- Wednesday September 10th – Busch Stadium
- Game (145): Cubs 4 – Cards 3
- Record (87-58) – 1st place NL Central
The skinny: Obviously, Lilly’s effort on the mound was the difference in tonight’s game.
But, in an odd sort of way, I think Lilly plowing over catcher Yadier Molina was his best delivery of the night!
Sure, it’s more than a risky move by Lilly – leading with his throwing shoulder into a man that’s 220+ lbs and covered in protective gear – with the playoffs looming, but I have no doubt it sent a spark through the Cubs’ dugout.
Am I silly enough to believe a defense tries harder behind a pitcher who’s willing to take one for the team? You bet!
And despite Lilly’s last outing of just 2.0 innings against Cincy, he’s still (8-4) in his 17 road starts while allowing 3 or fewer runs in 12 of those outings.
Speaking of defense, any question why Felipe Lopez is with his third team in the last three years?
Try an average of 20 errors per season since 2006 (Cincinnati, Washington & St. Louis).
And again, why do teams still run against Soriano???
The Cardinals ran themselves out of the third inning sending Izturis home on Pujols’ single.
Hold Izturis and the Cards put Lilly on the ropes with runners at third and first; next up is the (.296 avg., 32 HR -at the time) hitting Ryan Ludwick.
Thankfully, Ludwick never gets the opportunity to cash in like he did in the ninth against Woody.
Not long ago I said Aramis was my leading vote getter to earn the Cubs’ MVP Award.
I’m making it official as of tonight…Aramis leads the team in RBIs with 103 including having driven in 48 runners in his past 57 games.
Better still, the guy comes through in the clutch, 27 two-out RBIs.
Not too concerned with Wood in the ninth, he should be attacking hitters with a three run lead.
Besides, a save is a save, and Kerry has converted 25 of his last 27 opportunities.
It’s a huge win, takes pressure off the whole team and it sets Hardin up nicely to clinch the series tomorrow.
Not to mention, Houston is the hottest team in the NL, three upcoming games in the Juice Box won’t come easily.
W – Lilly (14-9) – Wood (29)
L – Looper (12-12)
- Notes: D. Lee’s (169) hits is 2nd in the N.L. only to Pujols’ (170).
- Derek has also hit safely in 23 of his past 31 games.
- Lilly is one win shy of his third consecutive 15 win season.
- Sunday September 7th – Great American Ballpark
- Game (143): Reds 4 – Cubs 3
- Record (86-57) – 1st place NL Central
The skinny: You’re nuts if you think Kerry Wood blew this game; Ronnie Cedeno’s error – ruled hit- did.
Cedeno says the ball took a tough hop…maybe so, but he’s paid major league bones to make plays on tough hops, especially game-ending double play hops.
My guess is Ronnie keeps Fukudome company in Lou’s dog house the next two weeks.
Unfortunately, it’s a tough break for a guy I’ve been pulling for all season.
In Cedeno’s last 29 games he’s batting 15-for-43 (.348 avg.) and has 5 RBIs in his last six starts.
But, his gaff this afternoon is a deal breaker with Lou…the skipper won’t stand for such plays in September…(ie) see Fukudome.
Topping things off, the Cubs drop the series against the lowly Reds before heading to St. Louis for a three game set.
Believe it or not, the Cubs haven’t lost a rubber match since July 6th at St. Louis, a string of seven games.
Not to mention, the last time Chicago dropped a road rubber match dates all the way back to May 25th at Pittsburgh, some 15 weeks ago.
Sorry, but the remaining series down the stretch won’t come any easier than Cincy…missed opportunity on the Cubs part to feed off Marshall’s solid outing and to extend the division lead.
Back to business Tuesday.
W – Cordero (5-4)
L – Wood (4-4)
- Notes: The Cubs have lost 7 of its past 8 games, ans 2.5 games on the division lead.
- Geez, what do ya know, the Cubs’ bullpen allowed 15 runs in 10.1 innings pitched during the series: that’s an ERA hovering at 13.06.
- Chicago has 19 games remaining.
- Two cool headlines on milestone markers 456 & 552:
- Saturday September 6th – Great American Ballpark
- Game (142): Cubs 14 – Reds 9
- Record (86-56) – 1st place NL Central
The skinny: The Cubs are back!!!
14 runs, 18 hits, YES, YES, YES!
And boy oh boy, does it feel good to fly the ‘W’ flag again!
Soriano’s 8-year $136 million dollar deal makes him ‘THE MAN’ in this lineup whether he wants to believe so or not.
In the end, when the Cubs are struggling he’s the guy everyone looks at to shoulder the load, period.
