Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cubs 6, Indians 2: Randy Wells gets 1st career Major League win, Cubs sweep Tribe

The Cubs didn't win on a walkoff today but they got the win and completed the sweep of the Indians with a 6-2 win today at Wrigley Field.

Randy Wells finally got his first major league win after he got snubbed by the bullpen and the offense in his first several starts. Wells has to be in the discussion for NL Rookie of the Year if he keeps this up. The only real competition in the NL looks like Colby Rasmus of the St. Louis Cardinals and Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Aside from Wells, the Cubs Iowa call-ups are all stepping up. Jake Fox went 1-3 today with 3 RBI's and Andres Blanco went 1-3 and continued to play great defense over at 2B. Jake Fox is sure to get a few starts as a DH in the upcoming series in Detroit starting on Tuesday.

Earlier today, the Cubs put Angel Guzman (who has been pitching very well this season) on the 15-day DL with a right tricep strain. The Cubs called up Kevin Hart who will pitch in long relief in the bullpen. Kevin did very well in minimal appearances in 2007 but struggled in the big leagues in 2008. Hart was doing very well as a starting pitcher at Iowa.

Geovany Soto is beginning to heat up. Soto hit a line-drive home run of Jeremy Sowers in the 2nd inning to give the Cubs an early 1-0 and they didn't look back after that. Derrek Lee extended his hitting streak to 18 which is tied for his career high for longest hitting streak. He had 18 straight games with a hit back in his amazing 2005 campaign. Lee went 1-4 today with an RBI. Milton Bradley also extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a 2-3 day today.

The Cubs are back in Atlanta for one game tomorrow to make-up a rainout from June 4th. Former White Sox starter Javier Vasquez will go head-to-head against Ryan Dempster. The Cubs will then get on a plane and travel to Detroit for a 3 game series starting Tuesday at Comerica Park. Let's make it 5 in a row with a win in Atlanta and take at least 2 of 3 in Detroit.

I'll give the Cubs player of the game award to Jake Fox for his 1-3, 3 RBI day. Other options could have been Soto and Lee.

And in other news, the Cubs have gone 4-0 since I got this blog going again. Obviously I need to continue. Go Cubs!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cubs 6, Indians 5: Cardiac Cubs pull through again

I've been to plenty of great games over the years but this may have been the best I've ever been to. The Cubs beat the Indians 6-5 today with their 3rd straight walkoff win. Some other great games I attended in the past few years include last year's Cubs/Pirates game on August 3rd, 2008 where the Pirates came back from a 3 run hole in the 8th inning only to have Reed Johnson crush a 2 run shot in the left field bleachers in the bottom of that inning. Alfonso Soriano followed up with a home run in the next at-bat. Another great game I attended was a White Sox/Red Sox game on July 9th, 2006 which lasted 19 innings. This game almost felt like it would last that long but luckily it didn't with the Cubs bullpen being used a ton early in the game.

The Cubs got down early in the 1st as the first two Indians batters doubled off the wall giving them a 1-0 lead. Luis Valabuena hit his 2nd home run in two games in the 2nd inning to give the Indians a 2-0 lead and Lilly would hold them there for the next few innings. In the bottom of the 5th inning, Derrek Lee hit a 2 run shot in the right field bleachers to tie the game up at 2. Derrek Lee has now gotten a hit in 17 consecutive games. In the top of the 6th inning, Jhonny Peralta belted his 3rd home run of the year deep in the left-center field bleachers to put the Indians back on top. In the bottom of the 6th, Micah Hoffpauir hit a 2 run homer in the right field bleachers (correctly predicted by Bob Brenly) to give the Cubs a 1 run lead. In the top of the 7th inning, Jose Ascanio came in and got the first batter out but then proceeded to walk the next batter and gave up a single to the batter after that. Lou then put in Sean Marshall to face the lefty Travis Hafner who got a bloop single. Then Lou came out and put in Carlos Marmol who struck out the first batter he faced on a 3-2 count but then walked in a run after going 1-2 on Jhonny Peralta tying the game at 4.

