Game 37: Cubs 6 – Diamondbacks 4


Cubs 22-15, 1st (tie)
Diamonbacks 23-15, 1st (+3.5)

POTG: LF-CF Reed Johnson (2R HR)
Runner Up: RF Fukudome (2 H, R), PH Daryle Ward (2B, 2 RBI), RP Michael Wuertz (4 pitches, 3 outs!)

Whoever decided to play “Rubber Band Man” for Marmol deserves a bonus.

This was a total success. Gallagher didn’t pitch great, but kept the Cubs in it and you might as well see what he does in a start he actually knows is coming. Chad Fox was pretty bad coming in with runners on base but at least turned in a solid inning. Michael Wuertz was effective, oddly enough. Marmol was dominate and Kerry continued towards his goal of leading the league in HBP for a third time despite being a reliever.

It does say something about Alfonso Soriano’s superstar status that Pinella made the (wise!) move of using him as a IBB decoy to set up Ward. I don’t think Pujols would be used to set up Ward. More to the point, I think Lou would have Ward bat first and take the walk rather than Lee or Ram. Maybe it’s was just the injury or the conditions, but there did seem to be some hidden honesty in that moment.

That situation never happens if Reed Johnson doesn’t hit the two run home run the inning before. Juan Cruz sure did not have his best stuff Sunday afternoon, but a game tying home run is a game tying home run regardless of how it comes. I’ve been down on Reed lately, because he’s really cooled off and resembled the player the Blue Jays let go of in March – even with this hit, he’s dropped 70 points of his batting average since April 27 and his slugging number was Neifi Perez like before this home run. What he does have is great timing, getting the big hits just enough to be fondly remembered.

Wish someone asked what the deal was with Ram’s delayed steal. I still can’t quite believe it worked.

The really big success story here is the Cubs got a win, and a series sweep, without using Carlos Zambrano. Sure, it was a fair battle after Arizona pulled the Big Unit too, but what I’m really happy about is that means Z starts tonight. Tonight, when I’ve got tickets in row 11. This weekend could not have worked out any better.

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Game 36: Cubs 7 – Diamondbacks 2


Cubs 21-15, 2nd (-1.0)
Diamondbacks 23-14, (+3.5)

POTG: LF Soriano (4 H, 2 R, RBI, 2B)
Runner Up: SS The Riot (2 H, HBP, R, RBI tho’ another CS), 3B A Ram (2 H, 2B, R, RBI), RF Kosuke (2R HR), SP Ryan Dempster (6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 7 K, W [4/63], QS [6])

Maybe not so much for that vaunted Arizona Diamonbacks attack. I know I may be tempting something, saying that before the last game of the series, but I have faith in Z in making me look right and a backup plan of the game just being rained out. It is painful outside right now and may not be any better the rest of the day. IF they do get the Sunday afternoon game in, it will a hard game to play.

Back to Saturday first. Dempster had another very solid outing. His walks will forever get him into trouble, but that’s just the guy he is. His BB/9 and K/BB ratios are no different than they’ve been in the rest of his time with the Cubs. Dempster’s just giving up less hits than normal and half as many homeruns per game. The best part is looks to be possibly sustainable:

Dempster’s either added a pitch or changed a pitch, because he’s getting as many groundballs as he’s gotten during his career and the Cubs infield is sweeping them up. I hope someone paid to cover the Cubs notices this and does a story on at some point, because I’m very curious what’s going on. If you can get ground balls and you can get strikeouts, the walks aren’t going to end you. If Ryan could somehow cut down on the walks, he’d have a league top ten season, but what he’s doing now is pretty special too.

Good to see Soriano finally break out a bit. The four hit day got him hitting about 200 for the first time all season. He’s going to need a few more of those go be back to normal. Also nice to see Fukudome finally get his second home run, because we were all going to start to worry if it lasted much longer.

Insert same Marmol rant here as last time. If Chad Fox can’t come into a game to protect a five run lead after not pitching for four days, then Chad Fox really shouldn’t be on this roster.

Off to set up the maximum overrun on my TiVo – today’s game sure won’t be done by 4:20, if it’ll be done at all.

Game 35: Cubs 3 – Diamondbacks 1


Diamondbacks 23-13
Cubs 20-15

POTG: SP Ted Lilly (7 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 10 K, W [3/77], QS [4]; H, RBI)
Runner Up: 2B Mark DeRosa (2B, 2 H, R, BB)

Don’t have much time to write about this game, but this was as much a Ted Lilly game as Carlos’ start have been his. It doesn’t end happy if DeRosa doesn’t break out of his slump, and Carlos and Kerry were plenty effective and efficient in the late innings, enough that both should be ready today if Dempster gives them a chance.

Dan Haren deserved better from that start, and I’m not sure if the Cubs can hold the Diamondbacks to one run again. It’s good to get the first win out of the way, to stop the trend from the playoffs before it becomes any strong, and to stem the tide of recent performances.

Yay for ‘only’ 12 pitchers. Yay for the Kerry Wood’s first appearance of a new pitch coming exactly ten years after the first appearance of another pitch that worked pretty okay.

