Game One Hundred-Eleven: Cubs (58-52) vs. Phillies (61-48)
Game Time – 7:05pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 185
Location – Wrigley Field, Chicago
Rich Harden (7-7, 4.41/1.35) vs. J.A. Happ (8-2, 2.74/1.12)
After a long, disappointing 10-game road trip, the Cubs return home tonight with the first of three against the World Champs. The next six games are a very important stretch for the Chicago Cubs. They enter play tonight three games back of the Cardinals and must put together a successful homestand against the Phillies and Pirates.
The next six games will be anything but easy for Lou Piniella’s crew and they must show up to the field ready to play. The Cubs will face two of the best the Phillies have in J.A. Happ and Cliff Lee as well as Pedro Martinez in his 2009 debut on Wednesday night. The weekend series against the Pirates will not be a cake-walk. They are hitting and putting runs on the board with a exciting young team. If the Cubs take them for granted, several former Cubs will enjoy beating them at Wrigley.
The next six games will have a big impact on the remainder of the season … because after the homestand the Cubs face a difficult week on the West Coast with three in San Diego and four in Los Angeles.
The Phillies were swept at home over the weekend by the Marlins and figure to give the Cubs all they can handle over the next three games. While the Cubs made the long trip back to Chicago from Colorado on Monday night, the Phillies spent Monday in Chicago and should be well rested for the series. Two of the first three games of the season against the Phillies were very close and with the Phillies offense, no lead is ever safe. It will take a complete team effort to win the series against one of the best teams in the Senior Circuit.
The Cubs will likely be without Aramis Ramirez for the third straight game … and he could be headed to the DL. Ramirez is scheduled to see the team doctor today and could receive a cortisone shot in his sore left shoulder.
The Cubs could end up making another roster move before game time. They added Esmailin Caridad on Monday but he threw 78 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, which should make him unavailable for the Phillies’ series.
Carlos Zambrano’s back injury was not labeled as serious and Lou Piniella indicated in his pre-game show they would determine the next step for Zambrano today. The Cubs are expecting him to return to the rotation on August 21 against the Dodgers.
While the offense will have their hands full with J.A. Happ, it all begins with Rich Harden … and one win at a time. Rich Harden has been very good since the All-Star break and his team will be asking for more of the same tonight. Harden is 2-1 in five starts in the second half with a 1.80 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. One of those five starts came in Philadelphia and he held the Phillies explosive offense to one run on four hits in seven innings with two walks and six strikeouts.
Harden has struggled at Wrigley this season (3-5 in 10 starts with a 6.84 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP) but was very good in his last outing at the Friendly Confines. Harden held the Reds to one run on one hit (a home run by Joey Votto) in six innings with no walks and eight strikeouts.
Harden is coming off a loss to the Reds. He gave up three runs, two earned, on four hits in six innings with four walks and nine strikeouts. Harden did not pitch that badly, he received no run support and recorded the Cubs only extra base hit.
Rich Harden is 1-0 in three career starts against the Phillies with a 0.90 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP.
- Paul Bako – 0-for-2
- Pedro Feliz – 1-for-6
- Ryan Howard – 1-for-7 with 2 walks
- Raul Ibanez – 5-for-26 with 2 doubles, a home run and a walk
- Jimmy Rollins – 2-for-8 with a home run
- Carlos Ruiz – 0-for-6 with 2 walks
- Matt Stairs – 2-for-9
- Chase Utley – 1-for-8
- Shane Victorino – 2-for-9
- Jayson Werth – 1-for-6 with 2 walks
The Cubs will get their first look tonight at one of the best young southpaws in the game. J.A. Happ is the favorite for NL Rookie of the Year award right now .. and has been just short of brilliant. Happ posted a win in his first eight decisions before losing two of his last three … and only one was a ‘bad start’.
J.A. Happ is coming off a complete game shutout against the Rockies. He allowed just four hits and struck out a season-high 10 batters … with just two walks. Since June 20, Happ has allowed more than three earned runs only one time … a loss on July 24 to the Cardinals when he was rumored to be in the deal with the Blue Jays for Roy Halladay.
Since the rumors subsided, Happ is 1-1 with a 1.20 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP … four walks and 15 strikeouts in 15 innings.
Aaron Miles (0-for-3) is the only Cub that has faced J.A. Happ.
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….