Cubs Take Flight Against Cardinals

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs

You have to hand it to Luis Valbuena. The guy who gives the “Peace sign to the sky” quietly goes about his business and gets it done. Knocking out another home run to put the Cubs ahead of rivals St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs went on to defeat the Red Birds 7-6.

The Cubs haven’t had it easy in July and this win was only their fourth out of the last seventeen. Their Wild Card dream is just a child’s “before bed prayer” but what the Cubs proved yesterday was they do have some talent and these sporadic wins are paving the way for a bigger picture.

Neil Ramirez. What more can be said about a guy who gives a kid a baseball at his first ball game? Well, the guy also throws some spectacular flames. He proved that yesterday against Matt Carpenter. If Mona Lisa played baseball, she would look like that out in the eighth. A thing of beauty leaving runners stranded.

“Carpenter is a tough out, a very tough out,” Ramirez said. “I tried to reach back and get a little bit extra today. I was able to get it past him and it was exciting.”

No way, Carpenter a tough out? If I looked into my crystal ball again, that play will be the Cubs every game in a couple of years. The Cubs haven’t seen those kind of moves since, well, since Carlos Marmol had that lights out kind of year.

Nope, those low key guys like Valbuena and Ramirez are key cogs that are slowly turning this team around. Never mind the leadership of Anthony Rizzo or the starry eyed Castro, the Cubs are hitting pay dirt with the extraordinary workmanlike play of these unassuming gentlemen. Wait, let’s not forget the Home Run hitting machine, Travis Wood. Now that’s versatility!

Speaking of unassuming turnarounds, our son was saying his prayers last night and I quote, “Bless baseball. I love you so much.”

Yup, you never know what comes out of a three year old’s mouth.

Believe it.

—Mark

Feldmania No More & The Cubs Get An Athletic Workout

Alfonso Soriano blasts a three Run Homer.

Alfonso Soriano blasts a three Run Homer.

Yesterday was a busy day for the Cubs. Beloved starting pitcher Scott Feldman, was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta.

When I first heard the news I was stunned. I thought it would have been Matt Garza being traded but he could still go before the deadline of July 31.

“I don’t think this team improves by trading Scott Feldman,” Jeff Samardzija said. “He was one of our better pitchers. He’s thrown a lot of innings, a solid dude, a solid guy in the clubhouse.

It’s too early to tell but in some ways I agree with Jeff because I didn’t see this one happening at all. However, I do trust Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s decision. They get paid to study the game and I’ll bet a Toonie to a Loonie that they’ve got a trick up their sleeve.

“It’s never easy to give up a guy who has performed well for you, but to have two power arms is important.” Jed Hoyer said.

The Cubs didn’t stop there. Carlos Marmol went to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Matt Gurrier and some draft picks.

This deal was a little less surprising. Marmol was overstaying his welcome in Chicago and for some strange reason, he wasn’t throwing them like he used to a couple of years ago. It’s too bad because I thought he has a lot of talent, but I’m glad he gets a chance for a fresh start in Los Angeles. They’re a team that is still very much in it and acquiring Marmol could be the key that will turn it over for the Dodgers. Break a leg Carlos!

“The decision [to designate him] really came down to it that he had become a distraction. It became hard to pitch as well as he could, because every time he threw two balls, he’d get booed, and I don’t think that’s easy for anybody.” Hoyer said.

So, with the new acquisitions, does it make the Cubs a better team? We’ll have to wait and see, but I can tell you that this season has been really exciting to watch and every change that happens is good at this point.

Now, onto Oakland—

It was a valiant effort by the Chicago Cubs as they lost their first visit to Oakland, 8-7. Chris Rusin was called up in place of Scott Feldman but was replaced in the bottom of the fourth by Carlos “The Villan” Villanueva.

After the Cubs led 7-5, it was a home run off of James Russell by Derek Norris that sealed the win for the Athletics. The Cubs lost the momentum after that.

“You go to sleep and start a new day,” Russell said. “That’s the thing about baseball. You get your butt kicked one night and you get to wake up and do the same thing all over again.”

I wouldn’t call yesterday’s game a butt kicking because the Cubs went toe to toe against the Athletics proving that there is something special percolating within this young Cubs organization.

“It’s almost comical to see this happen every single night,” Dale Sveum said. “We have the lead and get beat by guys who sometimes hardly even hit home runs. Norris had one at-bat off a left-hander in 15 days and beats us with a three-run homer.”

