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Game 47: Astros 4 – Cubs 2

May
23

Cubs 28-18, 1st
Astros 26-21, 3rd

POTG: RP Howry (IP, 3 K)
Runner Up: LF Hoffpauir (2 2B, R)

POTG is a weak pick something pick. I have no recollection of this game, even though I can write like twelve things about the games before it.

Everyone (well, every non-star) has a short leash with Lou around, and I think Gallagher might be done already. I think Lou will stand you not going long into the game if you’re at least effective, but Sean was neither here. Marshall being bad in AAA might be a deterrent for a shot time, but everyone’s pretty impulsive lately. Same thing with Edmonds – he desperately needs a multi hit game, or this experiment is going to come to a close quick.

If Hoffpauir could play CF, would he be starting everyday? (Yea, and for the last two years.)

At least Derrek is hitting again. It’d just better if it came with a road series win.

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Game 46: Astros 4 – Cubs 2

May
23

Cubs 28-18, 1st
Astros 26-21, 3rd

POTG: 3B A Ram (2 H, HR, 2 RBI)
Runner UP: 1B D Lee (3 H, R), 2B Mark DeRosa (2 H)

I missed the two biggest plate appearances of the game – the Geoff Blum walk, and the Hunter Pence grand slam – while the channel happened to be flipped to something else. Don’t look at me, I didn’t have the remote (that time.) As painful it is for Ryan Dempster to killed by walks, he is Ryan Dempster and that’s why he does. The bigger problem here was the batters not doing what they have been doing, and only putting two runs on the board.

It was almost the opposite of what happened in the last Pittsburgh series: Lee and Ram got hits, no one else did, and the Cubs didn’t walk much either. Only two on the game, with Edmonds (catch or no catch, didn’t look good otherwise) and Hoffpauir’s PH appearance. Besides Soriano, no one struck out all that much, but everyone was pounding the ball into the ground.

I know nothing about Jose Ascanio; I remember the Cubs treading Will Ohman for someone, but I didn’t hear his name much in Spring Training. He had issues with baserunners here, but his stuff seems good enough that he deserves as much a chance to secure the last bullpen spot as anyone else they’ve cycled thru that slot already. I do not expect to see much more of Chad Fox – the very vague injury return assessment is a Prior-ese – and rather the Cubs give younger guys chances to see if they’ve got something. It is only the last spot in the bullpen anyway, the guy that only exists to eat up innings when everyone else is tried – you might as well see if someone can surprise everyone.

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Game 45: Cubs 7 – Astros 2

May
23

Cubs 28-17, 1st
Astros 25-21, 3rd

POTG: RP Mr. Automatic (IP, K, 2 marooned)
Runner Up: 3B A Ram (3 H, HR, 2 R, RBI), SS The Riot (2B, 2H, R, RBI), 1B D Lee (2B, 2H, R, RBI), RF Fukudome (2 H, R), C Soto (HR, 2 RBI), 2B DeRosa (2 H, R), RP Jon Lieber (1.2 IP, H, 0 ER)

Heart of the order, each batter representing the tying run, and runners at second and third for most of it. Marmol gets a popup, a strikeout, and a ground out to escape untouched. That’s as great an escape job you’re going to get it. It doesn’t stick out as much in the boxscore, because Ram’s home run put this out of reach, but Marmol was able to save this from an all square game with all the momentum pointing the wrong way to one where victory was a near certainty. Not sure if I trust any other pitcher on this team to do it.

I think Lieber may oddly find a new life as a setup man. His strength to the builpen is the ability to eat up multiple innings on a consistent basis, but he may also be the third solid guy in the pen (behind Wood and Marmol). Jon is far more steady than Eyre, Wuertz, and Howry at this point – outside of the one start, you’re pretty sure about what you’ll get it, and it’s usually good enough.

The botched home run call was a Cowboy Joe West call, and one that shouldn’t have been that hard. I know there are other umps the Cubs have histories with, but it’s him and Angel Hernandez I’m least pleased to see turn up for games. It feels like you’ll never make it out of series without an incident.

