Game 25: Nationals 2 – Cubs 0


Cubs 16-9 (1st)
Nationals 9-17, -6.5 (5th)

POTG: SP Ted Lilly (6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K)
Runner Up: no one

Too bad for Ted to finally get pitching on day where he can’t get much help. This was one loss he didn’t deserve.

I was at the Cougars game (gotta right about that later) and didn’t see much of this at all, but it doesn’t seem to be a weather issue on the offense. It wasn’t great, but it was more the magic of an unknown pitcher baffling a team. I think in Lannan was in the NLCentral and the Cubs saw him three times, they’d be lighting him up by the middle of the second time.

2-3 road trip, and losing in Washington, is a bit disappointing. But they were bound to cool off at some point, especially the secondary guys who were hitting out of their minds, and I’d rather the letdown happen against the Nationals than the Brewers. If this keeps up, then there’s a problem, but it’s okay for now.

(and we’re caught up.)

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Game 24: Cubs 7 – Nationals 0


Cubs 16-8 (1st)
Nationals 8-17, -6.5 (5th)

POTG: SP Z!!!! (7 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 4 BB, 5 K, QS [5], W [4/86])
Runner Up: CF Reed Johnson (2 H, 2 R), SS Ryan Theriot (2 R, 2 H, BB, SB), 3B A Ram (2 2B, 2 RBI, BB), LF DeRosa (2 H, 2 RBI), 2B Cedeno (3 H, 2 2 B), 1B D Lee (2 H, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB),

CARLOS ZAMBRANO. Five great starts out of six changes. The walks are up, the strikeouts are down, but the effectiveness is so there. The Cubs didn’t even need Z! to be Z! today – Matt Chico is a bad pitcher and everyone should know it – but he decided he was going to crush the Nationals and so he did. The only part of his game not looking good is the hitting, and I’m sure that angers him deeply. I expect him to be breaking down film and analyzing his swing for the next four days.

No offense to Rich Hill, but it is nice that the juggled rotation means Z vs the Brewers. That’ll be fun.

Nice cameos by the good Michael Wuertz and the usual Jon Lieber. Hitters were good even if no one had a huge day. Lee was on four times, which is pretty good if he doesn’t wipe himself out one of those times.

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Game 23: Nationals 5 – Cubs 3


Cubs 15-8
Nationals 8-16

POTG: CF Reed Johnson (2 R, H, HBP, awesome catch)
Runner Up: 3B A Ram (2 H, R, RBI), RF Fukudome (2 H, 2B), SP Ryan Dempster (7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, QS [3])

And sometimes the backup catcher gets lucky on a bad pitch.

Things to take out of this one
– Reed Johnson gets to make the highlight reels for all times
– Ryan Dempster considers to give long, winnable starts
– Marmol gets in trouble, out of trouble
– team continues to walk quite a bit
– Ryan Theriot gets chances to evaluate when he should be stealing bases
– Soto gets to many “bad at bats to evaluate”

That’s pretty much it.

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Game 22: Rockies 4 – Cubs 2


Cubs 15-7, +1.5 (1st)
Rockies 10-12, -6.0 (2nd)

POTG: SP Jason Marquis (7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K, QS [2])
Runner Up: CF Felx Pie (2 H, RBI)

I have no recollection of this game. I wasn’t even sick at this point, as far as I can recall, and I actually listened to the whole game. It just wasn’t much of a memorable game when you don’t win it.

Marquis wasn’t lights out, but this is definitely going to end up as one of his better starts of the season and it ended up wasted. Somewhat surprising Pinella didn’t hit the Marmol button to protect the tie game, but I guess he wanted to avoid Carlos after using him the night before. Instead, they used Hart, and you don’t really know what you’re getting from him from game to game. This was not a good game.

On a better day, the decision’s made for Lou, because the Cubs score a few more runs than happened here. There weren’t too many missed opportunities because the Cubs didn’t give themselves many chances. They gave themselves lots of 1-2-3 innings instead. The costliest play of the game was Theriot’s line drive DP where a SF could’ve put the Cubs ahead, but the bigger problems was everything being reliant on one chance coming thru.

Some days, the offense just isn’t going to score runs. This was one of those days.

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Game 21: Cubs 7 – Rockies 6 (10)


Cubs 15-6, +2.0 (1st)
Rockies 9-12, -6 (2nd)

POTG: 3B A RAM (2 H, 2B, HR [6/228], 3 RBI)
Runner Up: SS Ryan Theriot (2 H, RBI, SB), 1B D Lee (4 H, 3B, R, RBI, SB), RF Fukudome (3B, IBB, R), C Soto (4 H, HR, 2B, R, RBI), SS Cedeno (2 H, SH, IBB because they fear Ronny Cedeno!)