The game would stay tied at four all the way until the 13th inning when Luis Valabuena belted his 3rd home run of the series and 4th home run of the season in the left field bleachers off reliever David Patton breaking the tie. In fact, all of Valabuena's home runs this season have come in Chicago (1 at US Cellular Field, 3 at Wrigley). Patton preceded to get the final out sending the game to the bottom of the 13th. The first batter for the Cubs was Kosuke Fukudome who ripped a single to right center for a leadoff single. The next batter Koyie Hill struck out but Kosuke stole 2nd and went to 3rd on an overthrow by catcher Kelly Shoppach. The next batter Andres Blanco singled right up the middle just past a diving Luis Valabuena scoring Fukudome and tying the game back up at 5. Why the Indians had the infield in on that I don't know. They could have easily gotten the out at first (still would have scored the runner but prevented Blanco from reaching) if they did not have the infield in. Aaron Miles then stepped up and hit a bloop single down the 1st base line sending Blanco to 3rd. Indians closer Kerry Wood then threw a wild pitch way outside scoring Blanco and giving the Cubs their 3rd straight walkoff win.

The Cubs go for the sweep and their 4th straight victory tomorrow at 1:20 PM on Comcast SportsNet. Randy Wells will go head-to-head against Jeremy Sowers. Wells needs to pitch like he did in his first few starts and go deep into the ballgame with the bullpen as tired as it is. There is a slight chance of rain tomorrow but it looks like it will be another nice day.

The Player of the Game today has to go to Kosuke Fukudome who went 4-5 in this game and had that big leadoff single in the bottom of the 13th inning as well as the stolen base/passed ball.

The St. Louis Cardinals moved into first place today with their 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals and the Milwaukee Brewers 9-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers. The Cubs moved into 3rd place alone with the Chicago White Sox beating the Cincinnati Reds 10-8 today. So the Cubs are now tied in the loss column with the Milwaukee Brewers and only 2.5 games out of first place now. So a pretty successful day again for us.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Indians @ Cubs 6/20/09 Preview

Radio: WGN AM 720
Time: 12:05 PM

Pitching Matchup:
Ted Lilly (7-4, 2.94 ERA)

Tomo Ohka (0-1, 4.24 ERA)

The Cubs are coming off two dramatic comeback wins and are looking for a 3 game win streak. Ted Lilly has been fantastic this season posting a 2.94 ERA in 13 starts thus far. In Ted's last start, he went 7.2 innings giving up 2 runs on 9 hits in a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins. Ted has easily been the most consistent Cubs starter in the rotation. His shortest outing was 6 innings in his first start of the year against Houston. No Indian has really had success against Ted Lilly in the past. Jamey Carroll is 3-10 with a home run and 3 RBI's. Mark DeRosa is 2-10 against Lilly with a home run.

Tomo Ohka is coming off a good outing on June 13th against the St. Louis Cardinals in just his 1st start of the season. Ohka went 7 innings allowing 7 hits and 2 runs in a 3-1 loss to the Cardinals dropping him to 0-1 on the year. Ohka threw 96 pitches in the outing, 69 of those for strikes. The Cubs hottest hitter, Derrek Lee, has had a ton of success against Ohka in his career. Lee is a career 7-20 against Ohka with 3 home runs and 7 RBI's. Alfonso Soriano is the only other Cub with success against Ohka. Soriano is a career 2-2 against him with a walk. The other Cubs with career at-bats against Ohka include Reed Johnson, Koyie Hill, Carlos Marmol, Aaron Miles, and Aaron Heilman. Those 5 guys are a combined 0-14 vs Ohka.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I will be attending this game. My 2nd game of the season, the first being that Sunday Night disaster against the Los Angeles Dodgers which was one of the worst baseball games I have ever attended.

The weather is finally going to cooperate for once as it is supposed to be sunny with a high of around 84 degrees. Let's take advantage of the nice weather and make it 3 in a row and get on a long win streak. Go Cubs!

