Game Ninety-Six: Cubs (50-45) vs. Reds (44-52)
Game Time – 1:20pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: WGN TV – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 187
Location – Wrigley Field, Chicago
Rich Harden (6-6, 4.76/1.41) vs. Micah Owings (6-10, 5.33/1.62)
The Chicago Cubs enter play this afternoon a half game back of the St. Louis Cardinals in second place of a tight NL Central Division. The Cubs offense has shown signs of life since the break and with Rich Harden taking the hill today the finale against the Reds does not figure to be a low scoring ballgame.
Rich Harden was moved up a day from his scheduled Monday night start against the Astros due to the injury to Ted Lilly. Lou Piniella said they would do everything they could to start Harden at night for the remainder of the year but Lilly’s sore shoulder, and knee, threw a curveball into that game plan. While reports surfaced that Harden requested to pitch at night, he denied those reports but stuck by his statements that he prefers to pitch at night.
The Cubs need the ‘Good Rich Harden‘ to show up this afternoon.
Today is a rematch of a game back on April 21 at Wrigley with a 7:05pm start time. The Cubs won the game 7-2 over Micah Owings for Harden’s first victory of the year.
Reports after Saturday’s win over the Reds indicated that Milton Bradley would likely be held out of the lineup but that could change if Derrek Lee cannot play. Lee left the game in the eighth inning after his neck locked up on him trying to break up a double play in the sixth inning. Piniella indicated that Jake Fox or Micah Hoffpauir could get the start at first base.
The Cubs and Tigers shot down the Milton Bradley rumor that surfaced during Saturday’s game. Both sides indicated there have been no discussions about sending Bradley to the Tigers. Bradley was not happy and one Cubs’ official,, according to Bruce Miles, called it “irresponsible reporting.”
There was an update on Aaron Miles from Bruce Miles on Saturday night. According to a report in the Daily Herald, “The Cubs are in no hurry to activate infielder Aaron Miles, who is in Iowa rehabbing an elbow injury.” When asked about Miles, Piniella responded, “Aaron is playing. He was about 2-for-15 at one time. I think Jim is waiting for Aaron to start swinging the bat a little better.”
From the rumor mill … Bruce Levine mentioned the Cubs interest in John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny on Saturday. Levine also tossed out Zach Duke as a possibility, but a trade for Duke would cost the Cubs a ton of prospects. There was also a report on Saturday on WGN during the Cubs’ post-game show that the Cubs have discussed Scott Downs with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Cubs appear to be targeting relievers and not any help for the offense as the non-waiver trading deadline nears.
Today is Hall of Fame Sunday. Two of the greats from the 70s and 80s will be inducted into Cooperstown this afternoon … Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson. Rickey will be Rickey after all.
While the offense must do their job against Micah Owings, it all begins with Rich Harden … and one win at a time. Which Rich Harden will take the mound this afternoon? The one that has shown up in his last two starts (1-0, two runs, one earned, on seven hits in 13 innings with two walks and 13 strikeouts) or the one that was shelled in his last two starts at Wrigley (0-2, 11 runs, all earned, on 17 hits with five walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings)?
Rich Harden’s splits are truly unbelievable. For as good as his stuff is, to be as inconsistent as he has this season cannot be explained. Harden was excellent at Wrigley after he came over from the A’s last year but this season, to say he has stunk at home would be an understatement.
The Cubs not only need a win from Rich Harden today, they need a long outing from him. Harden has not pitched past the sixth inning at Wrigley this year and the last time he posted a win at home was back on May 12 against the Padres … a night game.
Harden is 2-5 in nine starts at Wrigley this year with a 7.59 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP (on the road, 4-1 in seven starts with a 2.03 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP).
This afternoon will be Rich Harden’s second start of the season against the Reds. He beat them back on April 21 at Wrigley (a night game) and allowed two runs on three hits in six innings with two walks and eight strikeouts … he is 3-0 in three career starts against Cincinnati with a 2.95 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP.
- Chris Dickerson – 1-for-6
- Edwin Encarnacion – 0-for-4
- Alex Gonzalez – 0-for-1 with a walk
- Laynce Nix – 3-for-17 with a double
- Micah Owings – 0-for-2
- Brandon Phillips – 0-for-6
- Willy Taveras – 1-for-3
- Joey Votto – 0-for-5 with a walk
The Cubs will face Micah Owings for the third time this season. Owings has struggled of late and has allowed 14 runs, all earned, on 17 hits with six walks and three strikeouts in his last two starts (9 1/3 innings), both losses.
Owings is better known for his bat than is arm, which will give Rich Harden another hitter to worry about that can knock the ball out of the yard. If not for Carlos Zambrano, Micah Owings would be the best hitting pitcher in the league.
Micah Owings is 2-8 in 10 road starts, 11 games, this season with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP … and in his last three starts, 1-2 with a 9.00 ERA and a 1.94 WHIP, teams have hit .343 against him.
Owings has had some success against the Cubs this season, despite the 0-2 record. In two starts he has allowed 10 runs, seven earned, on 10 hits in 10 2/3 innings with seven walks and nine strikeouts (five runs, two earned, on five hits in 4 2/3 innings on April 21 at Wrigley … two runs, all earned, on five hits in six innings on June 5 at Great American).
The Cubs have never lost to Micah Owings, the powerful young right hander is 0-3 in four career starts, six games, with a 5.73 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP … at Wrigley, 0-1 in two starts with a 4.15 ERA and a 1.85 WHIP.
With Harden on the mound, the Cubs must jump on Micah Owings early. Dusty Baker will do everything he can to avoid being swept by the Cubs this afternoon.
- Andres Blanco – 0-for-3
- Milton Bradley – 1-for-7
- Mike Fontenot – 1-for-5
- Kosuke Fukudome – 1-for-2
- Koyie Hill – 0-for-5
- Micah Hoffpauir – 1-for-4 with a home run and a walk
- Derrek Lee – 2-for-9 with a walk
- Aramis Ramirez – 3-for-8
- Alfonso Soriano – 0-for-7
- Ryan Theriot – 4-for-9 with 2 walks
- Carlos Zambrano – 1-for-2 with a home run
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….