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Going Through The Big D

By bullpenbrian - August 15, 2008 - 1:44 am Leave a comment.

  • Friday August 15th – Dolphins Stadium
  • Game (122): Cubs 6 – Marlins 5
  • Record (75-47) – 1st place NL Central

The skinny:  I could hear the cheers around Wrigleyville echoing through my apartment window before big D. Ward’s pinch hit HR fell into the right field seats.

What a huge emotional lift for the Cubs and specifically the team’s primary pinch hitter.

Prior to Ward’s at-bat, the slugger was swamped in an 0-for-13 slump, and just 4-for-20 coming off the bench all year, a far cry from his .327 pinch-hit average a year ago.

Give Lou credit for sticking with the big man–through thick and thin.

Ward is, after all, a rare catch by pinch hitting standards: professional at-bats, high contact hitter and has some power, too.

No question Ward’s game-winning blast immediately rerouted the focus from Zambrano’s poor outing to the team’s dramatic one-run win.

Although Carlso is winless in his last three starts, I’m without worry. There appears to be nothing wrong with him physically, just the usual lose nuts and bolts upstairs.

I’m simply chalking up Zambrano’s outing as a bad day. Besides, Ward’s given us reason to celebrate!

W – Gaudin (9-4) – Wood (25)

L – Gregg (6-5)

  • Notes: Tonight’s win marks the Cubs 35th come-from-behind win of the season, that leads MLB.
  • Ward’s PH dong is the 11th of his career.
  • His last hoe run came July 22nd at Arizona.
  • DeRosa’s 14th HR is a new career-high.
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Wrigley Field Tour

By bullpenbrian - August 14, 2008 - 12:54 am Leave a comment.

  • Thursday August 14th – Turner Field
  • Game (121): Cubs 11 – Braves 7
  • Record (74-47) – 1st place NL Central

The skinny: This afternoon I did the Wrigley Field ballpark tour.

From start to finish the tour was timely, informative and money well spent.

Plus, the Blue Angles continually buzzed the stadium while practicing for this weekend’s Air & Water Show and the weather was impeccable too: 75-degrees and sunny.

Soon I’ll upload some pictures from the tour onto the site as well.

Basically, here’s how it works. A ballpark tour guide leads a group of 30 or so people around the yard while talking about the history and nuances of Wrigley Field.

We began the tour sitting in the third base grandstands, then moved to the luxury suites, next through the press box, followed by the visitor’s locker room, moved down to the bleacher seats and finally wrapped things up with the Cubs’ locker room and a trip onto the playing field.

My favorite part, the visitor’s locker room: it’s small, outdated, yet overflowing with history.

It’s surreal knowing you’re standing in the same room that was once occupied by Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Roberto Clemente and even Vince Lombardi – just to name a few.

As for the game this evening, the benches clearing probably helped release some pressure from both parties.

And most importantly, no Cubs were injured in an unnecessary field brawl.

I’m a huge Tommy Glavine fan, but the 42-year-old is looking his age: 7-R, 7-H, 4-BB & 2-HR (4-IP).

I hope the southpaw Hall of Famer hangs it up after this season.

So, the Cubs’ sweep against the Braves gives the team eight straight road victories.

Don’t look now, but Chicago is merely one game below .500 on the road (29-30).

It’s all about the offense folks…the Cubs have scored 6(+) runs in all eight games.

And better still, the club has scored 5 or more runs in 20 of its last 22 victories: WOW!

Obviously, it’s wonderful the offense is clicking on all cylinders, but what happens if it sputters?

Gee, I hope the team won’t have to rely on Bob Howry (5.53 ERA): 3-R, 4-H, in 0.2 innings pitched tonight.

Still, watching the Cubs play this past week has been a real treat; tremendous hitting, solid pitching and several outstanding defensive plays have preserved its 4G lead in the Central.

Look out tomorrow though; it’s those damn Marlins again.

No question things haven’t gone the Cubs way in Miami lately, but maybe an eight-game winning streak can reverse the team’s poor fortunes at South Beach.

Also, how many people do you think would show up for a ballpark tour of Dolphin Stadium?

