Nervous Cub fans like to say things like “it’s a long season, don’t worry” when their team is in the midst of an offensive slump for no apparent reason. It’s true; every team’s offense usually hits a lull at some point in the season. The teams with good bats find a way to dig themselves out of the rut and stay out of it. The teams that cannot, don’t make the playoffs and often times aren’t in the race come trade deadline time.
Most of the teams we care about around here are done shopping or have said they don’t plan on making any significant moves. Sabathia and Durham for the Brewers, and the Cardinals seem to be counting on Chris Carpenter’s return as their big deal (although it wouldn’t surprise me if they went out and got some bullpen help). The Cubs traded for Harden and Gaudin to bolster their staff. With Wood a few series’ away from returning, the need for a power bullpen arm was becoming glaringly obvious. Bobby Howry is running out of gas, the number don’t lie folks. The league is batting .305 against Howry and that’s not going to cut it for a setup man. Howry doesn’t walk people, but he’s a one pitch-pitcher anymore with nice movement on his two-seamer, but a very average slider that he rarely throws. The scouting report is out: sit on something hard; and hitters are taking advantage of it. I’d like to see Howry put into three run lead or above situations only until he can get his fastball down in the zone again. Maybe its over-use, but he’s been scored on in almost all of his last 8 appearances. What to do?...
Welcome to Chicago, Goldendomer.
Folks, I’m a Purdue fan, so that means I don’t like Notre Dame. I don’t like their team or their exclusive television contract with NBC, but boy do I like one of their record-holding former receivers. After quickly improving in each promotion through the Cubs’ farm system, Jeff Samardzija was called up to the big club on Friday, and as is Piniella’s custom, was put right into the middle of a close game (I love that about Lou). After the dust cleared on the weekend, Samardzija had thrown four innings, giving up only one run and nabbing a two inning save that saw him fanning some really nice hitters like Hanley Ramirez and Jeremy Hermida, who had torched the Cubs all weekend. Lou said after the game that Samardzija was the power arm they were looking for. Don’t expect any more deadline deals. As I said a few weeks ago, Hendry has done his job now it’s time for the players to do theirs.
Big one in July
After a 3-4 week capped off by a BIG Sunday afternoon comeback victory, the Cubs are barely holding off the Beermakers who are 9-2 in their last 11 contests. I had a feeling weeks ago that this Brewer team was for real. Their aforementioned acquisitions of Sabathia and Durham put the writing on the wall and now we’re in for a good old fashion division race. This is an exciting week in Chicago as both the Cubs and the Sox square off on the road against their primary division competition in four game sets. The pitching matchups would make any baseball aficionado drool. Sabathia/Lilly, Sheets/Zambrano, Parra/Dempster and Bush/Harden. It’s going to be fun.
Who is the pressure on?
In today’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Brewers OF Ryan Braun says of the Cubs “all the expectations are on them.” I tend to disagree with the All-Star left fielder. I think if the Cubs can split the series then they are the winners. I think it’s a disappointment in cheese-land if Milly doesn’t take at least three out of four. After all, the Cubs are not a good road team and the Brewers are throwing their best three starters at the Cubs right off the bat. On the other side of the street, if the Cubs go into the series thinking about a split they’ll get swept right back down Interstate 94. I’m tired of saying this, but the Cubs must find a way to win a few close ones on the road. They must be patient, work counts and get into the Brewers’ subpar, overused bullpen. If they fail to do this — Sabathia, Sheets and Parra will make it easy for the Cubs’ offense to stay in its rut. There are 55 games to go, but saying this is the biggest series of the year so far is a psychological understatement.
Heck, if it weren’t for old Brett FAV-ray and his eighth I’m-not-actually-retiring-please-love-me antics this might really be big news.