Game One Hundred Thirty-One: Cubs (80-50) vs. Pirates (57-73)
Game Time – 6:05pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 184
Location – PNC Park, Pittsburgh
Ted Lilly (12-7, 4.25/1.32) vs. Jeff Karstens (2-2, 2.25/1.11)
Lou Piniella’s crew opens a quick 3-game road trip tonight in Pittsburgh behind Ted Lilly. The Cubs will face three of the good young arms in the Pirates’ rotation in the final series of the season against the Bucs. Lilly will face Jeff Karstens tonight, Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to match-up against Ian Snell on Tuesday and Jason Marquis is slated to face Zach Duke in the finale on Wednesday. The Cubs have won 11 of the first 15 versus the Pirates this season and must not take the ‘Battling Bucs‘ for granted over the next three days. The Pirates have traditionally played their best ball of the season against the Cubs and the next three games figures to be more of the same.
The Pirates are coming off a disappointing loss in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon. They chased CC Sabathia from the game and had a chance to beat the Brewers in the 12th inning but were unable to capitalize after loading the bases with no outs.
Derrek Lee and Kosuke Fukudome are expected back in the lineup tonight. Lee was held out on Sunday after leaving Saturday’s game with back spasms. Reports indicated Lee aggravated the bulging disc problem “that cropped up early last season in Philadelphia.” Fukudome was held out of the starting lineup in order to continue to work on the adjustments made by Gerald Perry and Lou Piniella in his swing. However, Fukudome launched a pinch-hit home run on Sunday that will hopefully allow the Cubs’ right fielder to relax at the plate and contribute down the stretch.
This is an important 3-game set for the Cubs. With both the Brewers and Cardinals off tonight before opening a brief 2-game series in St. Louis on Tuesday, the Cubs could put a little distance between themselves and the two closest pursuers in the division before welcoming the Phillies to Wrigley for a 4-game series on Thursday. Ted Lilly allowed only 2 runs on 2 hits in 7 innings in his last start against the Reds but the Cubs offense managed only 1 run off of Bronson Arroyo and Lilly was tagged with his seventh loss of the season. Lilly was the proverbial hard luck loser and his teammates will need a similar performance out of the ‘Bulldog‘ tonight while they try to figure out Jeff Karstens.
Lilly had won his last three decisions before last Wednesday and his team was 5-0 in his last 5 starts but they could not plate enough runs to take Lilly off the hook….neither of the runs the Reds scored were off a hit and a wild pitch on a swinging strikeout put the tying run 90′ away with only 1 out. But that was then….
Lilly has pitched better on the road this season than at Wrigley. In his first 14 road starts, Lilly is 6-3 with a 4.04 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. Lilly has been shelled at PNC Park this season and received two no decisions but gave up 9 runs, all earned, on 17 hits in 9 2/3 innings with 4 walks, 3 strikeouts and 3 home runs.
Lilly beat the Pirates 5-1 on August 2nd at Wrigley and held the new-look Pirates to 1 run on 6 hits in 6 1/3 innings with 5 strikeouts and 3 walks. This season Lilly is 1-0 versus the Bucs in 3 starts with a 5.63 ERA and a 1.88 WHIP.
The Cubs’ lone southpaw in the rotation has put together a good month so far….Lilly is 2-1 in his last 4 starts with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP.
- Ryan Doumit – 5-for-10 with a double
- Andy LaRoche – 0-for-2
- Adam LaRoche – 4-for-9 with 3 doubles
- Nate McLouth – 5-for-9 with a triple
- Jason Michaels – 2-for-2 with a double
- Brandon Moss – 1-for-1
- Luis Rivas – 4-for-15 with 2 home runs
- Freddy Sanchez – 3-for-16 with a double
- Jack Wilson – 3-for-12 with a double
The Cubs will get their second look at righty Jeff Karstens tonight after he shut them out back on August 1st at Wrigley. Karstens made his Pirate debut a very memorable one and tossed 6 innings of shutout ball against the Cubs a day after Lou Piniella’s crew completed a 4-game sweep in Milwaukee. Many thought it was a let down on the Cubs part, but Karstens followed his gem against the Cubs with a near perfect game in Arizona in his next start.
Karstens threw a complete game shutout against the Diamondbacks and allowed 2 hits, a walk and struck out 4. Many thought the Pirates stumbled across a gold mine as Karstens was one of the players the Bucs received from the Yankees in the Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte deal.
Karstens has come back down to earth a little and has lost his last two starts….both at home, one to the Reds and the other to the Mets. Karstens allowed 4 runs, 3 earned, on 7 hits in 7 innings to the Reds and 4 runs on 9 hits in 6 innings against the Mets. In his last two starts, he has served up four home runs….two in each outing.
Karstens has yet to post a win in his new home park and is 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. The Cubs must be patient tonight, something they failed to do the last time they faced Karstens. He has walked 8 in his last 12 innings of work (2 starts) while striking out only 4….the Cubs should have chances to score early and keep tacking on runs.
Like the Reds and Nationals, the Pirates will only gain confidence as the night wears on if the Cubs do not score early and often and take them out of it mentally.
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….