Sure, there’s Aramis, Lee, Soto and Edmonds that can -and have- carry this club too, but it’s Alfonso’s duty when the team is mired in a six game losing streak.
Besides, Soriano’s performance tonight single handedly abolished the team’s slump, and how many players in the league can do that? Not many.
Today, Sori was worth every penny at the plate: 3-HRs while tying a career high of 4 runs scored and five RBIs.
Not to mention, last year the guy was money in September as well: (.320 avg), 14 HR…and the Cubs need him more than ever this September to help break the team out of its recent offensive funk.
Speaking of which, Micah Hoffpauir replacing Fukudome in right field is not an off day for Kosuke, it’s a benching.
Kosuke batted (.193 avg.) in August and is hitting 44-for-202 (.218 avg.) in his last 61 games.
At this point Lou has no choice but to find another bat, especially considering the team’s lack of offense during the recent six-game slide.
On the other hand, I hate to see Fukudome’s superior defense sitting on the bench as well, but again, what’s Lou to do?
Also, another solid game from Marquis whose improved his road record to (6-2) in his last nine starts and has lasted 6+ innings in his last 10 starts overall.
Who’d of thunk it two months ago, but Marquis might be a huge player come October if Zambrano and Hardin can’t shake the injury bug.
Of course, that doesn’t seem too terrible now, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that either.
For the time being, what’s most important is that the Cubs take the rubber match against Cincy tomorrow.
From here on out Chicago won’t face another club sub .500 the rest of the season…and there’s only one homestand (6 games) left at Wrigley.
W – Marquis (10-8)
L – Cueto (8-13)
- Notes: Today’s win marks Marquis’ 5th consecutive season of 10 or more wins.
- The right-hander’s eighth inning home run against Gary Majewski is the 8th of his career.
- Chicago‘s five team home runs ties the club’s season high.
- Soriano is the 38th player in Cubs history to notch a three-homer game.
- He’s also just the sixth player in Cubs history to manage multiply 3-HR games:
- Sammy (6), Banks (4), Kingman (3), Aramis (2) and Sauer (2).
- How many more runs (7) would the Cubs’ pen have allowed if Howry pitched this evening?
- Wednesday September 3rd – Wrigley Field
- Game (140): Astros 4 – Cubs 0
- Record (85-55) – 1st place NL Central
The skinny: A five game losing streak can make a man irrational.
So, I took some extra time to digest the Cubs’ loss last night; I hope you don’t mind.
First, a story…it’s the summer of 2003 and I’m working an internship with the Cincinnati Reds.
One Saturday afternoon in the middle of June I’m walking towards Great American Ballpark from my parking spot underneath the yellow bridge east of the ballpark (sorry intern, no parking pass for you).
It’s humid outside and I start working up a good sweat on the 10 minute walk to the yard.
Just as I near the worker’s entrance a taxi pulls up and out jumps a guy who could pass for my high school science teacher, not a major league pitcher.
Nonetheless, there stands Randy Wolf, the Phills’ scheduled starter for the night’s game.
I recognized Wolf right away, say hello as I pass by on the sidewalk and continued my march towards the park’s door.
Surprisingly, Wolf tags along for the final stretch, our conversation going something like this:
- “little warm out,” Wolf said.
- “You’re throwing tonight, right?
- “Good, real good,” Wolf says with a smile.
In the bottom of the first Adam Dunn lines a leadoff home run against Wolf into the right field bleachers (sadly it’s true, Dave Miley batted Dunn leadoff in those days), Reds lead 1-0.
Hummm, ‘so he feels good,’ I think to myself?
But, Dunn’s shot was the beginning of the end for the Reds’ offense; Wolf lasted seven strong innings allowing just 1-R on 2-H with 7-K and no BB.
Ok, so the man felt good.
Phillies win 12-2 and I go home believing Wolf must be one of the friendliest guys in baseball.
Of course, I have no idea if that’s true about Wolf or not, but his kindness towards me that afternoon was very cool – not so much against the Reds through.
That being said, I’d say Wolf felt pretty good this evening when he stepped out of a cab on Addison and Sheffield.
Interestingly, the Cubs’ lineup had nothing working against a guy they slapped around for seven runs in four innings back on May 12th when Wolf was with San Diego.
It’s funny how a uniform can change a man.
Since being traded to Houston, Randy is (3-1) while helping the Astros post the N.L.’s best record since the All Star break (30-15) including the team’s eight-game winning streak.
Bottom line, the Cubs’ hitting slump is bad timing against the surging Stros’.
