Game Fifty: Cubs (25-24) vs. Braves (25-25)
Game Time – 6:00pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: WGN TV – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 183
Location – Turner Field, Atlanta
Randy Wells (0-2, 1.80/1.16) vs. Kenshin Kawakami (3-6, 4.73/1.50)
The Cubs open an important nine-game road trip tonight with the first of three against the Braves. The Cubs have struggled mightily on the road this season and will spend a majority of June away from Wrigley Field. The Cubs have lost nine of their last 10 road games, including seven straight…for the season, 9-14 in 23 road games compared to a 16-10 record at Wrigley.
One of the many reasons is the fact the Cubs’ big bats are not hitting away from Wrigley. If the Cubs are going to have a successful third month of the season Derrek Lee (.196/.258/.286 with a home run and two doubles), Milton Bradley (.188/.325/.313 with two home runs and two doubles) and Alfonso Soriano (.221/.265/.547 with nine home runs and four doubles) must start producing.
Will Bobby Cox go head hunting over the next three games with Alfonso Soriano? The Cubs left fielder loves playing against the Braves (.353/.410/.747 with a 1.156 OPS with 15 home runs and 10 doubles in 36 games). The past two seasons Cox has had his pitchers throw up and in on Soriano. In 2007, Tim Hudson tagged Soriano on Saturday after he hit three homers the night before…then last season Cox had Jeff Bennett go up and in and the inexperienced pitcher broke Soriano’s hand.
Alfonso Soriano is supposed to be out of today’s lineup…but it will be interesting to see if he talks his way onto the field.
It is very important to start the trip on a positive note, especially with Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens going for the Braves on Wednesday and Thursday. Randy Wells will make his fifth start of the season tonight, his third away from Wrigley Field. Wells has been very good over his first four big league starts and has shown the ability to clean up his own messes. Lou Piniella apparently will leave Wells in the rotation when Rich Harden returns from the DL and tonight is a big start for the young right-hander.
Wells is 0-1 in two road starts this season with a 2.25 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. While he has given up more runs away from the Friendly Confines (two runs in 13 innings at Wrigley, three runs in 12 innings on the road) he has been pretty consistent in a small sample of Major League innings.
The Cubs need a good start from Randy Wells tonight and for him to help start the long road trip on a positive, winning note.
Tonight will be Randy Wells’ first career start against the Braves…and no one on the Braves’ active roster has faced him.
The Cubs offense will get their first look at Kenshin Kawakami tonight…with the exception of Kosuke Fukudome who was a teammate of Kawakami with the Dragons. The soon to be 34-year old rookie signed with the Braves in the off-season for three years and $23 million after spending his career in Japan.
Kawakami has been very good at Turner Field this season. Despite a 2-3 record in five starts he has held opponents to a .227 average (3.60 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP). Like many rookie pitchers, he has struggled on the road and the splits are pretty severe (1-3 in four starts with a 6.33 ERA and a 1.92 WHIP with a .333 batting average).
Lefties and righties hit the same against Kawakami (.271 with three home runs and nine walks from the left side and .277 with two home runs and 14 walks from the right side). The Cubs must be patient early on and see what he has…a good sinker. If the Cubs’ offense swings early and often they could end up making Kenshin Kawakami look like Derek Lowe.
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….