Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cubs seize series from Bucs, prepare for best team in majors

Wednesday: Cubs 5, Pirates 2

Zambrano got a no decision after pitching 6.1 innings and allowing two runs, so his record remains 3-2 and his ERA drops slightly to 4.22. Last year at this time, he was 7-1 with a 2.47 ERA. Then again, this time in 2007 he was 5-4 with a 5.24 ERA. You never really know when Zambrano is going to have a good or a bad stretch, but he usually provides solid production when all is said and done: in each of the last six seasons, Z has started at least 30 games, won at least 13, and had an ERA under four. I get frustrated with his high pitch counts and short outings at times, but he has thrown over 200 innings in five of the last six seasons.

If there's anything to be frustrated about after Wednesday's start, though, it's that Zambrano might face a suspension after he bumped home plate umpire Mark Carlson while arguing a safe call at home. Though it did appear to me that Carlson bumped him, so hopefully Zambrano will only incur a fine. And it was pretty hilarious when Zambrano subsequently motioned as if he were throwing Carlson out of the game:

Milton Bradley went 1-for-3 to raise his average to .200 exactly. It's the first time Bradley has cracked the Mendoza line this year.

Ryan Freel left the game with a hamstring strain, which almost certainly means he's headed to the DL--welcome back, Bobby Scales! How was your day in Iowa? While Fontenot will presumably get the lion's share of time over at third, we may soon get to find out what Jake Fox is capable of in the field. It was great to see Fox start off with a bang by hitting a pinch-hit double in the ninth. Fox now has three career hits in the majors, all of them doubles.

Funny little ironic tidbit (courtesy of Bleed Cubbie Blue): Wednesday was Jake Fox Jersey Day at the Iowa Cubs game.

On deck

The Cubs will welcome the Dodgers to town for four games, which is scary because the Dodgers are 33-15, have not lost more than two games in a row this entire season, and have won 11 of their last 14. The Blue Crew has the second best starting staff in the NL (by ERA), the fifth best bullpen, and they've scored the most runs. Here's how good the Dodgers are:

-Manny Ramirez got suspended, and his replacement Juan Pierre is batting .404.

-Their closer, Jonathan Broxton, has 11 saves and five wins.

-They signed Eric Milton, who hadn't pitched in the majors since 2007, and he's 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA.

Pitching matchups:

Thursday: Randy Wolf (3-1, 1.02) vs. Randy Wells (0-1, 1.50)
Friday: Chad Billingsley (6-2, 2.82) vs. Ted Lilly (5-4, 3.77)
Saturday: Eric Stults (4-1, 4.29) vs. Ryan Dempster (3-3, 4.99)
Sunday: Eric Milton (1-0, 3.00) vs. Sean Marshall (3-3, 3.70)

Five of the eight starting pitchers in this series are left-handed, while two of them are named Randy and two are named Eric. Also, Ryan Dempster is the only pitcher without an "L" in his last name. Interesting stuff, huh? You only get that here, folks.

When Wolf pitched at Wrigley last September, he threw a complete game shutout. He was cuffed around earlier in the year, though, allowing seven runs in just four innings on May 12. Wells has impressed in all three of his starts, and Saturday in San Diego was the first time he'd allowed a run in the majors.

Billingsley is the "ace" of the staff with Derek Lowe gone, and he's pitched at least six innings in all 10 starts. He beat the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLDS last year, but was 0-1 in two regular season starts against them. Lilly has been the Cubs' best starter this season, and has held most of the Dodgers lineup in check throughout his career. He didn't pitch against LA last year, but was 1-0 against them in two starts in '07.

Stults missed some time after jamming his thumb, and lasted just 4.1 against the Rockies in his return on Monday. He's gone six innings only once this year, and the three Cubs who've faced him have all fared well (Soriano 1-for-3, Lee 1-for-2, Soto 2-for-2). Dempster has alternated wins and losses on his way to a 3-3 record, and since his most recent decision was a loss, the Cubs are looking good in this one! We can all recall that Dempster imploded against the Dodgers in Game 1 last October; he was 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA against them in two regular season starts.

And finally, Sunday Night Baseball. Milton was signed off the scrapheap to a minor league deal in February, and was called up in May. He's gone four and five innings, respectively, in two starts, and he beat the Rockies on Tuesday. Soriano is 6-for-12 against him in his career. Marshall threw a *cough* complete game in his last start, and has been a reliable fifth starter thus far. He has had success against every Dodger he's faced, with the slight exception of Russell Martin, who's 1-for-2.

Random story

Rick Reilly, on a minor league pitcher who pitches both left- and right-handed.

Did you know ...

-The Rangers are leading the AL West by three games.

-The Rockies are 14 games out of first, the biggest deficit faced by any team.

-The Reds' Joey Votto leads the majors in on-base percentage (.467).


  1. Let's see... Juan Pierre... where have I heard that name before??? Let me think ....

  2. Bobby Scales didn't even get his day in Iowa - never left his hotel room. Good deal for him.

  3. Do you think Big Z's 6-game suspension was fair?