Here’s the good news though, the Cubs should revive the offense this weekend playing in the Great American SMALLPARK.
Plus, the division lead is basically five games up on the Brewers, who’re in the midst of their own struggles losing 2-of-3 at home against New York.
Watching the team not hit is frustrating, but not too worrisome…the hits and home runs will come with this lineup.
Just consider Chicago‘s 7 through 9 hitters lead MLB with a (.298 avg.)…the hits will come I tell you.
The real worries lie with Big Z…are we talking arm fatigue or injury, September return or done for the year???
What the word Z?
How ya feeling…good?
W – Wolf (9-11)
L – Dempster (15-6)
- Notes: Despite the Cubs’ five-game slid they’ve still won 15 of the past 23 games.
- Florida is now the lone N.L. team not to have lost five straight games this season: the Angles, Rays & Yanks have yet to do so in the A.L.
- Dempster is now (7-3) when following a Cubs loss this year.
- Ryan has also struck out six or more batters in 9 of his past 10 starts.
- Randy Wolf felt pretty good for most of that 2003 season: he finished with a career high 16 wins.
- His brother, Jim, is a MLB umpire.
- Tuesday September 2nd – Wrigley Field
- Game (139): Astros 9 – Cubs 7
- Record (85-54) – 1st place NL Central
The skinny: How do you lose a game scoring 7 runs on 15 hits?
Try three errors and Bob Howry (4-R, 4-H & no outs).
Howry (5.63 ERA) shouldn’t throw another pitch for the Cubs this season.
And, as you well know, I’ve been calling for Howry’s dismissal for months now.
With the roster expanded Lou has to find a viable replacement for Howry to setup Marmol and Wood.
This is imperative people!!!
So, let’s hope Angle Guzman works out, but it shouldn’t have come to this in the first place.
Jim Hendry should have pulled the plug on Howry in July and swung a trade for middle relief…and I don’t care what prospects he needed to give up to complete that trade.
Tonight, Derek Lee missed on two chances for game-winning hits, left 6 men on base and sure enough, grounded into another twin killing.
Why not move Lee out of the three hole?
Not only does Derek lead the world in GIDPs, but he has just 3 HR in his last 62 games.
Furthermore, of Lee’s 18 HRs this season only four have come with men on base.
Sorry, but that’s not three hole material.
Move Lee into the two spot and bat Ramirez third and Soto cleanup.
Plus, why haven’t the Cubs’ hitting coaches changed Lee’s swing???
I’m still concerned about Zambrano too.
By the fifth his velocity dropped into the upper 80′s and he threw just 63 percent of his pitches for strikes overall.
Again, I’d have no problem pushing Z’s next start back another day or two.
Tomorrow is a big game for this club; the seven game homestand comes to a close and the Cubs play 16 of the next 22 games on the road.
Better go get’em on getaway day.
W – Wright (4-3) – Valverde (39)
L – Wood (4-3)
Notes: The last time Chicago dropped a series was July 21-23 at Arizona.
- The last time the Cubs fell in a series at home was June 24-26 vs. Baltimore.
- At Wrigley the Cubs are (51-23).
- Chicago has held first place in the Central Division for 99 straight days.
- Soriano’s leadoff homerun is his fourth of the season and 48th of his career.
- Mark DeRosa has 25 RBIs in his last 26 games and is batting (.323 avg.) at home.
- Derek Lee has not registered a multi-homerun game since September 11th, 2006.
- Zambrano’s 0-for-2 night snaps his 13-game hitting streak; the second longest streak for a MLB pitcher ever: Wilbur Cooper managed 15-games in 1924.
- Z also failed to extend his Major League record of eight straight games with an RBI by a pitcher.
- Vote for Pat Hughes & Ron Santo here.
A few weeks ago I walked down the street and went on the Wrigley Field Ballpark Tour.
That afternoon the Cubs’ were holding tryouts for the organization’s Seventh Inning Stretch competition.
All the participants were lined up in front of the Cubs’ dugout waiting their turn to step up to the microphone and belt out a memorable rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
Yesterday afternoon Gonzalo Palacios, a Spanish-language pastor from Elmwood Park, Ill., won the competition.
I thought he nailed it, vocally and emotionally.
It’s always nice to see good things happen to people who love life, and without question, Gonzo is a lover, both of life and Cubs baseball. Good for him.
Here’s my original post of the ballpark tour, the pics are below.
If you have the chance to take the tour, GO.
The tour begins underneath the famous red marquee
Here's the view from the Comcast Sports Net suite
Hello from the visitor's locker room!
The view from the left field bleacher seats...ummm BEER!