Cubs 8, Indians 7: And that happened

The Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in one of the wildest Cubs games in years and there have been plenty. The Rockies/Cubs game 2 years ago when the Rockies came all the way back (much like the Cubs today) to take the lead in the top of the 9th only to have the Cubs steal it away with 2 in the bottom of that inning thanks to a 2 run single by Alfonso Soriano. That was one of the games that sparked that 2007 Chicago Cubs team to a division title. This also gives memories of that Cubs/Rockies game last year where the Cubs came back from an 8-0 hole to win the game. Mark DeRosa was the hero in the game hitting a huge 3 run home run in the bottom of the 7th to give the Cubs their first lead of the day. Today's game was delayed until 2:45 PM thanks to rain and the threat of rain. During the rain delay, Comcast SportsNet oddly enough showed the finish of last year's Cubs/Brewers game on September 18th, 2008 where the Cubs scored 4 runs with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th capped off by Geovany Soto's 3 run homer that tied the game. The Cubs ended up winning that game in the 12th inning thanks to a Derrek Lee single that scored Jason Marquis. That win would put the Cubs magic number to win the NL Central at 2 and of course the Cubs finished the deal 2 days later against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now onto today's game. I was preparing a losing recap where I was going to state how the momentum from yesterday's win was gone but throw that out. The Cubs won a thrilling game today. At one point, they trailed 7-0. Rich Harden probably had his worst start as a Cub today giving up two 3-run homers in two of the first three innings. One to Luis Valbuena and the other to Victor Martinez. Former Cub Mark DeRosa chipped in with an RBI single in the 4th to make it a 7-0 lead. At this point, I turned off the TV and did other business for a little bit as I thought the Cubs had absolutley no shot at winning this game against last year's AL Cy Young winner and with the way the Cubs have been hitting thus far this season. Reed Johnson and Derrek Lee hit solo shots in the 5th and 6th innings as the Cubs tried to fight their way back into the game. Cliff Lee finally was taken out of the game in the 8th inning as the Cubs fought their way back with a huge rally. Milton Bradley led off the inning with a single to center which got Lee out of the game after 109 pitches thrown. Joe Smith, a sidearm throwing reliever, came in and struck out Derrek Lee before giving up a double to Geovany Soto sending Milton Bradley to 3rd. The next batter Jake Fox (who got his first start at 3rd base today) struck out on an awful outside pitch. Reed Johnson then walked loading the bases for Andres Blanco who hit a broken bat single scoring two runs and pulling the Cubs within three runs. The Indians then went to reliever Rafael Perez who faced pinch-hitter Koyie Hill. Hill grounded a ball to Peralta who bobbled the ball allowing a run to score and allowing Hill to reach first base safely. The next batter Alfonso Soriano singled scoring yet another run to make the defcit 1. Matt Herges then came in to relive Perez and he got Ryan Theriot to fly out to end the threat.

In the top of the 9th inning, Carlos Marmol came in and walked two batters but managed to get out of the jam by striking out Victor Martinez with two outs. In the bottom of that inning, former Cub Kerry Wood came in to close the game with a standing ovation by the Wrigley faithful. The first batter of the inning Milton Bradley got the count to 3-2 but ended up popping out to swallow left. Derrek Lee then stepped up and ripped a homer into the left field bleachers tying the game. This home run by Lee almost reminded me of Jim Edmonds' home run in the left field bleachers in that 3-2 win on throwback day last year against the Atlanta Braves. Both home runs tied the game in the bottom of the 9th with the Cubs down to their last outs and both home runs were hit in basically the same spot of the bleachers.

The Cubs committed a few defensive miscues in the top of the 10th inning but luckily none of them came back to hurt us in the end. Kevin Gregg came into the game in that inning and allowed Shin-Soo Choo to reach on an infield single. Two batters later after a fielders choice, Kelly Shoppach hit what looked to be a foul ball into the lower level near the visiting dugout but the wind brought the ball back into play. But Derrek Lee could not make the catch giving Shoppach another chance and he took full advantage of it hitting a ball to Alfonso Soriano who looked to have a beat on the ball but he whiffed on it allowing Peralta to get to 2nd and Shoppach to reach on an error. Gregg hit the next batter but got out of the jam by getting Ryan Garko to lineout to Kosuke Fukudome.

In the bottom of the 10th, Luis Vizcaino came in replacing Wood. He got the first two batters out but walked Alfonso Soriano. Soriano then stole 2nd getting him into scoring position for Ryan Theriot. On a 3-2 count, Theriot hit the ball on the end of the bat that bounced away from Martinez just as he was about to make a play on the ball and Alfonso Soriano scored giving the Cubs a huge comeback win.

