Going into tonight’s game in Houston against the Astros, the Chicago Cubs are only two games about the .500 mark thanks to a 3-2 road trip. While the Cubs are still looking as though they are struggling to put together anything close to the season that was expected of them, there is still room for optimism on the horizon. Not only are the Cubs starting to get healthy with players coming back this week, but the schedule is going into what could be considered to be a easy stretch of games. With the upcoming schedule, the Cubs could get very healthy and bring their record well above the .500 mark.
At some point during this week, the Cubs could welcome back up to three of their five injured players. Right handed pitcher Rich Harden is tentatively scheduled to start Saturday’s game against the Detroit Tigers, and Aaron Miles and Ryan Freel are also eligible to rejoin the Cubs 25 man roster at some point this week. These three returning players will be playing key roles in improving the overall quality of the ball club. With Harden returning to his role in the starting rotation, Sean Marshall will resume his role in the bullpen as the second lefty and long relief pitcher. This instantly improves the bullpen, as we will rid ourselves of the Rule 5 Draft Pick David Patton, who according to the rules must be offered back to the Colorado Rockies. Randy Wells has pitched well enough to win the fifth starter job away from Marshall, who hasn’t been bad at all in his chances. When Miles and Freel return to the ball club, adding to the overall depth of the bench, we will have more options to play at third base over Mike Fontenot. In his time at third base, Fontenot has butchered several balls, and cost us at least one game. In his defense, Fontenot is not a third baseman and was thrust into a position that he has had just about no experience playing in a big league game. While neither Miles or Freel is likely to give us much in terms of offense, at least they can do a better job holding down the fort at third.
With their returns, however, two position players will need to be sent out. The likely candidates are Bobby Scales, Andres Blanco and Jake Fox. All three have done a decent job in their time with the club, but none of them have done enough to warrant staying on the big league club in place of Miles or Freel. Filling in at second base, with Fontenot at third, Blanco has made some great defensive plays, but has yet to show us the offensive numbers we saw in Triple A. While his story is a great one, Bobby Scales is also a target to be sent back to the minors because of his lack of offense. He can play a few positions, which may be his wild card to stay with the team until Ramirez returns. That leaves Fox, who I feel will be one of the two men sent back to Iowa. Unfortunately, when you are a defensive liability, you will get over looked more often then not when tough roster decisions need to be made. While we could use his bat off the bench, we already have a power bat on the bench in Micah Hoffpauir, who like Fox, is a man without a position. He may be kept on the roster though, because he is a right handed bat off the bench with some power. The question becomes would you rather have two pinch hitters, or another position player which would allow Cubs Manager Lou Piniella more options. Personally, I think we need to send Fox down along with either Scales or Blanco.
Another reason Cub fans can be optimistic, is the schedule is starting to ease up; at least for the time being. Counting tonight, the next 12 games for the Cubs are against teams with a record below the .500 mark. The Astros start off the stretch, and are followed by the Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians. After a game against the Atlanta Braves, who sit at the .500 mark, the Cubs play three games against the American League Central leading Tigers. After those four games, the Cubs get back to their stretch of sub .500 with six more against the Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates. While we have the chance to fatten up our record against these mediocre teams, the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds face similar competition during this stretch. There wont be much ground made up in the division, but at least the Cubs have the chance bring their record back to respectability.
Between now and the All Star break, the Cubs play 33 games in 34 days. The long stretch of games include a making a stop in Atlanta in between our series in Cleveland and Detroit, as well as a double header against the visiting Cardinals right before the break begins. With two off days, this stretch of games will really test the ball club. Thankfully, those Cubs who do not play in the All Star game, will have a three day rest before the season picks up again. If the Cubs are able to survive until then, they should be in pretty good shape.