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Game 146: Cubs 6 – Astros 2

Sep
14

Cubs 75-71, +0.5
Astros 63-83, -12

POTG: 3B A RAM (3R HR [23/219])
Runner Up: SP Steve Trachsel (5 IP, 2 R, 7H, 3BB, 4K, W [7/141]), RP Carlos Marmol (2 IP, BB, 3 K), 2B Mike Fontenot (2B, 2 H, R), RF Cliff Floyd (HR [7/220], BB, 2 R), 1B Darryl Ward (HR [3/86], 2 H), CF-RF Jacque Jones (2 H)

POWER = WINS. It was nice for the Cubs to break it open in the first four batters of the night. I think it put Trachsel in something of a comfort zone. It would’ve been big if the Cubs had kept coming at Williams and opened up the lead a few more runs so it never got critical again, like it did by the 5th. They managed. Trachsel was good enough, for a guy coming back on short rest from a horrible start.

The rest of the season’s rotation seems to be this:

09/14: Z!
09/15: Lilly and Marshall
09/16: Marquis
09/17: Hill
09/18: Z! (short rest)
09/19: Lilly (short rest)
09/20: OFF
09/21: Marquis
09/22: Hill
09/23: Z!
09/24: OFF
09/25: Lilly (extra rest)
09/26: Marquis
09/27: Hill
09/28: Z!
09/29: Lilly (short rest)
09/30: Marquis (short rest)

(ChicagoSports)

I think Trachsel’s good outing, and how the Brewers go (duh) might change this all around again. If the Cubs somehow end up with a 2.5 game lead on Monday, wouldn’t you consider giving Tracshel that Monday start, putting Z on normal rest, and not having to pitching Lilly on short rest? i don’t think we’ve seen the last Trachsel start, but that’s just my guess. Hopefully we see one from him or Marshall or Gallagher or Hart on the 29th and the 30th with the Cubs clinching early.

Lee will probably need another day off, but at least Darryl Ward is hitting in his absence. The Cubs can make it a couple of days without their #2 guy, which is a near change of pace from usual.

Does anyone have any idea where Soriano’s ball hit? Still not sure. Ram’s ball almost went right thru a guy, which was neat.

I didn’t really did using Marmol for two innings, especially when they were up by four. I think it speaks to how desperate they are for wins and how little Lou trusts the dregs of the bullpen to mop up even in a sure win. Earlier in the season, Marmol probably only goes one and Ohman or Wuertz cleans up, but Lou’s just leaving a lot of guys out there to rot right now.

I know everyone’s kinda hoping this four game Cardinals series turns into a repeat of the (nationally unheralded) 5 game set from 2003, but I’m not so sure it’s going to go the way. The Cardinals have been a strange team all year, but it seems like they’ve finally got the heart yanked out of them. The Cubs aren’t going to sweep a four game series, but I think we’re going to get one or two 9-2 games in the mix. It’d be nice to have a blowout after that last series.

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Game 145: Cubs 3 – Astros 2

Sep
13

Cubs 74-71, +/- 0
Astros 63-82, -11

POTG: SP Rich Hill (7 IP, 3 H, R, 3 BB, 7 K, W [9/15]; H)
Runner Up: LF Cliff Floyd (HR [6/219], 3B, 2 R), 2B Mark DeRosa (2 H, R), SS Ryan Theriot (H, BB, 2 RBI)

These game are going to kill me. Kill us all.

Cubs haven’t been more than 3 games back or 3 games ahead since July 24th. Somewhat relatedly, Cubs haven’t won 2 games in a row since September 2nd, and haven’t won three games in a row since August 18.

We’re back to half game separations till the Saturday double header, and then back again on Monday.

Rich will get 3 – maybe 2? or 4? they keep announcing the rotation for rest of the season and then changing it the next day – more meaningful starts the rest of the season, and I hope this is the start of one last run to finish out the season. He was sharp tonight, still walked a little too much but got out of trouble. When he gave up the inevitable home run, it was with no one on, and it was the only run in. With the Cubs really not hitting well in this park again (despite all logic) and Marmol not really being an option in this game, it was so critical to have 7 good innings and Rich Hill more than delivered.

Felix Pie owes Ryan Dempster and Derrek Lee a large meal of some sort. Perhaps breakfast – they totally saved his bacon, so he should buy some for them. There’s nothing more frustrating and annoying then a defensive replacement making a defensive misplay, but Pie clearly played Lamb’s double into a triple. Tying run on second with no out is still a critical situation, but not like guy on third with no out. Felix has got to start contributing something more, and I’m sure Lou’s about done with him for the season. If Angel Pagan still existed (rehabbing in Arizona?), he’d surely be the Uncle Cliffy caddy now. I don’t know have any idea how well Sam Fuld can field, but maybe he gets a look.

Nice for The Riot to pick up 2 RBIs on what was supposed to be his day off. No one thinks Cedeno would do the same. Good to see Cliff kill some balls – at least someone. I wonder if someone besides Jason Kendall will catch down the stretch?

