Talkin’ Cubs Live – Cubs vs. Nationals – 07/18/09

Game Eighty-Nine: Cubs (45-43) vs. Nationals (26-63)
Game Time – 6:05pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: WGN TV – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 175
Location – Nationals Park, Washington D.C.

Randy Wells (4-4, 2.72/1.12) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (3-4, 4.50/1.36)

The Chicago Cubs enter play tonight three games back of the Cardinals tied for second place in the Central Division with the Brewers and Astros … and the Reds are right behind the group, just 5 1/2 back. Lou Piniella’s crew will look to post their third road win in a row, a feat they have not accomplished this year. Randy Wells will take the ball a day early filling in for Ted Lilly.

Ted Lilly was scheduled to make tonight’s start but was pushed to the opener on Monday against the red-hot Philadelphia Phillies. Lilly has been dealing with inflammation in his left knee for the last few starts. A report from the Tribune on Friday night indicated Lilly could be headed to the DL. Bruce Levine reported on Saturday morning that Lilly has a meniscus strain and he has been dealing with it a majority of the season. Lilly is expected to continue to pitch with the discomfort but could have it cleaned out during the off-season.

Kevin Hart will be recalled on Sunday to start the finale of the series against the Nationals. A roster move will be required and the Cubs are currently playing with a short bench and an 11-man pitching staff. Look for a position player to be sent down because following Thursday’s day off the Cubs do not get another break until August 6 (make-up game on July 30 against the Astros from the rainout on May 15).

Alfonso Soriano was in the original lineup on Friday but was scratched due to swelling in his little finger on his right hand. Soriano suffered the injury on Thursday night diving back to first base in the fourth inning. Soriano could not grip a bat due to what was reported as a dislocated right pinkie finger and is expected to miss at least a few days. Bruce Levine reported during Talkin’ Baseball that his sources have indicated the finger is bruised and not dislocated. A dislocated finger would require a trip to the DL where a bruise would mean a couple of days off for Soriano.

After proclaiming he was “back” during the break and would be hitting for the remainder of the season, Milton Bradley has shown signs of improvement at the plate but has little to show for it. Bradley is 1-for-8 with a walk and a run scored in his last two games but has hit the ball with a little more authority. Friday marked the 73rd game of the year for Milton Bradley. Bradley is two games short of the 75 games played that would vest his option for the third year of the contract he signed in the off-season … the vesting option would pay Bradley $12 million in 2011.

While the Cubs’ offense must continue to score runs, it all begins with Randy Wells … and one win at a time.

After posting four consecutive wins, Randy Wells will try to get back on track following his loss to the Cardinals in his last start. Wells made only two mistakes to the Cardinals last Sunday but both were to Ryan Ludwick and it cost him four runs. Wells still pitched seven innings in the 4-2 loss.

Randy Wells was one of the biggest surprises for the Cubs in the first half. Wells has shown composure on the mound that some of the veterans on the Cubs roster have yet to display this year. Wells has been very good outside of Wrigley Field and he must keep it up tonight against the Nationals.

Wells is 2-1 in six road starts this season with a 2.04 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. One of the reasons for Wells’ success over his first 12 big league starts is his ability to throw strikes and attack hitters. Wells tied a season-high with three free passes against the Cardinals and he must limit his walks tonight.

Wells is 2-1 in his last three starts with a 3.15 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP (20 hits with four walks and 12 strikeouts in 20 innings). Wells has given up his fare share of hits … but has done an excellent job of limiting the damage … seven earned runs, three total in the two starts before St. Louis.

Tonight will be Randy Wells’ first career start and appearance against the Nationals.

The Cubs will get their first look at Jordan Zimmerman tonight. The Nationals’ rookie has been impressive in his first 15 big league starts despite the losing record.

Zimmerman was 1-1 in four starts in June with a 1.90 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. Zimmermann held opponents to a .198 average. The young righty put together a very good April (2-0 in two starts with a 2.38 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP) but struggled mightily in May to the tune of a 0-2 record in six outings with a 7.27 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP. Zimmermann has not posted a win since June 25 (one run on five hits in seven innings in a 9-3 win against the Red Sox) but is 0-1 in his last three starts with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP.

Jordan Zimmermann is coming off a 5-0 loss to the Astros in Houston. He surrendered four runs, three earned, on five hits in 6 1/3 innings with three walks and six strikeouts. On the season, Zimmermann is 2-2 in seven home starts with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP.

Zimmermann has struggled with his command of late. In his last two starts Zimmermann has walked seven and struck out nine (10 1/3 innings). The Cubs offense must take advantage of his inconsistency.

Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….

Quote of the Day

"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." – Arthur Ashe