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Hill Spells Soto

By bullpenbrian - April 8, 2009 - 12:15 am Leave a comment.


Ouch! Soto leaves with a sore shoulder, major bummer. Cubs say he’ll sit for a game or two. If it’s longer I’d place him on the DL. Don’t risk bringing Soto back before he’s ready, the guy is too valuable.

This means Koyie Hill’s feet are put to the fire. Remember, the Cubs let veteran Paul Bako walk in favor of Hill, which, wasn’t a mistake. Hill is young, talented and motivated…I’ll take that over old-goat Bako any day.

No doubt Hill can hold his own behind the plate and the Cubs know he’s an average hitter at best, but that’s all you need in a back-up player. Besides, it’s a nice opportunity for Hill to get his feet wet early in the season – even if it’s at the expense of Soto.


Cubs Opening Day

By bullpenbrian - April 7, 2009 - 12:44 am 4 comments.


I’m wondering if Lou was just posturing this winter about moving Soriano down in the lineup.

Was the skipper’s intention all along to play a simple little mind game with Sori, merely planting a small reminder in Alfonso’s brain that they’re other options for the Cubs at leadoff?

Six weeks of Spring Training and we can count on one hand how many games Sori didn’t bat out of the No.1 hole. And if Lou truly wanted to test Soriano elsewhere in the order wouldn’t we have seen more of that in Arizona?


October Rotation

By bullpenbrian - September 26, 2008 - 1:28 am Leave a comment.

  • Friday September 26th – Miller Park
  • Game (159): Brew Crew 5 – Cubs 1
  • Record (96-63)

The skinny: So, Lou has set the post season rotation as follows: Dempster, Zambrano, Harden & Lilly.

No question Ryan is the No.1 with the opener at Wrigley.

The right-hander is (14-3) at home with a 2.86 ERA including 114 punchouts vs. just 52 walks.

Furthermore, Dempster has allowed just six home runs in 129.0 innings pitched at the Friendly Confines, that’s hugely important in October when home runs are magnified.

And, should the series need a fifth game, Dempster will again pitch at home.

My personal change to the rotation would be dropping Z’ to the four spot, moving Harden to the No. 2 and making Lilly the No. 3.

Might sound nuts, but I would rather see a reliable Harden go instead of Zambrano possibly going coo-coo for CoCo Puffs in front of the home crowd.

Plus, should Z’ bring his A-game on the road, that’ll go a long way in quieting the home crowd.

Still like Lilly going in front of Zambrano too.

The crafty lefty has been hot lately; he’s (7-3) since the All Star break, (3-1) in four September starts and (3-0) in his last three outings.

Plus, Lilly’s road ERA of 3.89 is far better that his home mark of 4.50.

All that being said, the Cubs’ rotation is strong no matter who pitches in what turn, it’s the bullpen that’s the real concern.

Turns out I was right about Howry; Lou is including him on the post season roster.

Of course, I haven’t said many positive things about Howry, and I wouldn’t have him pitching in my post season pen, but it’s worth noting that Howry’s lone positive is his professionalism.

No matter the situation, the righty won’t get flustered or lose his composure on the mound.

That alone makes Howry a valuable addition, but it’s a stretch nonetheless.

Although, given another bad outing by Gaudin tonight and Howry appears to be the hotter hand, sadly enough.

You know things aren’t going well for Gaudin when he allows a go-ahead home run to the (.236 avg.) batting Rickie Weeks.

On the other hand, Edmonds’ long ball this evening is a positive, the Cubs desperately need his left-handed bat in the lineup next week.

And, it seems the veteran is warming up for post season play, he’s notched three dingers in his last eight games.

The next two games seem of little importance to Chicago, but I’d still prefer the Cubs face New York than either Philly or L.A.

And for that to be the case, the Cubs need the next two games.

Tampa Bay Rays winners of the AL East, who knew!!!

W – McClung (6-6)

L – Marshall (3-5)

  • Notes: Cubs have won 10 of 15.
  • They’re (8-6) overall vs. Milwaukee this season, (4-1) at Miller Park.
  • With Edmonds’ blasts the Cubs now have six players with 20+ HR: Soriano, Aramis, Lee, Soto, DeRosa and Jimmy.