W – Lilly (12-6)

L – Glavine (2-4)

  • Notes: The Cubs have won 7 of 8 and 14 of its last 17 games overall.
  • They’ve also improved its road record to just one game below .500 at (29-30).
  • Chicago is (7-0) in its last 7 starts against left-handers.
  • They’re also (24-11) on the season when facing a lefty.
  • Ted Lilly has identical home and road records this season, (6-3).
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08-08-08 0-Edmonds!

By bullpenbrian - August 8, 2008 - 1:33 am Leave a comment.

  • Friday August 8th – Wrigley Field
  • Game (116): Cubs 3 – Cardinals 2 – 10 innings
  • Record (70-46) – 1st place NL Central

The skinny: Call him ‘Jimmy Business’: today’s game was a personal matter for Mr. Edmonds.

Two clutch home runs – the first shot giving Chicago a 1-0 lead, the second tying the game 2-all in the seventh – against the team that left him for dead.

It’s just another reminder that anything is possible when you’re inspired.

For weeks I’ve campaigned on Jimmy’s behalf for Cubs fans to adopt the once hated Cardinal.

Yet, despite Edmonds leading the team in batting during June, his two home run effort in one inning against the Sox, his dramatic Wrigley Field blast against the Braves and his grand slam against the Brewers, Cubs fans still find reasons to shun the man.

Sorry, there are no more excuses to do so after today’s game.

In Edmonds’ last 14 starts he’s collected 14 RBIs while batting .357 (15-for-42), and 13 of his last 17 hits have gone for extra bases (7 2B & 6 HR).

I get it, the guy use to be a Cubs killer, but what’s not to appreciate about Edmonds’ play with Chicago?

Including today’s effort, Ted Lilly has 15 quality starts in 25 outings this season.

Sure, he’s been prone to allowing the long ball and his strikeout totals don’t compare to Zambrano or Hardin, but don’t underestimate Lilly’s value to this starting staff.

Plus, not only is the southpaw an innings eater, but he throws well in meaningful games too.

And more, it’s a pitcher like Lilly who’s capable of being the difference maker for this club come October.

Basically, the front-running teams in the NL have a solid one-two punch at the top of the rotation – Arizona: Webb & Haren, Milwaukee: Sheets & Sabathia – but none have a three or four man the likes of Lilly and Dempster.

Obviously, this is a huge advantage for the Cubs in post season play.

On the other hand, and as I keep saying, the Cubs’ bullpen is the team’s glaring weakness.

Although, I will say the threesome of Marmol, Samardzija and Howry pitched very well this afternoon combining for 0-R, 1-H and 4-K in the final 3.2 innings.

And, with Woody (4-2, 2.96 ERA & 24 saves) still battling his own body on the sidelines (stiff back), that’s a huge performance from the pen.

Still, I’m with little confidence the Cubs’ bullpen will maintain its success from today without adding help from outside the organization.

Heading into September with this bullpen is asking for trouble, and that’s a crying shame considering the Cubs’ extra rotation weapons of Lilly and Dempster.

Finally, why do teams still run against Soriano’s accurate arm in left field?

Surely, the opposition’s advance scouting has taken note of the left fielder’s tendency to throw out runners at home, right?

Whatever the case, it’s foolish to send a runner home from third against Alfonso’s arm, just ask Joe Mather who was gunned down by Sori’s perfect throw home in the sixth.

I’m not sure why, but I like the idea of Zambrano managing more RBIs than strikeouts tomorrow!

W – Howry (5-4)

L – Franklin (4-5)

  • Notes: The Cubs have won (10 of 12) and 12 of its last 16 games.
  • The club’s (44-16) record at home is the best in MLB.
  • Chicago is the first NL team to reach 70 wins.
    • Chicago is (32-21) vs. the NL Central.
    • They’re also (8-5) in extra inning games.
      • Hank White’s walk-off single marks the Cubs’ 12th win in its final at-bat.
      • Ted Lilly is 7-0 this season when throwing 6+ innings.
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      CC Ya Later

      By bullpenbrian - July 28, 2008 - 2:56 am Leave a comment.

      • Monday July 28th – Miller Park
      • Game (106): Cubs 6 – Brewers 4
      • Record (62-44) – 1st place NL Central
      • 20-Games in 20-Days – (5-6)

      The skinny: Playoff games typically come down to pitching and defense.

      So, it’s no surprise tonight’s playoff-like matchup was determined by both.

