Talkin’ Cubs Live – Cubs vs. Reds – 08/05/09

Game One Hundred-Six: Cubs (57-48) vs. Reds (45-61)
Game Time – 6:10pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 186
Location – Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati

Rich Harden (7-6, 4.50/1.35) vs. Justin Lehr (0-0, 5.40/2.00)

Updated 3:49pm C.T. – Aaron Miles activated from 15-day DL – Jeff Stevens Optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

Updated 4:17pm C.T.B.J. Ryan requested and was granted his release today by the Chicago Cubs. Ryan felt “his velocity and sharpness would not get there” according to the Sun-Times.

Updated 2:49pm CT: The Cardinals lost to the Mets earlier today 9-0, putting the Cubs a half game ahead of St. Louis in the division entering play tonight.

The Cubs will face the Reds for the last time this season in Cincinnati tonight. The Cubs are 8-3 on the year against the Reds with three left against Dusty Baker’s bunch at Wrigley in September (September 11 – September 13). The Cubs will enter play tonight tied for first place with the St. Louis Cardinals … after Albert Pujols hit his fifth grand slam of the year in the tenth inning on Tuesday night that put the game away. Pujols tied Ernie Banks’ All-Time mark of five grand slams in a single season.

If the game is on the line tonight in the ninth, the Cubs are expected to use Kevin Gregg to try and close it out. Gregg said Tuesday night he is ready to go after missing two days with a ‘tired arm‘.

The Cubs are not planning on activating Geovany Soto before tonight’s finale against the Reds. Soto is slated to be back on Friday in the first of four against the Rockies in Denver.

Aaron Miles is expected to return from the DL tonight, with a pitcher returning to Iowa to make room for the underachieving Miles. Jeff Samardzija should be the odd man out when the move is made official. The Tribune mentioned Sam Fuld could be sent down today in order to make room Miles. Sending Fuld down would weaken an already defensively challenged team, especially late in games.

Aaron Miles has not performed anywhere near the way he did a year ago while he was in Cardinal Red … it is past time for him to start earning his paycheck.

Jake Fox started in right field on Tuesday night in place of the struggling Milton Bradley. The Cubs are not contemplating a platoon with Fox and Bradley but Lou Piniella must continue finding a place for Fox to play every day. Fox was 0-for-3 with a run scored but he gives the Cubs another threat in the middle of the lineup … especially on the road against right handed starters. Fox made the plays in right on Tuesday and maybe he should fill in for Alfonso Soriano tonight … which would give Soriano two full days before facing the red-hot Rockies on Friday night.

While the offense must do their job against Justin Lehr, it all begins with Rich Harden … and one win at a time. Rich Harden has been very, very good since the All-Star break. After a disappointing and inconsistent first half (5-6 in 14 starts with a 5.47 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP), Harden has performed like the pitcher the Cubs traded for last summer over his last four games. Harden is 2-0 in the second half (last four starts) with a 1.50 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP. Harden tied a career-high in strikeouts with 11 in his last game against the Fish but also walked three and left with a no decision after five innings.

Harden’s performance on the road this year has been discussed ad nauseam over the last two months. Harden is 4-1 away from Wrigley this year with a 2.19 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP … at night, 5-1 in eight starts with a 2.37 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.

Tonight will be Rich Harden’s third start of the year against the Reds. He is 2-0 this season against Cincinnati with a 2.25 ERA and a 0.50 WHIP. Harden beat the Reds at Wrigley 7-2 on April 21 (two runs on three hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in six innings) and again 10 days ago at Wrigley 5-2. Harden allowed one run on one hit with no walks and eight strikeouts in six innings … the lone run, a first inning homer by Joey Votto.

Harden has allowed three runs to the Reds this season in 12 innings … two of the runs have come via the longball. Harden figures to give up at least one home run tonight, it is up to him to limit them to solo shots.

  • Jonny Gomes – 0-for-2
  • Alex Gonzalez – 0-for-3 with a walk
  • Laynce Nix – 3-for-17 with a double
  • Brandon Phillips – 0-for-8
  • Scott Rolen – 0-for-6
  • Adam Rosales – 0-for-1
  • Willy Taveras – 1-for-5
  • Joey Votto – 1-for-7 with a home run and a walk

Justin Lehr will make his second career big league start tonight. Lehr did not pitch in the majors in 2007 or 2008 and was 2-1 in 16 games for the Brewers, all out of the pen, in 2006 with a 8.62 ERA and a 1.98 WHIP. In 2005, the 33-year old right-hander was 1-1 in 23 games with Milwaukee and posted a 3.89 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP.

Lehr lasted just five innings in his last, and only, big league outing this season. The Rockies scored three runs on four hits in five innings … but Lehr’s undoing was six walks and no strikeouts.

Justin Lehr will make his first career start against the Cubs tonight but his fourth career appearance. He last faced the Cubs on April 28, 2006 at Wrigley. The Cubs managed a run on two hits in 1 1/3 innings. Lehr does not have a record in three outings against the Cubs but has blown a save … 6.00 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP (three runs, two earned, on four hits in three innings with a walk and two strikeouts).

  • Derrek Lee – no official at bat, one walk
  • Aramis Ramirez – 0-for-1
  • Alfonso Soriano – 2-for-4 with a double

Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….