This is quite the Steve Trachsel must game – if he blows, he can go hang out with Will Ohman in the Only Blowouts section of the bullpen. If he’s good, he probably has another important start coming up. It’d be nice to have even a half game lead on the Brewers, figuring that they’ll probably give back up on in the double header.

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Game 144: Astros 5 – Cubs 4 (11)

Sep
12

Cubs 73-71, -1
Astros 63-81, -11

POTG: 2B Mark DeRosa (3R HR)
Runner Up: CF-RF-CF Jacque Jones (3 H, R), LF Cliff Floyd (2 H, BB)

One double, one home run on the night. NO POWER, NO WIN. I could do without bunting a guy over for a week in a tie game, I’ll tell you that. Maybe it’d just easy to say this knowing it backfired into a double play, but I’d rather give Pie and Ram a chance to get a big hit with Lee on first rather than taking the bat out of Ram’s hands while collecting an out.

To be fair, if Carlos Lee doesn’t make the defensive play of his life, there’s one more extra base and this is a Cubs win. And they took a lot of walks to get runs on – 10! – so they were making the lack of power in other ways. They were just lacking the one big hit to bust the game open.

I don’t have too much of a problem with Dempster’s performance – I was just surprised it Lee wasn’t directly involved.

This is going to be forgotten because of the crippling loss and all, but Jacque Jones at bat versus Brad Lidge in the top of the 10 was so great. Here’s how it went:

completely fooled swing for strike 1
completely fooled swing for strike 2
sorta half swing just to get the bat on the ball for a bloop hit

There’s no way that should’ve worked, and Jacque was as amused as anyone at first.

I’m listening to the Brewers/Pirates game as I type this, and things sound good for the Cubs so far. Still, the next start worried me. This was the site of Rich Hill’s big turnaround last year and he’s got to start a new one after his last two appearances.

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Game 135: Cubs 6 – Astros 5

Sep
03

Cubs 70-65
Astros 61-76

POTG: 1B Mr. Lee (3 H, 3 RBI, HR, HBP)
Runner Up: LF Mr. Soriano (2B, SF, R), RP Kerry Wood (1.1 IP, BB, 0 R)

From start to finish, I watched this game in four different buildings – four different towns, maybe – and listened on my car radio in between. Wherever I was, whomever I was talking to (sometimes myself!), I was sure the Cubs could come back in this one. Sure enough, they kept chipping and chipping at the lead, and Derrek hit the home run just as I was going car to building once again.

Part of it’s was the Astros bullpen, which is not much to be scared by at this point. McLemore and Qualls didn’t really impress me during this series, and they were a big part of the loss for the Astros. But they’re out of town now, and what’s staying is a healthier looking offense. We’ve all been waiting for Lee, Ram and Soriano to start hitting together, and it might just be happening here. It’s just two days, but Lee in particular seems to be out of his weeks long funk and just at the right time.

Ram’s helmet spike was awesome.

Dodgers don’t trouble me at all.

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Game 134: Cubs 4 – Astros 3

Sep
02

Astros 61-75, -9.0
Cubs 69-65, +1.5

POTG: 1B Derek Lee (HR, H, 2R, RBI)
Runner Up: 3B A Ram (HR, R, 2 H, 2 RBI), SP Jason Marquis (6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, BB, 5 K)

I don’t have anything to say, and the next game is on. AAAH.

HOME RUNS = WINS. This is such an easy formula, but it’s the only reason they won this game. Lee and Ram getting hot would make all the difference down the stretch.

Marquis continues to pitch solidly down the stretch. Nothing outstanding here, but it’s another quality start that kept the team in it.

I’m thinking Ohman’s public apology yesterday was said privately a few times before now, or he’d be a Detroit Tiger at this point.

Today’s game is yet another swing game. I think the Cubs stand a good chance against Woody Williams, it’s all on how Rich looks against the Astros.

Game 133: Astros 6 – Cubs 1

Sep
01

Astros 61-74, -8.0
Cubs 68-65, +1.5

POTG: 3B A Ram (3 H, R)
Runner Up: RF Craig Monroe (H, BB), LF Matt Murton (H, BB), RP Kerry Wood (2 IP, BB, 2 K)

No EXTRA BASES, No WIN.

So let’s talk (or cut and paste) about Rocky Cherry & Scott Moore vs Steve Trachsel

I seriously have no problem with this deal.