      Had it not been for Rickie Weeks’ throwing error in the seventh, the Cubs probably come out with the short end of the stick.

      Nonetheless, the Cubbies found a way to win, and that’s what good teams do.

      The Cubs’ lineup worked CC Sabathia – 124 pitches – for 4 runs on 9 hits with 3 stolen bases and just three punch outs.

      That’s a helluva job considering CC was (4-0) with a 1.36 ERA since joining Milwaukee.

      Still, CC isn’t the only obstacle the Cubs have to conquer in this four-game series.

      The Brewers post the second best home record in the NL (32-20), lead the NL Central in divisional games with a (28-19) record, and flaunted a (22-11) record against lefties entering tonight’s game.

      Not to mention, the Brew Crew also leads the majors with (20) wins in its final at-bat and have the support of ‘Brewers Fever’ in Miller Park: tonight set a franchise record of eight straight sellouts.

      Anyway, Lilly pitched well again on the road; walking just one batter, striking out four and kept the Cubs in the game into the seventh inning.

      Lilly gets overlooked on this staff headlined by Zambrano, Dempster and Harden, but the lefty has been a godsend away from Wrigley and on a team that’s seven games under on the road (23-30).

      In Lilly’s last three road starts entering tonight’s outing he’s (3-0) with a 2.18 ERA, and (5-3) overall away from home.

      Really, the only downside to Lilly’s campaign has been his knack for allowing the long ball.

      So, how fitting Hardy and Braun go back-to-back in the sixth to tie the game 2-all.

      In 23 starts this season Lilly has served up 25 dingers, including the two this evening, and that’s just three short of his season total from a year ago (28).

      Nonetheless, the guy has been wonderful in my opinion, home or away.

      Speaking of road games, as of late the Cubs have played better away from the Friendly Confines.

      In the last nine road series the club has posted a (3-4-2) mark, which, has been improvement enough to keep them atop the NL Central for 11 weeks.

      However, with the way the Central is shaping up, this tally needs to withstand a (.500) winning percentage in the final two months.

      And, for the Cubs to reach such mediocrity, they’ll need the return of its big-bats in the lineup.

      Thankfully, D. Lee showed up this evening to capture the glory going 3-for-5 with 3-RBIs, but he was also a bad throw away from padding his NL lead of GIDP.

      Still, give the man some credit for putting the ball in play, even if Weeks should have turned the hit into two outs, and his game-winning double in the ninth.

      And, despite his recent subpar homestand (4-for-18), Lee is batting (.326 avg.) in July (32-for-98) and has also managed 47 hits in his last 34 games.

      On the contrary, Lee’s late inning heroics shouldn’t have been necessary with the Cubs leading by one-run entering the seventh.

      Hello Bob Howry – a.k.a. – the weak link.

      Seriously, I’m speechless.

      And all I have to say about Howry can be read here.

      Should be another heart-stopper tomorrow night: Zambrano vs. Sheets.

      Now, let’s just hope Lou doesn’t phone Howry

      W – Gaudin (7-4) – Marmol (5)

      L – Torres (5-3)

      • Notes: The Cubs have not played a series at Miller Park since June 4-6th, 2007, Chicago won two of three.
      • In games decided by two or fewer runs the Cubs are (26-29).
      • In the last two games Soriano is 5-for-9 with a HR and five runs scored.
      • Since beginning the season (0-3) with Cleveland, CC Sabathia has rebounded to go (10-5) with a sparkling ERA just above 2.00.
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      Make Sam The No. 5

      By bullpenbrian - July 27, 2008 - 12:48 am Leave a comment.

      • Sunday July 27th – Wrigley Field
      • Game (105): Cubs 9 – Marlins 5
      • Record (61-44) – 1st place NL Central
      • 20-Games in 20-Days – (4-6)

      The skinny: You have to figure Lou is going to find some more at-bats for Mike Fontenot in Milwaukee.

      Since June 19th the little guy has gone (24-for-69) at the dish (.347avg.) including at least one extra base hit in his last 13 games.

      Overall this season, Fontenot is batting (.284 avg.) with 8 HRs and 28 RBIs in 52 games off the bench and 34 starts.

      Put those numbers next to Fukudome’s – (.277avg.), 7 HRs and 36 RBIs – and there’s a case to move DeRosa to right field and start Fontenot at second base.

