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Come to Think of it…Kerry Wood Openly Sore About Open Sore


Forget about that pesky blister that has kept Cubs closer Kerry Wood sidelined since July 11. It is no longer simply a blister, but it is an open sore on his finger.

Wood surprised everyone by throwing off a mound at Miller Park this morning, using a protective pad. Since he cannot use that pad in a game, the effort was more to keep his arm and shoulder fluid as opposed to testing out whether he could actually pitch in a real game.

But that, too, is coming. And soon, if the admittedly “antsy” Wood has his way.

“I’m beyond antsy,” the All-Star pitcher said. “I mean, this is the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen as far as skin. I can’t explain it. Nobody here can explain it and we’ve been to several doctors and it just hasn’t gotten any better.”

He has been eligible to return to the active roster since Tuesday. But the longer this drags on, the more likely a rehab in the minors is going to be.

Therefore, one day after Cubs manager Lou Piniella said that Wood “wasn’t close to returning…so why risk it,” Kid K was back on a mound throwing about 24 pitches.

Wood described how the injury has morphed into something more serious. “It’s not a blister anymore. It’s an open wound, it’s an open sore on my finger. The skin’s missing,” Wood said. “We’re trying to toughen up that skin that has come back a little bit, try to toughen that up and get it as hard as we can. What we’ve been trying the last couple of days, it seems to have hardened up quite a bit.”

I hope Wood doesn’t try to rush back too quickly. For one, the Cubs are winning. But more importantly, why risk having him miss the stretch run or the playoffs because the wound got worse or because he altered his pitching motion and caused an arm injury?

It’s frustrating, to be sure. And a lot of fans don’t understand it and think he’s being soft. But after all Wood has gone through, with twelve DL stints in ten years, if he was soft he would be selling cars rather than trying to pitch. After all, he’s made an enormous amount of money already in his career.

So we can wait a bit longer, Kerry. Take your time and let this thing heal properly so that it won’t be a problem down the line. Come to think of it, as the Cubs offense has proved this year, patience is a virtue.

Fourth Time’s a Charm for Harden?

Mike Yadgir is a new writer for The Daily Cub. He is a dedicated Cubs fan and will give good, quality analysis.

Tomorrow marks Rich Harden’s fourth start as a Chicago Cub. So far, the Harden deal has looked really great. The problem is that he has not been able to get a win.

Now don’t get me wrong, he has been lights out in his first three starts as a Cub. Unfortunately, he and his team have come up empty in the end.

Why is it that he can strike out 10 batters in each of his first three starts, and fail to get the win? One of the obvious reasons is that the Cubs hitters have not been hitting when Rich takes the mound.

There always seems to be that one man in every starting rotation that fails to get the run support. It’s just one of those things in baseball. It’s really a shame that it has to be Rich though, because I think everybody can agree that when this guy is healthy, he is one of the most dominating pitchers in the league.

Aside from the lack of run support, another reason that Harden isn’t getting the wins he deserves is because of the amount of pitches he throws. When a strikeout pitcher like Harden takes the ball, those strikeouts can actually end up hurting them because of the amount of pitches it forces them to throw.

In Harden’s case, he has only gone five innings in two of his three starts, making it very difficult for the team to give him the run support needed to get him the personal win.

Will Thursday be Harden’s first win as a Cub? We all certainly hope so. He deserves it. If he can keep his pitch count relatively low and if the Cubs offense can produce early enough for him, we just may finally see the first win of Rich Harden’s Cub career; and what a great win it would be considering it would be beating the Brewers to gain a full game in the standings.

-Mike Yadgir

Cubs Recap: 7-1 Win Over Brew-Crew


Carlos Zambrano was outstanding as he and the Cubs took care of the Brewers 7-1 on Tuesday night. Mark Derosa got the Cubs on the board first in the fourth inning when he drove in Aramis Ramirez on a sac-fly.

