As I mentioned in the series preview the Cubs look to be finding a groove and riding the momentum of some nice wins lately. Tonight was pure domination from beginning to end as the Cubs had a 5-0 lead after two innings en route to a 9-1 victory, their third straight win. These wins are coming against good teams as well, and they held their own in their most recent losses against the Reds, and Cardinals. I’m not saying the Cubs are going to be contenders next week, but they are playing some of the best baseball they have played in the last three years. Okay, I know, that really doesn’t take much, but watching this team every night I can see the change. Lost in the offensive awesomeness, say that five times fast, was the performance of Travis Wood. He was brilliant again, and is pitching like a true number one, this is the Travis Wood the Cubs’ brass was hoping they got when they traded Sean Marshall to the Reds. Actually this is probably more than what they expected this soon, just outstanding.
At The Plate – The best offensive night for the Cubs this year, they pounded out fourteen hits and scored nine runs. They were an impressive 6-for-18 with runners in scoring position and had eight extra base hits, six doubles, a triple, and a home run. David DeJesus was 2-for-4 with a walk, a double, two RBI’s, and two runs scored. Starlin Castro was on base all night going 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, two RBI’s, and a run scored. Alfonso Soriano padded his slugging numbers in this one going 2-for-4 with his fourth home run of the season, a double, two RBI’s and a run scored. Nate Schierholtz was 2-for-4 with a triple, and two RBI’s, he is now hitting .299 on the season. Welington Castillo and Travis Wood also had two hits in the victory, both of Castillo’s hits were doubles, what else is new, the Cubs lead the Majors in doubles.
On The Mound – Travis Wood was brilliant, what else can be said, he has been all year. Wood worked seven scoreless innings giving up two hits while walking three and striking out two. This was his eighth straight quality start to begin the season, he improved his record to 4-2, and lowered his ERA to 2.03 as well. Kyuji Fujikawa had another solid performance out of the pen tossing a scoreless inning while striking out two. Carlos Marmol worked the ninth inning giving up one run on one hit while striking out three.
Up Next – The Cubs go for their fourth straight win as Carlos Villanueva looks to get things back on track. The Rockies counter with Jeff Francis, first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM CST, and the weather is supposed to be very summer like.
Wood’s scoreless outing
DeJesus two-run single
Schierholtz two-run triple
Cubs turn two to end the fifth
Castro turns two
Castro’s two run double
Travis Wood helps himself with a double
Alfonso Soriano launches one out onto Waveland
As a baseball fan these games are fun to watch. No matter what the records are the Cubs and Cardinals always seem to play close, hard-fought games. Tonight was no different as Travis Wood and Lance Lynn were locked in a battle all night long. The Cardinals took an early 1-0 lead on a solo home run from Allen Craig, and that’s all they would get the whole night. The Cubs erased that deficit and turned it into a lead in the fourth inning, all with two outs as well, something this team hasn’t been great at. Alfonso Soriano looped a single to right then Nate Schierholtz put a good swing on a 3-1 fastball and deposited it in the right center, well more center than right center, bleachers to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead and that’s how this one would end. Tremendous job top to bottom tonight from the Cubs, love beating the Cardinals, and hey, that’s two wins in a row!
At The Plate – Lance Lynn came into this one 5-0 and he didn’t disappoint as he matched Travis Wood pitch for pitch. The Cubs didn’t generate a lot as they only had five hits, but it was enough for the win. Starlin Castro had a rough night at the plate and made a questionable error, but did manage a double in his last at bat to finish the night 1-for-4. Alfonso Soriano was a big part of the offense tonight going 2-for-3 with a run scored, fonsi has his average up to a respectable .276, need more production out of him however. Nate Schierholtz was the offensive hero tonight going 1-for-3 with his fourth home run of the season, two RBI’s and a run scored.
On The Mound – How about Travis Wood, he was outstanding again tonight and has been all season. Wood improved his record to 3-2 and lowered his ERA to a sparkling 2.33 by going 6.2 innings giving up one run on five hits while walking two and striking out eight. Carlos Marmol (yes I held my breath when he came in) was really good in this one. Marmol worked 1.1 scoreless innings giving up two hits while walking one, but he worked around the free pass. Kevin Gregg has been reborn, he was spotless again in the ninth inning, he didn’t give up any hits and struck out one.
Up Next – The Cubs go for the sweep, okay it’s only a two game series, but a sweep over the Cardinals is a SWEEP OVER THE CARDINALS. Carlos Villanueva will battle Jake Westbrook at 1:20 PM CST, both pitchers have been outstanding this year, should be another good one.
