Game Eighty-Three: Cubs (41-41) vs. Cardinals (47-40)
Game Time – 1:20pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: WGN TV – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 183
Location – Wrigley Field, Chicago
Rich Harden (5-5, 5.35/1.49) vs. Chris Carpenter (6-3, 2.32/0.82)
The Cubs return to the field this afternoon, weather permitting, after a much-needed day off. The Cubs showed a lot of improvement in Pittsburgh last week and carried the momentum into the four-game set against the Brewers seven days ago … but then went back to struggling with the bat in the final two games of the Braves series. Lou Piniella’s crew must crank up the offense this weekend and play smart fundamental baseball …
The Cubs enter play this afternoon 3 1/2 games back of the division leading Redbirds and the next three days (four games) could impact the rest of the season. The Cubs are 3-6 in the first nine games against St.. Louis this season (2-1 at Wrigley Field) and since 2006, the Redbirds are 8-18 at the Friendly Confines. The Cardinals swept the three game series in St. Louis the last time these two teams faced off … the Cubs managed just two runs the entire series. The Cardinals do not return to Chicago after Sunday’s day-night doubleheader this year and the longtime rivals face each other only three more times this season (September 18 – September 20 in St. Louis). If the Cubs do not play well in this series and keep the Cardinals within reach they could very well be staring up at them in the standings for the remainder of the year.
The Cardinals will be without Mark DeRosa for the series. The former Cub is on the DL ducking Ted Lilly once again … but Ryan Ludwick is heating up and Albert Pujols is the best player in the game.
Rich Harden stated he was embarrassed with his last performance and if does not pitch better this afternoon this game will be over in a hurry. The Cubs had chances against Braden Looper but against Chris Carpenter the scoring opportunities figure to be few and far between.
Geovany Soto is expected to miss the entire series and could be placed on the DL before the game according to Jim Hendry. Soto is expected to be re-evaluated on Friday morning and the Cubs will make the decision then … Jake Fox will serve as the Cubs’ backup catcher with Koyie Hill as the starter behind the plate for the entire weekend.
Reports on Thursday indicated Alfonso Soriano would be back in the starting lineup in the fifth spot behind Aramis Ramirez with Milton Bradley possibly hitting behind Soriano. With Soriano and Bradley struggling mightily right now, it might not be a good idea to put them back-to-back in the lineup …
The Cubs are expected to recall Jeff Stevens from Iowa to replace Kevin Hart on the active roster. Hart was optioned down on Thursday to make another start in the minors before returning to the Cubs after the break (his start could come with the I-Cubs or the Peoria Chiefs). Hart is expected to start either the fourth game of the Nationals series or the first game against the Phillies on July 20.
Bob Brenly has the weekend off and former Cub, Keith Moreland will join Len Kasper in the booth … maybe Zonk can get the offense going against Chris Carpenter.
While the offense has their work cut out for them against Chris Carpenter, it all starts with Rich Harden … and one win at a time.
With Ryan Dempster sidelined from two to four weeks (most reports are indicating a month and three starts), the Cubs need Rich Harden to step up and pitch to his ability … especially at home.
There is no other way to put it … Rich Harden has been horrible this year at Wrigley, especially during the day. Harden is 2-4 in eight home starts with a 7.65 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP. Opponents have hit a robust .289 against him at Wrigley and nine of the 15 home runs he’s served up have come at his unFriendly Confines.
Harden’s season must start today … and it will be far from easy.
Rich Harden was on the winning end the last time he faced the Cardinals. The 10-3 Cubs win in St. Louis was one of Harden’s best of the season. He allowed two runs on four hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. The Cubs need that kind of performance this afternoon in order to win the first game of the series.
Today will be Harden’s fourth career start against Albert Pujols and Company … he is 2-1 in the first three with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP.
- Rick Ankiel – 1-for-3 with a home run
- Ryan Ludwick – 0-for-6
- Yadier Molina – 1-for-4 with a home run and 2 walks
- Albert Pujols – 1-for-6 with a double and 2 walks
- Colby Rasmus – 0-for-3
- Skip Schumaker – 1-for-6
- Joe Thurston – 1-for-2
Chris Carpenter is the definition of an ace and is one of the two reasons the Cardinals are in first place in the NL Central. Carpenter has given more than a boost to a questionable-at-best-rotation without him. After spending the first month of the year on the DL, Carpenter has been just about unbeatable in 12 starts since his first start back against the Cubs on May 20.
Carpenter was 2-3 in six starts last month with a 3.67 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP. In 41 2/3 innings he issued just five walks while striking out 25. To put it simply, Chris Carpenter will not beat himself.
The Reds managed only one run on five hits in seven innings against Carpenter his last time out. Carpenter walked only one batter and in his last three starts (17 innings), two free passes and 15 strikeouts.
The Cubs have always struggled against Carpenter and must take advantage of the one or two opportunities they will have today. Following his last start against the Cubs, Derrek Lee said he was the best pitcher he’s faced this year …
This afternoon will be Carpenter’s second start of the year against the Cubs (no runs on three hits in five innings with two walks and four strikeouts on May 20) and the 16th of his career (8-3 in 15 games with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP).
- Milton Bradley – 3-for-11 with a home run and a walk
- Mike Fontenot – 0-for-3
- Kosuke Fukudome – 0-for-4 with a walk
- Reed Johnson – 0-for-4
- Derrek Lee – 13-for-40 with 2 doubles and 2 walks
- Aramis Ramirez – 11-for-39 with 3 doubles, a home run and a walk
- Alfonso Soriano – 12-for-31 with a double and 2 home runs
- Geovany Soto – 2-for-4
- Ryan Theriot – 1-for-3 with a double
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….