The Cubs then broke open the game in the sixth inning when they scored five runs. Kosuke Fukudome got the scoring started when he hit a two-run triple that scored both Derrek Lee and Ramirez. Ramirez ended the day going 4-5 with three doubles, an RBI, and two runs scored.

Shorly after Mark Derosa drove in his second RBI of the game on a single that scored Fukudome. Zambrano also got into the action from the plate as he hit a single which drove in Derosa.

The final run of the inning came in on a Alfonso Soriano sac fly that drove in Mike Fontenot giving the Cubs a big 6-0 lead. The Cubs then added another run in the ninth on a Aramis Ramirez single that drove in Ryan Theriot to make the score 7-0.

The Brewers lone run came in the bottom of the ninth when Mike Cameron doubled off of Jeff Samardzija which drove in Russell Branyan.

Carlos Zambrano was awesome as he pitched eight solid innings allowing no earned runs while giving up just five hits and striking out nine. Zambrano improved to 12-4 with the victory.

As for the Brewers Ben Sheets he put in 5 1/3 innings allowing six earned runs on eleven hits while striking out four. With the loss Sheets fell to 10-4 on the season.
The Cubs are now 63-44 and they hold a three game lead on the Brewers.

The Cubs have assured that they will leave Milwaukee leading the NL Central with Tuesday’s Victory.

Tomorrow the Cubs will send Ryan Dempster to the mound who is 11-4 with a 2.99 era as Manny Parra who is 9-3 with a 3.72 era will go for the Brewers. Game time is set for 7:05 pm.

-Kevin Graczyk

Come to Think of it…Forget Goats and Bartman, Cubs Season Adds Up


As the discussion turned toward the seriousness of the current Cubs-Brewers series, my thoughts wandered to what could have been, what might have been, what was supposed to be.

From early to mid June, the Cubs were sitting at or around 19 games over .500 and leading the division by five and one half games at their high water mark. Supposedly on their way to an easy division title.

So…were they truly that much better back then, only to have since come crashing back to earth for reasons unknown? Bad karma? Curses? Or was there something else at play here?

I say the latter. For when analyzing what truly has occurred since then, I notice four key aspects of Cubs baseball that changed. And these changes more logically explain why the Cubs are now fighting for the division instead of running away with it.

1) First of all, the Cubs started out with a schedule that was heavily front-loaded with home games. They played 34 of their first 57 games at Wrigley Field, where they have won better than 70% of their games.

Since early June, they have played more games on the road than at home, where they have not played well at all, winning barely more than 40% of their games.

2) Next, the level of competition has increased since then. They played all of their games against the weak NL West in the first half of the schedule, leaving no games against the likes of San Diego or San Francisco for the remainder of the year. The Cubs played very well against the West, going 23-10.

3) Also, interleague play started. As has been the case throughout baseball in the past, and certainly exemplified by their dominance in the All-Star games, the American league is the tougher league. The Cubs played to a losing record against the junior circuit, going 6-9 versus the AL.

4) Finally, in a strange scheduling quirk, the Cubs played the Pittsburgh Pirates twelve times before the end of May. And they won nine of those games.

So, while you might blame injuries to Soriano and Reed Johnson, I say there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why the Cubs looked like world beaters early on and have since sort of fizzled.

Not that there haven’t been other factors at play. Certainly, injuries affect all teams, to varying degrees, and those do take a toll on a team. And being the hunted, instead of the hunter, can bring about added stress.

But to think that the Cubs were once this team that was head and shoulders above everyone else just simply isn’t true. In fact, it all adds up when you analyze it.

All of which means that it’s going to be no cake walk again this year for our Cubbies. Which is alright. I mean, it’s the destination that matters, not the route taken along the journey.

Enjoy the ride. It may get a bit bumpy along the way, but hey, nothing worthwhile is ever easy they tell me. Come to think of it, it all makes sense if you just give it some thought.

