Game Seventy: Cubs (31-38) vs. Mariners (28-41)
Game Time – 9:10pm CDT
Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet Plus – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 177
Location – Safeco Field, Seattle
Ryan Dempster (5-5, 3.67/1.18) vs. Jason Vargas (5-2, 2.88/1.11)
The Chicago Cubs enjoyed their final off day before the All-Star break and begin a stretch of 20 in a row tonight in Seattle. After three in the Emerald City, Lou Piniella’s crew returns to Chicago to finish out Interleague play on the South Side. The Cubs are 6-6 against the Junior Circuit this season.
The next three games figure to be very difficult for the Cubs offense. Not only do they face a hot pitcher in southpaw Jason Vargas tonight, Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez are on the horizon. With the Cubs facing two more southpaws, will Tyler Colvin sit or play? Colvin is 7-for-24 this year against lefties with two doubles and a triple (.292/.320/.458/.778).
The mainstream media figures to focus on Milton Bradley and Carlos Silva for the next three days. Bradley is having a not-so-good year for the Mariners (.215/.303/.360/.663 with seven doubles and six home runs) while Carlos Silva has been very good on the North Side of Chicago. Silva is scheduled to face Felix Hernandez in the finale Thursday.
The Mariners are having a terrible season. Most figured Seattle would compete with the Angels for the AL West crown. But the Mariners are 13 games under .500. Jack Zduriencik (the Mariners’ GM) is taking a lot of heat and Cliff Lee figures to be traded away soon. The Mariners can pitch, that is not their problem, but they have trouble scoring runs.
Will Lou’s lineup tinkering continue? Piniella used his 56th different lineup Sunday (in 69 games) and used four different leadoff hitters in the Cubs last four games … Tyler Colvin, Ryan Theriot, Kosuke Fukudome and Marlon Byrd. Piniella mentioned using a couple of his regulars as the DH for the next six games … including Aramis Ramirez, who is expected back Wednesday. Ramirez made the trip with the team to Seattle after a not-so-good two days in Peoria. When Ramirez is activated, Jeff Baker or Chad Tracy could be the odd man out.
Ron Santo did not make the trip to his hometown and will reportedly cut back on his travel with the team. Dave Otto is expected to fill in with Santo returning to the booth Friday on the South Side. Saturday is the 50th Anniversary of Ron Santo’s first game with the Chicago Cubs.
If Santo’s days next to Pat Hughes are coming to an end, Keith Moreland should be named his replacement.
The Cubs enter play today 13-10 this season in games started by lefties.
Tonight it all begins with Ryan Dempster …
Dempster has posted a win in three of his last five starts … and is 2-0 in his last three outings with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP.
Tonight will be Dempster’s eighth road start of the year. He is 2-2 in the first seven with a 3.77 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP.
Dempster has faced the Mariners twice during the regular season, both times in relief … tonight will be his first career start versus Seattle. He has no record (one save) in two games, two innings, with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.50 WHIP … just one hit allowed by the Cubs’ former closer.
Mariners’ Career Numbers against Ryan Dempster
- Milton Bradley – 1-for-7 with 2 walks
- Franklin Gutierrez – 0-for-1
- Casey Kotchman – 0-for-3
- Ryan Langerhans – 1-for-2 with a walk
- Jose Lopez – 1-for-1
- Ichiro Suzuki – 0-for-1
- Jack Wilson – 8-for-28 with 3 doubles and a walk
Jason Vargas is having an excellent first half. Vargas, the former Met and Marlin, posted only three wins in 2009 (3-6 in 23 games, 14 starts, with a 4.91 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP) and is coming off a tremendous start against the Cardinals.
The 27-year old lefty held Albert Pujols and company to one run on five hits in 7 2/3 innings. Vargas struck out four and did not walk a batter.
Vargas has been shockingly good and has not allowed more that three earned runs since his first start of the year on April 9 … that is 12 straight quality starts.
Jason Vargas is 2-0 in his last four starts with a 2.36 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP … and at home this season, 4-1 in eight starts with a 2.61 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP.
The Cubs anemic offense could be in for another frustrating series.
Tonight will be Vargas’ fourth career start versus the Cubs. He is 1-0 in three career starts with a 4.74 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. The last time he faced a Cubs’ team was on May 17, 2007. Vargas received a no decision in a Mets win over the Cubs (6-5) … Ryan Dempster took the loss after the Mets plated five runs in the bottom of the ninth at Shea Stadium.
Cubs’ Career Numbers against Jason Vargas
- Marlon Byrd – 2-for-11 with a home run
- Derrek Lee – 0-for-2 with a walk
- Xavier Nady – 3-for-9
- Alfonso Soriano – 1-for-4 with a walk
- Ryan Theriot – 1-for-4
- Chad Tracy – 0-for-3
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball …