Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Cubs look for heavenly intervention
OK, losing all these openers is getting annoying. But, if you remeber back to 2002 the Angels lost the opening game of all three rounds of the playoffs yet eventually brought home the world series title. We are months away from even thinking about this scenerio, but we also have to remember that even though openers feel like they have more magnitude they are just 2 of the 162 games. The Cubs will have ample opportunities to prove whether they are a good or bad team.
The game turned with the bullpen again. After fighting back to tie the game at 3-3 the Cubs turned to Howry in the eighth. He game up three long hits - one a homer with a man on - to stake the Astros to the 5-3 score that eventually was the final score. He also managed to throw a wild pitch in there for good effect.
The bullpen was one of the relative strengths of the team last season. Howry and Eyre are off to horrible starts this season. The crappy part of this scenerio is that the starters are pitching well and deep into ballgames. The Cubs are setting themselves up for success if they can get normal performances from the pen.
Hopefully the Cubs can get to .500 and their first home win of the season all at the same time today. Even though the record is not optimal, I still think this team will be in the hunt (mainly because no one in the central is going to run and hide).
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Nice heart...no win
Wade Miller's 2007 debut is not one he will likely want to remember 6 earned runs in 4 innings. The Brewers got those 6 runs before the Cubs even put a crooked number on the board. But, the Cubs had some fight in them scoring 4 runs in the 6th inning to set up the most pivotal moment of the game.
With the score 6-4 the Cubs got the first two runners of the 8th inning on base. Mark DeRosa came up and struck out looking (his 4th of the game), Barrett lined out and pinch hitter Ward whiffed to kill the Cubs mini-rally. Three more Brewer runs in the bottom half pretty sealed the deal and produced the final score of 9-4.
The Cubs ended their first road trip at 3-3. Overall I think that is about as good as can be expected. Dominating at home and playing .500 on the road will give them a good chance of winning the division. The home portion of this plan startes tomorrow with the opener against the struggling Astros.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
I have no clue how this will look since I am trying to blog from a smartphone. Nice win today and a few moments that could be deemed most important. Aramis' homer is probably the most obvious, but I am going for something else.
For me and hopefully to carry over the rest of the season, Dempster's 9th inning was the most important thing. He threw strikes and whiffed the last two on nice splitters (or change-ups). The Cubs will hit so the bullpen becomes crucial for their success. Here is hoping Dempster keeps it up.
Impatience is not history's friend
Continuing on my theme of pointing out what I feel to be the most interesting, impactful moment of the game I am going to again go to something subtle. Obviously Rich Hill was fantastic last night and the bats scored enough in the first to support him leading to an easy win.
Hill was so good though that he was flirting with destiny. He retired the first 15 batters. In the top of the 6th Hill batted with one out and grounded a ball to Milwaukee first basement Prince Fielder. Fielder sort of juggled the ball before flipping to the pitcher for the out, but the bad timing gave Hill a notion that he could beat the play so he hustled to the base. Personally I love it that the Cubs are trying this hard.
Soriano came up next. Soriano is many things - powerful, fast, athletic, but definitely not patient. He was out in two pitches. WGN flashed to the dugout showing Hill preparing to come out to the mound and he was clearly still gassed from running to first. You did not need an HDTV to see him huffing and puffing. Of course the first batter of the inning hit one into the bullpen breaking up the perfect game, no hitter and shutout. Would Hill have been perfect longer if not tired? The world will never know.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
I could pick a few pivotal moments in the game where the Cubs messed this one up. I just hope that they don't decide to waste too many more good performances from the back portion of the rotation. Marquis deserved better - the whole team deserved better. But, bad fundamentals, a crappy bullpen and horrible situational hitting will sink a team every time. I just hope they get them all of out of their system now.
I think the game turned in the top of the 7th. Soriano got a two strike hit into left field. He then proceeds to get picked off for out #1. Murton follows the pick off with a hit to right field. Now, if Soriano stays put the Cubs have at minimum 1st and send for Lee and Ramirez.
Theriot replaced Murton and stole second so there is still a runner in scoring position with less than 2 outs. Lee hits a ball to third and Theriot strays too far off and gets nabbed at third. Cubs have now parlayed two singles and a ground ball to two outs and a man on third. When Ramirez grounds out the Cubs are left with a round number on the scoreboard for the inning and a singular run lead.
If they push across another run in that inning who knows how the game would have turned out, but I bet it would have been better for the Cubs. Of course, if Jones had not made the last out in three innings with runners on base it might have turned out better as well.
It was another cold day in Cincinnati and I was lucky enough to be sitting three rows behind the Cubs dugout. Let me tell you, Pinella is not afraid to hold players accountable. Theriot got an earful for running into an out in the aforementioned inning. Personally I like this style. Accountability and measurement leads to performance.