What a way to start off the month of June, for both the Chicago Cubs and for Alfonso Soriano, a leadoff homerun is always a nice way to begin a game. However, the next three batters all make outs, so you have to take the good with the bad I suppose. As you can guess, I am doing a partial live blog, as I am writing this during the Cubs game with the Atlanta Braves, so I will have sections on my game thoughts during my current state of the Cubs post. Hopefully this will work out and make a good read for all my faithful readers. Anyway, on with the point of this article. In my opinion, the Cubs are looking like they could very well be in some trouble, but at the same time you cant really panic too much either. I will explain both side of the argument as I go on tonight. Speaking of going on, Randy Wells just completed a five pitch 1-2-3 inning, talk about your good ways to start a ballgame. Lets see if he can keep this up, and get his first win.
As things stand as of this writing, the Cubs are one game over the .500 mark, and stand four games out of first place. Granted, on paper, their record and number of games back does not seem that bad when you consider how much of the season there is left to play. Counting tonight’s game, the Cubs have 113 games left in their season. While there is still plenty of time to turn things around, there are some trends that are continuing to run their course which are very troubling. There are quite a few Cubs in the lineup, as well as on the bench, who have an obstacle or two that needs to be overcome in order for the Cubs to have success. While baseball is a team game, you need to have the individuals contribute on a consistent basis to ensure success. That is something that the Cubs are not doing regularly. After one and a half innings, the Cubs are leading 2-0. Congrats to Wells on getting both his first major league hit, and RBI. You have to love a pitcher who helps his own cause.
The first player on the list is veteran first baseman Derrek Lee. While he had a impressive month of May, hitting .313, his overall batting average is still at a measly .248. I know that when you start off slow, you will have to bust your *** in order to get your average and statistics back up to a respectable level. While you can look at last month as the possible start to Lee’s emergence back to a threat, other stats would tell you otherwise. Wells, by the way, just pitched another 1-2-3 inning, he is looking good early on. When you take a look at his splits with home verse road, his road stats are nothing short of embarrassing. He has a single homerun on the road, and is batting .196. With that coming in only 15 games, you have a small sample size, but you may also see this as a trend which will wind up hurting the team. If Lee continues to play poorly on the road, he wont be too much help in the heart of the order. That being the case, there isn’t much we can do about the situation. Lee is making $13 million dollars this year and next, so trading him will be all but impossible. Finding a team that is willing to take on a declining first baseman and his contract will not be easy. Even if you do find one, Lee still has to approve the trade in order for anything to work. With that being the case, you can all but count out a trade involving Lee. So you can bench him for Micah Hoffpauir if you wish, I will get back to that in a moment. The Cubs go down in order in the top of the third, but are still leading 2-0. Can Wells continue his gem of a game into the bottom of the inning? We will find out soon enough.
Lets talk second base, we have no real second baseman at the moment. Bobby Scales and Andres Blanco are the main second baseman until Aramis Ramirez returns from the DL. While both are playing decently, you are not getting the production out of either of them you would like. Both men, are light hitting infielders who will not give you much in terms of power. What else do you expect from two minor leaguers? That’s not to say that the Scales story is tarnished, I am happy for the guy that he finally made the big leagues. But he is not an every day player. We need someone who will hit for a good average, which he is not with his .239 average. Great story, but not a great player. Im sorry, but I have to be honest on this. Blanco is just as bad thus far in his career. After nine games he is hitting .111. He will likely get most of the starts at second, so he does have time to turn things around, but you cant like what you have seen from him offensively. He is your prototypical traditional shortstop, all glove and not bat. He has made some really nice defensive plays, but we need something better at the plate then what we are getting. What do you know, Wells pitches another 1-2-3 inning setting down the Braves in order in the bottom of the third.
Our shortstop, Ryan Theriot has cooled off after an impressive start, and has powered down after a powerful beginning to the month. Figures, Milton Bradley looks as though he injured his knee trying to leg out an infield single. He went into the clubhouse, and is likely out of the game. Looks like Reed Johnson will be going into the game. More on both of them later, back to Theriot. While he hit .317 in April, his average dropped to .273 for the month of May. Not a bad average by any means, but when he started to drive the ball with more power, his average has also fallen. I would rather have the Theriot we saw in April, high average and no power, then the mid average with average power. That’s just me though, you may feel differently. His range is also starting to trouble me, as there are times when you watch him play and you know he shouldn’t be a shortstop, as he doesn’t have a very powerful arm. Arm strength cant be helped, but his approach at the plate can be. We need him to go back to what he was doing in April. Well, the Cubs went down in order, a quick top of the fourth.