      And, given the lack of offense recently, I could part with Fukudome’s superior defensive skills in the outfield, at least temporarily.

      Plus, with Edmonds’ ailing knee, Fukudome could make a few starts in centerfield as well.

      Granted the Cubs have only scored one or fewer runs in three of Marquis’ last four starts, but he’s still (0-4) in his last four outings.

      And while Marquis has put together a decent season, his overall record is just (6-6) with a 4.69 ERA.

      So, when Woody return from the DL (Tuesday), I’d give some thoughts to replacing Marquis in the rotation with Jeff Samardzija.

      Besides, Jeff has climbed through the minors as a starting pitcher anyway, going (4-1) with a 3.13 ERA in six starts at triple-A Iowa.

      So, it’s not as if this would be a major adjustment for the Cubs’ newest member.

      Meanwhile, I’d like to see Jim Hendry deal Marquis for some bullpen help with Samardzija becoming the No. 5 guy in the rotation.

      But, a move of this sort won’t come easy.

      First of all, Marquis is still under contract for one more season in Chicago, including being due the hefty sum of $9.87 million dollars owed to him in 2009.

      Secondly, like a used car, we’re not talking about a high-performance pitcher here.

      Still, Marquis’ right-arm can be of value to a few clubs in the post season chase, perhaps even Colorado – just 6 GB in the West.

      For one thing, Marquis has been incredibly durable in his eight-year career making at least 32 starts with more than 190 innings pitched and 12 wins in the last four seasons alone.

      Not to mention, every club he’s played for has made the post season and the guy can swing it too (Silver Slugger Award winner in 2005).

      Yet, the key to such a deal is acquiring a quality bullpen arm, and that won’t come easy.

      However, whether Marquis can be traded or not, I still stand firm that Hendry must improve the bullpen, and soon.

      Contrary to the Cubs’ (48-4) record when leading after the seventh inning, just look back at the last week where three of these four losses occurred.

      The Cubs have entered its seventh inning at-bat with a one-run lead in three of its last four games.

      Furthermore, since the All Star break the club has begun the seventh inning either leading by one-run or trailing by one-run in five of its nine ballgames.

      And chances are this trend will continue facing the likes of Sabathia and Sheets in Milwaukee.

      Now, let’s go a step further. Chicago finishes the season playing 16 of 22 games on the road in what can be assumed to be a tight division race against Milwaukee and St. Louis.

      And to this point, Chicago is (4-10-3) in its road series this season.

      Mainly, the Cubs’ road woes lie with the team’s struggled to consistently score runs away from Wrigley, thus, we can expect many of these September contests to be close games.

      So, the bullpen appears to be the key to winning the division crown.

      Strengthening the pen is a MUST!

      W – Gaudin (6-4) – Samardzija (1)

      L – Hendrickson (7-6)

      • Notes: Chicago has been tied or has lead the NL Central race for the past 11 weeks.
      • In 18 home series the Cubs are (13-3-2).
      • And, in its last 10 series the club is (8-1-1).
      • Today’s win also even the club’s record in July to (11-11).
      • Tomorrow’s starting pitcher in Milwaukee, Ted Lilly, has won his last four road starts.
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      Release Bob Howry

      By bullpenbrian - July 25, 2008 - 1:34 am Leave a comment.

      It’s time the Cubs released Bob Howry…maybe explore some trade options for him.

      Nothing against Howry the person…but I’ve seen enough of Howry the setup man.

      This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to today’s loss, I’ve pointed out Howry’s disappointing season for weeks now.

      In the beginning, I was patient, and mostly confident, Howry would rebound from a horrific April:

      • 19 hits in 12.1 innings pitched, 3 home runs and a bloated 8.03 ERA.

      In fact, that’s exactly what happened, albeit briefly, during May:

      • 16 hits in 15.1 innings pitched, 2 home runs and a very respectable 1.76 ERA.

      Unfortunately, the tide turned in June:

      • 12 hits in 10 innings pitched, 1 home run and a 4.50 ERA for the month.

      It’s a red flag…Howry isn’t quite right…he’s not improving…and the season, of course, is in full swing.

      To this point, the Cubs’ super-charged lineup has mask Howry’s ineffectiveness.