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NLDS Game 3: Diamondbacks 5 – Cubs 1


POTG: RP Bob Howry (2 IP, H, 4 K)
Runner Up: 2B Mark DeRosa (2H, R but GIDP), 1B D Lee (2 H but GIDP)

No power, no win. One double on the night, 4 extra base hits on the series, and it obviously wasn’t going to be close. Rich Hill dug a hole early, but it doesn’t matter much when the Cubs only put up a 1.

I’m looking for something to say about the game, but there’s really not. The grounding into double plays, 4 in the first 7 innings, was crazy annoying, but they would’ve been just as much an issue if they were only good for one out. The Cubs were hitting ground balls instead of line drives all series, and it’s tough to get extra bases when your hitting the ball to the short stop.

Stephen Drew looked good at the plate, but looked at shortshop like he should be a third baseman.

Gut, instant feelings:
Ward – returns
Floyd – does not
Wood – stays
Prior – DFA, possible resign at a big salary cut
Monroe, Cotts, Novoa – same
Jacque/Marquis – no trade
Pie/Murton – platooning
Dempster – still the closer
Marmol – still the setup
Kendall – free agent
Blanco – back up catcher
Soto – #1 starting the year
Trachsel – history

Next Year’s 25

01 CA Soto
02 CA Blanco
03 1B Lee
04 1B Ward
05 2B DeRosa
06 2B Fontenot (or Cedeno)
07 SS Theriot
22 3B Ram (oops! distracted)
08 LF Soriano
09 CF Jacque
10 CF Pie
11 RF Murton

12 SP Z
13 SP Lilly
14 SP Hill
15 SP Marquis
16 SP Marshall

17 RP Wuertz
18 RP Eyre
19 RP Marmol
20 RP Howry
21 CL Dempster

22 SS Cedeno or middle infielder
23 spare OF
24 left handed reliver (Ohman?)
25 spare reliever

NLDS Game 2: Diamondbacks 8 – Cubs 4


Cubs 0-2
Diamondbacks 2-0

POTG: C Mr. Soto (2R HR)
Runner Up: PH Daryle Ward (2B, 2 RBI), RP Kerry Wood (2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K)

Ted Lilly and the Cubs are going to beat Doug Davis and the Diamondbacks today. I’m not even worried about it.

Shows what I know.

I was thinking about doing a liveblog last night, but opted to get some other stuff done while watching the game. If I had written then, or written this in the immediate aftermath of this game, this blog would’ve been filled with bursts of depression and anger. I waited till now instead and spared myself an embarrassing comments for the rest of my life (though it’s another thing that makes this the least interesting Cubs blog ever.)

I’m trying to look at things rationally. Like at least Kerry got to make it back to postseason and be effective. And Soto’s probably the Cubs starting catcher in ’07 with Kendall only coming back if he’ll be a backup and Blanco can’t. (Though Soto didn’t have the best game behind the plate, both in blocking ball and pitch selection; with Hill on the mound anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kendall was behind the plate and they just told the Diamondbacks to do their worst.) Even though Ram didn’t get the big hit, they at least got some looks on Valverde.

The Cubs had two game loss streaks 19 times during the season. Before the team bottomed out at the start of June, they lost the third game 5 times and won twice. As the Cubs turned around, the Cubs followed winning streaks by winning 9 times and losing only 4. The Cubs have mostly been the first half team for the first two games of the series, but they’ve got to find their second half/later two-thirds ability if they’re going to have a chance.

I think the Cubs still have it in themselves to send this back to Arizona, because the Cubs can get to Livan and win the game if Hill doesn’t leave the ball up, and Z will win Game 4 all by himself if he has to (just to make a point about who should be silver slugger!) I’d be lying if I felt at all confident about a Game 5 back in Arizona – I’d also be lying if I told you I ever wanted to see Chase Field again – they were playing paddy cake in the top of the 9th in that home plate dugout! – but I’d like not to be crushed.

If the Cubs can get out to an early lead on Saturday – never be a better time for a Soriano leadoff homerun – the crowd can carry the club a bit. I just worry about how it’ll be if it’s agonizing early, because the Diamondbacks have taken the heart out of the lineup with the last two games.

Dick Stockton is an awful announcer. I swear, he confused “Cubs” and “Cowboys” when Michael Wuertz came in.

NLDS Game 1: Diamondbacks 3 – Cubs 1


Cubs 0-1
Diamondbacks 1-0

POTG: SP Z! (6 IP, R, 4 H, BB, 8 K; 2B)
Runner Up: 2B Mark DeRosa (H, BB, HBP)

I need to get this argument out of my system, because arguing with human beings, arguing with the radio and arguing with newspapers hasn’t helped so far. Writing it out usually does the trick. Since the Cubs are indeed playing another game today, it doesn’t serve a purpose to dwell on it.