Next, we headed down to the Cubs locker room
Three of my favorites: Marmol, Aramis & Edmonds
My Dad, a.k.a. "The Gare Bear," does his best 'Lou' from the Cubs' dugout
The view from the Cubs' on-deck circle
- Monday September 1st – Wrigley Field
- Game (138): Astros 3 – Cubs 0
- Record (85-53) – 1st place NL Central
The skinny: Last September 1st I was sitting two rows behind home plate at Wrigley Field for a game against the Astros.
I could smell Alfonso Soriano in the on-deck circle. He reeks of money.
Coincidentally, Jason Marquis was on the hill facing rookie left-hander Troy Patton (now with Baltimore).
Marquis tossed 6.2 innings of 2-R baseball and the Cubs edged Houston 4-3 to keep a 1.5 G lead over Milwaukee in the division.
Of course, the Cubs’ lineup looked a lot different than it did today: Ryan Dempster notched his 24th save, Bob Howry had a respectable 3.61 ERA, Jason Kendall was catching, Craig Monroe was in right field and Jacque Jones manned center.
Fast forward to today…Marquis goes 6 innings, allows 2-R, but falls 3-0 against the Astros.
Now, I’ve been hard on Marquis all season, but, despite any comments about the right-hander’s inconsistency, the Cubs just don’t score runs when he’s on the bump.
Take for instance Marquis’ lowest point this season – a four game losing streak from June 26th to August 1st – the Cubs scored one or fewer runs in five of his six starts.
No pitcher wins games with that kind of offensive output.
And although I wouldn’t mind seeing Samardzija replace Jason in the rotation, I hand it to Marquis for being a gammer: he’s lasted into the sixth inning in his last 10 starts while posting a (5-3) road record.
Yet, it’s the same old story for Marquis this afternoon: Cubs get shutout on four hits.
Granted, Roy Oswalt was hurling for Houston, but it’s not like the Cubs have been efficient at the plate lately either.
Since Soriano’s game-winning bomb Friday, the Cubs have strung together 27 consecutive singles without an extra base hit.
On the bright side, Jon Lieber is back after an extended trip on the DL; his return is a huge plus for this bullpen (2-3, 3.43 ERA).
And, Koyie Hill is back after his horrific off season accident in which he severely severed the fingers on his right throwing hand.
W – Oswalt (13-9) – Valverde (38)
L – Marquis (9-8)
- Notes: Here are the September call ups: IF Micah Hoffpauir, IF Casey McGehee, C Koyie Hill & RP Michael Wuertz.
- Also, pitchers Angel Guzman & Jon Lieber were both activated from the DL.
- Chicago has not lost three straight home games since August last year: Mets (0-1), Cincinnati (0-2).
- Jason Marquis is (7-3) during day games and (2-5) under the lights.
- Esquire Magazine put together a list of the best performances singing the national anthem at a sporting event. Ron Messmer’s singing of the anthem at the 1991 NHL All Star game is in the top five.
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- Thursday August 28th – Wrigley Field
- Game (134): Cubs 6 – Phillies 4
- Record (84-50) – 1st place NL Central
The skinny: Most Cubs fans voted Carlos Marmol the team MVP last season, his 1.46 ERA speaking for itself.
However, my ’07 vote went to Aramis and his 26 HRs, 101 RBIs and .310 avg. – Marmol being a close second, mind you.
And I’m sticking with Aramis as team MVP again this year too.
No Cub is a better hitter in the clutch than Ramirez; not Soriano, not Lee, Theriot or Soto.
Ramirez loves the lime light, the drama and the chance to play hero.
His knack at coming through in a pinch isn’t coincidence, the guy lives for it.
And, I love him for it!
Plus, Ramirez is as good as it gets defensively at third; he’s also a solid teammate and a gammer playing through nagging injuries.
So, where would the Cubs be without Ramirez’s 24 bombs and 99 RBIs?
Probably not leading the division, of course.
Still, the better answer is recognizing how important Ramirez is to this lineup when it comes to key situations.
This season Ramirez leads the team in both game-winning RBIs (15) and 2-out RBIs (25).
He is the definition of an MVP type player!!!
Cole Hamels was so dominate this evening you could see the Cubs’ body language change immediately with the lefty out of the game.
Obviously, that left Ryan Madson (who’s no pushover out of the pen, 3.56 ERA entering tonight’s game) in a tough spot; the Cubs eager to see anything but a Hamels’ change-up.
And more, Chad Durbin has been even better for the Phils (1.95 ERA entering the game), but by the time the right-hander relieved Madson the Cubs had the momentum and Aramis at the plate.