Filling in for Ramirez, is Mike Fontenot. His .224 average is nothing close to what we had hoped or planned to see out of him as a starter this year. He hit very poorly in April with a .232 average, only to follow that up with an even worse May hitting .216, and Wells hit second batter of the inning to give the Braves their first base runner. While his average is way down, so are his power numbers. He has not hit a homerun since May 3 against the Marlins. We expected more power and a much better average from Fontenot considering what we saw out of him in limited time last year. One could guess that Fontenot has been over exposed now that he is playing every game. This was a concern for a few people going into the season, although many Cub fans wanted to see him playing every day. Though looking back at last years stats, he never really showed much power to begin with, he only had big hits in key moments when he got a chance. Personally, making him an everyday starter is not looking like a smart decision. As far as the current game goes, after the hit batter, Wells got the next batter to hit into a double play to end the inning.
I don’t even want to start on Geovany Soto, but I can not allow him to go untouched. He has simply fallen fast and hard. He has put on a lot of weight, and just simply does not appear to have the same drive that he had last year. I don’t know what is wrong with Soto that is making him look like the player he was for most of his career in the minors, but he has definitely taken several steps backwards. He is nothing like what he was last year, which is also a key factor contributing to the Cubs poor play. Once again, the Cubs go down in order, and from the way things are going we may need Wells to continue pitching the way he is, as I don’t know if we will score another run. Back to Soto, the Cubs were heavily depending on him to be the player he was last year, and counting on similar numbers. They are not, and I fear will not, get those numbers from him. They need to find another place to get that production. Where that comes from, I have no idea
Our grand leadoff hitter, Soriano, isn’t so grand right now. Sure, he led off the game with a homerun, but overall his numbers are pretty damn pathetic. His batting average is in the mid-.200s, and he is getting on base, just above .300. Those are not the stats you want from the guy who is hitting in the first slot in the batting order. That being said, leading off a game he is still hitting above the .300 mark. That doesn’t make up for his poor average though, as we need him to be much better then he has been this month. He needs to heat things up in the month of June. While Ramirez is out best hitter (and all around player) the offense usually goes with Soriano. The better he plays, the better the Cubs offense works as a whole. That is why he must turn things on again, and break out of this funk that he is in. If he can not, the Cubs will be dead before Ramirez gets back. You can say move him out of the leadoff spot, but that may not even make a difference at this point. Maybe his homerun to start the game will get his motor running. Speaking of the game, Wells is through five, with the only base runner coming on a hit batter, who wasn’t really hit.
Bradley, who left the game with an strained muscle in the leg, looks as though he is starting to warm up as his average is slowly starting to rise up into the mid .200s. Considering how he started the season, that is a good sign. However, his leaving with an inured leg can not be a good sign, as he will be out for a few games at least. That’s not something you want to see with a player who is starting to heat up. As poorly as he looked to start the season, and as much as you wanted him out of the lineup in April; you want him in the lineup now that his bat is heating up. Hopefully he wont be out long.
Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome are both playing excellent ball, and I have no complaints for either one of them. Johnson will see more playing time with Bradley likely to miss time, and many fans will love that. Both men are swinging the bat very well, and could help jump start the on again, off again Cubs offense. Not much to say about these two, so I will leave things as they are.
That brings me to the minor league phenom duo of Hoffpauir and Jake Fox. Why am I combining these two players? Simple, they are more or less the same type of player. Both are listed as first baseman and outfielders. Fox has played at catcher and third in very limited chances, but he himself has said that he is basically lost when playing the field. Fox is a designated hitter in waiting, mainly because he is a defensive liability. Hoffpauir is another interesting case, as he is also a man with out a position. Neither one should be playing every day, for various reasons. Hoffpauir’s average when starting a game is in the mid to low .200s like most others in the starting lineup, but around .400 when he pinch hits. Just my two cents, take that as you will. Cubs score a couple more runs and now lead 4-0 going into the bottom of the sixth inning.