-Bob Warja

Marlins-Cubs: Cubs take care of Marlins 9-6


Sorry I did not give a game recap for Saturday’s game, I was out town and did not have access to a computer. Well anyway on Saturday the Cubs lost 3-2 in 12 innings as Jeremy Hermida homered twice to lift the Marlins past the Cubs.

Rich Harden put in five innings of work he struck out 10 once again and allowed just one earned run. The loss however went to Chad Gaudin who gave up the game winning double in the top of the 12th which won the game for the Marlins. The winning pitcher for the Marlins was Justin Miller as Kevin Gregg picked up his 22nd save on the season.

Now onto Yesterday’s game, the Cubs took care of the Marlins 9-6 after trailing most of the game the Cubs scored four in the bottom of the seventh to take a 9-6 lead and which lead to an eventual win. Derrek Lee homered while Mike Fontenot hit a three-run double that scored Edmonds, Derosa and Ward.

Starting pitcher Jason Marquis went six innings allowing six earned runs on nine hits while striking out six and walking three. He however took a no decision as Chad Gaudin picked up the win and improved to 1-1 with the Cubs. Jeff Samardzija pitched two innings where he struck out three and allowed no hits to pick up his first save as a Cub.

Marlins starter Rick Vandenhurk pitched 3 2/3 innings allowing five earned runs on eight hits while striking out six and walking two. However the loss went to Mark Hendrickson who pitched three innings allowing three earned runs on three hits.

In the game all of the Marlins runs came via the home run as Mike Jacobs hit two home runs the first a three-run homer in the second the second was a two-run homer in the third. The third home run of the day for the Marlins came off the bat of Dan Uggla who hit a solo shot in the top of the fifth.

The Cubs trailed 5-0 after the top of the third but added two in the bottom of the third and added another three runs in the bottom of the fourth as Alfonso Soriano hit a three-run home run to tie the game at five.

The Marlins regained the lead in the fifth but the Cubs would take the lead in the seventh for good thanks to Lee and Fontenot.

With the victory the Cubs’ now sit at 61-44 as they hold a one game lead on the Brewers who they will play next. Pitching for the Cubs on Monday will be Ted Lilly who is 10-6 with a 4.49 ERA as C.C. Sabathia will go for the Brewers who is 4-0 with the Brewers and has a 1.36 ERA. Game time is set for 7:05 pm ct.

-Kevin Graczyk

Why I Feel Really Bad for Rich Harden


Rich Harden was the missing piece for the Cubs, and if you look at certain statistics, it doesn’t seem like he is really working out.

Sure, his 0-1 record doesn’t seem like the best way to start a season with a new team, but if you delve further than the most shallow of statistics, you will find that he has been lights out, but the Cubs offense when he pitches needs to show some light.

For example, a 1.04 ERA is spectacular, even if it over three starts, he has been unable to allow a lot of runs in a start.

Over 17.1 innings pitched, he has struck out 30 batters, which is almost two batters every inning. His WHIP is less than one, allowing only 16 batters in those 17 innings.

However, he can’t seem to get the offense that other pitchers have been afforded in their outings for the Cubs. Maybe it is just hazing the new guy, but the Cubs bats need to come to life a little more than they have been.

In Harden’s loss this season, the Cubs lost the game 2-0, not scoring a single run and leaving Harden’s seven inning, one run, one hit performance go unrewarded.

In his debut performance, he pitched 5.1 innings, struck out 10, allowed no runs, and was stuck with a no-decision because reliever Carlos Marmol blew the game for him.

Harden has allowed just two runs in his career with the Cubs, and has allowed no more than one run in any game, but he can’t seem to get everything going on the games where he pitches.

Harden may be happy to be a Cub and happy to be with the team with the best record in the NL, but he is going to start to be unhappy if he doesn’t start to get some help offensively and through his bullpen.

The Cubs take on the Brewers in a four-game series starting today, Harden is scheduled to start on Thursday where it is likely that he can finally get his first win as a Cub.

Although with his luck, Dave Bush is going to completely shut down the offense or somebody in the bullpen is going to blow the game.