Z’s Own Fault

By bullpenbrian - September 24, 2008 - 12:51 am Leave a comment.

  • Wednesday September 24th – Shea Stadium
  • Game (157): Cubs 9 – Mets 6
  • Record (96-61)

The skinny: After Zambrano tossed his no-hitter I had the feeling his monumental achievement would help mellow the guy out on the mound.

Sometimes I sense the right-hander doesn’t feel appreciated by his peers around baseball, that Z’ is bothered by the fact he’s not always mentioned in the same breath as Santana, Webb, Sabathia or Chamberlain.

Sure, Zambrano has the numbers: (96-61) career record, 1,170+ K’s, and (51) road victories since 2002, second only to Johan Santana’s (52).

But, his irrational behavior when an inning goes astray makes him look more like a fool than a staff ace.

Perhaps, I thought, the ‘no-no’ against Houston would change all that, relieve Carlos of his self inflicted pressure to become a ‘recognized’ ace throughout the baseball world.

Essentially, the no-hitter would put Zambrano on the map, permanently.

Well, that’s turned out to be more wishful thinking than true.

And, Carlos has only himself to blame.

Plus, Z’s own refusal to address his ridiculous behavior on the mound seriously puts his future career in jeopardy, as well.

Eventually, the electric bullets in Z’s right arm will dwindle and he’ll stand at the cross road of becoming either extinct or becoming a true pitcher, a hurler who outthinks hitters rather than overpowering them.

That takes mental toughness, not fit throwing antics.

All the great ones make a turn towards learning how to pitch: Maddox, Glavine, Smoltz, Mussina, Pedro..ext.

This is Carlos’ seventh season in the bigs; learning how to handle adversity should be a thing of the past.

The fault lies completely with Carlos, and especially considering his willingness to ignore the advice of his own great manager to mature as a pitcher.

[ Lou ]:

  • “I wish he would just quit fighting himself out there and just relax and pitch and have fun,”
  • “He gets angry when he doesn’t do what he expects to do. It detracts from his ability.
  • I’ve tried to tell him that so many times.
  • He understands when I tell him, and I think he forgets when he pitches.”

It’s not that Z’ forgets, people, it’s that he simple doesn’t care.

And, that’s too bad given his tremendous ability to throw a baseball.

And more, is it crazy-talk to suggest Lou could sport an NLDS rotation with Z’ as the No. 4 starter?

Dempster in game 1, Harden game 2 and Lilly game 3?

Bob Howry escaping a leadoff triple in the ninth is a sports miracle…seriously, did that really happen?

Talked about the importance of Theriot getting on base yesterday…Ryan singles in the 10th, steals second and scores the go-ahead run after a nice piece of hitting on D. Lee’s part.

Again, no player is more clutch in this Cubs’ lineup than Aramis.

Not at all pleased with Cedeno’s play tonight…tardy to cover first on a bunt and then slides into first base trying to beat out an infield hit.

If I were a manager I’d fine players who slide into first…run through the bag, it’s faster than sliding!

I’ll admit to empathizing with Mets fans tonight, well, just a little anyway.

First, the Mets blow an early 5-1 lead, then fail to score the game-winning run after a leadoff triple in the ninth against the dreadful Bob Howry.

Cubs fans have already forgotten about this game, whereas this loss might cost the Mets its chance at winning the NL East or the Wild Card.

It’s a bad feeling, one Chicago fans are far too familiar with.

W – Howry (7-5) – Wood (34)

L – Ayala (2-10)

  • Notes: Zambrano is (7-5) in 14 starts away from Wrigley this year; no decision tonight.
  • Cubs have won 10 of 13.
  • Chicago‘s (38-19) record is the best in baseball during the past two calendar months.
  • The team is (10-6) in extras this season.
  • Lou becomes just the 14th skipper all-time to earn 1,700 big league wins.
  • Piniella is also just the second manager in history to achieve 90+ wins with four different clubs: Yankees, Reds, Mariners & Cubs.
  • Dick Williams was the first to turn the trick: Red Sox, A’s, Expos & Padres.

