First place... but it will be tough to stay there the next two nights, facing Wandy Rodriguez and then Roy Oswalt at Wrigley Field.

Game: Houston Astros(50-48) vs. Chicago Cubs(51-45)
Game Time: 7:05 PM CT

Pitching Matchup:
Cubs- Carlos Zambrano (7-4, 3.48 ERA)
Astros- Wandy Rodriguez (10-6, 2.72 ERA)


1. Michael Bourn, CF (.284, 3 HR, 26 RBI, .753 OPS)
2. Kaz Matsui, 2B (.249, 3 HR, 23 RBI, .632 OPS)
3. Miguel Tejda, SS (.326, 8 HR, 55 RBI, .821 OPS)
4. Carlos Lee, LF (.309, 15 HR, 60 RBI, .849 OPS)
5. Geoff Blum, 3B (.277, 4 HR, 33 RBI, .730 OPS)
6. Hunter Pence, RF (.295, 13 HR, 43 RBI, .828 OPS)
7. Chris Coste, 1B (.256, 2 HR, 12 RBI, .738 OPS)
8. Humberto Quintero, C (.227, 1 HR, 10 RBI, .563 OPS)
9. Wandy Rodriguez, P (.053, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .156 OPS)

1. Reed Johnson, CF (.254, 4 HR, 18 RBI, .739 OPS)
2. Ryan Theriot, SS (.297, 7 HR, 37 RBI, .771 OPS)
3. Derrek Lee, 1B (.285, 19 HR, 63 RBI, .881 OPS)
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B (.331, 7 HR, 25 RBI, .950 OPS)
5. Milton Bradley, RF (.248, 7 HR, 23 RBI, .767 OPS)
6. Alfonso Soriano, LF (.253, 17 HR, 41 RBI, .760 OPS)
7. Jeff Baker, 2B (.188, 1 HR, 8 RBI, .568 OPS)
8. Koyie Hill, C (.206, 2 HR, 10 RBI, .605 OPS)
9. Carlos Zambrano, P (.217, 3 HR, 7 RBI, .691 OPS)

Astros vs. Zambrano Notables
Carlos Lee- .365(19 for 52), 4 HR, 1.113 OPS
Miguel Tejada- .389(7 for 18), 1 HR, 1.000 OPS
Geoff Blum- .156(5 for 32), 0 HR, .416 OPS

Cubs vs. Rodriguez Notables
Ryan Theriot- .476(10 for 21), 1 HR, 1.331 OPS
Derrek Lee- .444(12 for 27), 2 HR, 1.307 OPS
Alfonso Soriano- .071 (1 for 14), 0 HR, .307 OPS

Good to see Derrek Lee back in the lineup, especially against Wandy Rodriguez who he's crushed as you see with the above numbers. It's also nice that Lance Berkman is on the disabled list and will miss this series.

An outstanding pitching matchup tonight. Wandy Rodriguez has allowed just 2 earned runs in 29 innings this month for an ERA of 0.62. And he's of course been a pain in the rear for the Cubs in recent years. He's already beaten them twice this season, but both at home where he's much better. Zambrano has won 3 straight decisions and has an ERA under 3 each of the last 2 months.

The wind is howling out tonight though, so it's very possible this won't be a pitcher's duel after all.

Top of the 1st

On the 3rd pitch of the game, Zambrano gets Michael Bourn to ground out to Jeff Baker.

0-1 on Kaz Matsui. 1-2 count now. Zambrano just misses on the outside corner, crowd disapproves of the non-strike call. Now a changeup or splitter that Matsui barely fouls off. Full count. Bouncer up the middle and Baker rounds it and makes a nice play, 2 outs.

Tejada grounds out to Theriot. Very good sign for Zambrano, working that sinker. With the wind blowing out, that's especially good to see.

Bottom of the 1st

A 90 mph fastball in for a strike to Reed Johnson. Slider swung on and missed. Reed bounces right back to Wandy, 1 out.

3-0 on Theriot. Fastball catches the corner, 3-1. Flies out to center, 2 outs.

0-2 on Derrek Lee who missed yesterday's game with neck spasms. 1-2 count. 2-2 now. Lee continues to crush Wandy, rips a curveball into left field for a 2-out single.

Huge cut by Aramis Ramirez, foul tip strike. Grounds out to Matsui, inning over.

Top of the 2nd

Zambrano grooves a fastball to Lee and thankfully Lee fouls it off. He's crushed Zambrano in the past. And again, 0-2. Better location now off the plate with a fastball, but Lee able to get a piece, 0-2 still. And stupid pitch, one of those fastballs like earlier right down the middle, Lee hits it about 440 feet to dead center. 1-0 Astros.

Too predictable. 3-0 on Geoff Blum now. On a 3-1 pitch, he grounds out to Zambrano. Zambrano threw it about 95 mph to 1st with all day to do so, almost taking Derrek Lee's head off. Geez.

Pence with a blah flyball to left that still carries to the track, Soriano catches it, 2 outs.

0-2 on backup catcher that is playing 1st base today, Chris Coste. You've likely heard his incredible story, was a rookie at the age of 33 and now a useful MLB catcher. Doesn't look good here though as Zambrano blows him away with high heat to end the inning.

Bottom of the 2nd

1-2 on Milton Bradley, batting from his right side which he's hitting .343 from. And raise that batting average as he bloops a single into right-center. Perfectly placed in between Matsui, Bourn, and Pence. Matsui almost caught it, would've been a superb play.

Soriano hits into a 6-4-3 on the 1st pitch. He's now 1 for 15 against Rodriguez.

0-2 on Baker. 2-2 count now. Fouls a pitch off. Nasty curveball strikes him out swinging.

Top of the 3rd

1-1 on Quintero. Quintero strikes out swinging.

Wandy Rodriguez with a 2-0 count, you certainly don't want to put him on base, awful hitter. Good swing here though, lines out to Reed in center, 2 outs.

0-1 on Bourn. 1-1 now. 2-2 count. Fastball misses to make it a full count. Don't want to put him on with 2 outs. But Zambrano does, ball 4. Expect Bourn to be on the move now.

Sinker low on Matsui. Look for Bourn to go here. Zambrano thinking that and almost picks Bourn off. Very close. Zambrano misses way inside with a cutter, no movement. Now Bourn would be wise to wait until a strike is thrown. 3-0 now. WOW. Bourn runs on a 3-0 count that's in for a strike, Koyie throws a strike to 2nd and they get him. Running on a 3-0 count with Tejada and Lee waiting? Yikes.

Bottom of the 3rd

Koyie Hill strikes out swinging.

1-1 for Zambrano. 2-1 now, he's going to take a huge cut. He does, and doubles to the wall in center. He absolutely smoked that. It hit off Bourn's glove actually, but would've been a sensational play right in front of the wall.

1-0 on Reed. 1-1, and Reed completely fooled by a curveball, 1-2. And again, strike 3.

Ryan Theriot has a 1-1 count. That curveball is really giving the Cubs' hitters problems, Theriot just gets a piece and fouls it off, 1-2. 91 mph fastball located nicely inside, but too far in, 2-2. That curveball again and Theriot grounds to short, inning over.

Top of the 4th

Matsui with a new at bat, and ahead in the count again. It's 2-1 now. Matsui chases a pitch at his head now, 2-2. Kaz shoots a fastball outside into the seats foul. Fastball at the letters called for a strike 3. Borderline but looked like the right call.

Slider strike to Tejada, who has had success in the past against Zambrano. Another one, this time a hanger, fouled straight back. Don't make an 0-2 mistake like you did to Lee, Zambrano. Slider right in there, fouled off. Go off the plate with it.

2 meatballs to Carlos Lee again, what the hell? Thankfully he pops a hanger into center. Lee's seen more good pitches to hit than anybody tonight, it makes zero sense.

Top of the 4th

0-2 count for Derrek Lee. He hits a BOMB to left. Wow. Brenly just started laughing right when it left the bat. Lee is now 14 for 29 against Wandy. 1-1. Lee's 20th homer of the year, something many wondered if he could do this year. He also becomes 12th all-time on the Cubs homer list, tying Mark Grace.

Aramis smokes one to right-center off the wall for a double.

Milton Bradley grounds out to shortstop, 1 out. Aramis can't advance.

1-2 on Soriano. Strikes out on a curveball.

Jeff Baker hits a rocket on a 2-0 count, nice backhanded stop by Blum, throws him out to end the inning.

Top of the 5th

Geoff Blum grounds out to 2nd.

3-1 to Hunter Pence. Ball 4. I'm okay with limiting his pitches to see tonight with Coste, Quintero, pitcher's spot following.

And Coste grounds into a 5-4-3 double play. Nice job by Baker to avoid the barrel roll from Pence at 2nd and make the turn.

Bottom of the 5th

Koyie Hill grounds out to 3rd.

Zambrano strikes out on 3 pitches.

On a 1-2 pitch, Reed thinks the pitch hits him and starts going to 1st base, but the home plate umpire says it hit his bat. It was caught by Quintero, so that's strike 3. Reed's furious. Replay shows he should be.

Top of the 6th

Zambrano walks the #8 hitter, backup catcher Humberto Quintero. Not good.