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Well, how should we look at this loss? Be thrilled that the Cubs fought back against arguably the best closer in the game only to fall just one run short. Or say that this was the typical Cubs “fake rally” where they get just close enough to give us fans some hope, then fizzle out. Maybe a little of both I guess, fact remains the Cubs left way too many guys on base in this one and that was the difference. The Cubs trailed 4-0 in the sixth before getting two runs in the bottom half to pull within two. Unfortunately the Cubs pen couldn’t keep the Reds in check over the next two innings as they built their lead back up to four runs heading to the ninth. The Cubs, somewhat miraculously touched up the untouchable Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning, scoring three runs off the flamethrower. Unfortunately, with the bases loaded and trailing 6-5 Darwin Barney struck out with the bases loaded to end the threat and the game, not a game to remember from Darwin Barney, more on that later. So close, so frustrating, so encouraging, so many things pulling us in different directions, welcome to the 2013 Cubs.
At The Plate – The Cubs had a solid game at the plate, but on one hand they could have been so much better. They scored five times on fifteen hits, that’s hard to do, too many opportunities wasted in this one. Anthony Rizzo is now far removed from his early season struggles as he was 3-for-5 with a double, and a run scored, he’s now hitting .243 on the season. Alfonso Soriano was 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored but it was the at bats he had where he didn’t get a hit that hurt the most. The Cubs four hitter was 0-for-2 with zero RBI’s in this game with the bases loaded, both at bats came with less than two outs, unacceptable. Nate Schierholtz had another good day going 2-for-4 with an RBI, but he also left five guys on base. Luis Valbuena continues to string together good games here and there he was 3-for-4 in the loss. Really rough game for Darwin Barney, he was 0-for-5, he left eight men on base, eight, by himself, including striking out with the bases loaded to end the game. Tomorrow is another day, Darwin, go get em.
On The Mound – Carlos Villanueva didn’t have his best stuff in this one, but he did all he could to get deep into the game. Villanueva went 5.2 innings giving up four runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out four. Michael Bowden really struggled out of the pen, and it was his own doing as he worked 1.1 innings giving up one run on three walks, ugh. Kameron Loe wasn’t much better has he work one inning giving up one run on two hits while walking one. Kevin Gregg had another solid outing as he worked a scoreless ninth inning while walking one and striking out one.
Up Next – Game two of the series as the Cubs trying to even it up. Jeff Samardzija looks to get a little deeper in the game as lately his pitch counts have been elevated too early, it would be nice to see him get some run support as well. That won’t exactly be easy as the Reds will counter with Tony Cingrani who has been really good in the first few starts of his career.
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Well, how about that? Scott Feldman was brilliant right from the start and all night long as he tossed his first career complete game and had plenty of support from his offense. The Cubs had Andrew Cashner on the ropes right off the bat as they scored in each of the first four innings to take a 5-0 lead. That was all she wrote for Cashner who was already up to 96 pitches after four innings, that’s what you like to see from the offensive side of things. The Cubs were only able to manage one more run over the final four innings but they didn’t need it as Feldman was throwing darts all night long. With a win tomorrow the Cubs could take three out of four in their second straight series, I don’t care who the opponent is, that’s a huge step in the right direction.
At The Plate – Awesome job by the Cubs at the plate tonight as the pounded out nine hits, and six runs, while walking five times. They probably could have and should have had more, but beggars can’t be choosers I guess. David DeJesus continues to hit as he was 2-for-5 from the lead-off spot. Starlin Castro, getting a chance in the fifth spot today was 2-for-4 with an RBI, and two runs scored. Julio Borbon had another solid game going 1-for-4 with a walk, and two runs scored. Dioner Navarro had two RBI’s, Nate Schierholtz had one RBI, and Luis Valbuena has one RBI in the win.
On The Mound – It was the Scott Feldman show, as he was brilliant. Feldman went the distance for his first career complete game giving up two runs on three hits while walking one and striking out twelve(!). The twelve strikeouts were also a career high, quite the night for Feldman as he improved his record to 2-3 and watched his ERA improve to 3.34 on the season.
Up Next – The Cubs go for the series win tomorrow afternoon at 1:20 PM CST. Travis Wood looks to continue his strong start to 2013 as he will face off against Eric Stults who has been roughed up in the early going this year.
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How was that for exciting, for the second time in the last week Luis Valbuena belted a clutch home run to put the Cubs up late, this time they actually won the game. Things weren’t looking so good early on as Edwin Jackson was struggling with his command and the Marlins jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the second inning. Usually that spells the end of the game for the Cubs given their offensive woes, but not tonight. The Cubs scored once in the fourth on back to back doubles by Nate Schierholtz and Welington Castillo, and then tied it in the sixth on a home run by you guessed it, Schierholtz again. Jackson settled in, and the Cubs pen did a great job to get the game tied at three and then Valbuena delivered the game winning shot in the top of the ninth. Carlos Marmol came on to get the save, and of course made it very interesting for everyone involved by putting the first two men on before escaping the jam, Cubs win!