Ram’s home run wasn’t the game winner, because things went bad with Wood, but the Cubs clearly do not win that game unless he gets that home run. That was as tremendously game changing hits as they come and can not be understated. It also made the game feel like another in the series of Games The Cubs Had No Business Winning, But Did. It seems to be a long running show this year.

It almost didn’t work out that way, thanks to Wood’s trouble in the 9th. Just like his other blown save, the Cubs managed to put things back together and get the win in the end. You’d like Kerry not to blow the games in the first place, but he’s done a good enough job of keeping things from exploding when they go bad, allowing the Cubs to get chances to clean up for his mistake. The Cubs non-stars got one more shot around the Rockies bullpen and got just enough to get this over.

In a place where he’s looked really bad before, Rick Hill had an okay start. Just like with Lilly, you would’ve liked to see it go longer, and it was even more so true when Wuertz exploded behind him. There was some good bullpen work (Marshall, Howry, and Marmol) and bad (Wuertz, Lieber and Wood) mixed in.

I don’t care who’s behind him or where he’s bating, seeing Ronny Cedeno getting intentionally walked is odd. There are some pitches on this team that they’d normally want to see less than Ronny Cedeno.

Last year, it took until the last week of August for the Cubs to get 2 games in the lead. They achieved this by April 23 this year. Better starts DO work!

Game 20: Cubs 8 – Mets 1


Mets 10-9, 2nd (-1.5)
Cubs 14-6, 1st (+1.5)

POTG: SS Ronny Cedeno (2B, Grand Slam [1/12], 5 RBI)
Runner up: LF Reed Johnson (H, 2 RBI, BB), RF Fukudome (2 R, 3 H, 2 BB), SP Ted Lilly (6 IP, 4 H, R, 4 BB, 4 K, QS, W [1/75]

It’s too much to overemphasize one AB in from a guy who may end up with 400 of ’em, but it doesn’t take much to imagine Cedeno’s long successful plate appearance to close out Monday night’s game might have flipped a switch. He sure continued his strong hitting here, following that unbelievable hit with an unbelievable grand slam.

Note that some of Cedeno’s runs come directly by being in the seventh slot. As long as Fukudome continues to bat 5th, there are going to be days where he gets on 5 times and the guys behind him will get chances to make huge impacts. It’ll be changed before the season is over (and Fukudome can’t possibly stay this great), but the guys batting sixth and seventh getting off to good starts have been a big help to this team’s win total.

Maybe it’s the competition – the Pirates were very bad and there are a lot more holes than people let on about the Mets before this season started – but I have never seen a Cubs team where everyoen seemed to hitting at once or as well as this team at this moment.

Counting this game, the Cubs have had 2 games that weren’t close from the middle innings on, and 2 that turned into a blowout in the 8th. That’s a really nice stretch when you’re starting to get bullpen concerns.

Ted Lilly’s performance is the last major problem with the club, so to see him get on track against the team picked to win the pennant this year is a really good sign.

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Game 19: Cubs 7 – Mets 1


Mets 10-8, 2nd (1.5 GB)
Cubs 13-6, 1st

POTG: SP Z! (7 IP, 5 H, ER, 2 BB, 4 K, W [3/85]

You can have your Johan Sanatans and Brandon Webbs and Felix Hernandi, I’m going go roll with Carlos Zambrano each and every day. Night like this, I don’t believe there’s anything he can’t do. He was far more in control than numbers showed – if Soto makes the correct throw in the 6th and the Cubs needed to keep the Mets off the board, Z probably comes out of this with a shutout. If this was later in the season and Cedeno didn’t get on in front of him, maybe he comes out for an inning more. Tonight, Z did all the Cubs needed to him do.

It’s a good thing he did, because until Aaron Heilman and Jorge Sosa got involved, it didn’t look like there was going to be much of a margin. John Maine was pretty effective, but the Cubs also just couldn’t advance any runners until he was gone.

I was fast forwarding a lot of this game to catch up (to speed things up to give more time for sleep), so when DeRosa and Soto went down with the bases loaded, I was just thinking about quickly finishing up the inning to see how Wood would do under pressure. Instead, Cedeno fouled pitch after pitch – nearly as much as Fukudome did before him – enroute to his best plate appearance of the year. That was huge for Ronny, and Felix Pie’s huge home run was good for him.

I still wish they’d give Felix more of a shot, but I am believing the talk about giving him a lot of side work to fix him. It makes more sense than sending him back to Des Monies, and he’s find as a fifth outfielder. I just wish he’d be more than that.

Highlight of the ESPN Broadcast: Orel talking about Carlos’ fight last year with “Marty Barrett.” Yes, Carlos threw down with the old Red Sox third baseman and apparently only ESPN was there. If things get into a rut, I hope Z takes on Mike Greenwell next.

