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Game 133: Kane County 6 – Beloit 3 and Game 134: Kane County 4 – Beloit 1

Aug
31

I’ve got like no time today, which is a shame because I’m so glad I went to this double header, and I wish I could write a bunch about it.

Quick bullet points

– it’s quite enjoyable to show up to a baseball game in the bottom of the second, and get first row behind home plate tickets – for a double header, for $12.

(even when you get kicked out of that seat. And the next seat you try. And nearly the next seat you try. I really had front row seats, I just thought I’d sit in an empty row rather than right next to a random person, and it backfired after game 1. ALAS.)

– second game Kane County starter Trevor Cahill recent gamelog

07/18: 7.0 IP, 1 ER
07/23: 7.0 IP, 1 ER
07/29: 5.0 IP, 1 ER
08/03: 6.2 IP, 1 ER
08/08: 6.0 IP, 0 ER
08/13: 5.2 IP, 0 ER
08/20: 5.2 IP, 0 ER
08/25: 6.0 IP, 1 ER
08/30: 6.1 IP, 1 ER

I think he may have something here! AND Ozzie Cougar led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday for a man who may have been his father, so it’s all looking good.

With all that, Cahill only took the team ERA lead because Jared Fernandez gave up 3 runs in the opener, “slipping” to 2.77.

– Today’s Standings

                     what's left
Quad Cities    40-25 ---  1 v Peoria, 4 @ Beloit
Cedar Rapids   38-28 ---  1 v Burlington, 3 @ Peoria
Peoria         37-29 1.0  1 @ Quad Cities, 3 v Cedar Rapids
Kane County    36-29 1.5  1 v Beloit, 4 @ Wisconsin

These are second half standings. Top 2 advance to face the first half winners, who are both in the bottom half of the division this time around, so anyone alive can feel like they’ve got a real good shot. Cougars still can’t hit, but it’s pitching might just be enough to get them into the playoffs and who knows how far the hot streak will take them from there.

That’s a Sunday doubleheader in Wisconsin. I almost went to that park about a month ago, and if things keep up, there’s another place I rather be than my fantasy draft on Sunday.

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Game 132: Cubs 5 – Brewers 4

Aug
31

Cubs 68-64, +2.5
Brewers 66-67, -2.5

POTG: RP Carlos Marmol (2 IP, H, 5 K)
Runner Up: 3B A Ram (2 H, 2 BB, R), 2B Mark DeRosa (2 RBI, R, H), C Jason Kendall (2 H, BB, CS), RF/LF Matt Murton (2 H, HR)

Well. Now we’re really back to the old “making it waaaaaaaay too intersting” Ryan Dempster. This will kill us all before the end of the season, and it’ll be fun.

How much of an impact has Carlos Marmol made on this season? Hardball Times credits him with 7 win shares. Baseball Prospectus says he’s got a VORP of 26.5, putting him 60th in the ML despite missing the first couple months. That’s 26.5 runs better than the theoretical replacement player, and I’m not sure who the real world replacement player would be. Wuertz had this role and couldn’t hold on, Wood came along late and isn’t that sharp, and no one else really set up. With the way Lou’s set up his bullpen, Marmol’s the guy who comes in early and comes in with runners on while the Cubs have a lead – it’s a high leverage situation, and Marmol’s made a huge difference.

and with all that said, I would not have a problem trading him for (very) good value in the off season, but he’s going to blow out his elbow real soon if he keeps throwing pitches like he was last night. Pitches were nasty, but so was the torque on his arm. I don’t think you can do anything to change it, and you might as well get it all out of him while it can benefit the team a lot.

The difference last night was home runs from Soriano and Murton. Power is good. Looks like they’ll have to do it without Alfonso today.

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Game 131: Brewers 6 – Cubs 1

Aug
30

Cubs 67-64, +1.5
Brewers 66-66, -1.5

POTG: CF Jacque Jones (2 H, SB)
Runner Up: none

Not to say I was zooming thru the post Z-explosion innings really fast when I finally got around to watching this (around 11pm), but I was momentarily confused when Wuertz came out to pitch the 9th, because I thought he had done the same thing in the 8th. No, that was Wood, and I probably should be suspended for mixing the two.

Since you know I’m just going to excuse Z anyway, let’s just skip all of that and start complaining on the offense. I’m pretty sure someone, maybe a coach of some sort, informed them Ben Sheets was just returning from injury and probably was on a low pitch count. Apparently, this message was interrupted as “swing early and often!” Cubs did get some offense in the 3rd with some first pitch hitting, but this seems like the exception. The Brewers, at least in this series, have been the opposite of the Diamondbacks – you want to get to the bullpen early and often.

I did like everyone running at will on Jerry Estrada. Hopefully that keeps up today. With no sweep, the Brewers aren’t going to be out of the race with a loss, but any distance is good distance at this point.