Alfonso Soriano had another huge game for the Cubs hitting a three run home run in the fourth inning. Way to go Fonzi!

Matt Garza gets the start today as the Cubs are looking for redemption against the Athletics. Game time is 10:05pm eastern.

—Mark

Cubs Feeling Athletic

When I saw that the Cubs were playing the Oakland Athletics for the first time in Oakland, my reaction was,”They never played there before?”

It’s going to be a tough series. Oakland is in a playoff hunt and is looking at this series as a doormat into the Series.

Scott Feldman takes to the mound and is looking for his eighth win of the season.

“They’ve always been a tough team for me,” Feldman said. “They’ve got some tough outs in the lineup and guys who put up good at-bats against me. I’ve just got to watch some video and make an adjustment and hopefully do better than I have in the past.”

This could be a golden opportunity for the Cubs to play spoiler to these playoff bound teams. Oakland is .05 game out of first and let’s face it, the Cubs have nothing to lose. This series could be a shining moment for prospects and trade baits to strut their stuff.

Game time is 10:05 eastern.

—————————————————————————————————————–

There’s word out of the Dodgers camp that Carlos Marmol might be joining them on their roster. The details of what the terms were are vague or what the Cubs will receive in return, but I can guarantee that a change of scenery is just what Carlos Marmol needs to get his head back into the game.

Marmol’s best season was 2010 when he saved 38 games.

—Mark

Cubs Have Flashbacks

Cubs Mariners Baseball

Not only was it “Throwback” Saturday, but it was also a throwback to a time when the Chicago Cubs can pull out last minute heroics as they went on to beat the Seattle Turks, I mean Mariners in the 11th inning 5-3.

Alfonso Soriano provided his ninth home run of the season and Starlin Castro notched his fourth home run but it was the throwback play of Alfonso Soriano that gave the Cubs the win.

Cubs “new” closer, Blake Parker garnered his first career save yesterday and might have sealed the deal as to who will be the next Cubs closer after the Cubs gave Carlos Marmol his walking papers earlier this week.

“It’s a position I’m comfortable in, for sure,” Parker said. “Going out there in tight situations is where any competitor wants to be. When it’s a close game and for all the marbles and everything’s on the line, usually that’s when most people are at their best. Gregg’s done a great job all year, and I’ll go out and compete no matter what role I’m in.”

As July waits in the wings, the Cubs continue to have more questions than answers. Who will be dealt come the trade deadline on July 31 and who will remain as the Cubs closer? Even though Kevin Gregg’s name has been whispered among the people in the know, could he stay with the Cubs? I would like to see him hang around for at least another season, but I doubt that will happen. Dale Sveum was pretty excited about Blake Parker’s play yesterday.

“He showed me a lot today,” Sveum said of the right-hander. “That’s a nice asset, to know it wasn’t a deer in the headlights in that situation in the big leagues.”

It’s just one game, but it could very well have signalled a vote in Blake Parker’s direction. now, instead of trading Kevin Gregg for another prospect, the Cubs could get a young arm. We’ll have to wait and see once the list of available players is out.

One thing is for certain, Alfonso Soriano played in the DH spot yesterday and it’s looking very likely that he’ll be heading to the American League very soon.

The Cubs look to close out the series today before heading to Oakland to square off against the Athletics on Tuesday.

Game time today is 4:10 eastern time and Edwin Jackson is looking for his fourth win of the season.

—Mark

No Miller Time For The Cubs

Edwin Jackson

Just as I wrote a post about Nate Schierholtz, he goes and does it again hitting his 11th home run of the season but the Cubs fell short 9-3 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Edwin Jackson had a rough outing on the mound watching six runs score after six hits. Now that’s rough.

I don’t think it had anything to do with how Edwin pitched but having one bad inning probably shook his confidence a bit.

“I put myself in a position to get out of that inning with one run and still a 3-2 game, and I wasn’t able to put those guys away,” Jackson said. “The balls were up, or too much over the plate with two strikes.”

It was a pretty ugly game for the North Siders. See, this is where Edwin might need to take a break for a game or two to build up his confidence again. I see Starlin Castro was rested for the game.

The Cubs continue with the series today. Scott Feldman is on the mound to face Yovani Gallardo. Game time is 8:10 eastern.

In other news:

The Cubs have designated Carlos Marmol for assignment. it’s bittersweet for me to see him go. I think Carlos is one of the most terrifying closers in the game when he’s on, but this year either he’s lost his enthusiasm or maybe the stuff just ain’t there anymore. I don’t know.