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Game 18: Cubs 13 – Pirates 6


Pirates 7-11, 5.0 GB (5th)
Cubs 12-6, 1st

POTG: SS Ryan Theriot (4 H, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB, 2 2B, SB)
Runner Up: CF Reed Johnson (2 H, 3 R, 2B, HBP), 1B D Lee (2 H, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB), 3B A Ram (4 H, HR, 2B, HBP, 4 RBI), C Soto (2 H, 2 R, 2 BB), 2B Ronny Cedeno (2 H, 2B, 2 R, RBI)

I think I was hurting bad during this game, but I have some vague recollection of dragging myself out of bed (because Comcast didn’t get the TV in there working) and to my couch to watch – this? something else? I do not recall!

Pirates would also like to forget this weekend. This was a slaughter, a game where the only mistake the Cubs appeared to make was taking out Dempster for Fontenot when it ended up not mattering at all. And even then, Ryan still gets the win and the valuable people in the bullpen never have tow arm up, so it worked out pretty okay.

It’s funny. By the end of the catchup I’m working on, people are annoyed with Theriot, but he was pretty great here. OTOH, this was the point where he could steal third successfully.

Wuertz, on the other hand, had started to doom himself again. Alas.

Cubs would like to play the Pirates each and every day.

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Game 17: Cubs 13 – Pirates 1


Cubs 10-6, -1.5 GB (2nd)
Pirates 7-9, -4.5 GB (4th)

POTG: SP Jason Marquis (6 IP, 6 H, ER, BB, 7 K, QS [2], W [1/69])
Runner Up: RP Keith Kart (1.2 IP, H, B, 2 K, 0 R), RP Michael Wuertz (1.1 IP, K, 0 R), SS Ryan Theriot (2 H, 3 R, BB), 1B D Lee (HR, 2 RBI), 1B Ward (2 R, BB, HR, 2 RBI), 3B A Ram (2 R, H, 2 BB, 2B), RF Fukudome (SB, H, 2 R, 2 BB, RBI), LF/3B Mark DeRosa (H, 2 R, 2 RBI), C Soto (2 H, RBI, 2B), 2B Ronny Cedeno (2 H, 2 RBI, R, BB)

I think I saw five minutes of this game, including Ward finally getting a hit this season. At that point it was over, but this one was pretty much over from the first inning. It makes it tough to pick a POTG when every does something and no one does a lot, so I’m leaning towards the pitcher who won’t get as many of these chances. Plus, Marquis threw in a double, always nice.

The Pirates are a pretty thorough team, bad all the way thru. A team like that, with question marks in the starting rotation, need more long men in the pen to eat up disaster starts or they end up shredding the bullpen like they did in this game. The Pirates instead kept throwing out pitchers who were throwing out very hittable balls. Evan Meek still does not belong in the major leagues and the Pirates are gaining no benefit by keeping the overmatched Rule 5 guy around. But that’s the sort of thing the Pirates do.

Like I said above, everyone had a good game. Look at how long that list was, everyone was chipping it a couple hits or a couple runs or both. Even Michael Wuertz got out of a bases loaded situation. It doesn’t mean much much when you’re up by 12, but it’s nice that he’d actually have a good outing for once.

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Game 16: Cubs 3 – Pirates 2


Cubs 10-6, -1.5 GB (2nd)
Pirates 7-9, -4.5 GB (4th)

POTG: SP Rich Hill (5 IP, 3 H, ER, 3 BB, 4 K, W [1/18])
Runner Up: RP Carlos Marmol (2 IP, 2 H, ER, BB, 5 K, HR), SS Ryan Theriot (3B, 2H), LF/2B DeRosa (2B, 2 H, R, RBI), C Soto (2 BB, 2B), CF-LF Johnson (2 H, RBI)

I can’t believe I’m ten games behind. Things pile up pretty quick. I would’ve missed this live – plenty of other things going on, but have a vague impression that I read the game stories. It was nice to get Hill back on a winning side, but I was concerned about how quickly he was pulled. Things got close and Pinella was more than willing to over manage to get a win, including grinding two more innings out of Marmol.

Sometime this week, Pinella talked about how little he bought into chemistry, but he certainly buys into getting guys in positive grooves. That’s why everything was thrown at the window to beat the Pirates (to get Hill a win) and I think that’s why Fukudome is still batting fifth (because it’s easy enough he shouldn’t run into some early struggles, even if he makes more sense elsewhere.)

POTG list, thru the first ten:

4 D Lee
2 Fukudome
2 Soto
2 Z!
1 Lieber
1 Dempster
1 A Ram
1 Hart
1 Johnson
1 Hill

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