With Tomo Ohka pitching tomorrow and Jeremy Sowers going Sunday, this was a huge win for the Cubs especially off of last year's Cy Young winner (not that it was Lee's fault his bullpen is horrendous). Now the Cubs have two huge walkoff, comeback victories in a row. Let's win a 8-1 game tomorrow. Not sure if I can handle another close game like this. I'll be there tomorrow. Go Cubs! As for the player of the game today, it has to be Derrek Lee who hit 2 home runs today including the one in the 9th sending the game into extras.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Indians @ Cubs 6/19/09 Preview

Time: 1:20 PM
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: WGN AM 720
Pitching Matchup:
Rich Harden (4-3, 4.53 ERA)

Indians vs Rich Harden

Cliff Lee (4-6, 2.88 ERA)

Cubs vs Cliff Lee

This is one of those series I had circled on my Cubs schedule since March. Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa will both return to Wrigley Field this weekend and will both most likely get huge standing ovations. As I said earlier today, hopefully the only time we see Kerry in this series is in a non-save situation with us being up big.

Now on to the pitching matchup and it is a great one. Rich Harden and Cliff Lee. Rich Harden is a much better pitcher at night. This year he has a 5.28 ERA in 6 appearances during the daytime while he has a 3.32 ERA in 3 starts. Rich is coming off a 2-0 loss on June 13th where he gave up 2 runs on 5 hits in 6 innings against the Minnesota Twins in his first appearance since coming off the disabled list dropping him to 4-3 on the year. Harden did strike out nine Twins in the game. Some notables for the Indians against Rich Harden, Travis Hafner is 4-9 lifetime with a home run, 5 RBI's, and 4 walks. Victor Martinez is 1-5 against Harden good for a .200 batting average. The only other Indian that has gotten a hit off Rich Harden is Ryan Garko who is 1-1 career against him.

Cliff Lee is coming off one of the best starts of his season as he no-hit the St. Louis Cardinals through 7 innings on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Lee ended up going the distance in that game allowing only 3 hits and not allowing a run. He threw only 93 pitches in that game. The game only lasted 1 hour and 58 minutes. Lee was last year's AL Cy Young award winner after going 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA. Lee's Indians only won 81 games last year so 22 wins was that more impressive. While Lee's record isn't that impressive thus far in the season (4-6), he's been just as impressive posting a 2.88 ERA in 14 starts. If the Cubs hit like they have these past two months (excluding the last 2 innings today), look for this to be another dominating effort by a pitcher against us.

Only 5 guys on the Cubs have faced Cliff Lee in their career. Alfonso Soriano is 3-8 against Lee with a home run and 3 RBI's. Milton Bradley is 2-9 with a home run and 3 RBI's. Reed Johnson is 2-5 against Lee.

Tomorrow's weather forecast for this game does not look good at all:
Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after 1pm. Some of the storms could be severe. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 86. West southwest wind between 10 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.
But then again, today's weather forecast didn't look good as well and they got the game in with no problems so hopefully the same will go for this one.

Let's win this one and get on a little win streak. The NL Central is still very winnable and ours for the taking. Go Cubs!

Cubs 6, White Sox 5: The game that could turnaround the season

The Cubs won a dramatic 6-5 game against the Crosstown rival Chicago White Sox. The first 6 innings of the game looked like a typical Cubs (and White Sox) game this season as both teams put together just 1 run apiece. But in the 7th inning, Alexei Ramirez ripped a 2 run homer into the leftfield bleachers and at that point I figured the game was over. To make matters worse, the White Sox scraped out 2 more runs in the top of the 8th to give them a 5-1 lead. This was probably Carlos Marmol's worst outing of the season in what has been a sub-par season for him. The Cubs needed at least 4 runs in 2 innings to keep them (and probably their season) alive and they came through in a big way.

Micah Hoffpauir led off the 8th with a groundball to White Sox shortstop Chris Getz who committed an error on the play allowing Micah to reach first. The next batter Alfonso Soriano (still in that awful slump) took what looked to be strike 3 on a 1-2 pitch from Scott Linebrink but home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman called it ball 2. Soriano would go on to single in that at-bat moving Hoffpauir to 2nd. Ryan Theriot popped out to 2nd in the next at-bat and it sure looked like it was another typical 2009 Chicago Cubs inning. But Derrek Lee came up and ripped a home run into the basket in right field pulling the Cubs within one. I mentioned yesterday that the Cubs had not hit a home run with a man on base in over 30 games. Well there it was. The very next batter Geovany Soto homered to deep left center tying the game.

Kevin Gregg came in to try and hold the White Sox at five in the top of the 9th and while he allowed a leadoff hit to Alexei Ramirez, he didn't allow him to get much farther shutting the White Sox down in that inning.