The Cubs gave up two players in this deal

– 1B/3B Scott Moore, who may have some power potential but has no chance at Major League starting time unless Lee or Ramirez suffer long injuries (in which case, the Cubs are already screwed; short term is filled by guys on the roster already.) Moore had done just about all he could do in AAA, and it was no secret that the Cubs were going to move him sometime before the ’08 season.

If the O’s don’t keep Millar, Moore could start at first for them next year, but he was just going to grow old Des Moines with the Cubs.

– RP Rocky Cherry is an okay reliever, and surely someone who’s going to help the O’s bullpen, but he’s 28 and not really a prospect – just someone who can fill out a bullpen. He didn’t really impress in his time in the majors, he’s behind younger and more promising guys on the depth chart, and if you don’t have it by 28, you’re probably easily replaceable.

(That paragraph was rather depressing once I remembered I was three months older than him. Baseball is not real life!)

In exchange for a guy they can’t use and a guy they don’t have much use for, the Cubs got a guy they have a very definite use for. One of the strengths of the Cubs, maybe the key strength, is their solid starting rotation. Their 1 thru 5 has taken almost all the starts, and done well enough to keep taking those starts. Which is great for them, but better for their team – the Cubs didn’t really have another option if their current starting pitchers falter (or get hurt.)

other Cubs starters
– Mark Prior, who’s out for the season
– Angel Guzman, who’s been injured for more of the summer and is just starting to cram in rehab before the minor league seasons end (thus killing my hometown Cougars, but that’s another post)
– Wade Miller, who sucked and went out perpetual rehab assignments till he was turfed
– Carlos Marmol, who’s already been converted into a relief ace and is never starting again
– Neil Cotts, who was so bad of a starter in Iowa, they pushed him back into relief

By default, the 6th starter would’ve been Sean Gallagher, and he’s a guy who’s both spent most of his season in AA and looked overwhelmed when in the majors. Or it’s someone who’s not even on the 40 man roster.

This was not a What If/depth issue – the Cubs play a double header against the Cardinals on the 15th. With no off days before or after, they were going to have figure out someone to take that start. Given how close the race is at the moment, trying to get a slightly better starter seems worthwhile.

So another starter was definitely worth getting. Was Trachsel? I don’t know who else was available, and I’m sure some of this happening was due to the former president of the Cubs being the current guy in charge of the O’s, but… let’s look at his last six starts

Date       IP  R
08/01 @BOS 6.0 1
08/07 vSEA 5.2 2
08/12 vBOS 6.1 3
08/18 @TOR 6.2 3
08/23 vMIN 7.1 2
08/29 vTBD 6.0 1

I’m not electing Trachsel pitcher of the month, but those are fairly decent numbers over a nice stretch. If the clock strikes midnight on him, the Cubs owe him $0.00 next season.

It’s a short term deal for a marginal increase. Those kind of deals can hurt you if you do them too often, but at this point in the season and with the players involved, I’m all for it. At some point, you’ve got to shift from saving for the future to trying to better your chance at a championship right now. Particularly with what else is going on in this franchise – who knows what the new owner will do right or wrong, or what restrictions might be placed on the team while it’s transfered. It’s not a time to wait till next year.

I can’t believe I wrote all that when I’m going to have to write it again for my blog later. How dumb!

I don’t think Trachsel should replace Marshall in the rotation yet, but another start like this and I wouldn’t really mind.

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Game 113: Astros 8 – Cubs 2

Aug
09

Cubs 58-55, -1
Astros 51-63, -8.5

POTG: SS The Riot (3 H, R, RBI)
Runner Up: LF Jacque Jones (2 H, 2B, BB)
Partial Credit: Wuretz did escape a bases loaded situation, but then gave up a HR next inning.

This was the hardest game in quite some time to watch. It was partly where I was exhausted, having woken up at 4 AM (and fallen alseep and woken back up at 5, but I’m counting it) and spent most of the day rushing, but more because the magic of June/July is long gone. The ability of the Cubs to comeback from big deficits seems to have disappeared with it.

It’d be best if the Cubs didn’t have to unbury themselves, but the pitching has imploded this month:

tOPS (100 is average, below is good)
April: 91
May: 107
June: 96
July: 92
August: 144

The power issues aren’t going to be solved with no Ram – more Fontenot, and it’s going to cause a defensive issue – more Floyd – so they’ve got to find a way to fix the pitching.

Eyre doesn’t seem part of the solution, after last night. I’m hoping he’ll get a phantom injury next season and spend most of his time on the DL, if has to stay on the roster.

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