Wandy batting right-handed to bunt, batted left-handed earlier to hit. Lays down a bunt on 0-1, Lee fields it, tags out Wandy. It may have gone foul but it was a bit too risky so Lee takes the out.

Now a Michael Bourn walk. Ugh.

Matsui bounces to 2nd, Baker flips to Theriot, Theriot throws to 1st with the speedy Matsui getting down the line, it's in the dirt and as usual a great dig by Derrek Lee. Inning over.

Bottom of the 6th

Theriot hits it hard but right back to Rodriguez, 1 out.

Derrek Lee up, doubt he'll see too much to hit. 1st pitch way outside. And again. A hanger and he is right on it with a huge swing, Brenly laughs saying, "OH MY!" Lee walks.

Aramis hits into a 6-4-3 double play.

Top of the 7th

Big inning here with Tejada and Carlos Lee to start it.

2-2 to Tejada. He grounds slowly to the hole at short, Theriot makes a nice play rounding it and throwing on the run to 1st. 1 out.

Carlos Lee rips the 1st pitch into center for a single.

3-0 on Cub-killer Blum, 3-1 now. Flies out to center.

1-0 on Pence. 2-0 and he gets a pitch right down the middle, huge hack, fouls it straight back. Now a splitter, 3-1. A nasty 3-1 changeup swung on and missed full count. Crowd to their feet, runner going here with 3-2 2 outs, Pence with a single up the middle, 1st and 3rd.

1-0 on Coste. 1-2 now. Strikes out swinging on a pitch in the dirt. Zambrano is incredibly pumped, has a huge Tiger Woods fist pump.

Now Shawn Johnson sings the 7th inning stretch. Awkward interview surely on the way.

Bottom of the 7th

1-2 on Bradley. 2-2 now. Hits a rocket to Blum like we've seen a few times tonight, 1 out.

Soriano has no chance against Rodriguez. 1-2 count. Strikes out on a pitch in the dirt, he's saying he made contact though and arguing. He's pretty pissed.

Jeff Baker crushes one deep into right, double that bounces off the wall.

They're intentionally walking Koyie Hill to get to Zambrano, wow.

But Zambrano of course grounds out immediately to shortstop.

Top of the 8th

Aaron Heilman replaces Zambrano.

Matt Kata pinch-hitting, broken bat blooper into right-center, Jeff Baker makes the catch, 1 out.

Now Pudge Rodriguez pinch-hitting for Wandy Rodriguez, 0-2 count. 1-2 now, a fastball right down the middle and Pudge foul tips it into Koyie's glove, 2 outs.

2-1 on Michael Bourn. 2-2, and a 95 mph fastball just misses outside, full count. Heilman misses his spot badly and it's ball 4... but Bourn swings, and grounds out to Lee.

Bottom of the 8th

LaTroy Hawkins in to pitch. Good, even though he's been great this year.

1-0 on Reed. Reed chases a bad 1-0 pitch, fouls it off. Reed looks to bunt for a base hit, pitch is low, barely pulled his bat back in time, 2-1. Pitch high and inside, 3-1 now. Fastball taken right down the middle, full count. Foul ball. Soft liner bounces in front of Kaz Matsui at 2nd and backs him up, plays it well and easily retires Reed, 1 out.

2-2 count on Theriot, fouls one off Pudge's mask. That sounds funny. Full count again, and again the Cubs can't get on base as he grounds out to 2nd.

Lee reached all 3 times but nobody's been on base for him. 2-0 count. 3-1 count, walks.

Aramis chases a curveball out of the zone, 0-1. Next pitch is clearly a strike, called a ball. LaTroy doesn't like it, starts yelling at the home plate umpire, and he's tossed. Wow!

This means Jose Valverde is in now though, yikes. He's the best pitcher on the planet against the Cubs. Aramis grounds the 1st pitch up the middle, looks like he broke his bat and it's not hit very hard, nice play by Kaz Matsui to get to it and flip for the force at 2nd to get Lee on a close play.

Top of the 9th

Carlos Marmol in.

Kaz Matsui leads it off. Fastball at 96 mph outside. Now a 1-2 count after Kaz swings at a slider behind him, a nasty slider in the strike zone taken, strike 3.

1-2 on Tejada, Marmol has his "A" stuff so far. Tejada drills it into center over Reed's head, into the vines, he throws his hands up. Tejada keeps running. Umpire rules it's indeed lost in the vines, double.

They're choosing to pitch to Carlos Lee here, 1-2 count. Very dangerous with the base open. Grounds out to Aramis, 2 outs.

Geoff Blum up in a Cub-killing opportunity. I'm nervous as hell, Swings and misses at a slider, 0-1. 1-2 count. A pitch that the CSN gun gets at 98 mph a called strike 3!

Bottom of the 9th

Milton from the left side has had some slow bat speed, will need to pick it up a bit with Valverde out there. 94 mph fastball blown by him for a swinging strike 1. Ball 1, now a splitter outside, 2-1. A full count now.

Soriano won't be bunting here, takes a pitch high. And again, 2-0. 3-0, now 3-1, now 3-2 as he has a big hack and fouls it off. Bradley runs, and Soriano whiffs on a pitch 3 feet outside, Bradley with a great jump though and beats it at 2nd by a bit. Bad throw though from Pudge.

Runner on 2nd, 1 out. Hoffpauir pinch-hitting for Baker, intentional walk.

Fukudome pinch-hitting for Koyie, ball 1. Fox will bat next and play catcher if necessary. 2-0 count, and swings at ball 3, 2-1. Same spot, takes this time, 3-1. Ball 4 high.

Bases loaded, 1 out for Fox. He was in a situation like this earlier in the year and walked. Nevermind, Lou chooses to go with Fontenot. Fontenot bunts through one on a squeeze, Milton out at the plate. I'm so furious right now. Fontenot then flies out which would've won the game.

2 beyond foolish things there... Fontenot shouldn't have been batting, Fox should be. He has to come into the game anyway. The Cubs burned the entire bench outside of Blanco that inning, and Zambrano already played. And the squeeze with 1 out and the bases loaded? There's no guarantee it works even if the bunt gets down with the force out at home. Not excusing what Fontenot did at all, you do everything effing possible to get the ball down there and if you don't, you should be benched for a bit.

Top of the 10th

Jeff Stevens in.

Sorry I was still fuming over that inning. Basically what happened...

Stevens struck out the 1st 2, then Jason Michaels triples with 2 outs. He would've been out by 15 feet with a good Fontenot cutoff throw, but it's in the dirt and Aramis can't dig it, thankfully Stevens was there to back him up. Stevens then K's Pudge.

Bottom of the 10th

Well Stevens has been very impressive. Good to see after many said the Cubs got nothing in return for Mark DeRosa.

Reed grounds out to Tejada, he's having a rough 0 for 5 night.

0-2 on Theriot. Worst swing of his career on a 1-2 count, strikes out.

2-0 on Lee. 3-0, and he takes a huge swing and fouls one off on 3-0. A 3-1 hanger but he was understandably looking fastball, takes it for a strike. Now another breaking ball, high pop out to right.

Top of the 11

Alright, sorry I'm slacking here, just getting caught up in this intense game.

Bourn hit one about as well as he can the other way to left, Soriano with a nice leaping catch on the track.

Matsui hit one hard as well, caught in the gap.

Tejada absolutely destroys one off the wall in left. Any air under that and it breaks somebody's window across the street.

Now you have to walk Carlos Lee here, and they do intentionally. Stevens leaves.

Sean Marshall in to face Geoff Blum.

1st pitch is a curveball in for a strike. Another curve pulled foul, 0-2. High fastball swung on and missed.

Bottom of the 11th

Slider to the backstop from Arias on the 1st pitch to Aramis Ramirez. Now another one way outside and low, 2-0. Rips one to the right side and it gets under the glove of Matsui, it's a hit though. Hit too hard.

Bradley bounces one slowly up the middle and thankfully it's just to the left of 2nd base and they can't get 2. Bradley on 1st now, 1 out.

Soriano with a bouncer in the batter's box that goes to 3rd, he doesn't run. I thought it hit his foot, apparently didn't. Bradley to 2nd, 2 outs.

NOW Fox is up, and with the base open, they walk him, and now the Cubs have officially emptied their bench as Andres Blanco bats.

Ball 1 Blanco. He bounces out to 2nd.

Top of the 12th

This would be an extremely painful loss.

Jeff Samardzija in.

1-2 on Hunter Pence. Grounds out to Lee.

Chris Coste hits one a mile, but thankfully foul. He eventually pops out to Lee.

Jeff Keppinger batting and bloop singles into center.

1-0 on Pudge. I fear he's going to hit one hard here after striking out in a big situation earlier. Grounds out to shortstop.

Bottom of the 12th

Blah, 2 outs. Somebody is hitting a homer to win this for one of the teams.

Tejada makes an unbelievable play on the run in the hole to get Theriot.

Top of the 13th

This is where it likely ends as Michael Bourn on with a single, he leads the league in steals.

Matsui fouls off a bunt attempt. Sacrifice bunt. I'm shocked they didn't just let Bourn run on Jake Fox.