      The one-two punch of Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood rarely leaves the pressure on Howry to protect late inning leads.

      But given the Cubs’ collective funk offensively this month (July)…Marmol’s lack of command…and Wood’s trip to the DL…Bob Howry’s ineffectiveness has been exposed.

      Regardless of Marmol’s recent struggles, however, Lou simply can’t throw Marmol (or Wood) every game.

      So Lou’s left with the consistently bad Bob Howry to protect late inning leads. Not good.

      Howry’s results for July:

      • (1-2) record, 13 hits in 11.1 innings pitched, 3 more home runs and a 7.15 ERA.

      Obviously, the Cubs can’t rely on Howry any longer, and especially with the Brewers making a run. The backend of this bullpen needs reinforcements…like immediately!

      Howry turns 35 in August…is in the final year of a three-year $12 million dollar contract: no better time to cut the string.

      I’d hate to see Howry’s career as a Cub end this way…but what other options are left for a guy who’s allowed 62 hits in 50 innings pitched, 9 home runs and sports a 5.22 ERA?

      • Notes: Howry’s career ERA is a respectable 3.62.
      • In 2007 Howry allowed 76 hits in 81.1 innings pitched all season, including just eight home runs.
      • In the Cubs’ five losses since the All Star break, the lineup is 2-for-15 with RISP.
      • Jeff Samardzija made his major league debut: 1-run, 2-hits in 2-IP, and is not the answer to replacing Howry.
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      Fish Fry

      By bullpenbrian - July 24, 2008 - 1:20 am Leave a comment.

      • Thursday July 24rd – Wrigley Field
      • Game (102): Cubs 6 – Marlins 3
      • Record (60-42) – 1st place NL Central
      • 20-Games in 20-Days – (3-4)

      The skinny: Don’t underestimate the importance of this win tonight for the Cubs.

      Attempting to defeat the Florida Marlins has been a serious chore for Chicago since April 26th, 2006, the Cubs’ last victory against the Fish.

      In fact, entering tonight’s contest the Marlins had defeated Chicago in 10 straight games, marking the longest active winning-streak against a single opponent in the Majors.

      Of course, the Marlins are forever linked to the Cubs’ collapse in the 2003 NLCS, including the Bartman game and that dreadful eight-spot during the eighth inning in game 6 of the series.

      So, say what you will about the Marlins, but I love the front office efficiency of this club: 15 full seasons in the league, two pennants and two world championships.

      Not to mention, the majority of the club’s success has come while operating on a shoestring budget.

      Thus, it’s shameful how frequently the Cubs, playing in the game’s third-largest market, have struggled during the Marlins’ entire existence in professional baseball.

      Anyway, I think you have to be pleased with Soriano’s return to the lineup.

      Wednesday, he goes 1-for-5 with the game-winning RBI and helps rejuvenate the team’s offense to the tune of 10 runs.

      And this evening, Fonsy doubles, walks, scores a run and avoids striking out.

      Also, it’s obvious the whole Soriano-in-the-leadoff-spot drives many Cubs fans nuts and even more so when he swings away at the first pitch!

      But consider this; Soriano is (15-for-35) when putting the first pitch he sees in play, that’s good for a (.428 avg.).

      Look, the guy is comfortable in the leadoff spot, so there’s no question in my mind Lou is making the right move by keeping Alfonso penciled into the one-hole.

      And more, Henry Blanco continues to show his value as Soto’s backup.

      Including Hank White’s sixth inning blast tonight, the veteran backup stopper has hit safely in 12 of his 14 starts this year.

      Overall though, the Cubs’ lineup top-to-bottom took a nice, patient approach, against Scott Olsen as well.

      Despite the Marlins’ lefty jumping out to a (4-1) record to start the season, he’s struggled since then posting a (1-3) record and 4.88 ERA entering tonight’s start.

      And I can’t say enough about Big Z’s performance either, on the mound and at the plate!

      The right-handed ace posted his sixth consecutive win at Wrigley, including an ERA of less than 2.00 in his last four home starts.

      Plus, he continues the starting staff’s string of nine-straight games of lasting into the sixth inning or longer.

      And get this, when Zambrano pitches seven innings or more this year his record is (8-0) with a 1.73 ERA. Awesome!!!

