Game Sixty-One: Cubs (27-33) vs. Braves (34-29)
Game Time – 7:05pm C.T. ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, WGN Radio, XM Radio Channel 184
Location – Turner Field, Atlanta
Ted Lilly (4-4, 3.99/1.08) vs. Buddy Carlyle (1-1, 4.50/1.09)
One week ago today, the Cubs began playing their best ball of the season. Not only did they start winning games against teams with over a .500 record but they were playing smart, fundamental baseball and received quality starts from Rich Hill, Sean Marshall and Carlos Zambrano, who actually turned in his best outing of the season. On Saturday the solid fundamentals that highlighted a mini 3-game winning streak eluded Lou Piniella’s crew once again and they could not overcome the second shortest outing of Jason Marquis’ career.
The Cubs were given a gift when the Braves announced John Smoltz will not make his scheduled start tonight, or did they? The Cubs instead will square off against Buddy Carlyle, a pitcher they have never faced in the past with the exception of the Cubs’ catchers. This scenario has not proved to be a winning formula for this organization in recent years. While both bullpens received extra duty on Saturday night, Lou Piniella used two pitchers for the majority of the mop up duty while Bobby Cox emptied his bullpen, while using his top relievers, in route to ending the Braves 4-game skid. The Cubs must get to the Braves over used bullpen and not let another sub-par starting pitcher end a very positive road trip on a negative note. Tonight starts with Ted Lilly. The Braves are 12-17 against southpaws this season but Lilly has not pitched well in nearly a month. Lilly beat the Phillies on May 13th and surrendered just 1 run on 3 hits in 8 innings of work. He followed his performance in Philly with a solid outing against the White Sox and picked up the win after he left the game but in his last 3 starts his innings per outing have dropped and his home runs allowed per outing have soared. Lilly has given up 17 runs, 16 earned, on 21 hits in his last 3 starts (16 1/3 innings) but the most concerning stat is the amount of home runs he has allowed, 7, over the same time span. With the fact the Cubs do not receive another day off until a week from Monday, Piniella needs Lilly to pitch the way he did early in the season and find the command that has eluded him in his recent outings.
Lilly is 1-2 in 4 career starts with a 6.35 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP against the Braves, 16 runs on 22 hits, 7 home runs, in 22 2/3 innings.
- Jeff Francoeur – 2-3, with a RBI
- Andruw Jones – 2-9, with a home run and a RBI
- Edgar Renteria – 4-17, with a double, a home run and a RBI
- Chris Woodward – 3-4, with 2 doubles and a RBI
Buddy Carlyle earned his second career victory his last time out and his first since 1999 while he was with the Padres. Tonight will be Carlyle’s third start of the season and his fourth game of the year at the big league level. Carlyle held the Marlins to just 1 run on 1 hit in 7 innings of work (Aaron Boone homered) while striking out 5 and walking 3. The Cubs have to show patience against Carlyle and not allow him to get comfortable on the mound, if he settles in, the Cubs could make another mediocre, at best, pitcher look like a Cy Young candidate.
From the rumor mill and trade front….
According to a report by Chris De Luca in the Sun Times on Sunday morning, the Cubs are still shopping Jacque Jones and he mentioned the New York Mets as a possible destination. Earlier this week, a report on Yahoo Sports indicated Jones is being shopped and mentioned the Twins, White Sox and Padres as possible destinations.
Gary Hughes, special assistant to Jim Hendry, was on XM Radio on Sunday morning with Holden Kushner. Hughes told Holden that he was in San Diego this weekend watching the Padres and Mariners. Holden assumed he was doing advanced scouting with the Padres and M’s coming to Wrigley in the next week but Hughes said he was scouting both teams for possible trades down the road and the Cubs are looking to “add a piece” unless they fall out of contention by the trading deadline….Hughes mentioned the Cubs are only 4 back of the Brewers in the loss column. Hughes, obviously, did not mention any names.
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….