Cubs Clinch NL Central!

By bullpenbrian - September 21, 2008 - 4:29 pm Leave a comment.

  • Saturday September 20th – Wrigley Field
  • Game (153): Cubs 5 – Cards 4
  • Record (93-60) – Chicago Clinches NL Central!
  • Magic No. – 0!!!

The skinny: For the first time in 100 years the Cubs have managed to reach the post season in consecutive seasons.

What a celebration after the game…players showering each other with champagne, the victory lap around the outfield, the block party on Clark and Addison!

And, as DeRosa said afterwards, “it never gets old.”

Yes, it’s a beautiful thing, indeed!

I talked about it Friday, Ted Lilly has been a big game pitcher for the Cubs all season, and he was again this afternoon too.

The lefty gets over-looked on a staff with Z, Harden and Dempster.

Zambrano always stirs our emotions, both good and bad, Harden’s stuff is electric and Dempster’s return to the rotation has been nothing short of spectacular.

Then, there’s Lilly, the definition of a crafty left-hander, nothing out worldly, nothing flashy, but the guy wins big games.

Lilly was spot-on after the game too, saying this is what the team had in mind since spring training: win the division in front of the home crowd at Wrigley.

St. Louis‘ two errors cost them the game, Ramirez’s stab on Pujols’ liner in the fourth helped seal the division crown.

And, give credit to Lee’s tag on the backend of that play as well.


Lou is right to point out that this Cubs team shouldn’t burden the load of the Cubs’ championship drought.

Sorry Lou, but there’s no getting around it, you certainly can’t live in the past, and you can’t change it either.

And, until this organization goes all the way, the last 100 years will stick to the Cubs like a summer shadow.

However, I believe this Cubs team is up to the challenge of ending the championship curse.

Yes, Chicago winning the World Series can happen, it’s is not impossible, despite what some Cubs fans might think.

Boston dealt with similar issues, similar pressures to win, yet has come out with two rings in the last four years.

No reason the Cubs can’t do the same.

And, if the Cubs mimic its formula for success from this afternoon: strong starting pitching, timely hitting and solid defense; there’s no doubt the club plays the last series in October.

During the post game interviews several Cubs mentioned the presence of Jim Edmonds in the clubhouse this season.

Like him or not, the guy is a true leader.

Edmonds gathered the team in the clubhouse after the game to remind them to keep their collective eyes on the prize.

When you’ve been to the summit and played to the level Edmonds has for the past two decades, your voice is heard.

And, Jim’s left-handed bat will play a huge part in the Cubs’ post season lineup as well.

Soriano, Theriot, Lee, Ramirez, Soto and DeRosa: all right-handed hitters.

Time to celebrate!!! See you tomorrow!

W – Lilly (16-9) – Wood (32)

L – Pineiro (6-7)

  • Notes: For the first time since 1989 (93-69) the Cubs have won 93 games.
  • Lilly’s 16th win is a career-high.
  • The lefty is also (3-0) vs. St. Louis this season.
  • Great quote from LaRussa after the game: “They played the best all year, so they’re the winners.”

Demand Respect

By bullpenbrian - September 19, 2008 - 11:56 pm Leave a comment.

  • Friday September 19th – Wrigley Field
  • Game (152): Cardinals 12 – Cubs 6
  • Record (92-60) – 1st place NL Central
  • Magic No. – 1

The skinny: Give credit to Z for taking the mound after losing his grandmother earlier this week.

Mainly, it seems the 48 hours he spent traveling to Venezuela and back took its toll on the right-hander physically.

Hind sight 20/20, there’s no complaints if Z’s start is pushed back to Saturday or Sunday, but Z taking the mound actually helped keep the Cubs rotation stable for the remainder of the season.

And thankfully, the Cubs have earned the privilege to forget about today’s game with a nine-game lead in the division.

Of course, there’s no excuse for Carlos storming off the mound before Lou makes it to the bump to relieve Z of his duties.