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Game 130: Cubs 5 – Brewers 3

Aug
30

Cubs 67-63; +1.5
Brewers 65-66; -2.5

POTG: CF-RF Jacque Jones (2H, 2B, R, RBI)
Runner Up: 1B D Lee (2 H, RBI), C Jason Kendall (2B, 2H, R), SP Rich Hill (7 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 9 K)

many paragraphs of boring travel notes compressed into bullet points
– Verizon’s GPS is useless if you’re walking (downtown, Chicago)
– “look for the Sears Tower” doesn’t work when you’re surrounded by tall buildings
– I seriously should just go the way I know rather than listening to other people’s ideas.
– getting on the 12:30am train (getting in at 2) on a weekday is rough, though empty

I hurt or pulled or bruised something, somewhere along the way and could not sleep at all Tuesday night Wednesday morning. Somehow, I did my normal stuff on Wednesday but couldn’t manage the energy to do this before I passed out in the evening. I’m a little less out of it today, but I’m debating to catch a Kane County double header or get more sleep. I don’t think it’s legal to pass up two games at $12 for third row tickets, even if they’ll start 45 minutes before I get there.

Anyway, before I go see more games, I really should write about the last one I went to. We grabbed upper center field bleachers seats – I got there about 45 minutes before the game and staked them out because I hadn’t seen a game from there before, and it gave a nice view of the strike zone. Maybe it’s a weeknight bleacher thing, but I was surprised about how the bleachers weren’t filled till just about game time – it’s always been packed every time I’ve gotten there before. The seats worked out great for the viewpoint and good people around us, including the guy in front of us who kept coming back for high fives. The downside is no center aisle back to the main walkways, so you had to crawl thru people to get out for food (or you had plenty of people crawling past you to get beer.) If you’re not thirsty, it’s a good place to sit.

This game, as you may know by now, was pretty awesome. The Cubs blew oppurtinties to score early on, but we were focusing on the Cubs just working Suppan out of the game. It didn’t look like that was going to work out, because Suppan had too many 3-4 inning and was just at 78 coming into the 7th. I figured we’d probably get to see the closer in the 9th, but that was looking for too much.

I swear I thought Ned Yost was coming out to argue Uncle Cliffy didn’t try to get out of the way enough on the HBP. No, he was coming out to be an idiot. Yost was quite incredible in this inning. He’s not a Player, so he can’t quite be a POTG, but he was something – why leave Linebrink in when he was struggling so bad in that inning? Why have a lefty warm up and warm up and warm up, and never use him against Jacque or Ward? It sure didn’t work out the way he did it.

Hill could’ve been better, but he was still good. Soriano was surprisingly patient in his first at bat, but then turned into the swing first, ask questions later batter I figured he’d be after his return. Dempster and Howry were good.

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Game 129: Diamondbacks 5 – Cubs 4

Aug
27

Cubs 66-63, +1.5/-4
Diamondbacks 74-57, +3/+3

POTG: RP Carlos Marmol (1.2 IP, BB, 2 K, 0 R, 1 marooned)
Runner Up: LF Cliff Floyd (2 H, HR), SS Ryan Theriot (2 BB, 2B, R)

It’s hard to say it’s a letdown game by Marquis when it’s only one guy who owns him. But, regardless of how the runs came, he gave a lead almost the instant he got it. This sucked, was a poor end to the road trip.

Craig Monroe can only hit lefties. Why is he starting versus righties? Is this one of those things that should be completely obvious from the word go that’s going to take four weeks to correct itself? We don’t quite have that time now.

You don’t often see double switches which involve catchers – not before September, not with only two on the staff. That’s all going to be irrelevant in a few days when Soto comes up as the third catcher (and I’m sure he’ll actually get called up this time), but Lou’s really been unafraid to use all his options whatever the consequences.

It’s weird – this Brewers series has looked very big for a few months, but it’s something much less now. It’s still first vs second, but neither of these teams feel good, and the Cardinals series looms as more important.

I wish I had something interesting to say (ever), but I think I’m just too much on tilt – I’d gotten bleacher tickets for this game way back at the beginning, and the people I planned on going with all canceled today in like a 3 hour span. It sucks that they’re not going and it sucks that they didn’t tell me a few hours earlier, so I wouldn’t have bothered to take the day off specifically so I could bebop from house to house to get them all to the game in time to get a decent time. Now that I’m stuck by myself, I’m not really sure I care when I arrive. If I can just find a random seat to keep score, that’s good enough.

(whine whine whine)

Game 128: Diamondbacks 3 – Cubs 1

Aug
26

Diamondbacks 73-57, +2.0, +2.0
Cubs 66-62, +1.5, -4.0

POTG: LF Matt Murton (3 H, 2B)
Runner Up: 3B A Ram (H, RBI, BB), 1B D Lee (H, BB), SP Ted Lilly (6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 8 K)

Starting at empty notepad, waiting to be filled, and having absolutely nothing to say is a bit annoying.