They pitch around Tejada understandably with the base open. If you score the game's basically over anyway, Tejada a better batting average than Lee and you set up the double play.

0-2 on Lee. Hits into the 6-4-3 double play. I feel smart.

Bottom of the 13th

1-0 on Derrek Lee. 2-0 now. Walks on 4 pitches.

3-0 on Aramis now. Full count, Lee runs, Aramis drils a single into left-center, Lee to 3rd.

1st and 3rd no outs, they're intentionally walking Bradley who is up left-handed, fine by me.

Loaded up for Soriano, Fox on deck. 1-0 pitch, GRAND SLAM TO CENTER! CUBS WIN!!!!!!!

Oh. My. God. That sure took the pain of the 9th inning away. And Soriano's interview after it was sensational. Nobody has any clue what he was saying. Got a pie in the face too.

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The Friendly Linkfines 7/23/09

Posted by Matt Clapp | 7/23/2009 04:40:00 PM | ,

I take a look around the majors, and explain why maybe the Astros should be the NL Central faves (Sharapova's Thigh)

Cardinals trade Chris Duncan, but may be adding a much better bat in Matt Holliday... Ugh (Bleacher Nation)

Is the pressure getting to Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa? (Zoner Sports)

Carlos Zambrano still better than Phil Rogers

The statistics show the Cubs have been as bad as we've thought offensively this year
(Not Qualified To Comment)

Down on the farm report

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Cubs Interested In Joe Beimel?

Posted by Matt Clapp | 7/22/2009 12:10:00 AM | , , ,

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs may be looking into acquiring 32-year-old left-handed reliever Joe Beimel from the Washington Nationals. The Nationals are apparently scouting minor leaguers in the Cubs' system:

The Cubs may be interested in Nationals' lefty reliever Joe Beimel, who is 0-5 but with a 3.38 ERA in his first 41 appearances. According to one report, the Nationals have been scouting the Cubs' minor league teams, and Beimel is available.
Link(Chicago Tribune)

As you can see, it's purely speculation, but it's a realistic move. This is a guy I wanted the Cubs to sign this offseason. He's never been great against left-handed hitters, but effective enough to be another very useful left-handed arm in the bullpen.

This year, left-handed hitters are batting .232 with a .719 OPS against Beimel. Over his career, Beimel's allowed a .263 batting average and a .722 OPS against left-handed hitters.

He's had an ERA under four the last four seasons, including a 2.02 ERA last year as a key part of the National League West champion Los Angeles Dodgers' bullpen. Beimel was so popular with Dodgers fans that they had a bobblehead giveaway of him last year, like you see in the above picture.

Along with being a second left-hander in the bullpen that the Cubs are looking for, Beimel would be an upgrade over the likes of Jeff Samardzija, Kevin Hart, and Aaron Heilman as well. It also gives them more flexibility to do as they wish with Sean Marshall. If B.J. Ryan were to get it back together, it really gives the Cubs a lot of options in the bullpen.

You may be wondering how the Cubs would fit all of these guys onto the roster, but pitching depth is something I won't complain about, especially with all of the injuries we've seen this year. B.J. Ryan is likely at least two to three weeks away, if he can contribute at all. And remember, the roster's expand in September, where anybody on the 40-man roster can be with the big club.

This certainly wouldn't be a big move by any means, but I think it would be a solid one for the Cubs. They certainly wouldn't have to give up anything more than an average prospect for basically a middle reliever that is a free agent after this season.

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Game: Chicago Cubs(47-44) @ Philadelphia Phillies(52-33)
Game Time: 6:05 PM CT

Pitching Matchup:
Phillies- Joe Blanton (6-4, 4.44 ERA)
Cubs- Rich Harden (6-6, 5.06 ERA)


1. Reed Johnson, CF (.258, 4 HR, 17 RBI, .745 OPS)
2. Ryan Theriot, SS (.297, 7 HR, 36 RBI, .776 OPS)
3. Derrek Lee, 1B (.281, 18 HR, 59 RBI, .882 OPS)
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B (.308, 5 HR, 18 RBI, .838 OPS)
5. Kosuke Fukudome, RF (.262, 7 HR, 28 RBI, .812 OPS)
6. Alfonso Soriano, LF (.244, 16 HR, 38 RBI, .746 OPS)
7. Mike Fontenot, 2B (.239, 7 HR, 30 RBI, .689 OPS)
8. Koyie Hill, C (.204, 2 HR, 9 RBI, .580 OPS)
9. Rich Harden, P (.292, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .612 OPS)

1. Jimmy Rollins, SS (.236, 7 HR, 36 RBI, .657 OPS)
2. Shane Victorino, CF (.308, 6 HR, 42 RBI, .834 OPS)
3. Chase Utley, 2B (.312, 21 HR, 66 RBI, .997 OPS)
4. Ryan Howard, 1B (.262, 24 HR, 69 RBI, .887 OPS)
5. Raul Ibanez, LF (.315, 25 HR, 68 RBI, 1.048 OPS)
6. Jayson Werth, RF (.259, 20 HR, 58 RBI, .865 OPS)
7. Pedro Feliz, 3B (.288, 6 HR, 46 RBI, .747 OPS)
8. Carlos Ruiz, C (.232, 4 HR, 21 RBI, .716 OPS)
9. Joe Blanton, P (.038, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .205 OPS)

Rich Harden and Joe Blanton faced each other at Wrigley Field last August, after each were traded away by the Oakland Athletics the month before. The Cubs won the game 3-2. Rich Harden allowed 1 earned run in 5 innings, and Blanton allowed 2 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Top of the 1st

Reed Johnson is 5 for 10 with a homer in his career against Blanton(as they were both in the American League for years), that's why he's leading off I assume.

Blanton, like Harden, has been prone to giving up the longball this year, allowing 19 on the year. Harden has allowed 16. This is not the park to leave the ball up in the zone.

First pitch a strike to Reed, now a foul ball, 0-2. Slider outside, 1-2. Now barely gets a piece of a slider for another foul ball. Reed hit by a pitch on a check swing, I thought maybe it got his bat and so do the Phillies. Got him in the back forearm though.

Theriot sporting high socks, don't think I've ever seen that from him. Takes a strike. Curveball high. Rips a foul ball down the left field line. Wastes a Blanton fastball offering. Whiffs on a nasty changeup, 1 out.

Derrek Lee takes a strike, now a fastball inside, 1-1. Fastball just misses inside drawing some groans from the Phillies fans, 2-1. Lee smokes one to the left side, but right at Pedro Feliz. Can't hit it any harder. 2 outs.

Aramis Ramirez grounds to 3rd to end the inning on the first pitch.

Bottom of the 1st

Jimmy Rollins bounces the first Harden offering up the middle for a single.

Fastball in for a strike to Victorino. Harden paying close attention to Rollins. Len points out how Harden struck out 11 against the Phillies in June of last year while a member of the A's. Victorino swings and misses at a 94 mph fastball. Now Harden up to 95, foul ball. Changeup in the dirt gets away from Koyie Hill, Rollins to 2nd. 1-2 count. Another one in the dirt, Hill able to block this one. Another foul ball, now a pop up down the left field line, Theriot makes the play but doesn't make it look easy. No advance for Rollins, 1 out.

Pitch in the dirt to the All-Star Chase Utley, now a foul ball, 1-1. If you can retire him, have a good chance of getting out of this inning without giving up any runs, as Harden should be tough on Howard, Fastball paints the outside corner at 95 mph. Now a flyball that the crowd thought was hit much better than it actually was, routine for Reed in fairly deep center, 2 outs. Rollins advances to 3rd.

As expected, Howard looks awful on the 1st pitch from Harden, missing a pitch in the dirt. Keep making him chase. Same thing, 0-2. Go upstairs with the heat and that should be it. Goes back with the change and again gets Howard to chase, inning over.

Top of the 2nd

1-2 count on Fukudome. Strikes out swinging on a curveball.

Soriano pops out on the 1st pitch.

Fontenot takes a strike. Curve in the dirt, 1-1. Changeup high, 2-1. Flies out near the track in left to end the inning.

Bottom of the 2nd

Fastball strike to Ibanez. Pop up into shallow right-center, Theriot makes the catch as he was shaded that way with the shift.

1-1 on Jayson Werth. Full count now. Last couple of pitches have been heat up and in. Changeup high, ball 4.

Fastball to Pedro Feliz fouled straight back. Don't give him many of those, stay with the offspeed and he doesn't have a chance. Another fastball, smoked by Feliz, off of Derrek Lee, infield single. Nice play by Lee to just knock it down. He's hurting a little bit, looks like it just hit his glovehand awkwardly.

Double play candidate in Carlos Ruiz. 1-0 count. 3-1 count now, Ruiz with a huge swing, pops out in foul territory to Aramis, 2 outs.

Harden again with a great chance to escape trouble, facing the .038 hitting pitcher, Joe Blanton. 94 mph fastball right down the middle taken for a strike. Broken bat pop up, Derrek Lee makes the catch and that's the inning.

33 pitches through 2 for Harden, 25 for Blanton.

Top of the 3rd

1-2 on Koyie Hill. Drills one into right for a single. Best swing he may have taken in 3 months.