That’s about all when you look at the offense, the pitching is another matter all together. We have gotten some tremendous pitching the entire month of May from the starters and bullpen alike. The Cubs got a lot of dominant pitched games from their starters, a lot of which got wasted on the last road trip with the lack of offense. The starters haven’t been the only pitchers to step up their games, the bullpen has also started to put things together. Everyone is starting to settle into their roles, and are starting to do what they are supposed to do. Granted, you have had a few ugly innings from members of the bullpen, but overall, they have looked good lately. Much like with Johnson and Fukudome, there is not much to complain about here. The pitching has spoken for themselves this month, and we need them to continue to do so. Even when our offense finally wakes up completely, we need our pitchers to continue to dominate the opposition. Speaking of pitching, Wells puts up another 1-2-3 inning on the Braves.
Well, I gave you reasons for concern, how about ending on a positive note. Honestly, that is hard to find. You could go back to last years schedule, but we were 16 games over .500 at this time last year (same day, but more games played) and we were in first by 3.5 games. Nothing much going on there. Cubs get a runner to second, but that’s where he stays. Time for the bottom of the seventh. However, go back two years, with Cubs Manager Lou Piniella’s first year with the team. The Cubs were nine games under, and 7.5 back. We all know how that regular season ended for our boys in blue. I know that this is a massive stretch, but you need to get a positive in there somewhere. Do I think the season is over, not at all. We should be cautiously optimistic, as I still believe we have a team that can win the division, or at very least the wild card. The Cubs have time to make up some ground, but things will not be easy. All I can say, is sit back and enjoy the ride.
Sadly, my blog will end here as the no hitter also came to an end with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Way to go Wells, you pitched a hell of a game. Now you just need to finish things off.
At long last, the torture is over for Chicago Cub fans, at least for now that is. Since I posted my blog last night, several pieces of exciting news have come into existence. First and foremost, the Cubs snapped their eight game losing streak by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 in a rain shortened game. The second half of the news is something several Cub fans have been waiting for. Jake Fox has finally been recalled to the big leagues to take his place on the 25 man roster. Along with Fox, the Cubs brought up shortstop Andres Blanco and left handed pitcher Jason Waddell. With three promotions, there have to be three players being sent out. Bobby Scales and Neal Cotts have both been optioned to the minors while Aaron Miles has been placed on the 15 day disabled list.
For the second straight night, the Cubs scored a boatload of runs against the Pirates. The difference is, this time the starting pitcher, Sean Marshall, was able to limit the Pirates to a single run, with Mother Nature coming in for the save in the top of the sixth. Hey, I will take a win anyway I can get one. The Cubs totaled eight hits in the five innings, and even though Milton Bradley was 0-1, he drew two walks and scored a run. The MVP of the game though, goes to Marshall who pitched the five innings, while also driving in a run to help his own cause. The broke the losing streak, but now they need to start a new streak, a winning streak and start gaining on the teams ahead of them in the standings.
Ok, my short game blurb is over and done, the exciting news that Fox has finally been called up is too exciting to ignore. Fox is currently the hottest and best hitter in the minor leagues, and is leading in all triple crown categories. He can play just about anywhere you ask, much like former Cub Mark DeRosa. Fox has spend time and the corner spots in both the infield and outfield, as well as some time at catcher this year in the minors. If he is able to hit anywhere near as good in the majors as he was in the minors, the Cubs offense got a much needed bat. Because he has spent time at third base, we can assume that he will be the everyday third baseman until Aramis Ramirez comes back.. That is, of course, unless Fox fails miserably with the bat or the glove at third. For the time being, he is the answer Cub fans have been waiting for.
Blanco gets a chance to play in the majors as well, but only when Ryan Theriot needs a day off. Blanco has only played short stop in the minors, so hoping he could fill in elsewhere is a bit of a stretch. However, he is also doing a great job with the bat in the minors, and will give the Cubs another switch hitter to use off the bench.