Grand Salami – Game over.
Nice relief outing from Bob Howry: 1-2-3 inning, 9 of 10 pitches going for strikes with two ground ball outs and one K.
Most importantly, he protected a one-run lead: it’s about time.
W – Howry (6-4) – Wood (28)
L – Durbin (5-3)
- Notes: Chicago is 34 games above .500 for the first time in 63 years: 34 games in 1945.
- At Wrigley they’re (50-19).
- The Cubs are (9-1) in its last 10 games against lefty starters and (27-12) vs. lefties for the season.
- This is the Cubs’ 38th come-from-behind victory of the season.
- Aramis’ GS is the eighth of his career.
- Thursday August 21st – Wrigley Field
- Game (127): Cubs 3 – Reds 2
- Record (78-49) – 1st place NL Central
The skinny: Pulled a Ferris Bueller and went to the Cubs game this afternoon. I sat nine rows behind the Reds dugout, courtesy tickets from a friend.
It’s good to have friends, isn’t it?
Unless I’m sitting in the bleachers I always seem to enter Wrigley through the main gate underneath the giant red marquee.
I’d like to think as a seasoned baseball fan I’d sniff out the best deal for a brat long before today, but I haven’t, until now of course.
Hidden just inside the gate to the right is a food station called ‘Super Dawgs.’
Get this, a foot long brat for $6.50, all toppings included.
I went bratwurst with grilled peppers, hot peppers, mustard and relish, all for $6.50.
Grab a regular hotdog at one of the main stations and you’re paying $4.50.
Kind of makes me feel like I won one.
Thankfully the weather held off too, the slight drizzle not enough to make me vacate my seat.
Big Z pretty much handled business on both fronts: 1-R, 6-H in 7-IP and smacked his fourth dinger of the season in the third inning.
And despite a monstrous blast from Jay Bruce, Carlos Marmol and Wood did a nice job closing too.
Because it’s the Reds this win will be forgotten about as quickly as it ended, but it’s an important victory.
The Cubs must take advantage of its home-heavy month of August and needed the series win against the last place Red Stockings.
After all, the Reds went 0-for-15 with RISP during the three-game set, and that doesn’t happen too frequently.
How typical for the last place Reds to pay Josh Fogg to pitch (2-6, 7.66 ERA).
He’s even below the right-handed equivalent of an Eric Milton.
Nonetheless, the Reds’ newest outfielder Chris Dickerson looks like a real stud: big, strong and fast.
That’s a heckuva of an outfield with Bruce, Dickerson and Hairston (when back off the DL).
Anyway, back to reality tomorrow, it’s called work for a reason, right?
W – Zambrano (13-5) – Wood (26)
L – Fogg (2-6)
- Notes: Zambrano now has 16 career home runs, five have come against Cincinnati.
- Besides his 13 wins – (4-0) vs. Cincy – the switch hitter also extended his hitting streak to seven games.
- Derek Lee a.k.a “DP Lee,” hit into his league leading 24th twin killing.
- Joey Votto has 15 home runs this season, including a solo shot in the 8th this afternoon, seven have come against Chicago.
- Best marquee sign of the day from Clark St: Without Griffey Reds are Dunn.
- Saturday August 16th – Dolphins Stadium
- Game (123): Marlins 2 – Cubs 1
- Record (75-48) – 1st place NL Central
The skinny: Took in the Chicago Air & Water Show this afternoon.
Fighter jets roared above the downtown skyline while water crafts skipped along Lake Michigan’s coast.
Each time the Blue Angles buzzed North Avenue I got goose bumps!
Meanwhile, the Cubs played another typical game against the Marlins, losing 2-1.
Granted Lou rested some regulars (D. Lee, Aramis and Soto), eight hits, seven walks and 13 left on base should get the job done.
So, no goose bumps from the Cubbies.
Not a bad outing from Sean Marshall, although you’d love to see this guy last into the sixth for a change.
Obviously it’s a bummer the nine-game road winning streak comes to an end, but who ever thought the Cubs would string this many together away from Wrigley to begin with?
A win tomorrow on get-away-day and the Cubs take the series and finish the road trip 5-1, not too shabby.
W – Sanchez (2-2) – Gregg (27)
L – Marshall (2-3)
The Chicago Air & Water Show
That's me on the top left
- Notes: Today’s loss marks the end of Chicago’s nine-game road winning streak.
- The Cubs averaged 8.4 runs per game over the nine-game stretch while batting (.311 avg.).
- This was Marshall’s first start since July 6th.
- Derek Lee went 1-for-2 in collecting his 1,500th career hit.