Bunt situation for Harden. Harden bunts it too hard to the 3rd base side, and Feliz easily gets the slow-moving Koyie Hill at 2nd. 1 out, Harden on 2nd. At least there's a huge change in speed on the basepaths.

1-1 on Reed Johnson. Grounds into a 5-4-3 double play.

Bottom of the 3rd

2-0 to the red hot Jimmy Rollins. 3-0 now. 3-0 green light, and he hits it out, 1-0 Phillies.

Man is he smoking the ball right now. Victorino now up, 0-1 count. That's the 17th homer Rich Harden's allowed this year, most he's allowed in a season. Of course, he hasn't had many long seasons. 2-2 count. Victorino pops out to the catcher Hill, 1 out.

Brenly: "I didn't get the green light 1-2 very often."

0-1 on Utley. Fastball low. Changeup low now, 2-1. On a full count, Utley swings and misses at a change, strike 3.

Howard whiffs on a 3-1 changeup, now a 97 mph fastball at his head.

Top of the 4th

Theriot has a 1-1 count. Patented single to right. 3rd time the leadoff man has been on, I think this time they get him in.

Fastball misses inside to Lee. Drills one foul over the tarp down the left field line. On a 1-2 pitch, lines out to left. Hitting the ball hard, just right at guys.

0-2 on Ramirez. Flyball into shallow center, Victorino runs it down.

2-0 for Fukudome. Fukudome gets a good pitch to hit with the 2-0 count, drills it into the left-center field gap for a double, scoring Theriot from 1st. 1-1.

Fastball called a strike on the outside corner, now one too far outside, 1-1. Soriano swings and misses at a curveball but it gets away from Ruiz, Fukudome to 3rd, 1-2 count. Passed ball on Ruiz, now almost another one. High fastball off his glove, but not far enough away for Fukudome to run. For some reason they challenge Soriano with a low and inside fastball, Soriano swings through it though. That is not the place to pitch him, he'll make Blanton pay if he keeps that up.

Bottom of the 4th

Ibanez flies an 0-2 pitch out to center.

0-2 on Werth. 1-2 count. Werth keeps wasting pitches. 3-2 pitch, fouled away. Werth strikes out swinging.

Now Feliz pops out on the 1st pitch to end the inning.

Top of the 5th

1-1 on Mike Fontenot. Hits it hard to left-center field, but Ibanez had him played in the right spot, 1 out.

A 2-2 slider on Koyie Hill just misses, 3-2. Now he chases a changeup near the dirt for strike 3.

Harden grounds out to Feliz.

Bottom of the 5th

0-1 count to Carlos Ruiz. 1-2 now, and he chases a changeup way outside for strike 3. That was probably 6 feet outside.

2-0 on Blanton. Flies out to left, crowd thought he hit a bomb.

1-0 to Rollins. Change in the dirt now. He's clearly in Harden's head. Changeup in a dangerous spot, 2-1. Bouncer to Derrek Lee and he plays back on the hop rather than charging it, eats him up. Tough play and a rare misplay by Lee, error charged.

0-1 on Victorino. 0-2 count now. I'd stick with the changeup in the dirt here. Rollins runs, 94 mph fastball fouled back. Now fakes towards 2nd, ball gets away from Hill, but no advance. He should be on 2nd base. 1-2. Runs again, Cubs pitch out, Koyie catches it almost out of the batter's box and fires to 2nd, Rollins would be out by a mile so he turns around, gets in a rundown, Cubs finally get him after a few throws.

Top of the 6th

Reed takes a fastball for a strike. Now takes one low. 2-2 count. He hits a rocket... right at Pedro Feliz. 2nd time the Cubs have done that tonight.

1-2 on Theriot. Bouncer to 3rd, Feliz throws him out easily.

Lee fouls it off the umpire's mask. 0-2 now. Rips it into left-center for a 2-out double. Finally found a spot no defensive players were standing at.

2-0 on Aramis. Should get a good pitch to hit here. Now a changeup that looks outside to me called a strike. Fastball outside. So even though Aramis isn't himself yet, seems that they would rather not give him a chance to get a hit here. Well, he gets a hanger, and pops out to 2nd.

Bottom of the 6th

Victorino bounces out to Fontenot.

Utley flies out to right.

Ryan Howard has no chance against Harden. 2-2 count. 3-2 pitch at 96 mph fouled off. Go back with the changeup. Same pitch, foul ball again. And again, all 3 at 96 mph. Goes with the change and it's not close, ball 4.

Ibanez pops out.

99 pitches for Harden. Might be done.

Top of the 7th

Fukudome grounds out to 1st.

Soriano singles to left.

Hopefully will see some movement on the basepaths here. Fontenot fouls the first pitch back. Soriano running, and Fontenot flies out to center.

0-1 on Koyie Hill. Harden on deck. I'd assume he'll stay in if the Cubs don't score and obviously would be pinch-hit for here if Hill keeps the inning alive. 1-2 on Hill. 2-2 count now. And a foul ball. Ball 3 just missed the strike zone, full count. A gapper should be able to score Soriano now for sure. Foul again. A rare nice long at bat from Koyie. Pitch #9 also fouled off. Now he strikes out.

Bottom of the 7th

Harden still in, 2-1 on Jayson Werth. Leaving his changeup up now. Ball 3 again high with the change. Now a big rip from Werth on a fastball, fouled off.

Sacrifice bunt moves Werth to 2nd.

1-2 on Ruiz. Should've struck out but the umpire didn't give Harden a borderline call that he just gave Blanton last half inning. Ruiz eventually grounds to Theriot, Werth to 3rd, 2 outs.

Greg Dobbs pinch-hitting, this should mean Sean Marshall into the game. Well, I was just informed Dobbs is 0 for 9 in his career against Harden, he's staying in.

Harden is getting squeezed. The first pitch was right down the middle as Gameday shows, called a ball. Count is now 2-2 after it started 2-0. Ends up striking Dobbs out on a 96 mph fastball on his 116th pitch. Most pitches he's thrown this year. Outstanding performance by Harden again on the road and at night.

Top of the 8th

The nasty Ryan Madson in to pitch.

Hoffpauir pinch-hits, grounds out to short.

Reed strikes out swinging.

Theriot grounds out to the pitcher.

Bottom of the 8th

Carlos Marmol is in to face the top of the Phillies order. Buckle your seatbelts.

1st pitch a slider outside, then gets one in for a strike. A 2-2 count, Rollins fouls off a 96 mph fastball. 97 mph fastball blows him away. That's the hardest I've seen Marmol throw in a long time.

Victorino with a bloop single, that's definitely not good news with his speed and tons of power following.

Ball 1, now a slider in for a strike to even the count on Utley. 95 mph fastball misses outside. Now we might see some movement. Pops out into shallow center, caught by Theriot. 2 outs.

Another tough matchup for Howard. Slider misses low. 2-2 count. 94 mph fastball just misses. We're seeing him go with the fastball more this time, thankfully. Slider fouled off, slider called strike 3 then. It was low when Hill caught it, but crossed the zone a strike. Howard highly disagrees.

Top of the 9th

Brad Lidge in.

Lee is 0 for 11 in his career against Lidge. 1-1 count, now a 94 mph fastball swung on and missed. Bounces out to Lidge, 1 out.

Big hack from Aramis Ramirez, fouls off a fastball. Right on it. Now a 94 mph fastball drills in him in the hip. Runner on 1st, 1 out.

Slider in for a strike against Fukudome, 0-1. 2-1 count now. 3-1 now. Fukudome chases a 3-1 slider that would've been ball 4. Now he hits one hard up the middle with Aramis running, hits off Lidge's foot, deflects right to Rollins at 2nd, easy double play. Just incredibly bad luck, unbelievable.

Bottom of the 9th

Marmol still in. Full count on Ibanez, whiffs on a 95 mph fastball.

2-1 on Werth. Marmol still getting up to 97 mph with the fastball. Slider on a 3-1 count, ball 4. I hate that. It did look like a strike to me though.

0-1 on Feliz. Drills a fastball deep to right, Fukudome makes a running catch right in front of the wall. Great play, 2 outs, Werth still on 1st.

Marmol with a 95 mph fastball to strike out veteran hitter Matt Stairs who was pinch-hitting for Carlos Ruiz.

Top of the 10th

Chan Ho Park is the new Philadelphia pitcher.

Soriano goes fishing for a slider outside and comes up empty. 1 out.

Fontenot foul ball on the 1st pitch. 0-2 now and he barely fouls off a slider. Fontenot flies out for the 4th time tonight.

Koyie drills one to left to my surprise, Raul Ibanez running towards the left field line makes a diving

Bottom of the 10th

Paul Bako pops out on the 1st pitch from new pitcher Angel Guzman.

Rollins with a shallow flyball to left, Soriano having trouble finding it in the lights, makes a stumbling catch. Actually a nice play as those lights can be a pain in the ass. Since he drops about 25% of regular plays, I really expected that to end badly.

Victorino bounces to Lee, Guzman gets over quickly and Lee's flip to 1st gets the Flyin Hawaiian by a couple steps.