Hopefully, though, it won’t happen that way and Harden can finally get a win.

Come to Think of it…Something Fishy Going on with the Cubs


As the Chicago Cubs continue their fall from grace, a familiar statement is etched upon the walls of Wrigley Field. Except you can’t see it because the ivy is covering it.

It says, “failed expectations,” year 100 version.

This was supposed to be our year. Just like 1969 was supposed to be. And 1984. And 2003. Get the picture?

Well, it still can be our year, but things have got to start changing immediately and I just don’t know how that is going to happen, given the trends.

First of all, the bullpen needs to improve and quickly. Yes, I know Kerry Wood is hurt, but a lot of the situations we’re getting burned by are earlier in the game, before Woody would even be in the game.

Let’s face it, Cub fans, this bullpen would try and use a wad of gum to stop a leak in the Titanic, for crying out loud.

It seems every time Bob Howry comes in, he gives up a run. Carlos Marmol got out of a jam yesterday but the old Marmol wouldn’t have even gotten into that jam in the first place.

And yes, let’s bring in the kid for his first ever major league appearance in a game situation, late and tied. Fit to be tied is how I’m feeling. Seems we’ve seen this plot before.

Lee and Ramirez, Ramirez and Lee. No matter how you slice it, those guys are not clutch hitters and both are prone to slumps that come in bunches. That’s what we saw in last year’s playoffs. And even when he’s not slumping, Lee couldn’t get a meaningful hit if you placed the ball on a tee for him.

Fukudome is starting to become a bust. OK, I said it, I went there. But hey, popularity isn’t why I write. And the truth is simply that we have three more, very expensive years of a powerless corner outfielder who can’t go anywhere.

Arghh.

What we do know is…

…that the Cubs can’t win on the road. Check.

…they are only 3-3 in their last six home games. Check.

…the bullpen is a mess. Check.

…Soriano is back. Check. (Hey I may be a realist, but I’m not a fatalist)

…After two more home games, they travel to Milwaukee for a four game series against the second place (but perhaps soon to be first place) Brewers.

The Brewers want to win as badly as the Cubs. Which isn’t fair, this is our year, dammit, so why can’t all the other clubs just lay down and let us win this thing? Let them wait their turn. The poor Brewers haven’t sniffed the playoffs since 1982? Well, boo f’ing hoo. You won’t get any sympathy from a Cubs fan.

Oh well, at least Rich Harden goes for the Cubs on Saturday. Hopefully, he’ll get his first win as a Cub. He’ll be opposed by tall righthander Chris Volstad, who has pitched well in the first three starts of his career.

Strap it on, Cubs fans, it’s a long season. Come to think of it, you might want to bring some newspaper to wrap the fish.

-Bob Warja

Ryan Dempster Finally Loses at Home


Kevin Graczyk is a new writer for The Daily Cub. He is a writes avidly about the Cubs and will be published often on this site.

The Giants handed Ryan Dempster his first home loss with 4-2 victory Sunday in Chicago.

Dempster pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed four earned runs on seven hits while striking out six and walking three. With the loss, Dempster fell to 10-4 on the season.

The Giants got on the board first in the top of the third when Tim Lincecum hit his first career triple that drove in Omar Vizquel. They added two more runs on a Ray Durham single that drove in both Fred Lewis and Lincecum to give them a 3-0 lead.

The Cubs scored one run in the next inning when Jim Edmonds doubled to drive in Mark Derosa.

With the Giants leading 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, they were able to add an insurance run on a triple by Lewis that gave them a little bit more breathing room.

In the top of the ninth, the Cubs managed to put up another run on a Geovany Soto single that drove in Edmonds to put them within two at 4-2, but Reed Johnson was left stranded at third and Brian Wilson shut door to pick up his 25th save of the season.

Lincecum, who started for the Giants, pitched eight solid innings allowing just one earned run on six hits while striking out nine and walking only one. With the win, he improves to 11-2 on the season.