Whatever time Z got yanked – after 6, after 7, after 8 (I’ve been arguing with someone who thinks he could’ve gone 9, which would’ve put him at 127 pitches and pitching in 3 days) – it makes absolutely no difference if the Cubs can’t score any runs. Z pitching one more inning would not have changed the offense, you can’t prove Z wouldn’t have run into trouble, and even if he didn’t, Marmol’s always going to be the first guy out of the pen but now facing a better portion of the Diamondbacks order. You’re getting the same result whenever you pull Z, and if the Cubs weren’t going to score regardless, they’re better off saving Z for a day where they might. (Let’s take a moment to note that Arizona is going with a 4 man rotation, which means Z faces Micah Owings next time thru, not Webb. That’s a much better shot.)

I find the whole argument about pulling Zambrano completely and totally insane and inane. It’s like arguing if it’s better to get to the North Side via Lake Shore or 90/94 – if you don’t have enough gas to get you there, it doesn’t matter which route you take. The Cubs ended up pulled over to the side before the big S curve and for all the complaining about taking the wrong route, the actual problem was not stopping at BP sometime earlier. In 2007 baseball, pitching can not be blamed for any lose where the offense scores 3 or less runs – it takes a heroic effort to win with little support.

Marmol’s problem clearly wasn’t the batters he was facing, but overthrowing the ball and pulling everything to the left because he was too hyped up, then trying to just get pitches over which got them cranked. Maybe Wood would’ve handled the moment better, but you’ve got to go with your best bet, and Carlos Marmol arguably has been the MVP this year.

I greatly admire Lou for believing in the move he made and refusing to back down from people who had decided what story they wanted to tell without taking a look at the scoreboard.

Sometimes, the other team is just simply better. This was one of those games. Tip your cap and try again tomorrow.

These things I know to be true

– The Cubs aren’t winning the series if they score 1 run a game
– The Cubs aren’t winning the series if Carlos Marmol turns into a pumpkin
– at least the first and probably the second problem won’t be such an issue when the Cubs face the non-Webb pitchers.
– The Cubs must get ahead early to take the Diamondbacks bullpen out of the game.

I think I’m not really as mad about this as I am about the extremely annoying guy in the blue/white Under Armor-like shirt behind home plate all night. He had tickets in the surely most expensive section in the ballpark and he wasted them, so either he’s filthy rich or someone was dumb enough to give him free ones. He clearly didn’t care about wasting the money for the tickets, because he spent half the game turned around chatting with someone, a full inning flirting with the blond girl who was sitting in that section (and also not paying any attention) and the rest of the time watching himself on television. He gave Narcissus a run for his money, and the stupid “Hi [whomever]” signs he kept trying to hold up were unreadable even in HD but still very distracting.

This guy really should’ve been ejected after he tried the flashing Cubs logo thing, and I’m figuring it was only because the game was so close to being done (those people who left early just after can also get lost) and because he was in the expensive section – if someone did that in the bleachers, they’d be banned for life. At the least there was a payoff at the end, when he picked up a plastic glass of whatever and he got distracted or got yelled or whatever and the glass slipped from his hand and splashed onto the floor. Serves him right for standing around like a goof and acting the part all night.

(These are the kind of things you notice when the team’s doing nothing at the plate.)

This dude, more annoying than anyone calling home on their cell phone and waving to the camera, gave me two ideas:

1) Baseball needs to find some fabric that allows one way viewing – you can see out, no one can see in, like a one way mirror – and use it to cover the area behind homeplate (as well as any visible basement area like where this guy was sitting). TV still has the whole rest of the stadium for reaction shots, and we don’t have to stare at people who are purposely trying to distract attention from the game so we will look at them instead.

2) The next great idea for a cable station is to have no TV shows at all. Just turn a camera on in a public metro area, broadcast that camera’s feed on your network, and promote it’s existence. It’d basically be the most high profile webcam possible. Everyone who so desperately needs to be on TV can seek it out and do whatever, and it ought to be cheap enough that it can be added to every cable system in the universe and maybe those people can get the exposure they want. I’m not sure who’d bother to watch this, but if you can make being on TV not so novel, perhaps people will get over it when they get good seats at a sporting event.

Ted Lilly and the Cubs are going to beat Doug Davis and the Diamondbacks today. I’m not even worried about it.

Game 129: Diamondbacks 5 – Cubs 4


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


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


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 97: Diamondbacks 3 – Cubs 0


Diamondbacks 52-48/4.5
Cubs 51-46/2.5

POTG: SP Sean Marshall (6 IP, 5 H, ER, 2 BB, 5 K)
Runner Up: none

So, it’s 3-2 without D Lee. Sounds about right. It stings more when the 2Ls come at the end.

This was a classic case of a team not showing up before an off day. 4 hits! 0 walks! 5 Bases! An amazingly week performance.

Marshall pitched good enough to win this game. Actually, he pitched good enough to get to 98 pitches, first time in a month. It’s still obvious they’re concerned about over pitching him, either for injury or performance concern. He seemed to be cruising along fine, and one more inning couldn’t have been worse than Mamrol (not that it mattered), but they obviously feel more comfortable this way.

Petrick and Eyre looked fine, that’s a nice change. Kendall finally got a hit. Maybe he’ll get over 100 someday.

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