Ted Lilly was good enough to win this game. Well, Ted and the home plate umpire- this was a game that seemed as much affected by the umpire’s strike zone calls as the check swing calls the night before. Andy Fletcher was behind the plate, and giving a few inches on the outside of the plate all night. It was fair for both teams, but really frustrated the offense. Combine that with the Diamondbacks bullpen, and the Cubs had very little chance to come back in this one.

Craig Monroe overlaps Matt Murton, and with Soriano sounding like he’ll be coming back as soon as Tuesday, this may just about be it for him. He makes more sense to send down than Felix, since he’s the only reasonable backup for centerfield. So if Murton’s going, at least he’s going hitting.

This run of quality starts, besides Z, has been a nice break for the bullpen. Maybe they could send Pignatiello down for a few days and call up Rapada.

Sure sounds like Ohman’s the guy to be named later in the Monroe trade. With everything that went down, they may just be waiting around to check on his arm and see if it’s hurt. It didn’t sound like the Cubs wanted to bring him back to the Major Leagues, but I couldn’t imagine a way around it as long as he was with the team and they needed lefty help. Nice of the Tigers to take the Cubs unwanted long term deals for spare part players.

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Game 127: Cubs – Diamondbacks 2

Aug
25

Cubs 66-61, +1.5, -3.0
Diamondbacks 72-57, +2.0, +2.0

POTG: SS Ryan Theriot (H, R, RBI, BB, assist to home)
Runner Up: RF Jacque Jones (4 H, 2B, R, RBI), 2B Mark DeRosa (3 H, R, RBI, 2B), C Jason Kendall (2 H, R), SP Sean Marshall (6 IP, 2 H, ER, BB, 5 K, W [7/13])

You could make Jacque Jacque The Hitting Machine the MVP of this game because he got 4 hits. Or you can credit Sean Marshall with a very strong performance, keeping the Cubs in the leader so they wouldn’t have to face the toughest of Diamondbacks pitching. To me, the player of the game was The Riot making a diving stop on a Justin Upton play and nailing Snyder at home plate to keep it 2 to 1. It was a very tough play (and you could make a case Snyder was safe at home), and it kept the Cubs ahead. He scored the first run too, so he gets the award from me.

The first inning was really keyed by two check swing calls that were called for the Cubs. Ryan looked to go around on the 5th pitch, which would’ve been a strikeout, but kept the plate appearance and walked. I’m not sure if Cliff went around as much, but the call went for the Cubs, he kept his at bat, and kept the inning going with a single. I wasn’t paying as much attention to the strikezone, but it did seem like batters weren’t happy with it all night long, and I could totally understand Bob Melvin getting himself run.

I loved the Dempster save, because I have Dempster in my fantasy league at the moment and that was such lovely cheap points. But for the Cubs, it was nice to see Dempster come in with runners on and manage fine. I don’t think they’re going to often put him in situations like that, but it is where he struggled for a bit and so it’s good he had a good experience.

Marshall was great here. This time, he only got pulled because of situation and it made sense. If he can be near this the rest of the way, the Cubs are looking pretty good.

Need just 1 more to take this series and have a successful road trip. I like Ted Lilly’s chances today.

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Game 126: Giants 4 – Cubs 1

Aug
24

Cubs 65-61, +0.5/-3.0
Giants 56-72, -16.0/-13.0

POTG: 2B Mike Fontenot (2 H, RBI)
Runner Up: 2B Ryan Theriot (2 H)

So this loss is generally being treated like the end of the world. Z didn’t have a good start, he gave a homerun to the opposing pitcher, the offense didn’t score much, on and on.

Whatever. I think people are extra frenetic because it’s close and late, but there are going to be games like this where things just don’t go the Cubs way. They’re going to lose 19 more times this season, and I kinda expect media freakouts after each and ever loss. Yet, if they only do it 19 times, everything’s going to be great. Just because Z signed an extension doesn’t make him immune from bad starts. Everyone has bad starts.

It’s too soon to live and die with every decision, there’s still 36 games left. The slightly less small picture is the Cubs won 2 of 3 here (including 2 games they didn’t have much business winning), and that’s what they needed coming into this series. If they squeeze 2 out of the Diamondbacks, a better team right now, that’s an achievement.

I missed most of this game due to a power outage, so that’s all I got to say.