      On the other hand, Marmol’s three ninth-inning walks put the Marlins right into its comfort zone: the Fish rank 2nd in the league in walk-off wins (9).

      Admittedly, I began preparing myself for Carlos’ ninth-inning collapse.

      Although, thankfully, he avoid such a setback.

      Seriously, this Cubs team needs help in the backend of the pen; Wood is out until who know when, Howry has been off his game all season and Marmol continues to squirm with what appears to be some mental demons.

      ATTENTION JIM HENDRY: GET THIS BULLPEN SOME HELP!

      It’d be one thing for the reliever to straighten out their struggles if the Cubs were leading the division by eight games, but the Brewers have shaved the lead down to just one game.

      Strengthening the bullpen can’t wait in 2008.

      Besides, one only has to remember back to the 2003 NLCS to realize a weak bullpen was the Cubs demise against Florida.

      W – Zambrano (11-4) – Marmol (4)

      L – Olsen (6-5)

      • Notes: The Cubs are the first NL team to reach 60 wins.
      • Chicago has not lost consecutive games at Wrigley since dropping the first two games of the season against Milwaukee: March 31st, 4-3 & April 2nd 8-2.
      • The Cubs now have three starters with 10 wins or more this season: ‘Z’ (11), Dempster (11) and Lilly (10).
      • The season of 1998 marks the last time the Cubs had three starting pitchers with 10 wins or more on its staff: Kevin Tapani (12), Kerry Wood (11) and Steve Trachsel (10).
      • Chicago has now plated double-digit runs in 11 games this season, already surpassing its total from 2007 (10 times).
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      The Old Unit

      By bullpenbrian - July 21, 2008 - 11:31 pm Leave a comment.

      • Monday July 21st – Chase Field
      • Game (99): D-Backs 2 – Cubs 0
      • Record (58-41) – 1st place NL Central
      • Soriano Saga – (16-17)
      • 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.

      Unbelievable.

      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.
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      Jerry Springer & Steve Wilkos

      By bullpenbrian - July 10, 2008 - 12:52 am Leave a comment.

      • Thursday July 10th – Wrigley Field
      • Game (92): Reds 12 – Cubs 7
      • Record (55-37) – 1st place NL Central
      • Soriano Saga – (13-13)

      The skinny: The only thing that could cure today’s loss was a full dose of Pete’s Pizza.

      Cool side note: while eating at Pete’s, Steve Wilkos – the former security guard on the Jerry Springer Show, now turned talk show host “The Steve Wilkos Show” – was sitting in the booth next to me.

      And believe me when I tell you that the ex-marine is as large a human being as he appears on T.V.

      Back to the Cubs, obviously it’s tough to overcome seven home runs.

      And the real stinker is that Chicago plated seven runs of its own, more than enough to win a ballgame.

      But, I’ll give Lilly a pass this afternoon on his shortest outing of the year 2.3 IP.

      Besides, the guy’s been tremendous since starting the season (0-3) and entering today’s game he was 4-0 with a 3.12 ERA in his last six outings.

      Still, Lilly’s never had a lot of success against Cincinnati either: 1-5, with about a 5.00 ERA in seven starts.

      Although, I’m a little concerned about Ted’s overall record against the NL Central this year, he’s now 2-3 with an ERA hovering around 6.00.

      That’s got to get better down the stretch.

      Tough introduction for Gaudin, Ross belting a homer to left, his second blast of the day.

      So, about the only thing to enjoy with today’s clunker was seeing Junior go deep for the 12th time this year, a three-run shot in the fourth against Wuertz and Mike Fontenot’s bat staying hot: 2-for-3 with a HR and 2 RBIs.

      For the entire Reds series Little Babe Ruth went 4-for-6 with 2 HRs, 4 RBIs, 5 R and 3 BB.

      Conversly, my boy Jim Edmonds has cooled off considerble lately: 1-for-10 with 2 BB for the homestand.

      Anyway, the main thing is the Cubs took the series and help maintain its 4 G lead in the Central.

