of two runs in its three losses.
Let’s face it; this is the worst the Cubbies have played all season long.
And again, I hope this stretch won’t come back to haunt this club in September.
Nonetheless, this week’s performance will stay in the back of my mind as the NL Central race tightens.
Think about this too, CC Sabathia is (3-0) since joining the Brew Crew, and those wins all occurred before Milwaukee’s recent four-game road winning streak after the All Star break.
Meanwhile, the Cubs’ Rich Harden has two NDs and Chicago has dropped three of four.
And by the way, Arizona is not the team many fans think they are, and they’re certainly not better than Chicago.
Sure, the D-Backs have a tremendous starting staff, but the backend of its bullpen is shaky and the lineup doesn’t score many runs (they’re just +5 in run differential).
Not to mention, the entire West division is sub .500, including Arizona (49-50)!
And, for these reasons I still have the Snakes finishing in second place behind the Dodgers out west.
Bottom line, the Cubs should take two of three in this series, and especially when the Old Unit is on the mound (5.23 ERA entering tonight’s game).
But while the Cubs occasionally made solid contact against Johnson, the D-Backs also made several outstanding plays defensively.
Of course, the Cubs can do nothing about the Snakes’ web gems; however, Jim Edmonds (the lone left-handed batter in the starting lineup) shouldn’t have been the Cubs’ best hitter this evening with a lineup dominated by right-handed hitters facing Randy Johnson.
So, while Edmonds went 1-for-2 with a walk, the right-handed hitters in Chicago’s lineup managed one hit against Johnson: Reed Johnson’s dribbler. Not good.
And more, even when the D-Backs’ committed a ninth inning error putting two runners on with no outs and the go-ahead run at the plate, the Cubs still failed to take advantage of the situation.
Instead, D. Lee (who leads the NL in GIDPs) follows up the Arizona miscue with a 6-4-3 double play while Aramis grounds out weakly to second base ending the game.
Folks, we’ve seen this story before, I even talked about it in Saturday’s post…
- Yes, I’m concerned about the Cubs’ lack of offense on the road, especially in this tight NL Central race.
And it’s up to Lee, Aramis or Edmonds to carry the lineup until Soriano gets back from the DL.
If not, we can expect more of the same; more close losses away from Wrigley.
Furthermore, what more can I say about Bob Howry?
It’s about time the Cubs rid themselves of Howry, he’s not setup material anymore and it’s also unlikely he’ll last as a right-handed specialist.
Moreover, after Howry allowed another late run tonight, I have zero confidence in the tall right-hander’s ability to hold a late lead.
And unfortunately, this trend doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon, which is a serious issue should Woody land on the DL (blister).
Anyway, here’s my take on the issue from Friday’s post…
- I’ll keep saying this because I believe it’s true…Bob Howry is not the same pitcher he was a year ago.
Miguel Tejada has always been a good high-ball hitter, but Howry decides to challenge the batter with some high-heat anyway; Tejada cracks a leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth and later scores the game-winning run.
Last year Howry wins this battle, this year it seems he hasn’t won any.
Interestingly, Howry’s troubles don’t appear to be an arm issue, he topped 94 mph on the radar gun tonight. Where the troubles begin, I don’t know.
Still, Lou can’t rely on Howry in close situations anymore, the tall right-hander is (3-3) with an inflated 4.66 ERA. That’s not setup material.
Also, this isn’t the month of May anymore, we’re in mid-July now and this season is 96 games old.
So, I don’t expect Howry to just turn things around at this point, although it would be extremely helpful if he could, but don’t count on it.
It’s not my intention to keep repeating myself, but I have nothing more to add about Howry’s poor performance other than the fact I appreciate his professionalism on and off the field, but I’m disappointed the guy appears to have lost his form this season.
W – Johnson (7-7) – Qualls (2)
L – Harden (5-2)
- Notes: Lou announced he’s cancelling batting practice for the rest of the series in Arizona.
- Rich Harden is the first Cubs’ pitcher of the modern era to post back-to-back double digit strikeout games in his first two starts.
- Harden’s season high for pitches throw is 115, he tossed 112 this evening.
- In 14 career starts against the Cubs Randy Johnson is 13-0.
- The Unit’s victory tonight gives him 291 career wins.
- Tonight’s final score marks the second time this season a team has won a game while collecting just two hits: on June 28th the Giants notched two hits in defeating the A’s.