Game One – National League Division Series
Cubs (97-64) vs. Dodgers (84-78) – Best of Five
Game Time – 5:30pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: TBS – Radio: 720 WGN, ESPN Radio, XM Radio Channel 184, 189
Location – Wrigley Field, Chicago
Ryan Dempster (17-6, 2.96/1.21) vs. Derek Lowe (14-11, 3.24/1.13)
Baseball’s second season begins today on the North Side of Chicago. After the final out was recorded last year, Lou Piniella met with the media and after answering all of the same questions finished with…. “This is just a start fellas. We are going to get better at this. This is just a start. We will convene next spring and take this thing further.”
Lou Piniella has kept his word so far….as Jim Edmonds said to the team before the celebration escalated after clinching the division, “Keep your eye on the prize.” The Cubs get back to work today, with the next step….BEAT L.A.!
Joe Torre’s team has flown under the radar for the last month and could be the one team that no one wants to play in a short series. The Dodgers are not the same team the Cubs beat five times out of seven games at the end of May and early June. Not only did Ned Colletti add Manny Ramirez at the trade deadline but Casey Blake from the Indians as well. Rafael Furcal has returned from spending a majority of the season on the DL and is expected to make the start today at short and hit in the leadoff spot. The Dodgers could easily be the last team standing at the end of October.
The Cubs have been on a mission all season and today, like all game ones in a short series, will set the tone for the entire series. With the uncertainty that is Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster must put his team into position to win the game while the offense must not swing early and often against Derek Lowe. This lineup has struggled against Lowe and they must make him elevate his sinker.
The Cubs offense has shown throughout the season they are capable of taking pitches and making the opposition work, tonight will be the first test to see if they learned anything from the fantastic regular season they put together.
Patience, defense, pitching and more patience are the keys for game one….
Any casual fan looking at this series might see a mismatch on paper, but the farthest could not be from the truth. In order for the Cubs to make it to the next round they will have to play mistake free ball and not give the Dodgers any help. The second half Dodgers are just as good as the Cubs, if not better.
The Dodgers posted a very impressive 17-8 record in September regardless of the opponents they faced (Padres, D’Backs, Rockies, Pirates and Giants) and the Cubs’ pitching staff will have to deal with a loaded lineup that includes one of the best post-season hitters in the history of the game. Manny Ramirez has hit 24 career home runs in the playoffs and since being traded to the Dodgers his line is just plain scary: .396/.489/.743 with 17 home runs and 53 RBI’s in 54 games.
The Cubs must make the Dodgers’ pitching staff throw to them and get the ball up. With the cooler weather in Chicago along with playing at night at Dodger Stadium, home runs for the Cubs could come at a premium. The Cubs have won games all season without relying on the longball and in this series it must be more of the same. Smart baserunning, taking the extra base when possible, hustling out of the box, hitting behind the runner and both sacrifice flies and bunts will pay a huge part in getting past the Dodgers and into round two….in other words, smart, fundamental baseball.
‘The Big Three‘ will play a huge part in the Cubs success but the depth at the bottom of the lineup will give Alfonso Soriano more opportunities to drive in runs. As much as the Cubs need a solid series from Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, players such as Geovany Soto, Mark DeRosa, Ryan Theriot and Jim Edmonds must continue where they left off against the Cardinals when the games “still mattered.”
Another player Lou Piniella needs a contribution from is Kosuke Fukudome. It appears Mark DeRosa will be in right field but Fukudome should be inserted for his defense and in the eighth spot in the lineup. If Fukudome can give the Cubs anything at the plate, his defense will more than make up for his offensive defencies….every run and every base in a post-season game is important and Kosuke has the ability and experience in right field to change a game….or at least keep one close.
Ryan Dempster will make his first post-season start tonight after a very impressive year as a starter for Lou Piniella. Dempster was 14-3 in 20 starts at Wrigley this season with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP while holding opponents to a .229 batting average. Dempster was 7-2 in 13 starts in the second half and was 2-1 in 5 starts in September with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.
Dempster faced the Dodgers twice this season and posted a 1-0 record in 2 starts with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP….the Dodgers hit .250 against him. Dempster beat the Dodgers at Wrigley on May 26th (3-1) and allowed 1 run on 7 hits in 7 innings with 3 walks and 3 strikeouts. He received a no-decision at Dodger Stadium on June 5th. The Cubs won 5-4 and Dempster allowed 3 runs on 3 hits in 5 1/3 innings with 4 walks and 7 strikeouts.
- Blake DeWitt – 1-for-5 with a double
- Andre Ethier – 5-for-11 with 2 doubles and a home run
- Rafael Furcal – 6-for-28 with 3 doubles
- Nomar Garciaparra – 1-for-4 with a double
- Matt Kemp – 1-for-5 with a double
- Jeff Kent – 9-for-33 with a home run
- James Loney – 1-for-4
- Russell Martin – 2-for-7
- Juan Pierre – 5-for-12 with a double
- Manny Ramirez – 1-for-1 with a double
Derek Lowe has been one of the hottest pitchers in all of baseball over the past month. Since August 31st Lowe has allowed 2 earned runs on 21 hits with 7 walks and 21 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings (6 starts). In September, 3-0 in 5 starts with a 0.59 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP. Since the All-Star break Lowe is 7-3 in 14 starts (with a complete game) with a 2.38 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP while opponents have his just .226 against him.
If Lowe has a weakness, it is away from Dodger Stadium….5-6 this season in 17 games with a 4.42 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP with a .292 opponents batting average.
Lowe is 1-0 in 2 starts against the Cubs this season with a 1.93 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. The Cubs hit .204. Lowe received a no-decision at Wrigley Field on May 28th. The Cubs won 2-1 and Lowe allowed no runs on 4 hits in 7 innings with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts. Lowe then beat the Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 7th (7-3) and allowed 3 runs on 6 hits in 7 innings with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts.
The Cubs must make him work and run up his pitch count. In his last four full starts Lowe threw 404 pitches in 27 1/3 innings….an average of 14.78 pitches per inning. If the Cubs do not run up his pitch count they will find themselves in a 0-1 hole in the Best of Five.
- Henry Blanco – 2-for-6 with 2 doubles
- Ronny Cedeno – 1-for-2
- Mark DeRosa – 1-for-8 with 2 walks
- Jim Edmonds – 5-for-30 with a double and a home run
- Mike Fontenot – 3-for-5 with a double
- Kosuke Fukudome – 1-for-5 with a walk
- Reed Johnson – 4-for-11 with a double
- Derrek Lee – 11-for-28 with a double, a home run and 2 walks
- Aramis Ramirez – 2-for-13 with a double and 2 walks
- Alfonso Soriano – 13-for-53 with 2 doubles and 3 home runs
- Geovany Soto – 2-for-5
- Ryan Theriot – 2-for-10 with a double
Let’s Talk 11 Cubs Baseball….