At The Plate – The Cubs were only able to manage six hits in this one, but they made them count as they were 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position. David DeJesus was 1-for-4 with a double, and a run scored from the lead-off spot. Starlin Castro got the Cubs on the board early with an RBI single, he finished the day 1-for-4. Nate Schierholtz was 2-for-4 with a double, a home run, an RBI, and two runs scored. Luis Valbuena, the hero on this night went 1-for-4 with a home run, an RBI, and a run scored.
On The Mound – It didn’t look like Edwin Jackson was going to make it through four innings in this one but he battled his way to a quality start. Jackson went six innings giving up three runs on five hits while walking four and striking out four. The Cubs pen shined in this one as Hector Rondon, Shawn Camp, and Carlos Marmol all tossed scoreless innings in the victory. Impressive job by Marmol after it looked like things were going to unravel, he walked the first guy, gave up a hit to the next guy then settled in as he struck out the Marlins best hitter Giancarlo Stanton with the tying run in scoring position to end this one.
Valbuena’s game winner
Great defensive play in the ninth
Marmol gets the save
Schierholtz ties it with a home run
Castro’s RBI single
Great catch by Barney
Castillo’s RBI double
Slick play by Barney and Castro
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This is starting to get out of hand, maybe it already is out of hand, but the way the Cubs are losing games is almost hard to believe, even for the Cubs. The latest chapter in this horrific story of a season took place tonight in Cincinnati where the Cubs seemingly did everything to win. They received a tremendous performance from starter Travis Wood, jumped out to an early lead, had a strong performance from the bullpen for the most part, and yet still lost. Such is life as a Cubs fan and Cubs team at this point, every game this year has been decided by four runs or less, think about that, all of them. You know what decides close games in the majors? Bullpen and clutch hitting, usually with runners in scoring position, two things the Cubs have been terrible at. Luis Valbuena hit a monster two-run shot in the top of the thirteenth to give the Cubs a two run lead, nothing could go wrong, until it did. Before anyone could even savor that two-run homer, Michael Bowden, who didn’t get much help from Sappelt in right field, gave up three runs and the game was over, ho-hum, another mind numbing loss.
At The Plate – David DeJesus got things going right away in this one as he led the game off with a home run, he finished the day 2-for-5 with a home run, two walks, an RBI, a stolen base, and a run scored. Nate Schierholtz was solid as well going 3-for-6, but also had three strikeouts. Luis Valbuena had the big hit for the Cubs, that two-run homer that I mentioned, and finished the day 2-for-6 with two RBI’s, and a run scored. Darwin Barney was 2-for-6 with a run scored, the Cubs left 12 men on base in this one, that didn’t help either.
On The Mound – Travis Wood was great again, against a tough lineup, and once again had nothing to show for it. He went 6.1 innings giving up two runs on four hits while walking two and striking out five. Shawn Camp worked a third of an inning, but balked in the tying run, yes, again. James Russell, Carlos Marmol, and Kevin Gregg all had scoreless appearances out of the pen. Marmol was particularly strong going two scoreless innings while walking two and striking out two. Michael Bowden was good, then really bad, he took the loss going 1.2 innings giving up three runs on four hits.
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I understand that the Cubs won’t be competitive this year, maybe competitive in games, but not to the point of winning anything substantial, but the one thing I expect to see at least is strong fundamental play. When the roster is hollowed, which it is, one would expect to see the little things done right, and players paying attention. We are only sixteen games into this season and it is clear that in some games the Cubs just aren’t mentally there. I suppose I shouldn’t be as upset about it because this kind of stuff happens on bad teams, and for the most part the Cubs have fought in games but today just got to me. It also is starting to get to Dale Sveum, “”This is obviously getting old…we’re making mistakes that rookie ball people make.” The Cubs only had four chances with runners in scoring position, they did convert once, but it wasn’t enough as four unearned runs did in the Cubs and Edwin Jackson, just frustrating.
At The Plate – The Cubs managed to out-hit the Brewers in this one 7-6, but the Brewers didn’t make any errors and thus they won. Of the seven Cubs hits only two were of the extra-base variety. David DeJesus was 1-for-3, as was Luis Valbuena. Alfonso Soriano was the only Cubs player to register an RBI, he was 1-for-4, and also made an error. Starlin Castro was 1-for-4 and he also made an error, the other error was made by Edwin Jackson. Nate Schierholtz, and Dave Sappelt were the only Cubs with extra base hits, both doubles.
On The Mound – Edwin Jackson had a “quality” start by definition of the rule book as he went six innings giving up five runs, one earned, on four hits while walking one and striking out four. Hector Rondon, and Kameron Loe both worked scoreless innings in relief but by then the game was decided.
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