Game Forty-Three: Cubs (21-21) vs. Pirates (20-24)
Game Time – 7:05pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: WGN TV – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 184
Location – Wrigley Field, Chicago
Ryan Dempster (3-3, 4.40/1.27) vs. Paul Maholm (3-1, 3.30/1.26)
Happy Memorial Day from everyone at the CCO… Weather permitting, the Cubs begin an important seven-game homestand tonight with the first of three against the Pirates. The Cubs are reeling and are in the middle of their longest losing streak under Lou Piniella and his staff. The Cubs will face the top three pitchers in the Pirates rotation and despite their 14-4 record against the Bucs a year ago, the games were always close.
The Pirates have a very good, young team that enters play tonight only two games behind the Cubs in the division. So if Lou Piniella’s crew thinks these next three games are going to be a cakewalk their losing streak could reach double digits.
Milton Bradley is talking instead of producing again. While it is not early or late in the season, Memorial Day is an important benchmark for teams to gauge where they are and what improvements should and need to be made…and this team is not playing anywhere near expectations. Rumors on Monday morning suggested the Cubs could be interesting in Kevin Kouzmanoff to fill in for Aramis Ramirez until he hopefully returns sometime after the All-Star break.
The Pirates won five in a row last week before dropping two of three over the weekend on the South Side. The Cubs must be patient today against Paul Maholm. The Nationals were able to get him out of the game in his last start because they made him work.
A one-time top-pitching prospect for the Cubs should make his Wrigley Field debut at some point over the next three games. The Cubs did not protect Donald Veal in December’s Rule 5 Draft, the Pirates picked him up and when he has thrown strikes has been unhittable (4 games, 2 runs on 2 hits with a home runs, 9 walks, 4 strikeouts with a 4.15 ERA and a 2.54 WHIP…opponents hitting .143 against him).
After a horrible week on the field the entire team must put the last seven games behind them and put a win on the board today… Ryan Dempster, like the rest of the starting staff, is coming off a good outing that resulted in a loss. Dempster put together one of his best starts of the year and held the Cardinals to two runs on six hits in seven innings. The Cubs did not score anything against Chris Carpenter and started hitting too late in the game to mount a comeback.
The Cubs offense must get back on track but while the pitching staff waits for all of the bats to wake up, Ryan Dempster must keep a very talented, young Pirate lineup from taking an early lead.
The Pirates always play their best against the Cubs and the lopsided record against the Bucs from a year ago is very misleading. The games were always extremely close and the Pirates have a much better pitching staff than last season.
Ryan Dempster has struggled against the Pirates in the past but has been very good at Wrigley this year. Dempster is 2-0 in three home starts this season with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.
Dempster was 1-0 in two starts last season against the Pirates with a 2.25 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP…for his career, 4-7 in 39 games, 14 starts, with a 5.61 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP.
- Eric Hinske – 0-for-4
- Adam LaRoche – 1-for-9 with a home runs and a walk
- Nate McLouth – 3-for-9 with a home run and 3 walks
- Nyjer Morgan – 0-for-2
- Freddy Sanchez – 3-for-14 with 2 walks
- Jack Wilson – 7-for-26 with 3 doubles and a walk
Paul Maholm is one of the best young southpaws in the league and has slowly become the number one starter in the Pirates’ rotation. Maholm had a great April (3-0 in five starts with a 3.09 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP) and despite the record has put together an impressive May (0-1 in four starts with a 3.55 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP).
The Pirates are a very streaky team but not Paul Maholm (or Zach Duke). The Pirates’ former number one pick has been very consistent this season and is coming off two solid outings.
Maholm held a very good Washington Nationals’ offense to a run on four hits in six innings with three walks and seven strikeouts.
The Cubs finally beat Maholm last year. Despite putting up good numbers against him, the Cubs have trouble putting wins on the board against Maholm…that must change tonight and it will not be easy.
Maholm is 4-1 in eight career starts against the Cubs with a 6.32 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP…last season, 0-1 in two starts with a 6.43 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. Maholm is 3-1 in five career starts at Wrigley with a 7.00 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP.
- Mike Fontenot – 1-for-4
- Ryan Freel – 6-for-26 with 2 doubles and a walk
- Kosuke Fukudome – 0-for-4
- Reed Johnson – 4-for-6 with a double and a walk
- Derrek Lee – 7-for-21 with 3 doubles and 2 walks
- Aaron Miles – 1-for-5 with a double and a walk
- Alfonso Soriano – 6-for-17 with a double, 3 home runs and a walk
- Geovany Soto – 2-for-5
- Ryan Theriot – 3-for-15 with a double and 4 walks
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….