Game One Hundred-Nine: Cubs (58-50) vs. Rockies (60-50)
Game Time – 2:10pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: WGN TV – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 186
Location – Coors Field, Denver
Randy Wells (8-4, 2.73/1.14) vs. Jason Hammel (6-6, 4.62/1.49)
A banged-up Cubs team will take the field this afternoon in game three of the weekend wrap-around series that concludes on Monday. The Cubs are 4-4 on their current 10-game trip with two left before facing the Phillies at Wrigley on Tuesday night.
This afternoon begins the final third of the Cubs’ 2009 campaign … and a win would be a great way to start the stretch run. The Cubs will enter play a game back of the Redbirds and two back of the Giants for the NL Wild Card.
The initial reports on Aramis Ramirez indicated the soreness in his left shoulder was not serious but don’t look for him at third today. Reportedly Ramirez has been coping with pain in the left shoulder since the series against the Reds … and simply could not deal with it any longer on Saturday night. Lou Piniella has been giving Ramirez time off following night games and while this afternoon is a late start, Ramirez would have probably been held out anyway.
Past this afternoon, Ramirez’s status would be unknown at best. Jake Fox should get the start at the hot corner this afternoon … and when Ramirez is healthy enough to play again, Fox should be used more than once a week in order to give Ramirez a breather. The Cubs cannot afford to lose Aramis Ramirez for the remainder of the year.
The MRI results are expected today on Carlos Zambrano. The Cubs are hoping he will miss just one start, Wednesday against the Phillies. Lou Piniella indicated Jeff Samardzija would get the ball during his pre-game show on Saturday night… and make his first big league start in the middle of the three-game series against the Phillies. The Cubs will reportedly change Zambrano’s batting practice regiment. The Cubs think he could have re-injured his back in batting practice on Friday night … after he tweaked it in last Saturday’s game in Miami during an at bat.
While the offense must do their job against Jason Hammel, it all begins with Randy Wells … and one win at a time. Randy Wells has won eight of his last nine starts and has been a calming influence on a starting staff that has dealt with injuries all season. Wells has not pitched like a rookie since his callup in May, he has been a cool customer on the mound to quote Pat Hughes. The Cubs will need that type of performance from Wells once again this afternoon.
Wells is coming off another good outing against the Reds. After 15 innings of not allowing a run, Wells surrendered one in the eighth (the run scored after he left the game) and his line for the night was an impressive one run on six hits in 7 1/3 innings with two walks and five strikeouts.
Today will be Randy Wells’ first career appearance against the Rockies. He is 4-1 in eight road starts this season with a 2.42 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP … but has yet to deal with a offense as explosive as the Rockies can be. Wells must keep the ball down and continue throwing strikes.
No player on the Rockies roster has faced Randy Wells.
The Cubs will also get their first look at Jason Hammel this afternoon. Hammel will make his 20th start of the year for the Rockies … and the Cubs’ offense must not take him for granted like they did Justin Lehr. Hammel has struggled this season (opponents hitting .310 against him with 25 walks in 109 innings), especially at Coors Field.
Hammel is 1-3 in ten games, nine starts, at Coors with a 7.20 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP. Teams have hit an unbelievable .370 against him in his home park.
But this is the type of pitcher the Cubs have struggled mightily against in the past. Lou Piniella must have his team ready to compete this afternoon. While it might feel like getaway day, it is not. The Cubs conclude the wrap around series on Monday night against one of the hottest pitchers in the league. A win this afternoon would guarantee nothing less than a .500 road trip.
The Cubs offense must make Hammel work and show the same patience they did on Saturday night against Jason Marquis.
Jason Hammel is coming off a win in Philadelphia. He allowed three runs on nine hits in 6 2/3 innings. His last, and only win, at home came back on June 14 against the Mariners. Hammel has pitched better of late (six earned runs in his last two starts, one road … one at home).
Milton Bradley (1-for-1 with a walk) is the only Cub on the current active roster that has faced Jason Hammel.
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