Top of the 11th

Milton Bradley pinch-hitting for Guzman. Takes a breaking ball outside. Now a fastball inside, 2-0. Broken bat groundout to Utley.

Reed takes a strike. 0-2 now. Reed chases a slider and strikes out. 2 down. Cubs don't have a hit since the 7th.

Theriot fouls a pitch off twice. Hit with his backswing and it went past the pitcher's mound, very weird. Home run swing, misses. 0-2. Breaking ball strikes him out, inning over.

Bottom of the 11th

Sean Marshall in to face the powerful lefty bats.

Chase Utley is his first challenge. 1-2 count. Check swing, didn't go around. Full count now. Flies out to right.

Howard fooled badly by Marshall, as he's just terrible against left-handed pitching. Strikes out.

1-0 on Ibanez. He's the guy that really worries me. He walks, that's not the worst thing in the world.

Heilman coming in to face Jayson Werth. First pitch is a slider low, 1-0. 2-0 and Heilman with a nasty changeup, Werth chases, 2-1. Would've been ball 3. Very unlike the usually patient Werth. Next pitch called a ball, I thought it was on the corner. Werth eventually walks.

Winning run at 2nd, 2 outs for Pedro Feliz. First pitch just misses low, 1-0. 1-2 count and he swung, come on! They say a check swing. Now a foul ball, 2-2. Now a slider gets him swinging.

Top of the 12th

Chan Ho Park still in. A strike on the corner that the Cubs' pitchers are not getting. Lee eventually strikes out.

2-0 on Ramirez. Chases a slider nowhere close, yikes. Now a breaking ball that doesn't break, 3-1. A gigantic hack on 3-1, nothing. Full now. Reaches for a slider and flies out to center.

Fukudome strikes out.

3 perfect innings and 5 strikeouts from Chan Ho Park. Sigh.

Bottom of the 12th

Jeff Samardzija pitching.

Pinch-hitter Eric Bruntlett grounds out to 3rd.

Paul Bako gets ahead 2-0, but pops out to Soriano, 2 outs.

Rollins flies out to center on the first pitch.

Top of the 13th

Soriano with a slow roller along the first base line, 1 out.

Fontenot fouls it off his foot, he's hurting. He gets out somehow, I can't remember. Like it matters.

Koyie grounds out to 3rd.

Bottom of the 13th

Shane Victorino flies out to left against Samardzija.

1-1 on Chase Utley. Full count now. Flies out to center. He's 0 for 6, so expect him to blow up tomorrow.

1-0 on Howard. Shark is the type of guy Howard will hit a mile. Ball 4.

1-1 on Ibanez, Shark getting up to 97 mph. A 96 mph rigt down the middle and Ibanez swings through it. Go with the splitter now. He does, just misses, 2-2. Next pitch, Howard takes off for 2nd, but Ibanez fouls it off. Howard was almost standing at 2nd already. Full count now. Splitter/change low, ball 4.

Fastball down the middle to Werth, 0-1. 1-1. And he hits a walkoff bomb, 4-1 Phillies.

Knew it was going to end on a homer from somebody, most likely from the Phillies. Jayson Werth seems to always get big hits like that.

All the blame in this one on the Cubs' offense, just couldn't do anything at all. Now they face Jamie Moyer tomorrow who they always struggle against. Win and it's a great road trip. Lose and it's still a winning road trip, but quite a letdown.

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Apparently you won't see many more pictures of Rich Harden pitching in the day this year.

On Monday, the Cubs announced that they will try to schedule pitcher Rich Harden's starts for night games, as he's struggled badly in day games, but pitched quite well in night games this year:

Harden will start Tuesday night in Philadelphia, then not pitch again until Monday against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field, although that, at least, is a night game.

That would put him on pace to pitch again the following Saturday night in Miami.

"We're going to try to accommodate that [quirk] as much as we can," manager Lou Piniella said. "If we have an injury or something, we can't do anything about it."
Link(Chicago Tribune)

In night games, Harden is 5-1 with a 2.41 ERA, five homers allowed, and has held opponents to a .223 batting average in 37.1 innings pitched over six starts. Compare that to day games, where he's 1-5, has a 7.38 ERA, has given up 11 homers, and hitters have a .294 batting average against him in nine starts.

But is it simply an odd day/night situation for him, or is it also, or possibly more of a home/road issue for the Cubs' right-hander? His home/road splits have been quite similar to his day/night splits, and the Cubs of course play a ton of day games at home.

On the road, Harden is 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA, six homers allowed, and is only allowing a .221 batting average in 37.1 innings pitched over six starts. At home, he's 2-5 with a 7.59 ERA, 10 homers given up, as well as a .296 batting average in nine starts.

Those home/road splits look awfully similar to the day/night ones don't they? He's been superb at night and on the road, terrible at home and in the day.

He's pitched two night games at Wrigley Field, and in both starts allowed two earned runs in six innings pitched. So, that would support the argument that it's a day/night issue.

However, he's given up just three earned runs in two starts over 12 innings in day games on the road, so that would suggest it could be a Wrigley Field/home problem.

In 2008 at Wrigley, Harden went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in seven starts. Only once in those starts did he allow over one earned run. So he certainly had no problem pitching there last year. Then again, he was arguably the most dominating pitcher on the planet last year, so it may not have mattered where he pitched.

Coming into 2009 though, Harden had a 3.22 career day ERA and a 3.24 career ERA at night, showing it shouldn't make a difference what time of the day it is.

He had a career 2.81 ERA at home coming into the season, and a 3.75 ERA on the road. Therefore he's actually been a much better pitcher in his career at home pre-2009, and I showed how he was terrific at Wrigley Field in 2008. He's leaving the ball up in the zone and missing his spots frequently this year though, and when you do that at Wrigley especially when the wind is blowing out, that can mean serious trouble.

Is this just a fluke that the Cubs are overreacting about? Is it actually more of an issue of him pitching at Wrigley Field than the time of day it is, even though pitching in his home park wasn't a problem before this season? It's difficult to tell, but I'm fine with them doing whatever they think is necessary to get Harden pitching like he did in his last two night game starts, where he allowed just one run, one walk, and struck out 16 in 13 innings. Of course, those starts just so happened to be on the road!

No more day game starts at Wrigley Field is the best solution I can think of, as it knocks out both possible problems. Anyway, I blame any problems with the Cubs' players being able to deal with the sun this year on David Patton. He's spreading bad vibes.

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Game: Chicago Cubs(45-43) @ Washington Nationals(26-63)
Game Time: 6:05 PM CT

Pitching Matchup:

Nationals- Jordan Zimmerman (3-4, 4.50 ERA)
Cubs- Randy Wells (4-4, 2.72 ERA)


1. Kosuke Fukudome, CF (.255, 7 HR, 27 RBI, .794 OPS)
2. Ryan Theriot, SS (.296, 7 HR, 32 RBI, .771 OPS)
3. Derrek Lee, 1B (.286, 18 HR, 58 RBI, .882 OPS)
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B (.320, 5 HR, 18 RBI, .871 OPS)
5. Milton Bradley, RF (.239, 6 HR, 21 RBI, .745 OPS)
6. Alfonso Soriano, LF (.234, 14 HR, 33 RBI, .713 OPS)
7. Mike Fontenot, 2B (.232, 6 HR, 28 RBI, .669 OPS)
8. Koyie Hill, C (.208, 2 HR, 9 RBI, .592 OPS)
9. Randy Wells, P (.174, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .348 OPS)

1. Nyjer Morgan, CF (.286, 2 HR, 29 RBI, .715 OPS)
2. Nick Johnson, 1B (.302, 6 HR, 39 RBI, .832 OPS)
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B (.285, 15 HR, 53 RBI, .823 OPS)
4. Adam Dunn, LF (.260, 23 HR, 62 RBI, .929 OPS)
5. Josh Willingham, RF (.291, 12 HR, 26 RBI, .958 OPS)
6. Willie Harris, 2B (.248, 4 HR, 17 RBI, .790 OPS)
7. Alberto Gonzalez, 3B (.339, 1 HR, 14 RBI, .837 OPS)
8. Will Nieves, C (.261, 0 HR, 13 RBI, .610 OPS)
9. Jordan Zimmerman, P (.154, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .339 OPS)

As you can see, Alfonso Soriano is back in the lineup. Turns out his pinkie finger was not dislocated after all and he's feeling good enough to be back in the lineup.

The Cubs can win the 4-game series tonight, as they've taken the 1st 2 games of the series. It's a great pitching matchup featuring 2 of the more impressive rookie pitchers in the game in Randy Wells and Jordan Zimmerman. Randy Wells has gone into the 7th inning in 4 of his last 5 starts, and got a win in 4 of those games.

Zimmerman, 23, is a highly touted prospect with some terrific stuff. He'll get the fastball into the 95 mph range frequently. He hasn't allowed over 3 earned runs in a start over his last 7 outings, so it appears he might be figuring it out after a disastrous May where he had an ERA of 7.27.

Top of the 1st

Before the 1st pitch even, Brenly refers to the Nationals' pitcher as "Ryan" Zimmerman. That's going to happen a few times I think.

