Saturday, July 11, 2009
Carlos Zambrano strains his hamstring running out a bunt.
Ryan Dempster breaks his toe jumping over the dugout fence.
Geovany Soto strains his oblique during batting practice.
Milton Bradley fractures his foot when he's thrown to the ground during a horseback riding lesson.
Okay, that last one's not true, but gimme a break! Dempster and Soto could both miss up to a month, and Dempster's injury means that Zambrano, Harden and Dempster have all found their way to the DL at some point this season. Koyie Hill will now be the starting catcher with Jake Fox handling backup duties.
This one hurts (literally). Soto seemed to be getting his groove back a bit, and while Hill has been serviceable this season, a month of Hill catching is not going to help the Cubs' offense break out of their season-long slump. Bradley sat on Friday in favor of Reed Johnson, and I'm all for it. Bradley is hitting a pathetic .189 as a lefty this season, and Johnson deserves a chance to prove himself after a strong 2008 performance.
Friday: Cardinals 8, Cubs 3
Assuming they play all four games in this series, the Cubs went into it knowing they could enter the All-Star break anywhere from 1/2 game up to 7 1/2 games out. Sure, there's still half a season left to play, but make no mistake: this series is big. Starting it off with Rich Harden (Cubs' worst starter) against Chris Carpenter (Cardinals' best starter) is not exactly what the doctor ordered, and it turned out the prescription was indeed a bad one as Harden continued to struggle (read: suck) and Carpenter, though he didn't have his best stuff, held the Cubs down long enough to get his seventh win.
The loss dropped the Cubs into a virtual tie for 3rd with the Reds and Astros, but they're technically in 5th place by percentage points. Let's hope this is as far as the Cubs will drop this season.
Derrek Lee provided the lone highlight for the Cubs, smacking his 17th home run to tie the game before the Cardinals scored five unanswered runs. The first of those runs was Pujols's 32nd long ball of the season--he filled up the box score with 2 hits, 3 runs, 2 RBI and 2 walks.
The pitching obviously wasn't great (Heilman reverted to old form, walking three batters in just one inning), but Samardzija pitched two scoreless inning and Jeff Stevens (acquired in the DeRosa trade) made his major league debut with a perfect 9th.
So the Cubs can no longer leapfrog the Cardinals before the All-Star break, but they can still get a couple wins and stay on their heels. Saturday's game is practically a must-win with Lilly (8-6, 3.32) taking on Brad Thompson (2-5, 4.92), and a win with Wells and Zambrano scheduled to pitch on Sunday will make me a lot more comfortable.
Have you read "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis? If not, get to it! It's an insider's look at A's GM Billy Beane and his ability to put together contending teams year in and year out (though not as much recently) despite a low budget. Beane's newfangled statistics and methods of analyzing players have made him something of an oddball but also something of a legend in the baseball world.
Now "Moneyball" is being made into a movie, with Brad Pitt starring and several baseball players and executives slated to play themselves. Steven Soderbergh was lined up to direct the flick, though he's now off the project. The reason I'm talking about it today is because my favorite screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, has signed on to polish up the script. Sorkin was a writer for "Sports Night," "West Wing," and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" on the TV side, as well as "The American President" and "A Few Good Men" on the film side. A movie based on a non-fiction book about a baseball general manager might not sound all that thrilling, but I'm confident that baseball fans will enjoy the final product.