Being a professional (in any field) includes handling both success and failure with grace, a lesson Z has yet to learn.

Plus, there’s also a difference between wearing your emotions on your sleeves and acting disrespectful.

Zambrano chose the latter and once again looked foolish and childlike on the field.

Yet, as usual, the way Lou handled Z’s fit was perfect; point the pitcher back towards the mound and demand respect.

Still, that’s Zambrano for you; one minute he thrills you, the next he drives you crazy.

Best news of the day (besides the Blackhawks beginning training camp), Brewers lose 11-2 at Cincinnati: reducing the Cubs’ magic number to 1.

Still, winning tomorrow won’t come any easier.

The Cards are still within reach of the Wild Card and LaRussa will use all his tricks against the rival Cubbies.

That being said, Ted Lilly has been a big game pitcher all season long for Chicago.

Not to mention, he’s (2-0) with a 2.54 ERA against the Cards this season.

No question tomorrow is the biggest game of the year for the Cubs.

Lilly is ‘the man’ and the Cubs will come to play…nothing like washing a bad taste out of your mouth with a little champagne!

W – Wainwright (10-3)

L – Zambrano (14-6)

  • Notes: Tomorrow’s game will be broadcast nationally by Fox as the Saturday Game of the Week.
  • The Reds’ Johnny Vander Meer (1938) is the only pitcher in history to post back-to-back no-hitters: June 11th vs. Boston & June 15th vs. Brooklyn.
  • Despite having not won a World Series in 100 years, the Cubs are also looking to reach the post season in consecutive season for the first time in 100 seasons as well (1907-08).

It’s A Beautiful Thing!

By bullpenbrian - September 18, 2008 - 12:23 am Leave a comment.

  • Thursday September 18th – Wrigley Field
  • Game (151): Cubbies 7 – Brew Crew 6
  • Record (92-59) – 1st place NL Central
  • Magic No. – 2

The skinny: You can just tell the Cubs see the finish line.

The team’s four run ninth had everything to do with not giving in, not wanting to lose.

And it’s a beautiful thing to watch day-in and day-out!

Can’t get enough of Aramis either…no questioning the fact he’s the Cubs’ MVP in the lineup this season.

Going 2-for-4 today, Aramis is now 7-for-11 on the homestand including 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 4-R, 3 2B, & 2-BB.

He also extends his hitting streak to 10 games batting 18-for-40 during the streak.

And, in his last 23 games Ramirez has 6 HR and 26 RBIs which, includes (3) three-run jacks and a grand salami.

Not to forget, his two-out double in the ninth kept the Cubs alive for big Geo’s moment of glory.


And while we’re handing out awards, Geo gets rookie of the year too, his game-tying three-run bomb in the ninth seals the deal.

The catcher’s overall numbers stand at (.285 avg.) 23 HR & 86 RBIs. What’s to argue?

Also, D. Lee needed this game-winning hit more than any other player in this Cubs lineup.

Yes, Lee has been consistently good at getting on base, but it seems his clutch plate appearances always end with a weak fly out to right field or a rally-killing double play ball.

Recently though, Lee has been building up for a big hit that finally came in the 12th this afternoon.

Derek has three extra base hits in his last four games, has driven in five RBI in his last six contests and improved his hitting streak to five games.

Not in favor of home plate umpire Ed Rapuano’s decision to toss Edmonds in the middle of an at-bat.

Clearly, both pitches to Jim were outside…close, yes, but outside.

And sure, Edmonds has every right to quip about the calls…his bread and butter is driving the ball the other way…the game is on the line…so, if the pitches are outside say something!

Besides, that’s what Lou expects from his players, and especially from a long time veteran like Edmonds.

And more, two of Edmonds last five hits are home runs…so; losing Jim to Felix Pie is a huge turn of events at the dish.

Today is a prime example of why I continually scream DEFENSE MATTERS!

DeRosa’s botched double play ball in the sixth kept the door open for Milwaukee to tack on four runs, all unearned.

And, if it’s not for the Cubs’ miraculous comeback, that’s the deciding play in the game.

On the flip side, DeRo has been huge for this team playing six different positions while committing just 11 errors overall.

