Game Sixty-Six: Cubs (34-31) vs. Braves (32-36)
Game Time – 6:10pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: Comcast Sports Net – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 183
Location – Turner Field, Atlanta
Ryan Dempster (4-4, 3.92/1.28) vs. Javier Vazquez (4-6, 3.41/1.01)
Can the Cubs win five in a row? After splitting the rain-shortened series at the beginning of the month (1-1), Lou Piniella’s crew will make a brief stop in Atlanta tonight on their way to Detroit for a three-game set that begins on Tuesday night. This is the first of four make-up games the Cubs already have on their schedule … the other three are at Wrigley. The original pitching match-up on Wednesday, June 4 was Carlos Zambrano versus Jair Jurrjens and Nate McLouth was set to make his Brave debut.
Tonight is the first of four cities on a very difficult 10-game road trip. While the Cubs play three on the South Side starting on Friday, their next game at Wrigley is not until July 2 … the opener of a four-game weekend series against the Brewers.
The Cubs will face the Braves in Chicago for three games (July 6 – July 8), so with four of their next 17 games against Atlanta they must win the season series against Bobby Cox and company. Two of the keys to beating the Braves: 1) Do not pitch to Chipper Jones with a base open and the game on the line 2) Do not throw Jeff Francoeur any fastballs … or anything in the strike zone.
Lou Piniella is expected to be without Reed Johnson for the next few days. Johnson’s back locked up on him Sunday. Also, Piniella said on Sunday that Ryan Theriot and Alfonso Soriano would not be in tonight’s lineup and Jake Fox would get a start in one of the corner spots in the outfield. Look for Andres Blanco at short, Aaron Miles at second and Mike Fontenot at third … also with Milton Bradley’s career numbers against Javier Vazquez, it would be a good time to give Micah Hoffpauir a start in the outfield.
Larry Rothschild will not be with the Cubs tonight. He will be attending a family funeral and Lester Strode will serve as the Cubs’ pitching coach. Ryan Dempster will not be with the team in Detroit and will fly back to Chicago after the game to tend to family business. Carlos Zambrano did not make the trip south to Atlanta, Big Z went from Chicago to Detroit to prepare for the opener of the three-game series on Tuesday.
The Cubs must improve on their 13-18 record away from Wrigley beginning tonight … and it all starts with Ryan Dempster. Ryan Dempster is coming off his fourth loss of the season. While Dempster did not pitch that well, he still turned in a quality start against the White Sox. Dempster struggled through six innings of work and allowed an alarming six walks. The White Sox managed only three runs on four hits because none of the walks came around to score.
The six walks was a season-high and Dempster must return to the way he was pitching prior to his outing against the Sox. One of the reasons for his turnaround had been his ability to throw strikes. In his previous four starts leading up to last Wednesday against the Sox, Dempster walked a total of six batters in 24 innings to go along with 19 strikeouts. In order for Dempster to post wins he must maintain a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio.
Dempster has pitched rather well on the road this season despite only winning one game. He is 1-3 in eight starts away from Wrigley with a 3.75 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.
After a bad April (1-1 in five starts with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP) and a very good May (3-2 in six starts with a 3.76 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP), Dempster has put together an excellent June, even without a win (0-1 in three starts with a 1.89 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP, opponents have hit .246 against him).
Tonight will be Ryan Dempster’s first outing of the season against the Braves. For his career he is 2-10 in 25 games, 14 starts, with two saves and two complete games (5.31 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP). Last season Dempster turned in one of his best starts against the Braves, a complete game on the night Soriano broke his hand. Dempster won his only start versus the Braves and allowed two runs on four hits with 11 strikeouts and no walks in nine complete.
- Yunel Escobar – 1-for-6
- Jeff Francoeur – 1-for-6 with a double
- Kelly Johnson – 0-for-4 with 2 walks
- Chipper Jones – 10-for-38 with 2 doubles, a home run and 6 walks
- Brian McCann – 0-for-3 with a walk
- Nate McLouth – 3-for-11 with a home run and 3 walks
- Javier Vazquez – 0-for-5
The Cubs will get their first look tonight in a very familiar face in a new uniform. After being a thorn in their side for years with the Expos, then for a year with the Diamondbacks, Javier Vazquez spent three years on the South Side with the Sox and has had varying degrees of success against the Cubs.
Tonight will be Javier Vazquez’s 17th career start against the Cubs and despite the losing record (3-4) and a high ERA (5.17 with a 1.41 WHIP) he has always given the Cubs as much as they could handle … Vazquez has 97 strikeouts in 94 career innings against the Cubs with only 29 walks.
Vazquez is tied for the NL lead in strikeouts with Tim Lincecum (112) and is having a very good first season with the Braves. Vazquez is coming off an eight-inning loss to the Reds in which he gave up only four runs on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
Javier Vazquez is 0-2 in his last three starts with a 2.86 ERA and a 0.55 WHIP … but the Braves have not won a game he started since May 20 (0-5).
- Milton Bradley – 3-for-18
- Ryan Dempster – 0-for-5 with a walk
- Mike Fontenot – 2-for-5 with a double
- Kosuke Fukudome – 0-for-3 with 3 walks
- Reed Johnson – 3-for-9
- Derrek Lee – 20-for-50 with 7 doubles, 3 home runs and 2 walks
- Aaron Miles – 2-for-5
- Alfonso Soriano – 2-for-9 with a home run
- Geovany Soto – 0-for-5 with a walk
- Ryan Theriot – 3-for-9
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….