Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Welcome Home: Cubs vs. Phillies Preview 

The Phillies return home from their seven games in Cincinnati and Queens to start a nine game homestand at Citizens Bank tonight. First up, Phillies vs. Cubs.

Exactly 100 years ago the Chicago Cubs won their last World Series, defeating the Detroit Tigers four games to one in the 1908 World Series. The victory was part of an impressive era for the Cubs, who won 530 of 766 games (.692) between 1906 and 1910. Between those seasons the Cubs dominated the National League, winning four pennants and two World Series in five seasons. The 1906 team won 116 games - a mark tied by the '01 Seattle Mariners - and lost just 36. Their .762 winning percentage is something that will never be equaled in baseball again. With Joe Tinker manning shortstop, Johnny Evers at second base and Frank Chance at first (Tinker to Evers to Chance), the dead-ball era Cubs were a powerhouse.

In the years subsequent the Cubs failed to find any kind of sustained success, losing World Series in 1929, 1932, 1935 and 1938. The '29 team blew an 8-0 lead in Game Four of the World Series, allowing the then-Philadelphia Athletics to score ten runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to win 10-8 and take a dominating 3-1 advantage in the series.

In 1945 the Cubs lost the World Series in seven games to the Tigers, their seventh consecutive defeat in the World Series. Since then, the Cubs haven't been back. Between 1946 and 1983 the Cubs didn't even make the playoffs, consistently finishing with losing records despite featuring terrific players like Ernie Banks or Ron Santo. The '69 season actually inspired hope amongst Cubs fans as the Cubs actually sat in first place for nearly the entire season before dropping 11 of 12 games between Sept. 3 and Sept. 15 and see their 5 game lead over the Mets suddenly turn into a 4.5 game deficit.

In 1984 the Cubs punished their fans for believing in them by blowing a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five NLCS to the San Diego Padres. After brief post-season appearances in 1989 and 1998, the Cubs once more punished their fans with a spectacular collapse in the NLCS as the Cubs gave up eight runs in the eighth inning of Game Six to the Marlins (shades of 1929) and watched as a three games-to-one advantage turned into a defeat.

The '07 Cubs were swiftly swept by the Diamondbacks in the NLDS, ending the Cubs 99th year of disappointment. In the years since the Cubs last World Series victory ... the Titanic sank (1912), World War I started (1914), and ended (1919), the Stock Market fell apart (1929), World War II started (1939), Pearl Harbor was attacked (1941), World War II ended (1945), the Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series (1955), America put a man on the Moon (1969), Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency (1974), and the movie Titanic made millions for James Cameron (1997-1998). Yes, it has been an eventful century.

That was then, this is now ... The 2008 Chicago Cubs are eager to erase the stain of the past. The Red Sox managed to undo 86 years of history in 2004, so the Cubs are definitely due.

Phillies Hitting vs. Cubs Pitching. The Phillies enter this series with a lot of hot bats in the lineup. Pat Burrell is off to a hot start with a whopping .513 On-Base Percentage and three home runs and nine RBI in ten games. Burrell has also hit three doubles. Right behind him, making his argument to be considered in the MVP race is Chase Utley who has a .447 OBP and also has three home runs to go with four doubles and eight RBI.

The Phillies problems are at the top of the lineup. If Jimmy Rollins continues to sit out of the lineup, as he did for the final two games of the Mets series, then the Phillies have serious problems. Shane Victorino is off to a slow start with a .233 OBP and just two runs scored. He's also stolen just a single base and was caught once. Eric Bruntlett, J.Roll's replacement, is making a terrific argument for the Phillies to promote Jason Donald from Double-A Reading to play short. Thus far, in addition to making two costly errors on Wednesday night, Bruntlett has an OBP of .231. In order for Burrell, Utley, Pedro Feliz and Ryan Howard to have RBI opportunities, then Victorino and Bruntlett are going to have to produce, or the Phillies will have a dangerously unbalanced lineup.

Meanwhile the Cubs send Jason Marquis (6.75 ERA) to the mound tonight, followed by Carlos Zambrano (1.32 ERA) and Ted Lilly (9.72 ERA). Zambrano is off to a terrific start, with 12 strikeouts to 1 walk in thirteen and two-thirds of an inning. Zambrano has thirteen Pitching Runs Created, exactly eleven more than Lilly and Marquis combined. It will be interesting if the Phillies can get to Zambrano on Saturday.

Here is an X-factor for this series: last season with Jason Kendall behind the plate teams stole bases on the Cubs again and again and again. This season the Cubs have turned to Geovany Soto and Henry Blanco to man the backstop. The question is whether or not Soto and Blanco can stop potential base-stealers. The Phillies have terrific ones in Victorino (37 of 41 steals last season) and (if he's healthy) Rollins (41 of 47 steals). If Rollins and Victorino get on base and successfully test the Cubs catchers arms, then the Phillies will win.

Cubs Hitting vs. Phillies Pitching. The Phillies send Brett Myers, Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer to the mound this weekend. Myers, the team's Opening Day starter, has struggled in his first two starts of the season, going just five innings in both starts and allowing seven earned runs for an ERA of 6.30. After being returned to the rotation after functioning as the team's closer in 2007, Myers is eager to prove himself. Traditionally Myers has pitched the Cubs well: the last three seasons he was 3-2, with a 2.52 ERA and two complete games in his four starts against them. He'll have the edge on Marquis tonight.

Cole Hamels is off to a terrific start in 2008, splitting his first two decisions with an ERA of 1.20. Hamels was actually better in his defeat than he was in his victory, going eight innings and allowing a single run. The matchup Saturday with Zambrano will be spectacular, a real pitchers duel between two hurlers at the top of their respective games.

Sunday the Phillies send Jamie Moyer, who used to pitch with the Cubs back in 1571 (just kidding: 1986 - 1988) to the mound to fight Ted Lilly. I give the edge to Moyer, the soft-tossing lefty who will frustrate Cubs hitters all day long.

The Cubs have some real weapons in their lineup: Kosuke Fukudome is off to a terrific start, with a .526 OBP. Fukudome helps the Cubs correct a major issue their team last season had: nobody setting the table for Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez. After Fukudome the Cubs have no major OBP threats right now. Centerfielder Felix Pie has an OBP of .238 and Shortstop Ryan Theroit has an OBP of .281. These crummy performances are ruining the Cubs powerful bats. Tellingly, Derrek Lee has just four RBI despite having three home runs. If the Cubs want to wipe the last 100 years off the scope, they'll have to do better than that.

Click here for the Q & A session I did with GoatRiders of the Apocalypse.

Tonight: Myers vs. Marquis.

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Good game for Myers last night. And Burrell looks great. Hamels lookin' good so far tonight. Starting rotation rounding into shape. Go Phillies!!
I was hoping for a sweep of the Cubs and the Phils on the plus side of .500 but it was not to be as they lost by 6-5 in 10 innings.

As usual, Tom Gordon couldn’t hold a lead. As Meredith used to say on Monday Night Football, stick a fork in Gordon, he’s done. The sooner they realize, the better.
I was hoping for a sweep of the Cubs and the Phils on the plus side of .500 but it was not to be as they lost by 6-5 in 10 innings.

As usual, Tom Gordon couldn’t hold a lead. As Meredith used to say on Monday Night Football, stick a fork in Gordon, he’s done. The sooner they realize, the better.
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