      Arroyo (7-7)

      Lilly (9-6)

      • Notes: This marks the second time this season the Reds have hit seven home runs against the Cubs (May 7th).
      • The Cubs have not swept the Reds at home since May 22-24th 2001.
      • Chicago missed its chance to win four straight since doing so June 8-12th.
      • While dealing with multply injuries, in its last 22 games the Cubs are 10-12.
      • However, during the past 45 days Chicago has maintained sole possesion of first place in the NL Central.
      • Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster are the first Cubs starters to post 10 wins before the All Star break since Rick Rueschel (12-3) and Ray Burris (10-9) managed the feat in 1977.
      • Happy Birthday Dad!
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      Rubberband Man

      By bullpenbrian - July 8, 2008 - 12:33 am Leave a comment.

      • Tuesday July 8th – Wrigley Field
      • Game (90): Cubs 7 – Reds 3
      • Record (54-36) – 1st place NL Central
      • Soriano Saga – (12-12)

      The skinny: This evening I sat nine rows behind the Reds dugout at Wrigley.

      You guessed it, these aren’t my season tickets, but it’s pays to have friends doesn’t it!

      Anyway, it was a wonderful night all around; 82-degrees, beautiful sunset and Dempster notches his 10th win before the All Star break.

      Something is definitely not right with the Reds’ right-hander Aaron Harang.

      It’s pretty clear after Harang posted a career-high seven walks and allows the two home runs.

      If you’re not already aware, Harang has developed into one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, until this year, of course.

      Which, brings to the surface obvious concerns about his health considering his awful (3-11) record in ’08.

      Just looking at Harang’s numbers from the past three seasons says the ol’ throwing arm is hurting.

      • 2005 – (11-13) – 211 IP, 163 K
      • 2006 – (16-11) – 234 IP, 216 K
      • 2007 – (16-6) – 231 IP, 218 K

      Maybe all the innings are finally catching up to the hoss?

      After all, he’s averaged 225 IP during this span, now that’s a lot of work!

      Reds fans are pointing the blame Dusty, and I’m one of them too.

      Why Baker threw Harang in relief for 4.1 innings during the Reds’ 12-9, 18-innings loss at San Diego on Sunday May 25th is beyond me.

      Seriously, Aaron previously started the series’ opener three days earlier tossing 103 pitches against the Pads.

      Worse, Harang’s relief outing also marked the third time the tall right-hander threw in eight days.

      Now there’s rumblings Harang might be headed for Tommy John surgery before the end of the regular season.

      Are Harang’s difficulties Dusty’s fault? Partly, yeah.

      Look, I’m a Dusty guy, but throwing Aaron in the S.D. game was DUMB!!!

      You can’t be careless with your staff ace.

      The Reds are still a year away from truly competing, and that’s only if they have a healthy Harang.

      And, as far as I’m concerned, Dusty jepordized next year…not smart, not good.

      On the other hand, Dempster dominated again at home.

      The only offense Cincinnati mustered off the former Reds is what Dempster handed them in the fourth, one single and three free passes while walking in a run.

      Other than his one bad inning, Ryan allowed just two hits while striking out five.

      Don’t overlook the defense behind Dempster tonight either.

      Jerry Hairston Jr. was robbed of a hit on three occasions: Ramirez twice and Theriot once.

      Plus, Edmonds made a fine defensive stab in center during the first.

      DEFENSE MATTERS!!!

      Brandon Phillips is the most gifted second baseman defensively in the NL, he turned in two more gems tonight.

      Things I overheard in the seats this evening:

      • Griffey, you suck!
      • Dusty, you suck!
      • Dunn, get off the field you big lug!
      • And, I love that Marmol enters the game to the song “Rubberband Man,” how fitting.

      Things I saw at the game:

      • Inebriated Reds fan in the front row taking off his shirt in unleashing the hairiest belly I’ve seen this side of Bigfoot.
      • Two elderly men googling over a busty cougar.
      • Griffey sharing a conversation between innings over the dugout with both Reds and Cubs fans.

      Dempster (10-3)

      Harang (3-11)

      • Notes: In his last eight home starts Dempster is 7-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
      • The right-hander is also the first Cubs pitcher since Rick Reuschel in 1977 to win his first 10 decisions at home.
      • Speaking of 1977, that’s the last time the Cubs won 54 games before the All Star break.
      • The Cubs are 34-10 at Wrigley.
      • Mike Piazza holds the rookie record for home runs by a catcher with 18 in 1993 with the Dodgers; Geovany Soto hit his 16th of the season this evening.
      • CSI’s John Peterson sang the stretch.
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