Make the other guy make a decision
Read any books about poker and the headline is a common theme. The best players apply pressure to their opponents forcing them to make decisions. Making more decisions gives people more chances to make a big error. Personally, I have a friend I play with that I can tell within five minutes if he is having a good decision day. If not, I play ultra aggressive.
What does this have to do with baseball? Well, to me the pivotal moment of yesterday's game was a small thing that made Reds manager Jerry Narron make a decision. The boxscore will show that Lilly retired the Reds in order in the bottom of the 7th - not a strange thing to happen especially since he pitched well. But looking a little deeper into the lineup you will see that he retired the 6-7-8 hitters.
When David Ross was hitting with two outs, the Reds had a pinch hitter in the on deck circle. When Ross made an out, Narron had to choose whether to send out his pitcher for the 8th time with a high pitch count or send the game to the bullpen. He choose to stick with Arroyo. Lee and Ramirez led off the inning with hits knocking out Arroyo and setting the table for DeRosa's 2 RBI single that put the game away. Sometimes small things make a big difference.
Extra Innings Package
I figure most readers of this site kept track of the negotiations between Direct TV and baseball over the rights to the out of market baseball package Extra Innings. When the potential deal was announced cable TV subscribers (like myself) were up in arms about the hassle over switching to satellite (if they even had the choice where some in apartments would not). My basic stance was I did not care where the games came from I just wanted them to make a decision - announcing something after the season would be the worst thing that could happen.
A couple of weeks ago the proposed deal went final so I switched and ordered the package. I read this morning that late negotiations is bringing the package back to cable. Idiots. So I would up going through the hassle of switching and it turns out I could have stayed pat. The good news is that I am enjoying Direct TV. I get Extra Innings in all rooms of my house instead of one, I get more games in HD and in the fall I get use of the NFL network. The ultimate end is good and I suppose that is all that matters.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Discovery of new superstitions
My wife and I moved to Cincinnati shortly after our marriage almost 6 years ago. In that time I have been fortunate enough to have the Cubs open their season here 4 times. I have now managed to attend all of them.
My overall record is 2-2. The two wins occurred when attending either by myself or with my dad. The losses happened when attending with Scott or my wife. Lesson learned.
This season I am going to try something new when recapping games. I figure you can go a bunch of different places on the web to get game recaps, scores and statistics. What I am going to do is break down one moment of the game - the pivotal moment. I am going to pick the one event that turned the tide of the game. Some will be obvious, some will happen early, some will be late in the game, some will probably seem odd. I will also add a contrary opinion on how the situation could have been handled. Hopefully this can spark some debate.
Yesterday's key moment happened in the top of the 4th inning. Harang was struggling as the Cubs were actually working the count some. After a leadoff out Ramirez singled and then turned Jones's infield grounder into a hit with some hustle. Barrett flied out to right but DeRosa walked loading the bases.
At the time, the Cubs were down 3-0 and a hit puts them right back into the game. Izturis hits the first pitch 120 feet up and 120 feet out and it fell safely in the glove the shortstop. Rally over and the Cubs really mounted a rally again.
What could the Cubs have done differently? How about lifting Izturis for Floyd or Ward? It is one of those moves that makes the manager a genius if it works and an idiot if it doesn't. Think about it though, the Cubs have two utility in Cedano and Theriot to fill in and Izturis has a .295 career OBP. I think the Cubs could have managed to SS for the remaining innings given their chance to score runs improves significantly by lifting Cesar. Casey Stengel used to do stuff like this all the time - and I think he is remembered as a pretty good manager.
Monday, April 02, 2007
It's Opening Day, the greatest day of the year. I had planned to go to class today, breaking a long string of enjoying the Cubs' first game of the year. In college I would skip class to watch a full slate of games. Right after graduation, I had to wake up at 4am to catch the Cubs and Mets from Japan (fortunately I don't have to mention Benny Agbayani in this post because that happened in game 2). At Southern Company, I'd always schedule vacation and leave at noon on Opening Day to get home and see the games. One year I even flew to Cincy to see the Cubs on Opening Day with Dennis.
But now, as a determined law student, I took it for granted that I'd be going to class today. After all I've skipped class only a couple times all school year. But then, as I got dressed to head to school, I got an IM from Chris Y., and it suddenly hit me- it's Opening Day for crying out loud! It's spring, rebirth, joy, love, Opening Day! The Cubs are tied for first place, and the Cardinals are all alone in last! ARod and Jeter are each averaging 4.5 errors/game! It's Opening Day, and all is right with the world.
I won't have time to post regularly this year, but at least I have today. Wherever you are, I hope you are feeling the love for your friends, family, and baseball as much as I am. Play ball!