Game One Hundred Thirty-Eight: Cubs (85-52) vs. Astros (71-66)
Game Time – 3:05pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: WGN – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 174, 185
Location – Wrigley Field, Chicago
Jason Marquis (9-7, 4.52/1.40) vs. Roy Oswalt (12-9, 4.11/1.31)
Happy Labor Day and welcome to the start of the last month of the 2008 season on the unofficial last day of summer. It is here, the stretch run and the Cubs are in full control of the remainder of the season. While the Brewers are breathing down their neck and only 4 1/2 games back, the Cubs goals must be to stay healthy and win games. They do not need help….they hold their fate in their own hands.
The Cubs begin a very difficult final month today. Not only are 16 of the final 22 on the road but 22 of the final 25 games are against teams with a winning record. The Cubs play six against the Astros, six against the Brewers, six against the Cardinals, three against the Reds and four against the Mets to start the last road trip of the season.
The Cubs have to put the last two games behind them today and start the month with a win….as well as keep another streak alive. The Cubs have not lost three in a row at Wrigley this season. It will take a good outing today from Jason Marquis against a red-hot Astros’ offense and it will require more from the Cubs offense than singles against Roy Oswalt.
The Astros are coming off a better month than the Cubs (Astros were 21-9 in August, Cubs 20-8) in large part due to the career month turned in by Ty Wigginton. Carlos Lee is out for the remainder of the season and Wigginton has more than stepped in his spot in left field. Wigginton has produced and he has helped the Astros remain in the race. While the Astros enter play today 14 games back of the Cubs and 9 1/2 back of the Brewers for the NL Wild Card, their 71-66 record would put them in first place in the NL West….a division they called home for many years.
The next three games are very important for the Cubs and it figures be a difficult series. The Astros are playing with a lot of confidence and facing the likes of Roy Oswalt, Brandon Backe and Randy Wolf will not be an easy task for the Cubs offense. The Cubs have only nine home games this month and six after this series (three against the Brewers and Cardinals from September 16-21) and they must take care of business at home, winning each series is a must….and a sweep would be a positive way to begin.
The Cubs announced Carlos Zambrano would start on Tuesday against Brandon Backe with Ryan Dempster taking the mound in the finale on Wednesday versus Randy Wolf. Rich Harden has been pushed back to the opener in St. Louis on September 9th which would likely give Sean Marshall another turn in the rotation this weekend in Cincinnati….Ted Lilly is slated to pitch the opener in the Queen City. Zambrano will receive two extra days and Dempster would receive an extra day of rest as well. Harden, on the other hand, will receive 10 days in between starts.
The Cubs have reached the time of the year that it is imperative their big bats step up and lead the team. While the production from the bottom of the lineup has been more than welcomed….Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Jim Edmonds and Kosuke Fukudome must start doing their job at the plate and that is driving in runs. They do not have to hit the long ball, just do their job….especially with runners on third with less than two outs.
The Cubs will receive a boost with the September call-ups. Angel Guzman, Jon Lieber and Michael Wuertz will be in the pen while Micah Hoffpauir, Casey McGehee and Koyie Hill will help off the bench. Chad Gaudin has been unavailable for the last two days with a sore back and if Jason Marquis struggles today at least Piniella will have a reliable arm in Jon Lieber to turn to.
Marquis was not sharp early on and allowed 4 runs on 6 hits in 6 1/3 innings but the Cubs’ offense scored 11 runs off of Brandon Backe.
Marquis is 3-1 in his last 5 starts with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP….for the season against the Astros, 1-0 in 2 starts with a 6.17 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. Most of the damage off of Marquis was done by Carlos Lee (3-for-6 with a double, 2 home runs and 5 RBI’s) and Ty Wigginton (4-for-5 with a double). With Lee out of the lineup, Marquis most focus on throwing strikes and not issuing any free passes. The Astros have found a very suitable fill in for Lee in left field, Ty Wigginton. The probable National League player of the month for August finished with an unbelievable line:
.379/.395/.806/1.200 – 6 doubles, a triple, 12 home runs and 26 RBI’s
- Lance Berkman – 20-for-42 with 5 doubles, a triple, a home run and 11 walks
- Geoff Blum – 4-for-18 with 2 doubles and a home run
- Michael Bourn – 1-for-3
- Darin Erstad – 1-for-7 with a double
- Mark Loretta – 4-for-19 with a double
- Kaz Matsui – 4-for-16 with a double
- Roy Oswalt – 0-for-12
- Hunter Pence – 4-for-13 with a double and a triple
- Humberto Quintero – 3-for-8 with a double
- Miguel Tejada – 0-for-2
- Ty Wigginton – 9-for-19 with a double and a triple
After a bad start to the season (7-8 in 19 starts with a 4.56 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP) and being pushed back for a few starts, Roy Oswalt has returned to being Roy Oswalt. The Astros’ ace is 5-1 in his last 7 starts with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. Oswalt, like the rest of his teammates, completed an impressive August with a 4-1 record, a complete game and a 2.51 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP. It will not get any easier for the Cubs offense today.
Unlike the rest of the Astros’ rotation Oswalt has pitched better outside of Minute Maid Park this season. He is 4-6 in 12 starts with a complete game, a 3.93 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.
The Cubs have missed Oswalt in their last three series and today will be only the second time this season Roy O has faced the Cubs. He lost to Chicago back on April 5th, 9-7. The Cubs scored 6 runs, 5 earned, on 10 hits with a walk and no strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
Oswalt is 11-11 in 24 career starts versus the Cubs with a 4.09 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP….at Wrigley, 5-5 in 12 appearances, 11 starts, with a 5.43 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP.
- Henry Blanco – 0-for-5
- Ronny Cedeno – 3-for-8 with a triple
- Mark DeRosa – 10-for-20 with 4 doubles
- Jim Edmonds – 11-for-48 with a double and 2 home runs
- Mike Fontenot – 2-for-7
- Kosuke Fukudome – 1-for-3
- Koyie Hill – 1-for-2
- Reed Johnson – 1-for-4
- Derrek Lee – 15-for-46 with 4 doubles and 3 home runs
- Jason Marquis – 3-for-12 with 2 doubles
- Aramis Ramirez – 15-for-57 with 3 doubles and 3 home runs
- Alfonso Soriano – 5-for-28 with 2 home runs
- Geovany Soto – 1-for-3 with a triple
- Ryan Theriot – 1-for-5
Finally, while Lou Piniella and the Cubs are focused on winning the National League Central, their closest pursuers have other things on their mind as the final month of the season begins….
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….