Why do teams still run against Soriano???

Not that I mind, but WHY, WHY, WHY???

What do the advance scouts see with Alfonso’s arm that I don’t?

Obviously, not the best outing from Harden…115 pitches, 7 walks, but he did keep himself and the Cubs in position to win the game.

Still, I’m far from being too critical about Rich: 5 of his 11 starts have been quality outings, he’s allowed just 12 ER in 65 IP, and he’s (5-1) overall with Chicago.

All this being said, there’s not a Cubs fan alive who’ll forget this game, how could you?

The ninth inning rally with two outs, Geo’s smash of a home run, Wood working out of two jams in extras, Edmonds getting tossed and D. Lee’s game-winning hit!

It’s a beautiful thing!!!

W – Wood (5-4)

L – Villanueva (4-7)

  • Notes: The Cubs have won 9 of its last 10 rubber matches.
  • Harden made his 100 career start this afternoon.
  • In Oakland the right-hander made 89 starts going (36-19).
  • Against the N.L. Harden has a career (10-2) record.
  • 53 of the Cubs 92 wins have come at Wrigley.
  • Chicago lead the NL in runs scored with (803).
  • Big Geo has reached base safely 42 times in his last 29 games.

Soriano Is So September

By bullpenbrian - September 16, 2008 - 12:14 am Leave a comment.

  • Tuesday September 16th – Wrigley Field
  • Game (149): Cubs 5 – Brew Crew 4
  • Record (91-58) – 1st place NL Central
  • Magic No. – 4 G

The skinny: Alfonso Soriano now has 20 HR in 40 September games during his two seasons with the Cubs.

More recently, the left fielder has 7 HR in his last 15 games pacing the Cubs on its five-game winning streak.

And tonight, his seventh inning blast off CC basically flushed Milwaukee’s season down the crapper too.

Speaking of which, I understand Milwaukee’s intentions in firing Ned Yost before the Cubs series, yet I strongly disagree with club’s decision to dismiss its manager.

If there was ever a time to fire Yost it was after his team blew its 8.5 game lead in the Central last year, and not with less than two weeks in the regular season to go this year.

Yet, the Crew decided to bring Yost back in ’08 showing its loyalty to a guy who made due for years without good players on the roster.

Now, the organization’s bid to energize the club at the cost of Yost’s head only reaffirms the Brewers’ worries that its post season aspirations are spinning out of control.

If I‘m Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin, I tell Yost to create a distraction like the incident between Manny Parra and Prince Fielder in Cincy a few weeks ago.

Remember that the Brewer followed the dugout head-butting between Parra and Fielder on a tear while also taking control of the Wild Card.

Now suddenly the answer to a team’s struggle is to can the manager with less than two weeks to go in the regular season?

Sure, I’ll be the first to say that Yost protected his players more than he should have this season.

But have the skipper call some players out, punch a water cooler or do something to stir the pot before canning the man whose team one game out in the Wild Card.

Yeah, it’s ok for the front office to disagree with the manager’s philosophy, but why risk upsetting a clubhouse that’s with striking distance of its first post season birth in 26-years?

On the other hand, what makes Lou such a dynamic manager is that he understands when to protect his players and when to challenge them.

Cubs lose nine in a row a Lou goes bananas after the game; afterwards his team rebounds on a five-game winning streak.

Next time stir the pot Ozzie Guillen style Ned!

Anyway, back to the Cubbies…loved the way Dempster battled tonight: 114 pitches, 1-BB & 9-K.

The right-hander has now produced 10 quality starts in his last 14 outings going (7-3) in that span.

Plus, his 13 home wins are the most by a Cubs pitcher since Fergie posted 13 at Wrigley in 1971.

And, Dempsters’ 13 home wins are three more than any of his other competitors in MLB.

I’ve said before Aramis is the Cubs’ MVP in this lineup.

The guy continually comes through in the clutch and the bigger the stage for Ramirez the better.

Tonight was no exception for the third baseman against Sabathia, who had yet to lose a game in a Brewers uniform: 3-for-4, 2 RBIs.