1-2 on Fukudome and he's really late on a fastball, fights it off. Same again, broke his bat this time. And fouls off another. Now grounds out on a nice curveball to short.

0-2 on Theriot. Takes a fastball that's called strike 3, he thought it was outside and so did I. Have to protect there on an 0-2 count though.

Lee takes a fastball strike. Big swing on a fastball right in his wheelhouse and he misses it, 0-2. On a 1-2 pitch, blows Lee away again on a fastball right down the middle at 96 mph. He's just challenging hitters, and since they've never seen them, he's going to have the advantage for at least the 1st time through the lineup.

Bottom of the 1st

On a 1-0 pitch, Nyjer Morgan doubles to left.

Seeing an example right away of the difference between Randy Wells and Jordan Zimmerman. Wells doesn't have the stuff to make the mistakes Zimmerman can at least sometimes get away with.

1-1 on Nick Johnson. 2-2 pitch lined into left for a single. Morgan could've scored there, but not worth chancing with no outs and Soriano's arm. 1st and 3rd, no outs.

Zimmerman absolutely smokes one to deep center, nice play by Fukudome to make a running catch near the track in center. If he gets some more air under that, it's way gone. 1-0 Nationals.

This is the kind of pitcher Adam Dunn will take yard frequently. On an 0-1 pitch, delayed steal by Nick Johnson, Koyie Hill throws it into center. Now Dunn crushes one into deep left-center, RBI double. 2-0 Nationals.

Willingham swinging at 3-0 pitch and gives it a ride to deep right-center, Fukudome makes a running catch on the track. Wells is getting crushed.

2-2 on Willie Harris. Wells missing his spots badly. Harris flies out weakly to left.

Well, the way the Nationals hit the ball that inning, lucky to only allow 2 runs.

Top of the 2nd

Zimmerman's only allowed over 2 earned runs(3) once in his last 7 starts.

0-2 on Aramis Ramirez. Groundball for a single up the middle. Zimmerman keeps throwing the ball in the strike zone ahead in the count with 2 strikes, he's going to pay for that soon.

Bradley late on a fastball, 0-1. Strikes out looking, questionable call.

Soriano really late on a fastball, fouls it off. It's going to be interesting how they look the 2nd time around. Right now they're getting surprised by Zimmerman's sneaky 95 mph fastball. Takes a curve for strike 3.

Fontenot flies out to Dunn in left.

Bottom of the 2nd

Alberto Gonzalez grounds out to Theriot.

The Cubs have signed 2nd round pick, infielder D.J. LeMahieu out of LSU. This is terrific news after some(not I) thought he'd stay at LSU. He was extremely impressive in the College World Series for the national champion Tigers, possibly the MVP for them in the tournament.

Will Nieves who I still hate singles into right.

Sacrifice bunt by Jordan Zimmerman.

Nyjer Morgan RBI single, 3-0 Nationals. Morgan to 2nd on the throw.

Nick Johnson single up the middle, 4-0 Nationals.

Ryan Zimmerman flies out to Bradley.

Top of the 3rd

Well this game isn't looking good. The Cubs need to make Zimmerman work and get to the horrendous Washington bullpen.

Koyie Hill shocks the world and takes a pitch the other way for a double.

Randy Wells with a sacrifice bunt, Hill to 3rd.

1-0 on Fukudome. 1-2 as he takes a fastball strike. Have to swing the bat here and get the run in. Full count now, fouls one off. Outside, ball 4.

Theriot swings at the 1st pitch and fouls it off. Slider outside to Theriot, 1-1. Flyball down the line in right but foul, 1-2. Full count now. Lee on deck, so a walk would be great here. Fukudome running, another foul ball. Theriot with what I think is a weak flyball to right-center carries all the way to the wall, he crushed it, I just didn't think he could drive the ball that way. 2-run triple, 4-2 now.

An absolute bullshit strike call to Lee on the 1st pitch and that screwed up the whole at bat. Gets behind 0-2, then has to chase and grounds weakly to 3rd, Zimmerman throws out Theriot at the plate. Man am I pissed about that 1st strike call.

Aramis grounds out.

Top of the 4th

3-0 on Dunn. Walks.

0-2 on Willingham. Fouls a pitch off and falls down embarrassingly. I laughed. Now he's hit by a pitch. Not laughing anymore.

Harris hits one deep to center that is gone at most parks, but it's 410 feet out there. Fukudome runs it down, Dunn to 3rd.

Groundball to short off the bat of Gonzalez with Willingham going, because of that, Theriot throws home and they get Dunn in a rundown. Rare smart decision by Theriot, 2 outs.

Will Nieves, the Nationals' version of Luis Valbuena, just misses a double down the right field line. Instead he grounds out to Fontenot, inning over.

Top of the 4th

Bradley an 0-2 count, loses his bat on a foul ball into the Nationals dugout, almost hits Marquis Grissom and Pat Listach in there. I'm not making this up. Now he strikes out on a 2-2 high fastball.

Soriano strikes out, duh.

0-1 on Fontenot. He hits a little blooper that's caught at 3rd.

Bottom of the 4th

Jordan Zimmerman lines out to Fontenot.

On a full count, Nyjer Morgan flies out to center.

Another full count, Nick Johnson singles to right-center. He's 3 for 3.

1-1 count on Ryan Zimmerman, foul ball, 1-2. Snap throw to first from Hill and he gets Nick Johnson by a mile. Nick Johnson is arguing about something... why? Wasn't close.

Top of the 5th

How many times do ya see it? A player makes a great play in the field, then... strikes out. That's what Koyie Hill just did.

Wells has what really looks like a hit up the middle, but Alberto Gonzalez covers a ton of ground and makes a superb play.

3-1 on Fukudome who has shown bunt twice in the at bat. Full count and Fukudome lines a single into left.

50/50 call goes Theriot's way, ball 1. 2-0. Babe Theriot had a cut, foul ball. Theriot flies out to right.

Bottom of the 5th

Zimmerman gets a new at bat, lines out to Aramis

Dunn strikes out swinging. That's Wells' 1st strikeout of the night, but it was versus Adam Dunn so it's nothing to celebrate.

0-2 on Willingham. Nice play by Theriot on a groundball a bit to his right, strong throw and gets Wilingham by half a mile, inning over.

Wells' best inning of the night. He's really settled down, at 85 pitches. Probably 1 more for him.

Top of the 6th

1-2 on Lee, he's not really seeing Zimmerman well so far. 2-2 pitch fouled away. Zimmerman's 90th pitch of the night is a curveball that Lee hits for a ground-rule double to left. I thought Adam Dunn may have been able to just reach up and catch it, but he's the worst outfielder in the game so no surprise.

Aramis with a huge swing comes up empty, 0-1. Now a foul ball, 0-2. Former Pirate Sean Burnett, a left-hander, warming up in the bullpen for Washington. The next pitch almost hits Aramis, high and inside cheese, 1-2. Now a foul ball. More foul balls, 2-2 count. Sharp groundball up the middle, I think it's a single, Willie Harris is there, goes through his legs. 1st and 3rd no outs.

At 95 pitches, Zimmerman likely would be taken out here but Bradley's been significantly worse against right-handed pitching this year. Bradley strikes out swinging, breaks his bat over his knee.

Soriano crushes one into right-center, 3-run bomb! 5-4 Cubs! That's his 1st homer since, well, a longass time ago. That ends Zimmerman's night as well.

Sean Burnett in to pitch, Fontenot lines a single right away into left field.

Koyie Hill bounces to Burnett, who throws to 2nd, but Hill beats the throw from Gonzalez. Very close. Oh, and he was just standing in fair territory the whole time after he beat it out, Nationals could have just tagged him for the double play.

Jeff Baker pinch-hits for Wells, grounds to Johnson who makes a great diving stop, flips to Burnett, inning over.

Well, nice inning. Huge to see Soriano contributing and that's why you need to keep playing him. He's the streakiest player in the game, he'll get hot, just have to live with his awful streaks. Unfortunately this year's cold streak has been the longest of his career.

Bottom of the 6th

Angel Guzman in to pitch for the Cubs.

1-2 count on Willie Harris. Really interested to see how the Cubs use their bullpen tonight. Marmol and Gregg each pitched the last 2 games, and Kevin Hart starts tomorrow. In all likelihood he's pitching 5 innings. Sean Marshall warming up right now. Full count, like 50 pitches in this at bat, Harris flies out to Soriano.

Gonzalez swings and misses at a nasty slider/cutter at 91 mph, now pops to shallow right where the 2nd baseman Fontenot makes the catch, 2 outs.

Will Nieves continues to piss off Cubs fans, doubles.

2-0 on pinch-hitter Austin Kearns, 96 mph fastball right there from Guzman, swung on and missed. And again. 2-2, 92 mph slider/cutter outside, 3-2. Foul balls, pitcher-catcher conferences, etc. Still a full count. This game is moving at a Rosie O'Donnell mile-run pace. Ball 4, that will be it for Guzman.

Sean Marshall in to face the left-handed hitting Morgan, this was a no-brainer. Morgan is a .329 hitter against righties, .169 against lefties. 1-1 count. On a 1-2 pitch, Morgan grounds out to 2nd. Inning over.