Now, time for me to celebrate a bit, as Cotts has finally been shown the door as he was sent down to the minors. No one in the bullpen has been as frustrating to me as Cotts has been since his arrival on the team. He has been nothing short of a disaster every time he gets the call to pitch an inning. No tears will be shed by myself, nor likely any other Cub fan with his demotion to Triple A. Goodbye Cotts, good luck in the minors. Enough of that, taking his place is Waddell, who while he is not performing as well as one would hope, he is not Cotts. While Waddell had a great deal of success in Spring Training, his season in the minors has been less then spectacular. Currently he is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA, which isn’t that great. But again, he is not Cotts, so Cub fans will be happy to see him. The left handed Waddell is better against right handed batters (.205 BA) then he is against left handed batters (.346) which should trouble fans. However, he is worth giving a chance to, and fans will cheer him at his very first appearance. Because he is not Cotts.
Sadly, some players had to go who will be missed. No, I am not talking about Cotts. I am talking about Scales, who was sent back down to the minors today to make room for the trio of players who were activated. His story is one Cub fans will remember, as well as the effort he put forth with his every chance. Everyone knew his time here would be limited, but I have a feeling some will miss him. You never know, he may be brought back up at some point, likely is Blanco, Fox or Ryan Freel fails to have success. Word is, that Scales was sent down, not because of effort or production, but because he is sick and wasn’t able to play. At any rate, I wish him well; I hope to see him back in the big leagues at some point, even if he isn’t with the Cubs.
Miles also was sent out, however his will likely be more temporary. He has apparently been playing with a sore shoulder all season, so the Cubs used this opportunity to put him on the DL and bring up someone who could be of more help to the team at the moment. Miles wasn’t playing that well, so I doubt many fans will miss him while he is gone.
Well fans, we got the changes that we all wanted. Now, we just have to wait and see if these moves pay off. Some dead weight has been cut, with some new blood now being allowed to circulate. The new Cubs team will take the field today in just over an hour. Lets go get two in a row.
The Chicago Cubs offense continues to struggle, as they have now slipped into a six game losing streak. Compiled with these streak of ineptitude is scoring a grand total of three runs in the last five games of this streak. In those five games, the Cubs pitching staff has done a fantastic job, holding the opposition to 15 total runs. When your pitching staff only gives up an average of three runs a game, you should be able to win at least one of those games. However, when you cant score, you wont be able to win a game. Changes need to be made, though I don’t know exactly how much tinkering can be done with the team.
Last night, Cubs Manager Lou Piniella shook up the lineup, while giving Alfonso Soriano the night off. With the Cubs All Star left fielder out of the lineup, Ryan Theriot moved up a slot in the batting order to bat leadoff, with Kosuke Fukudome also moving up a slot. Milton Bradley slid into the three hole, and the man replacing Soriano in the field, Micah Hoffpauir batted fifth. This is a batting order that I can live with, especially if everyone moves down a slot with Soriano’s return this afternoon, giving us a lineup that looks like this, Soriano-Theriot-Fukudome-Bradley-Derrek Lee-Mike Fontenot-Geovany Soto-Bobby Scales. However one change that I can not live with, is something that Piniella hinted at doing last week.
Last week, Piniella claimed to be thinking over the idea of moving Soriano back to second base and putting Hoffpauir in left field. As I stated in my last blog, that would be one of the worst ideas he has ever had. The offense is struggling enough to outscore the other team, we don’t need to give them more runs by fielding a poor defensive team. While the offense, on paper, would look very nice, with the lineup I listed above (only with Hoffpauir hitting sixth in place of Fontenot) the defense would be too bad for us to overcome. However, that is a change which I fear is coming soon. Piniella is quickly losing patience, as are several Cub fans.
I know that this is not up to my usual standards, but there isn’t much else I can say about this team. I have voiced my disapproval and frustrations for a week now. Hopefully I can actually write about something more positive then an ugly loss or a pathetic offense. As things stand, the S.S. Cubs is sinking fast.