In the top of the 9th, Reed Johnson (pinch-hitting for Kosuke Fukudome) led off with a single. The next batter Andres Blanco laid down a perfect sacrafice bunt to get Reed over to 2nd. The Cubs had two chances to win the game at that point. Aaron Miles came up and grounded out to Alexei Ramirez for the 2nd out. Once again, looked like the Cubs would fail to score here and we would go to extra innings. But Alfonso Soriano came up and blooped a single into right centerfield winning the game for the Cubs in dramatic fashion.

Lost in this game because of the offensive struggles early for both teams were two good starts by Carlos Zambrano and Gavin Floyd. Zambrano went 7 innings giving up 6 hits and 3 runs while striking out 3. Floyd went 7 innings allowing 3 hits while striking out 2. Kevin Gregg earned the win with a great performence after walking the leadoff man.

Now the Indians come into town for a 3 game series which means the return of Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood. We'll probably see DeRosa in all 3 games and he'll probably hit .500 and hit 3 home runs in the series. Hopefully the only time we see Kerry in this series is with a 6 run lead. DeRosa and Wood are going to obviously get huge ovations from the Wrigley faithful.

As I mentioned in the last blog, the weather isn't looking good for tomorrow's game:
Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after 1pm. Some of the storms could be severe. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 88. West southwest wind between 10 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

If they are unable to get tommorrow's game in, they will probably try and play a doubleheader on either Saturday or Sunday. I'm not sure if they are allowed to play night games on the weekend if they do have to play a doubleheader. Otherwise, the Cubs will have to waste another offday sometime later in the season to make this one up.

As for the Cubs player of the game, I was between Alfonso Soriano (for the game-winning hit as well as the hit in the 8th that continued the rally in that big inning) or Derrek Lee (for his big 3 run homer in the 8th that was followed up by the Geovany Soto solo shot). I went with Derrek Lee because without him, we don't win this game.

Rich Harden vs Cliff Lee tomorrow. Should be a good pitching matchup. Let's pull out the win.

White Sox @ Cubs 6/18/09 Preview

TV: WGN (Len and Bob) and Comcast SportsNet (Hawk and Stoney)
Radio: WGN AM 720 (Pat and Ron) and WSCR 670 AM (Farmer and DJ)

Pitching Matchup:
Carlos Zambrano (4-2, 3.39 ERA)

White Sox vs Carlos Zambrano

Gavin Floyd (4-5, 4.94 ERA)

Cubs vs Gavin Floyd

Gavin Floyd isn't having as good of a season as he had last year but he's still capable of shutting an offense down and judging by the fact that the Cubs offense has still not woken up this season, that's not a good thing. Floyd had his best outing of the year last start as he gave up 1 run and 5 hits to the Detroit Tigers in 8 innings. He did not get the win in that game as Bobby Jenks gave up a home run to Curtis Granderson in the top of the 9th but the White Sox did go on to win that game. In the start before that, Floyd gave up 2 runs and 5 hits to the Cleveland Indians in 6.2 innings striking out 7 in the process as he grabbed his 4th win of the year. The only Cub with an at-bat against Gavin is Alfonso Soriano who is 1-4 against him. Hopefully this is the game which gets Soriano on a hot streak and gets him out of this horrendous slump.

Carlos Zambrano is coming into this one after allowing 1 run and 3 hits to the Houston Astros in a losing effort way back on June 10th. Like Floyd, Zambrano's last start was probably his best start of the year. The White Sox have seen Carlos Zambrano plenty of times. Some notables, Paul Konerko has hit 4 home runs off Carlos in 22 plate apperances. Konerko is hitting 7-22 against Zambrano which is good for a .318 BA. Scott Podsednik is 6-26 against Zambrano good for a .231 BA and Zambrano has struck him out a total of 7 times. AJ Piersynski is hitting .333 against Zambrano with a home run.

Hopefully the Cubs can break through a grab a split in this quick 2 game series. Is this the game the Cubs hit a home run with a man on base? The Cubs haven't hit a home run with a man on base in more than 30 games.

Today's forecast:
Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after 1pm. Some of the storms could be severe. Patchy fog before 7am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 80. Southeast wind between 5 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Hopefully they can get this game in. Tommorrow's game against the Indians could be affected by weather as well. They may have to end up playing a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.