Top of the 7th

1-1 on Fukudome who is facing right-hander Jason Bergmann. He crushes one to deep right-center off the top of the wall, gets a triple standing up. Runner on 3rd, no outs.

Theriot can't do the job, bounces out weakly to shortstop.

Come on D-Lee, get this run in. 1-2 count. A couple of foul balls. Lee strikes out swinging, sigh. 2 outs.

Seen this way too much this year. It's pretty damn pathetic I know they're not scoring when they get a runner on 3rd with no outs.

0-2 on Ramirez. Flies out to right-center.


Bottom of the 7th

Marshall still in to at least face Nick Johnson, maybe more. 2-2 count. Generous strike calls the last 2 pitches.
Now bounces out to Theriot.

On a 1-0 pitch, Ryan Zimmerman, huge swing, fouled straight back. Bloop single into center.

Adam Dunn is 0 for 5 in his career against Marshall, swings and misses badly at a curveball to start the at bat. Fastball low, 1-1. 2-2 on Dunn. 2 straight curveballs in the dirt, 3-2 here. Throw that in the strike zone and he'll almost surely swing through it. And he throws that pitch, and Dunn hits it into the upper deck foul. Wow, he hit that probably 450 feet. Fastball inside, ball 4.

Carlos Marmol coming in for the 3rd straight day. So you can pretty much cross him out for available pitchers tomorrow.

Marmol faces Willingham. Slider nowhere close. Ugh. Here we go. Now high, now outside. 3-0.
So predictable. Now he goes to the fastball, 2 straight strikes. Just throw that for crying out loud. Walks him.

Willie Harris with a 2-0 pitch, swings, groundball, Lee bobbles it, throws home, Hill stretches and keeps his foot on home plate, 2 outs.

2-0 again. STOP THROWING THE EFFING SLIDER YOU DUMBSHIT! He throws 3 straight fastballs, all for strikes, last one resulting in a groundball to Ramirez, he steps on 3rd barely ahead of Willingham, inning over.

Top of the 8th

Bradley singles up the middle on the 1st pitch. Of course, the Cubs couldn't get that with a runner at 3rd last inning.

0-2 on Soriano after 2 nasty curveballs, another one in the dirt, lays off it. Full count and for some reason Lou elects to send the runner with a guy that swings and misses a ton at the plate. Strike em out, throw em out.

Mike Fontenot with a bomb into right-center! 6-4 Cubs!

Koyie Hill singles.

Jesus Fuld pinch-hitting, lines a 3-2 pitch into right, caught by Willingham. Drilled it.

Bottom of the 8th

I went to the Diamondbacks-Cardinals game to see Albert Pujols bat against Dan Haren as the tying run in the 8th, grounded out. D'backs going to the 9th up 3-1 still.

Cubs got an out, not sure how, 1 down.

Belliard walks.

Morgan singles to right, Bradley bobbles, Belliard advances to 3rd. 1st and 3rd 1 out, error on Bradley.

1-0 on the toughest out in the Nationals' lineup, Nick Johnson. If he hits one on the ground he's a great double play candidate though. 1-1 count. Kevin Gregg already warming up. Full count, Nyjer runs, another foul ball. To be honest, I'll be surprised if the Cubs are still leading after this inning with Zimmerman and company up after this. Ball 4.

Kevin Gregg coming in to get 5 outs, and remember he pitched the last 2 days.

Zimmerman flies out to deep right, I thought it was a grand slam off the bat. 6-5.

3-1 on Adam Dunn with runners on 1st and 3rd. Ball 4.

1-0 to Willingham. Nick Johnson with slow speed at 2nd. On a full count, a couple foul balls, then Willingham grounds far back at 3rd to Ramirez. Ramirez with an awful throw at least 5 feet in front of 1st, Lee makes an INSANE dig and saves the game for the time being.

Top of the 9th

Sorry I was celebrating Lee's play and forgot about the live blog for a few minutes. My bad.

Basically all you need to know is Fukudome, Theriot, and Lee grounded out.

Bottom of the 9th

Willie Harris flies out on a Kevin Gregg offering. 1 out.

Albert Gonzalez with a 1-1 count. 2-2 count. Wow, just missed it, hits it a mile in the air. Theriot has time to run all about 30 feet into left field and down the line, wait for it, make the catch. 2 outs.

Curveball just misses, 1-0 to Nieves. 2-1 now. 2-2 count, groundball to Theriot, CUBS WIN!

Great job by Kevin Gregg, and great dig by Derrek Lee. It was even better to see Soriano finally do something, and in a big way with a 3-run homer to give the Cubs the lead.

The Cubs blew plenty of chances to add on more, but they also prevented the Nationals from doing the same. Whatever the case, it's a series win and the chance for a sweep tomorrow. Yes the Nationals are the worst team in baseball, but I'll take any series wins on the road. Hopefully a sweep as well, but that's going to be tough with Kevin Hart going and a makeshift bullpen likely. Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg, at least Gregg, will be unavailable.

Oh, and the Cardinals lost, so the Cubs are now tied with them in the loss column, and 2 games back overall.

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Right when two-time All-Star pitcher B.J. Ryan(pictured left) was released from the Toronto Blue Jays, I immediately wanted the Cubs to take the gamble and sign the left-hander. Well today they did, and to my surprise at just the prorated league minimum price of a minor-league contract, which is under $200,000(basically, that's the All-Star bonuses the Cubs didn't have to pay this year, aside from $75,000 for Ted Lilly).

What that means is nobody around the league has any confidence in him regaining his past form. That's very understandable since the 33-year-old had a 6.53 ERA, allowed 22 hits, walked 17, and struck out just 13 in 20.2 innings pitched this year for the Blue Jays. The real problem is that he's seen a huge drop in velocity, so it's very possible those numbers were not just a fluke, and this is what he is now.

But for the Cubs, this deal makes perfect sense. If Ryan gets his velocity back, they're getting arguably a top ten reliever in baseball, and something they really need, another left-handed arm in the bullpen. If he doesn't, so what? It's a minor-league deal. The rewards far outweigh the risk here. It's just like the Jim Edmonds signing last year and that one turned out pretty well, wouldn't you say?

Just last year, Ryan had 32 saves, a 2.95 ERA, and 58 strikeouts in 58 innings pitched. Since 2004, Ryan's had a sub-3 ERA four times. In his career, he's averaged 10.48 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. These are the reasons the Blue Jays signed him to a five-year, $47 million contract, which expired next year, and they're on the hook for the remaining $15 million.

The Cubs have looked for another reliable left-hander in the bullpen all season. Neal Cotts was a major disappointment, was sent down to Triple-A Iowa, and then had Tommy John surgery, ending his season. Jason Waddell's shown some promise, but is a 28-year-old that has spent all but 1 2/3 innings of his pitching career(which were this year) in the minors.

Sean Marshall is doing a superb job out of the bullpen, with a 1.65 ERA in 16 1/3 innings pitched in relief this year. He even leads the National League in stranding runners, succeeding in 23 of 24 chances.

In all reality though, Marshall best serves the team in the swing man role, where he can pitch an inning here and there out of relief, be the long man if need be, and be a fill-in starter. The team would be much better off with him starting than Kevin Hart right now while Ryan Dempster is on the disabled list.

Additionally, with Rich Harden's struggles and health concerns, having Marshall ready as another starting pitcher for the rest of the season would be big. With no other lefties in the bullpen though, the Cubs can't afford to do this. That's why if Ryan could serve as the left-hander in the bullpen, that would give the Cubs some much needed flexibility with the pitching staff.

Ryan wouldn't feel the pressure of closing games like he did in Toronto. He'd mainly be serving as a left-handed specialist. He's held left-handed batters to a .179 batting average and .558 OPS in his career, so if he can look anything like his pre-2009 self, he could be terrific in the role. Furthermore, say he really got it all back together and Kevin Gregg or Carlos Marmol suffer an injury, maybe he could go back to pitching in the late innings as he did in Toronto.

Whatever the case, we won't get to see it with our own eyes for a few weeks likely, if at all. The Cubs sent him to Mesa to fix up his mechanics and work on some things, and he'll likely report to Iowa soon. The Cubs certainly aren't just going to throw him up with the big club, they want to make sure he still has something left.

With a limited amount of money to work with due to the ownership mess, and few spots on the team available to upgrade, this is a low risk/high reward chance the Cubs had to take.

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Well its finally the All-Star break. Normally it seems like the break comes too fast, I can never believe that baseball is already more than half over. This year has been a little different though. The Cubs have made this first half seem like an eternity. Of course we all thought this Cubs team would easily head back to the postseason. The only question we had was can they finally win a game once they get there, but oh those tricky Cubs..... they decided to suck. Amazingly despite all their suckiness they are still in pretty good shape. Here are a few of my thoughts about this first half and what I expect in the 2nd half.

Things I have learned about the 2009 Cubs

First the bad.....

