Game One Hundred Twenty-Five: Cubs (76-48) vs. Reds (55-70)
Game Time – 7:05pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 184
Location – Wrigley Field, Chicago
Rich Harden (7-2, 2.17/1.12, 2-1, 1.80/1.27) vs. Johnny Cueto (8-11, 4.90/1.39)
Following a very successful road trip and a well-earned day off, their last until September 4th, the Cubs return to work today against Dusty Baker and the new-look Cincinnati Reds. Adam Dunn is now in the desert, Ken Griffey, Jr. is on the South Side and the Cubs will not face Edinson Volquez in this series….and with all of that out of the way, Lou Piniella’s crew must not take this team for granted. The Reds always play the Cubs tough and the next 9 games are just as important as the last 9 games.
The Cubs face the Reds, Nationals and Pirates before welcoming the Phillies to Wrigley on August 28th….the next time they play a team with a winning record. Of the Cubs remaining 38 games, 19 are at home and 26 are against teams with at least a .500 record. The only team they face with a losing record in September are these same Reds at Great American, September 5th – September 7th. Playoff teams beat teams they are supposed to beat….and that stretch starts today. But if the players relax, they will be embarrassed in front of the home crowd.
Dusty Baker’s first season in the Queen City has not gone as planned and according to a report from Jayson Stark on ESPN.com, he has begun pointing fingers in his prior GM’s direction. Stark picked up on a quote from Hal McCoy in the Dayton Daily News….
“I have never wanted to win more than I do right here, and I will. But this is Wayne Krivsky’s team, not Walk Jocketty’s and not mine. I just hope there is enough out there after the season that we can get to help us out.”
As Barry Rozner recently stated, “In Lou, you do trusty.”
After missing the road trip to Atlanta and Miami, Ron Santo is expected back in the booth with Pat Hughes tonight…. Rich Harden will make his first start since struggling with his command in the second game of the day-night doubleheader last Wednesday in Atlanta. Harden missed high all night, walked a season-high 5 batters, ran up his pitch count and left after 5 innings. Harden picked up his second win in a Cubs’ uniform and did not allow a run while striking out 2. Even Harden at his worst is possibly better than most.
Harden will need to keep the ball down tonight and not give the Reds any help. They will be looking to knock off the first place Cubs and if he can keep them on their heels the inexperience of Dusty Baker’s roster will take over….but the opposite will apply if Harden struggles with his command and gives up early runs.
Harden is 3-0 in 11 starts in his home park (both in Chicago and in Oakland) with a 2.04 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP.
Harden has not been as sharp of late and maybe pitching to contact is not the best game plan for the talented right hander. When on and in the strike zone, Harden is plan nasty and the Cubs should just let him pitch….but just crank up the pen around the 6th inning. In 30 innings with the Cubs (6 starts), Harden has 49 strikeouts and only 14 walks.
Tonight will be the second time Harden has faced the Reds in his career….but his last start against the Redlegs came against a very different team back on June 9, 2004. Harden beat the Reds and allowed 5 runs, 4 earned, on 6 hits with 8 strikeouts and 3 walks in 5 1/3 innings. The Reds’ lineup included such names as Sean Casey, Ken Griffey, Jr., Ryan Freel, Adam Dunn and Jason LaRue.
Less than a hand-full of Dusty Baker’s bunch has faced Harden….
- Jolbert Cabrera – 1-for-3
- Andy Phillips – no official at bat, 1 walk
- Javier Valentin – 1-for-3
The Cubs will get their third look of the season at Johnny Cueto. After a solid outing and win against Chicago at the Great American Ballpark on May 5th (3 runs on 6 hits with 8 strikeouts and 2 walks in 6 innings), Cueto was not as sharp at Wrigley on July 9th and lost 5-1 after allowing 5 runs, 4 earned, on 8 hits with 6 strikeouts and 2 walks in 6 2/3 innings. Cueto was very sharp early on but the Cubs kept pecking away, ran up his pitch count and scored 4 of the 5 runs in the 6th and 7th innings. Cueto is 1-1 versus the Cubs with a 4.97 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP.
The Cubs offense must make him work tonight, and like the rest of the roster, do not help Cueto gain any confidence.
Cueto is coming off a win against the Pirates and allowed 1 run on 4 hits in 5 innings with 7 strikeouts and 3 walks. Cueto has not pitched past the 6th inning since July 3rd and not into the 6th inning in his last two starts.
Cueto is 3-8 in 12 starts on the road this season with a 5.29 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP while teams have hit an even .300 against him. In his last 3 starts, Cueto is 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP.
- Mark DeRosa – 0-for-5
- Jim Edmonds – 0-for-3
- Mike Fontenot – 0-for-3
- Kosuke Fukudome – 2-for-7 with a double
- Reed Johnson – 1-for-3
- Derrek Lee – 2-for-6
- Aramis Ramirez – 1-for-2 with a home run
- Alfonso Soriano – 1-for-3
- Geovany Soto – 3-for-5 with a double and a home run
- Ryan Theriot – 4-for-7 with a double
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….