Well, the Chicago Cubs have just come off of a very impressive home stand where they faced the San Diego Padres and the Houston Astros. Due to the rain out of Friday’s series opener with the Astros, they finished with a record of 4-1. Not too shabby if you ask me, any time you can win four out of five games, you are going to have a very successful season. If they keep this up, they will be playing into October. To think, they accomplished this feat without all star’s Carlos Zambrano and Aramis Ramirez.
Sadly, they did lose a game on this home stand, which was the last game to be played on their current stay. Rich Harden, who started for the Cubs on Sunday, had a good game, but sadly he had one bad inning, where he allowed four runs to score. If Harden would not have thrown the one bad inning, we would likely be talking about a perfect record for the current stretch of games at home. That, however, didn’t happen. On the plus side of his start though, he lasted through the sixth inning once again this year. With most pitchers, that would not really be a big deal; with Harden though, that is a great accomplishment for a pitcher who has suffered through many different injury problems that have limited his innings and starts in his big league career. Let’s see if he is able to keep this up, because we could use lengthy starts from him throughout the season.
While Harden was the losing pitcher on the day, part of the loss should fall on Jose Ascanio who came in for relief immediately following Harden’s exit from the game. Ascanio started off poorly in his two innings of work, allowing two runs to score; he would eventually settle down and shut the door in his final inning plus of work. Those two runs would prove to be the difference as the Cub’s had their rally fall short in the ninth, leaving them on the wrong end of a 6-5 decision.
Another Brightside to come during these past few games at home, is the arrival of our offense, more specifically Derrek Lee, Geovany Soto and Milton Bradley. All three players are starting to really swing the bat well lately. Bradley is enjoying an actual hitting streak, and is closing in on the 10 game mark. In Sunday’s loss, Lee went 4 for 5 including a homerun, and Soto’s bat has also appeared to wake up lately. While all of their batting averages are still hovering around the .200 mark, they are all starting to make really good contact on the ball. That can only mean good things for the Cubs for the rest of the season.
Along with the three power bats in the lineup, another name is starting to find his way into the starting lineup more is Bobby Scales. While his time with the big league club may be limited, he is making the most of his chances and putting on a great show. In fact, he is playing so well that he may wind up earning a full time job if things don’t change quickly. He could be playing his way right into a starting job at second base if Mike Fontenot does not start to hit again. While Fontenot started off the season on fire, he has cooled off greatly. One reason may be that he is not use to being a full time starter, and his time is starting to catch up to him. Perhaps Fontenot is not meant to be a starter, or maybe we do not have enough of a sample size on his starting career to get a good idea of what he can do. One thing we do know is that that Cubs Manager Lou Piniella is starting to like what he is seeing out of Scales, and we all know that Piniella can sour on a player very easily.
Starting tonight, the Cubs travel to St. Louis for a three game set with the Cardinals, who won the series two games to one in our last trip into their ball park. At the moment, the Cubs have a one game lead on the redbirds, and while the season is still only in late May, you could say this is a big series. At the end of the series, the Cubs could be two games behind the Cardinals, or up four. That is a big swing. One player who is coming back for the Cardinals this series is Christ Carpenter. He has been out for a few weeks after injuring himself in an at bat. One thing I find curious about his return though, is that he did not make a rehab start to insure he is fully healthy. This could be a great plus for the Cubs if you ask me, and if you are reading this you kind of are. He may be rusty, which would give the Cubs the upper hand in this matchup. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the Cubs can easily handle Carpenter. I would never say that about the Cubs against any pitcher. I am just saying that with him not going on a rehab outing, we may have the upper hand.
Speaking of pitchers making a return, Zambrano will be making his in San Deigo at the end of the week. While he had a very shaky rehab outing, you don’t really pay attention to numbers in rehab starts. The main focus is getting through the outing in one piece. With him all but scheduled to start on Friday, I would say that he is ready to go. With his return, Piniella has an interesting problem on his hand. Which of his two starting pitchers will go into the bullpen, and who will remain in the rotation? Both Randy Wells and Sean Marshall have pitched well in the starting rotation, and neither really deserves a demotion to the bullpen. But one must go. If Wells gets the nod to stay in the rotation, then Neal Cotts will likely be sent packing, unless Piniella decides to have two lefties in the bullpen. If that is the case, David Patton will be shown the door, just like he will be if Marshall stays in the rotation. The odds are against Patton, especially with Cotts having a solid inning of work in Sunday’s loss.