Final thoughts: great ‘D from Reed and Aramis, and another strong outing from Bobby H who nearly watched CC go yard before walking the tying run on four pitches.

W – Dempster (16-6) – Wood (31)

L – Sabathia (15-9) – (9-1)

  • Notes: Of the Cubs 91 wins, 51 have come at Wrigley.
  • That’s the most home wins for Chicago since posting 56 in 1935.
  • Since September 1st the Cubs have extended its lead over the Brewers in the Central from 4 G to 8 G.
  • The last pitcher to win more than 13 home games in a season is Russ Ortiz who ended his 2003 campaign in Atlanta with 14 wins at Turner Field.

No No Notes

By bullpenbrian - September 15, 2008 - 6:39 pm Leave a comment.
  • Carlos tossed the 13th no-hitter in Cubs history and the first in 36 years (Milt Pappas – Sept. 2nd 1972)
  • Eight of the Cubs’ 13 no-no’s have come during the modern era of baseball, five happened in the 1800’s.
  • The 36 years between no-hitters is the third longest stretch in baseball: Philly waited 58 years (1906-54) and Detroit 38 years (1913-51).
  • The Mets (46 years) and Padres (39 years) are the lone teams in MLB without ever having thrown a no-hitter.
  • Z is the third Venezuelan to ever throw a no-hitter: the White Sox’s Wilson Alverez (Aug. 11, 1991) and Florida’s Anibal Sanchez (Sept. 6, 2006).
  • Carlos is the first pitcher to throw a no-no with his last name beginning with a Z.
  • He is also the first Cubs pitcher to record 10 strikeouts during a no-hitter.
  • The no-hitter is the first in Miller Park’s history.
  • Ken Holtzman is the last Cubs pitcher to throw a no-hitter on the road (June 3, 1971 at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium).
  • Zambrano and Holtzman are the only Cubs pitchers to throw a no-hitter in a night game.

Zambrano’s No-Hitter!

By bullpenbrian - September 14, 2008 - 6:19 pm Leave a comment.

  • Sunday September 14th – Miller Park
  • Game (147): Cubs 5 – Astros 0
  • Record (89-58) – 1st place NL Central

The skinny: 110 pitches, 73 for strikes, NO HITS!!!

Great day for Zambrano. Great day for Cubs fans!

From the seventh inning on, I paced back and forth in front of the television like a caged lion, waiting on edge for Z’s next pitch.

Theriot waiting for the long-hop off Castillo’s grounder about did me in, I’m talking down on hands and knees!

But at long last, Erstad swings and misses and the Cubs’ have its first no-hitter in 36 years!!!

Props to Carlos for keeping it together mentally. If only this would last…

The talent, of course, has always been there. Mentally, not so much. If only…

Anyway, loved WGN playing Van Halen’s “On Top of the World” as the Cubs celebrated.

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The Cubs needed something special from its ace with the pressure of the division race building. Eight innings of three runs or less would’ve got the job done. So we can only hope a no-hitter adds a little extra steam to the playoff push.

Remember, September has been tough on the Cubs, no Harden, no Zambrano, and a nine-game losing streak.

Meanwhile, it seems the only team playing worse than Chicago is Milwaukee, thankfully.

What a day to be a Brewers fan.

The Crew drops four straight at Philly, falls into a tie for the Wild Card, and watches the hated Cubs celebrates a no-hitter on their home field.

So, how about that Aaron Rodgers guy?

W – Zambrano (14-5)

L – Wolf (10-12)

  • Notes: Zambrano’s Line: 9 IP, 0-R, 0-H & 10 Ks.
  • Carlos retired the final 13 batters he faced.
  • Michael Bourne drew the only walk against Carlos in the fourth with one out: the next batter, Miguel Tejada, grounded into a double play.
  • In the fifth Zambrano plunked Hunter Pence with two outs, David Newhan followed by lining out to D. Lee ending the inning.
  • Carlos also went 1-for-3 with a single in the third inning; he later scored on Lee’s double to right.
  • Soriano’s lead off homerun is his 28th this season and the 49th leadoff bomb of his career.

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