The Cubs look to follow-up yesterday’s tremendous performance with another tonight in Pittsburgh. Paul Maholm takes the hill where he is very comfortable as he has almost 100 career starts at PNC Park. Here is how the Cubs will line up as everyone awaits Ryan Dempsters decision.
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Oh how a weekend changes the feeling around a ball club. Coming into last weekend the Cubs were the hottest team in baseball, they are now licking their wounds on their way to Pittsburgh. The Cubs and Pirates open a three game series tonight, and the Pirate have been red-hot as they sit half a game out of first in the Central behind the Reds. The Pirates are 7-3 in their last 10 games and are an insane 32-14 at PNC Park, the best home record in all of baseball. The Cubs need to find some offense in this series as they were shut out the last two games in St. Louis against the Cardinals. The Cubs won’t have it much easier at the plate in this series as the Pirates have the 5th best ERA in the National League. Offensively the Pirates are 10th in the National League in runs scored, doesn’t seem good, but when the Cubs last faced the Pirates they were dead last, they are raking. Andrew McCutchen leads the charge for the Pirates as he is hovering around the triple crown right now, if the Cubs want to win this series they will need to find a way to shut down one of the games best. Full preview/breakdown after the jump.
Paul Maholm was pressing early in the year, and I don’t blame. He was trying to prove to a major market that he was worth the money spent on him in the offseason, he soon realized that he didn’t have to prove anything to anyone and has taken off since then. Today was the latest chapter in Maholm’s resurgence as he was outstanding over eight innings to earn his 8th win of the season against six losses, and give the Cubs a series win over the Marlins. Maholm gave up one run on five hits while walking one and striking out four and lowered his ERA to 4.09 on the season. Maholm didn’t get much help from his offense, but he got just enough as the Cubs came through with clutch hits yet again, which has been a staple of this team during their recent hot streak. The Cubs only needed one inning to do their damage as they pushed four runs across the plate against Marlins starter Mark Buehrle, which was started by an Alfonso Soriano solo home run, his team leading 18th of the season. Luis Valbuena recorded a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded and no outs to make it 2-0, and Reed Johnson came up with a huge two out single that scored two to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead. Reed Johnson, Alfonso Soriano, Jeff Baker, and Darwin Barney all had two hits in the win. Carlos Marmol came on in the ninth and had some trouble again before nailing it down for his 11th save of the season. The Cubs finished their six game home stand an impressive 5-1, full box score and highlights after the jump.
The hottest team in the majors since June 25th? That’s right, the Cubs. The record says so, the Cubs are 12-4 since June 25th and are clicking on all cylinders as they welcome the Miami Marlins to town. Or should I say they welcome the circus to town as Tuesday will mark the return of Ozzie Guillen, Mark Buehrle, and Carlos Zambrano to Chicago. Guillen had an opportunity to set his rotation for this series and he chose to have Zambrano watch all three games from the bench. Of course I guess that could be good for all parties involved. The Cubs only care about one thing, and that’s winning, which is what they have been doing as they come into this series on the heels of a three game sweep over the Diamondbacks. A big reason for the success has been the Cubs starters who have had an ERA under two over the last five games and have the opportunity to continue that dominance as they face a scuffling Marlins offense (14th in runs scored in the NL). The improved lineup has been another big reason for the Cubs turnaround, and there’s no reason to expect them to slow down against a Marlins staff that is ranked 11th in the NL in team ERA. Full preview/breakdown after the jump.
Judging by today’s performance I’m going out on a limb and saying the four-day all-star break was the most beneficial for Alfonso Soriano. Soriano led the charge for the Cubs as they opened the second half much like they finished the first half, blowing out an opponent. The Diamondbacks jumped on top of the Cubs in the first inning after a three-hour and forty minute rain delay, plating a single run on two hits off of Maholm, that was the only run Maholm would surrender as he was stellar again. After the Cubs tied the game at one in the second they went off against starter Ian Kennedy while dodging rain drops. The Cubs scored in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh inning on their way to an 8-1 blow out. As I mentioned, Soriano led the way, he finished the day 4-for-4 with two doubles, two home runs, five RBI’s and three runs scored, probably Soriano’s best game since the 2007-2008 seasons. He wasn’t alone in his destruction of D-Backs pitching as Anthony Rizzo also had a good day finishing 2-for-4 with two runs scored. The offense didn’t need eight runs, though it was nice to see, because Maholm was on top of his game. Maholm secured his seventh victory of the season by going seven strong innings giving up one run on six hits while walking one and striking out five. After today’s effort Maholm’s ERA dropped to 4.33 on the season. The Cubs are putting it all together right now, they are 7-3 in their last ten, and have raised their home record to .500 on the season. Full box score and highlights after the jump.
Finally Cubs baseball is back on Friday, and with the way the Cubs have been playing that is actually a good thing. The Cubs are red-hot, winning nine of their last fourteen games which has moved them out of last place in the Central Division. The Diamondbacks have taken a step back this season after being one of the surprise teams last year. Sub par years from Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy have contributed to that fall from the top of the West. Mediocre is a word that should be used in describing the D-Backs season to this point, they are 6th in runs scored, and 10th in ERA in the National League respectively. The Cubs still sit near the bottom of the league in both runs scored and ERA but this has been a different team since Anthony Rizzo got the call near the end of June. In order for the Cubs to be successful this weekend they are going to have to get a lead early against the D-Backs starters as they rank near the bottom of the NL, 14th to be exact, in starter ERA with a 4.26. While the pen for Arizona is 6th best in the National League, full preview/breakdown after the jump.
It’s a winning formula, solid defense, great pitching, and home runs, the Cubs did all of that to celebrate the Fourth of July and beat the Braves 5-1. The Cubs are now 4-2 against the Braves this year, and they will look to win the four game series tomorrow night. Paul Maholm was stellar for the second straight start, he went six innings allowing one run on eight hits while walking one and striking out five to earn his sixth win of the season. The Cubs jumped on top in the first inning after hits from Castro and Rizzo put men at first and third with Soriano up. The Cubs almost executed a delayed double steal perfectly however Rizzo was caught stealing second, but it did allow Castro to score to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. The Braves tied the game at one in the third on a single by Martin Prado after a Michael Bourn triple, that was all Maholm surrendered. Recently named all-star Bryan LaHair put the Cubs on top for good in the fourth inning with his 14th home run of the season. The turning point of the game might have come in the bottom of the sixth when Alfonso Soriano made a spectacular throw to gun down Chipper Jones at the plate to keep the Cubs ahead by one. The Cubs tacked on in the seventh when Darwin Barney scored on a wild pitch, and Jeff Baker followed with a pinch hit solo home run off of Jonny Venters. Anthony Rizzo continues to impress as he closed out the scoring with his 3rd home run of the season, a line drive that got out in a hurry, both Rizzo and LaHair finished the night with two hits. Full box score and highlights after the jump.