- Mike Fontenot is not an everyday player. This one is hard for me and I think Clapp may even still disagree, but I really now believe he isn't. I was a huge Fontenot fan last year, I was pissed he didn't start the first 2 games of the playoffs and I was very confident he would have a big 2009. I was wrong. He has shown brief spurts of hitting well and has swung the bat better lately but he was awful for months and not just against lefties. I don't blame Hendry for trying to make Fontenot an everyday player, but I think now is the time to stop the Fontenot everyday player experiment. Pinch hit him a lot, give him a couple starts a week and hope he finds the magic of last year. Andres Blanco and Jeff Baker can share time at 2B and maybe, somehow the Cubs will add a 2nd baseman before the break.

- Ryan Theriot is a dumbass. I already knew he was a dumbass base-runner, but he has now convinced me he is a dumb ass all the way around. He makes bad decisions on throws on defense, is a poor infield captain on pop ups, continues to be a horrendous base-runner and now thinks he is a slugger. After his brief power spurt in May, it took him about 6 weeks to stop trying to hit every pitch out of the park. Don't get me wrong, I think Theriot is a hell of a hitter and a decent shortstop, but with the good will come a whole lot of dumbass mistakes.

- The Cubs suck. I don't necessarily mean these Cubs or the players on the Cubs or the management of the Cubs, but the whole idea and franchise of the Cubs. I used to think it was bad front office, no payroll, bad players etc. that made the Cubs bad, but nope it's just the fact that they are the Cubs. Call it a curse or fate or pressure or whatever you want, but the Cubs franchise sucks. I'm not sure it will ever stop sucking, at least until they win a world series. We will continue to bring on talent, spend money and put good teams on the field and the Cubs will continue to suck. Someday maybe things will change.... but I'll believe it when I see it.

Now on to the good......

- Jake Fox and Randy Wells are the real deal. Now I'm not saying Wells is really a 2.50 ERA pitcher or that Fox will be a career .330 hitter, they may both be having career years, they may both fade a little in the 2nd half, but *right now* these are two great players the Cubs need to rely on.

- Ted Lilly is a stud muffin. I kinda already knew this, I mean, Clapp and I have been saying ever since October that had Lilly pitched in the playoffs, we may have won a game. Yeah he struggled against the D-backs in 07, but this guy is nails. He doesn't give a shit about the Cubs pressure, he just goes out and pitches well every single time.

- Derrek Lee still has it. Now I was never one who was crying for Lee to be benched or traded, but I was convinced he had declined into a .275, 15 homer player. Boy was I, and so many others, wrong. Lee has been amazing for over a month and is showing no signs of slowing down. Lou can feel comfortable sticking him in the 3 spot in the order and leaving him there.

Pieces of Advice for Lou Piniella about the 2nd half.

1. Play Jake Fox as much as possible. I don't care if it means giving Soriano, Bradley and Ramirez more days off, I don't even care if it means playing him at catcher. Get him in the lineup. I'm sure Bob Brenly would disagree, but what Fox brings offensively far outweighs, how much better Koyie Hill might be defensively. This is a guy who played catcher in college and has played 300 games behind the plate in the minors, he can catch. On most teams I might never suggest this, but this is the 2009 Cubs, we need runs, play Jake Fox.

2. Move Milton Bradley to the top of the order. Milton Bradley is not a run producer, he just isn't. This is a guy who had never even reached 20 homers or 70 RBI in a season until last season. His best attributes are batting average and on-base percentage. He is finally starting to hit the ball hard. He told the papers he is back, and I believe him. Bat him second, watch him get on base a ton and get driven in by Lee, Ramirez and company.

3. Let your starting pitchers carry the team. Far too many times Lou has pulled Lilly, Wells and Zambrano too early and watched the bullpen walk a million guys. I'm not saying to go Dusty Baker on them, but the starting rotation is our best piece of the team. If a guy is cruising and has only thrown 90 pitches, leave him in. Kevin Gregg has been very good at the end of the game lately, but getting to him has been quite an adventure at times.

What I Expect From the Cubs in the 2nd Half.

I expect this team to turn it around. I really do. I may not have given that same answer a month ago, but there are too many signs for me not to believe it now. I won't go as far as predicting a division title, but I firmly believe the 2009 Cubs' best baseball is in front of them. I believe Milton Bradley will hit the rest of the year, I believe Soriano has a big time hot streak yet to come, I believe we will score more runs and I believe the rotation will continue to be good.

The Cubs have too much talent to not outlast the Astros and Reds and I still firmly believe this team is better than the Brewers. The team I am still worried about is the Cardinals. Ludwick is finally hitting, Franklin has been ridiculous out of the bullpen and of course Pujols, Carpenter and Wainwright are all better than anyone the Cubs have. If somehow, someway the Cardinals really do trade for Roy Halladay, the Cubs might as well start watching the wildcard teams on the scoreboard instead of the Cardinals. I still don't believe they have the money to do so however, so I expect a great 2nd half race.

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The Friendly Linkfines 7/13/09

Posted by Matt Clapp | 7/13/2009 04:00:00 PM | ,

Cubs filing for bankruptcy? (WaxPaperBeerCup)

Grading the Cubs at the All-Star break (Not Qualified To Comment)

Lou's decision to have Sean Marshall pitch, then go out to left field, then come back to face lefties got quite the reaction from the Wrigley faithful
(Tales From Aisle 424)

Well, the Cubs are right back where they started the season, at .500 (Cubbies Crib)

Things aren't going too well for former Cubs pitcher Sean Gallagher. Now he and his 8+ ERA are on their way to San Diego.

Josh Vitters and Starlin Castro participated in the Futures Game yesterday.
(Bleacher Nation)

Around the Cubs' farm system (WrigleyBound)

Gotta love the Muskbox
(Hire Jim Essian)

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Next up in our "Random Retro Cubs" series, we take a look at former Cubs pitcher Mike Harkey...

Years Played: 1988, 1990-1995, 1997.

Teams Played For: Chicago Cubs(88, 90-93), Colorado Rockies(94), Oakland Athletics(95), California Angels(95), Los Angeles Dodgers(97).

Position: Pitcher(131 Games, 104 Games Started)

Bats/Throws: Right/Right.

Career Line: 36-36, 4.49 ERA, 1.441 WHIP, 94 ERA+, 316 K, 4 CG, 1 SHO, 656 IP.

Best Cubs Season:

1990- 12-6, 3.26 ERA, 1.221 WHIP, 126 ERA+, 94 K, 2 CG, 1 SHO, 173.2 IP.

Awards/Leaderboard: 4th IN NL Winning Percentage In 1990(.667)

9th In NL ERA+(126)

10th In NL Hits Per 9 IP In 1990(7.929)

Fun Facts: Mike Harkey was a 1st-round draft pick of the Cubs(4th overall) out of Cal State-Fullerton. His son now plays for Cal State-Fullerton as well.

Harkey was a highly regarded pitcher and showed flashes of being worthy of the #4 overall selection with the Cubs, specifically in 1990(stats above). He just wasn't able to stay healthy, missing the entire 1989 season dealing with shoulder and knee injuries.

In 1992, his injury woes continued, but in most unusual fashion. On September 6, 1992, Harkey severely injured his knee attempting to do a cartwheel at Wrigley Field before a game.

He's held a few pitching coach positions in the minor leagues, including with the Iowa Cubs in 2007. He's currently the bullpen coach for the New York Yankees.

My Take: As a kid that started following the Cubs in regularity in 1989 or so, Mike Harkey was one of the main players I followed with interest. I had a ton of his baseball cards as everybody thought he could be a superstar, and he very well may have been if not for continuous injuries.

That terrific 1990 season, he was just 20 years old. He was never the same after that season, and many put the blame on manager Don Zimmer for overusing the young Harkey. Maybe that blame is warranted, but the injuries kept coming throughout Harkey's career.

As a Cub, he went 26-21 with a 3.92 ERA in 71 starts over 5 seasons. It's a shame we didn't get to see more starts from him in a Cubs uniform.

Link To Mike Harkey's Baseball-Reference Page

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Just When Things Were Getting Better....

Posted by Justin Agla | 7/08/2009 11:31:00 AM | , , ,

This past weekend it looked like things were finally going to start getting better for the Cubs. They played very well in a 4 game weekend series against the Brewers, winning 3 of 4 and scoring a lot of runs while doing so. We also knew that finally for the first time since April we would have all of our guys back from injury. Aramis Ramirez would make the lineup whole, Reed Johnson would provide depth off the bench and Guzman could shore up the bullpen. Thing were looking up..... right?

Well for one day they may have been anyway. Tuesday we learned that Ryan Dempster broke his toe during a game winning celebration and will miss 3 to 4 weeks. For now the Cubs have plugged his spot in the rotation with Kevin Hart, a guy who has never made a big league start and who has look pretty bad out of the bullpen. The Cubs anemic offense also showed back up on Tuesday scoring just one run and ruining a good pitching performance by Carlos Zambrano.

Now to top everything off today, Geovany Soto has been scratched from the lineup with an oblique strain. The Cubs say he will be re-examined Friday. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, with 4 games in 3 days this weekend, if Soto isn't ready to go right away, the Cubs may be forced to bring up Steve Clevenger or Chris Robinson from Iowa to take Soto's spot.

I'm not sure what else could go wrong this year, I'm sure something else could and will so I won't speculate, but wow.... life as a Cubs fan really sucks sometimes.

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