The Cubs finish the first half of the season with a 57-38 record and an astonishing 37-12 home record—but a 20-26 road record, something they will have to work on in the second half. In the National League Central the hold a 4 1/2 game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers and a five game lead on the St. Louis Cardinals.

Next up, some of the Cubs players will participate in the All-Star game on Tuesday—chosen to participate are Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Kosuke Fukudome, Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto, and Alfonso Soriano, who has been replaced. Carlos Marmol has also just been announced as a replacement for Kerry Wood.

After the All-Star break, the Cubs will start off the second half as they travel to Houston to take on the Astros for three games starting on Friday July 18th.

-Kevin Graczyk

Come to Think of it…How Tough is the Cubs NL Central Competition


Now that the dust has settled a bit from the whirlwind of trade activity over the past week, let’s see where this division stands in regard to the three main contenders. Yes, I say three because you can’t count out the Cardinals just because they haven’t (and most likely will not) answer the moves of the Cubs and Brewers.

The NL Central has undergone quite a transformation over the past year. In 2007, it was considered the weakest division in baseball. Now it is probably the strongest in the National League. Amongst both leagues, I’d rank the NL Central second behind the AL East in terms of strength. That’s a credit to how well all three contenders have played this year, as well as recognizing the improvements made in the offseason and during the season.

I’ll analyze each of the three rivals and come up with my prediction of a division winner (I’ll give you a hint, they wear blue and sing a happy little song called “Go Cubs Go” after every home win. Other than that, I can’t tell you because then I’d have to kill you).

St. Louis Cardinals

Everyone is asking, what will the Cards do in response to the Brewers and Cubs recent trade activity? Well, heck, I’m asking how in the world are they still in this race and doing so well with all of the injuries they’ve had? If they haven’t made any trade splashes thus far, in response to injuries, then I hardly would expect anything major to occur just in response to what the Cubs & Brewers have done.

I mean, they lost their best hitter, Albert Pujols, yet kept right on truckin’ along. They still don’t know when their ace pitcher, Chris Carpenter, is coming back. Those two things alone would force most teams to make some desperate moves. But that just isn’t the Cards style.

They did make a very smart and cost efficient acquisition in the offseason of pitcher Kyle Lohse, and it has paid off handsomely thus far. But Wellemyre’s phenomenal May appears over, and they don’t know how much they can count on him going forward. Mark Mulder came off the DL then went right back on it again and his career may be over. Adam Wainwright will not return until August.

But offensively, All-star Ryan Ludwig has been a pleasant surprise and Ankiel and Pujols continue to rake. Aaron Miles and Yadier Molina are both hitting over .300.

St. Louis currently sits in third place, 4.5 games in back of the Cubs, and just .5 in back of Milwaukee. Despite its likely inactivity at the trading deadline, Tony LaRussa, Dave Duncan & Co. are too good to dismiss. They will be a factor most of the season, until fading in September, finishing third.

Milwaukee Brewers

Of course, the big news exciting Brewers fans has been the acquisition of star pitcher CC Sabathia. And with good reason, for Sabathia is the reigning Cy Young award winner in the AL, and had been pitching very well of late for the Indians. But the question always comes down to the health of Ben Sheets. There has never been any doubt about the talent of Sheets. It’s just that he’s had difficulty staying on the field. So far, so good as Sheets is 10-3 with a 2.85 ERA and might be the starting pitcher in the All-star game.

But as soon as the news of Sabathia came about, the Brewers had to put Jeff Suppan on the DL. Though he is scheduled to return the fifth day following the break, he has not been pitching well this season, sporting a 5-6 record with a 4.76 ERA. Dave Bush struck out a career high 13 batters on Thursday, and has been pitching well of late. Manny Para has been a pleasant surprise, going 8-2 with a 3.65 ERA so far. Overall, however, Brewer pitchers rank 7th in ERA and 9th in BAA. Expect Sheets to miss time in the second half.