That about wraps up my thoughts for the day, so I hope you enjoyed your time reading. Sit back and enjoy this series against the Cardinals, because despite how much of a rival the Milwaukee Brewers have become, the Cardinals are still our biggest rival. Just because we are not chasing them for first place at the moment, doesn’t change that fact. I will talk to you all again soon.
The Chicago Cubs have swept their first series of the year, beating the San Diego Padres in a three game set. Perhaps the timing is just a coincidence, but the sweep comes on the very first series the Cubs have played without Aramis Ramirez. Maybe, just maybe the Cubs will be able to keep pace with the rest of the National League Central. Or maybe the Padres are just really really bad. No matter the reason you lean towards, the Cubs are doing exactly what they need to do while Ramirez is on the disabled list. That is winning games by having everyone else pick up their own games. There is no single player who deserves credit, as they have all been team wins.
The starting pitching was outstanding this series, as all three of our starters lasted into at least the sixth inning. Rich Harden matched would be Cub Jake Peavy pitch for pitch and eventually showed that he was the better pitcher on the day limiting the Padres to two runs. Not to be outdone, Ted Lilly matched Harden’s efforts, by mirroring the first inning but ending with only allowing three runs in six plus innings. Ryan Dempster, not to be outdone by his fellow pitchers went out and threw a gem to secure the sweep allowing only two runs in seven innings of work. You shouldn’t be too surprised with the starting staff, as everyone in the rotation has appeared to step things up when staff ace Carlos Zambrano went down with his hamstring injury.
However, the starters are not the only pitchers to shut down the Padres, the bullpen put together three great games. In their 6.2 innings the combined for five hits and two runs. The first run came in the eighth inning of Wednesday nights rain shortened game off of Carlos Marmol who picked up the unexpected save. The second came off of Jose Ascanio making his first appearance of the season in Thursdays game. Everyone, with the exception of David Patton and Neal Cotts, in the bullpen contributed in this series, and all deserve credit for helping the Cubs keep their leads.
The Cubs offense thrived in this series, scoring six runs in the first two games and 11 in the final game. In the series there were six home runs, two by Ryan Theriot and one each by Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto and Bobby Scales. None of those homers came in the finale though, that was all done with good clutch hits. Speaking of Bradley, while we are still waiting to hear word on the verdict of his appeal, he has begun to heat things up with his bat. While he is still hitting .194 he has put together a good hitting streak which has seen his batting average climb in the past few games. Be patient with him, because when you start off as slow as he did, there will be a long climb back to respectability with the batting average. Soto is another player who seems to be coming out of his season long slump. He has put together a couple of games where he has been the player we saw last year. The only everyday players who still seem to be in a slump are first baseman Derrek Lee and second baseman Mike Fontenot. While his critics have been calling for Micah Hoffpauir to replace Lee, Cubs manager Lou Piniella has stuck with Lee despite his struggles. Fontenot, who is also struggling doesn’t seem to be getting any grief for his slump, maybe because he isn’t being paid nearly as much as Lee. However if Scales continues playing as well as he has since being recalled, Fontenot might find his way back to the bench at some point this season.
Not really much from me today, which is rare, but I will end with this. As I mentioned in my last blog, the Cubs are doing fine without their best player for now. Whether or not that will continue to be the case, I don’t know. But they are on a four game winning streak, which is pretty damn good. The offense has come together and has been putting up great numbers to help the Cubs win games. The pitching staff has come together with some amazing starts as well. Everyone is picking up the ball that was dropped when Ramirez left, and that is exactly what had to be done for the Cubs to survive. Even though there is still plenty of time left for the Cubs without Ramirez, these past few games has got to of eased the minds and worried hearts of Cub fans everywhere. Lets go to Houston to play the Astros, and continue what has been started.