Carlos ranked third on the all time list in saves for the Cubs with 117.

“Obviously, he hasn’t had the slider he had when he first was closing, so it’s more difficult to close out games, but there’s something there that can still help people and maybe a change of scenery can help,” Dale Sveum said.

All right, I haven’t touched on this too much but I’m glad Ian Stewart is gone. Perhaps it was inevitable, but in this day and age, Twitter has become a valuable resource for professionals and Ian Stewart was not acting in a professional way. Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein made the right call in this situation.

“The decision was for the two sides to part ways,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It allows Ian to potentially continue his career somewhere else, and for us, I think it was the right time to go in a different direction.”

Case closed.

–Mark

No Marmol- Aid on the Table

Carlos Marmol(49) walks to the dugout as Kirk Niewenhuis celebrates.

Carlos Marmol(49) walks to the dugout as Kirk Niewenhuis celebrates.

I feel bad for Carlos Marmol, I really do. The Cubs took a 3-0 lead into the ninth inning only to have it slip away from their grasp as the New York Mets went on to defeat the Cubs 4-3.

Baseball is a funny game where it seems like there isn’t a lot of stress and I’ll be the first to admit that. Managers and players chewing gum and spitting sunflower seeds on the tips of their shoes in the dugout. Hell, what do players think about in the outfield as they’re kicking divets of grass and adjusting their ball caps?

That’s on the surface. underneath it all, baseball is a very stressful game. It’s a game of stats, of lineups and of velocity.

So, how hard can baseball be?

When your team is up 3-0 and it’s the bottom of the ninth and you have three outs left to wrap it up and go home. That’s how freakin’ damn hard baseball can be.

“The guy it’s toughest on right now is Marmol,” Matt Garza said. “He tries really hard and he wants it really bad, but it just happens.”

Yes it does. Stuff happens. Matt Garza was pitching a great game and even though he watched it go for nought, he knows what Carlos Marmol is feeling right now when he powers up his IPAD this morning and reads the Chicago headlines about the defeat and about the loss of a sweep.

Other teammates were frustrated and rightfully so. Ask Alfonso Soriano:

“When we have a 99 (percent) chance to win the game, it’s very tough the last inning,” he said. “Three outs left and we lost the game. It’s unacceptable, especially when we’re winning 3-0 and Garza’s pitching a very good game.

I’m sure there’s going to be lots of criticism this morning and finger pointing, but lets get it right;

“There are only certain people that can get those last three outs sometimes,” Dale Sveum said. “We all know that he’s gotten a lot of saves in his career. But for some reason now … he doesn’t quite have the slider he used to, so it’s not that easy. But something is going on in the other innings that’s not going on in the last inning.”

Before anyone screams for Carlos Marmol’s head, think about what it’s going to do to his mental game. Carlos Marmol has great stuff and whatever he’s going through, he’ll get it back. He’s erratic, unpredictable and wild. When he’s in the zone, he’s a legend. He’ll get it back.

Right now, the Cubs have another daunting task ahead of them. Shelby Miller and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Game Time is 7:05 eastern.

–Mark

Fonzi Shows his Cool

cincinnati-reds-v-chicago-cubs-20130504-111920-356

It didn’t end in a win, but the Chicago Cubs played like they wanted one. The team’s leader Alfonso Soriano fired two Home Runs into the bleachers but it wasn’t enough as the Reds beat them 6-4

“Sometimes we don’t get the big hit and sometimes we don’t get the big outs,” Soriano said of the season so far. “That’s the difference between a first-place team and a last-place team. We have so many games, and we’re winning in the sixth, seventh innings and we give it to the other team. We have to learn how to win.”

The Cubs have the players, they have the desire but the one thing they need to do is to learn how to win in the close ones and maintain the leads because we know that they can come back in the games.

However, I feel bad for Carlos Marmol. The “Marmol-Aid” isn’t working and it’s not because he doesn’t have the stuff anymore, but there is something that needs fixing.

“He’ll be pitching in roles with the game on the line, early in the game, or whatever,” Sveum said. “One way or the other, he’s got to get fixed. I don’t even know if he threw a strike today. There were a couple swings, but I don’t know if they were strikes. One way or the other, we have to get him fixed, because he’s got to pitch.”

I’m sure Coach Sveum has a plan in place for Marmol so I’m not going to harp on him anymore.

The Cubs finish up the Reds today at 2:20pm Edwin Jackson has the ball and I’m expecting his first win of the season.

—Mark