How quickly things change in the world of the Chicago Cubs. Only a few days ago, I wrote about how the Cubs offense had finally decide to wake up. Well, if these last two days are any indication, I could not have been more wrong. The offense is just as bad as ever, and this series with the St. Louis Cardinals is exposing our “high powered offense”. Our starting pitchers have been doing great, and keeping our boys in blue I the game. As good as they are doing, however, they are not doing enough. Right now, they must be thinking the only way to win is to throw a shutout every night. We all know that will not happen, so the offense needs to pick things up immediately. Speaking of starting pitching, Jake Peavy was almost traded to Chicago once again.
As much as I hate to admit this, the Cardinals have gotten the upper hand on us. Their starting pitchers, Joel Pineiro and the returning Chris Carpenter limited the Cubs to a single run in two games. The first game might have been the most pitiful display of offense I have seen in a long time. Pineiro threw just 92 pitches in a complete game shutout. The Cubs showed a complete lack of patience swinging early and often. In the middle innings, Pineiro recorded five outs with just seven pitches. I can understand a pitcher being on his game, but five outs on seven pitches is inexcusable. To top things off, the Cubs only recorded three hits. The pitching for the Cubs was not the problem, as Ted Lilly only allowed the Cardinals to score three runs in his seven innings of work. He was shaky for parts of the game, but did enough to keep his team in contention. Kevin Gregg pitched a scoreless eighth inning, rebounding from the awful game against the Houston Astros where he allowed four runs without recording an out.
Sadly, the second game of this series did not go much better for the Cubs as Carpenter made his first start in over a month shut our offense down for the second straight game. While Carpenter only went five innings in his return, he only gave up three hits without allowing a run to score. When he left, the Cardinals bullpen picked up right where he left off, pitching four innings of three hit ball, with the only run coming off their closer Ryan Franklin. Much like with Lilly, Ryan Dempster pitched well enough to keep the Cubs in the game, allowing only two runs to score in his seven innings of work. The bottom of the eighth inning was handled by Carlos Marmol, who kept the Cubs in the game. However, once again, the Cubs offense was held in check when they were only able to score a single run.
Tonight, things will not be any easier as Adam Wainwright takes the mound for the Cardinals; while the Cubs will counter with Sean Marshall. The pitching match up alone seems a bit lopsided, but you never know, Marshall just may pitch a gem. The problem is, even if he does pitch well enough to keep the Cubs in the game, the offense needs to show up. Otherwise, no matter how Marshall does tonight, the Cubs will likely face being swept for the first time this season. I can not predict what is going to happen, but the odds are against us tonight. Lets hope that I am wrong again.
Well, the hunt for Peavy continues as teams are starting to make proposals to the San Diego Padres. Today, the Chicago White Sox took a stab at acquiring him by offering up for players, which included Clayton Richard and Aaron Poreda and two others. From what the Chicago Sun Times is reporting, Peavy may have vetoes the trade due to the White Sox refusal to pick up the $22 million option that he has waiting for him in 2013. Not that I can really blame him for refusing the trade, $22 million is a lot of money to give up, but why stay in a place that doesn’t want you around anymore. I know he wants to stay in the National League, preferably in the Midwest according to sources, but he may not get what he wants. With the news breaking this morning about the possible trade, we also learned that his top two teams are the Cubs followed by the Milwaukee Brewers. Both teams are in the National League, both are in the Midwest, and both present an opportunity to win. If the Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry was smart, he would try talking to the Padres and try to work out a deal again. Now that he knows what other teams are offering, he likely will have a better gauge on what he would have to send their way. The only road block would be that $22 million option, which would be hard for the Cubs to approve, with their ownership situation still in limbo. I will not get into that now, nor will I since I do not know all the details.
Making a deal for Peavy would solve many problems at the same time. With Carlos Zambrano coming back on Friday against the Padres, either Marshall or Randy Wells will head to the bullpen kicking Neal Cotts or David Patton out. That improves the bullpen, but so would adding another start quality pitcher. If Peavy comes to the Cubs (or another top of the rotation pitcher), then who ever stayed in the rotation with Zambrano’s return would also go into the bullpen. By adding to the starting rotation, the Cubs also improve their bullpen, killing two birds with one stone. On top of that, they would be keeping him away from the Brewers, which would be a great help to us as well.
While the Cubs working a trade at this moment in time is pointless, I can dream cant I? However pitching is the least of our concerns, we need help on the offensive side of the ball. Maybe trading for an upgrade at second base or a reliable replacement for Aramis Ramirez at third. Hank Blalock would look very nice right now in a Cubs uniform, but they would have to offer up a lot to get him here. Forget about who gets benched upon Ramirez’s return, lets cross that bridge when we get there. Another name to consider would be Chone Figgins, who is a free agent at seasons end. He would be unlikely though as the Anaheim Angels are unlikely to fall out of contention. As far as second base goes, while Mike Fontenot has been struggling most of the season after a fast start, you may not want to pull the plug on him so quickly. However, if we look close enough, we may be able to find someone who can come in and play a better game. While many fans are calling for a return of Mark DeRosa, the Cubs trying to make a trade to bring him back seems unlikely. Though he would be a nice fit, filling in at third then returning to second base with Ramirez’s return. Unlikely I know, but they may have to do something, and fast if Fontenot does not pick things up fast.
That about covers things, the Cubs need to quickly wake up and start scoring some runs, because they got some great pitching which has gone to waste. Tonight has got to be better, because short of being no hit, things cant get much worse in this series.
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.