Offensively, All-star Ryan Braun leads the attack, but shortstop JJ Hardy has been on fire recently. Fellow All-star Corey Hart is hitting well. And though his numbers are down across the board, Prince Fielder is always dangerous. But they are very much an “all of nothing” offense. Overall, they rank 6th in runs scored and only 9th in OBP.

The Brewers currently sit in second place, four games behind the Cubs. While there’s no question that the Sabathia deal has energized the club, and has sent a strong message that they want to win now, their bullpen struggles and they will come up just short again, shades of 2007.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs have missed Alfonso Soriano, and if his hand is strong when he comes back, they will receive a boost offensively when he returns after the All-star break.

Theriot continues to bat above .300 and the Cubs hope to prevent him from enduring the same kind of second half slump that occurred last season. Another possible concern is the continued struggles of Fukudome. His average is down to .282 and he has struck out 72 times already. He looks weak at the plate. Perhaps some time off will re-energize him, because the Cubs certainly need his left-handed bat in the lineup. In addition to the mainstays, Lee, Ramirez and De Rosa, Geo Soto has also improved the lineup considerably this year.

On the mound, the Cubs now have a very strong 1-4 rotation, with Zambrano again healthy and looking dominant. He is joined by fellow All-star Ryan Dempster, who has been a very pleasant surprise, newcomer Rich Harden and Ted Lilly. Jason Marquis and Sean Marshall will battle it out for the 5th spot the rest of the season. The key here is keeping Harden healthy. If they can, there will be no stopping the Cubs.

The Cubs currently sit in first place and expect them to remain there. Sure, there may be periods of inconsistency, especially if they don’t improve their play on the road. But they have the most depth and the experience of winning the division last year, so it’s on to the playoffs for our Cubbies again in 2008.

Come to think of it, the winner is…the Cubs!

Jerry Hairston Hates His Former Team


Last night, Jerry Hairston made a return to Wrigley Field, where he formerly played as a Cub.

He doesn’t have the fondest memories from Chicago, but they aren’t bad either. He was an average player who started occasionally.

Now, he is a member of the Cincinnati Reds, and he has to be starting to hate the team he once called family.

He had sure hits be stolen by him by Cubs defenders. First, a blooper into center field was caught by Jim Edmonds laying out to make a diving catch, robbing him of a sure single.

In his next at bat, Hairston sent a laser ground-ball towards third base, but Aramis Ramirez made a diving stop and a quick throw to first to get him out, stealing yet another hit from Hairston.

In his third at bat, another laser to third. Another diving stop by Ramirez. Another quick throw to keep Hairston from reaching first base safely.

If it’s any consolation, your brother hit a three-run home run last night, are you happy for your brother? No, understandable.

In other news from last night, Ryan Dempster pitched another lights out performance, and is looking more and more like he isn’t going to falter any time soon.

The All-Star now has 10 wins on the season. He has also been extremely strong at home, this was hit 10th straight win at home, yet he stays winless on the road.

“I’ll win a game on the road eventually this year. It’ll happen, it’ll come. I’ll keep plugging away. We play so well at home and, for whatever reason, it’s just been rolling at home, for me and for the team, and that’s the way it should be,” said Dempster.

The Cubs ended the game with a 7-3 victory, which included another home run by Geovany Soto, his is showing more and more power as the season goes along.

Mike Fontenot hit a two-run home run into the basket in the fourth inning, which isn’t as surprising as it seems according to Ryan Theriot.

“He’s always been able to hit the ball out of the park,” Theriot said. “It might have something to do with his arms being shorter than anybody else’s.”

Fontenot’s new official nickname is T-Rex, for his ability to hit things long distances, and his short arms.

With last night’s win against the Reds, the Cubs keep a 3.5-game lead on the Cardinals for first place in the division.

With the Rays losing, the Cubs are closer to reclaiming the best record in the majors.

The Cubs play tonight at 7:05 PM, Johnny Cuento (7-8) takes on Carlos Zambrano (9-3).