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Game 125: Cubs 4 – Giants 2

Aug
23

Cubs 65-60; +1/-2
Giants 55-72; -16.5/-13.0

POTG: SP Rich Hill (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, BB, 10 K- ZERO HR!)
Runner Up: RP Carlos Marmol (2 IP, H, 2 BB, 4 K), LF Cliff Floyd (2B), 2B/RF Mark DeRosa (2 H, R), 3B A Ram (2B, 2 RBI)

This game was completely different, because the fourth on felt like a Cubs win, we were just waiting to find to out how. The last inning felt completely the same, with Floyd making a big hit, and the Cubs putting together a big rally. Either of these games really could’ve gone the other way, and the Cubs are up by 2 because they took advantage of things late. It was really great.

Hill was super great – 10 strikeouts and the rotation is looking like it’ll steam roll over everyone. Marmol was unstoppable in his two innings, and Dempster didn’t walk anyone. The Blanco squeeze was perfectly done, and it was his first ML plate appearance in months. Outside of Theriot’s error, this was just an exceptionally well played game by the Cubs. Even the Aurilla error in the 9th, it was hard hit Fonenot ball, which just happened to go to the wrong place at the right angle.

Jake Fox has been really pressing the whole time out, looking over anxious to Make Something Happening. It peaked in this game, only because it’s barely possible for him to be more impatient: 3 at bats, 5 pitches seen. That’s not going to help anyone out. Fox needs more time in the minors, but he also needs to feel more comfortable when he’s up in the majors next time (in September?) or he won’t be much use.

I’m talking like Fox is already sent down, because I’m writing this after the Craig Monroe deal has been announced, and it’s pretty obvious which spot he’s taking. I need to think about this deal some more before I come up with an opinion. I mean, it’s basically a free player – Tigers are paying the salary, and the Cubs will surely be giving back a non-prospect since Detroit was about to release him anyway – and with Pagan and Soriano out of action, they could actually use an outfielder. Monroe has never played second base, which is a point in his favor. The upside is he becomes a right handed version of Floyd and/or Ward down the stretch (and maybe into the playoffs if they went with 11 pitchers.) This requires a big bounce back form where Monroe has been hitting all season, and normally I’d just heavily dismiss that (because he also wasn’t so good to begin with), but then Kendall’s worked out okay so far and I felt the same way there.

There are two sets of numbers that make this look promising

ALL: 222/264/373
AWAY: 244/265/424
Vs LHP: 302/317/545

Monroe’s hyped as a guy who can play all three spots. If that was accurate, you’d just have him take over the Pagan platoon with Jacque. I’m not sure it is, though, because Monroe’s only played 70 career CF games, and not much over the last few years. Granderson’s been pretty much an every day guy in that spot for them for the last few years. I think a corner platoon with Floyd, leaving Murton in the lurch again, is more likely.

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Game 124: Cubs 5 – Giants 1

Aug
22

Cubs 64-60, 0.0/-2.0
Giants 55-71, -15.5/-12.0

POTG: LF Cliff Floyd (H, 2 RBI)
Runner Up: SS Ryan Theriot (2B, R), C Jason Kendall (2 H, 2 R, BB), SP Jason Marquis (7 IP, 3 H, R, 5 BB, 5 K)

The Cubs were speeding to a quick loss, and that’s all there was to it. They had gotten nothing on Lincecum all game, just the two hits and a walk in the 8th. The game seemed over…and then about 60 seconds later, it was a tie game, Ramirez up, and Lincecum out of the game. I’m sure most people gave up, being a West Coast game with no signs of life for 8 innings, but that 9th inning was something to see. The speed of how things changed was amazing in itself, from having no hope to start the inning to being confident Floyd was going to get the runner home (though I wasn’t sure how.) It was as big a momentum shift as I’ve seen.

One of the reasons I didn’t believe the Cubs were coming back for this one is the strategy they used at the plate all game. The scouting report had to push the hitters towards swinging early in the count, because even the supremely patient guys on the team were hacking away as if it was getaway day before the All Star Break. Cliff is player of the game deservingly so, but you don’t often have good nights when you see all of 7 pitches in 4 at bats. Theriot is one of the more patient guys, and he only saw 9 all night. Team average was just over 3 pitches per at bat, way too low. The strategy seemed completely flawed for eight innings. It worked in the 9th, but I think only because Lincecum hit the wall quick and they couldn’t yank him out in time.

Once again, Marquis kept the Cubs in this one when it looked like he might explode. Brenley was pretty certain Jason didn’t get a good feel of the mound in the first inning, and that makes as much sense as any to explain the near disaster there. There was some good pitching after by Jason to keep himself out of further trouble, most of all escaping Visquel on third with one out in the 7th without giving up any more runs. The key appears to be his ground ball rate; I can’t find a good way to look this up, but 13 ground ball outs to 3 fly ball outs has to be one of his more one-sided outings. Keeping the ball down is keeping it out of the park.

Hill vs Zito is tonight’s matchup. I hope you like curveballs! With Thursday’s game in the day, I wonder if we’ll get Kendall here, and Blanco back with Z for his first game back. I think it makes more sense the other way.

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