May 31, 2010

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / May 31, 2010

You might have noticed that this series started before a preview went up. Well, I guess the preview will be that much more goddamn accurate then. Enjoy it.

The Pirates return home after a disastrous 1-6 road trip and have now lost nine of 11. That streak has forced this blog to juxtapose a spelled out single digit number with a two digit ordinal number thus making us look like complete idiots, yet we're using proper Associated Press style there, so I guess you shouldn't have been all critical to start with.

The main culprit for the losing spell is, of course, a lack of scoring. This has been going on all year, for example: Charlie Morton has been rightly blamed for having an awful year, but the Pirates have scored 1, 0, 1, 3, 2, 4, 0, 2, 2 and 2 runs in his starts. Not even Cy Maholm himself would have won most of those games.

Chicago Cubs - Monday 1:35, Tuesday 7:05, Wednesday 7:05
Fun fact about the pictured Cubs fan: She's a radio sports reporter in Chicago. Perhaps her employers didn't realize this when they hired her, but radio is sound with no pictures.

The Cubs come to town 24-27, and need a good series to avoid falling into Devil Rays "Piniella is the star of the team" territory. The front end of their bullpen has been a disaster. Sean Marshall (5-1, 1.82), Carlos Marmol (1.46, 11 saves, 1 million strikeouts), and James Russell (0-1, 2.33) have been Sweet Lou's only reliable relievers. Everyone else in their bullpen who has pitched more than 5 innings has a minimum ERA of 6.12. This is a recipe for a Piniella meltdown of epic proportions, although he usually saves those for the home fans.

Monday's game matches Ross Ohlendorf (0-3, 5.11) and Randy Wells (3-3, 4.79). Wells has been Chicago's least effective starter but still has respectable numbers. Ohlendorf has been pretty bad thus far, but it's about time for him to hit his stride. In holiday day games, Ross is boss. If you're going to PNC Park for the patriotic Pirate hat, I expect intermittent thunderstorms so sit under the roof. My pick is the Pirates.

Tuesday the Pirates go with Jeff Karstens (1-1, 4.78) against Ted Lilly (1-4, 3.63). Karstens takes Charlie Morton's rotation spot as Brad Lincoln is apparently in AAA until he can improve his changeup. "You don't need a good secondary pitch to be a major league pitcher," said Morton when he heard that news. In his last start, Casey Blake got mad at Lilly for pitching in front of the rubber whick Blake said is an unfair advantage, although really if that happens it's the umpire's fault. Anyway, the Pirates are surprisingly good against lefthanded starters, probably because lefties keep Ryan Church and Jeff Clement out of the lineup. My pick is the Pirates.

Wednesday Carlos Zambrano (1-3, 6.12) makes his triumphant return to the rotation and faces Zach Duke (3-5, 5.09). Zambrano is a 29 year old ace who started 242 games for the Cubs, and Piniella demoted him to the bullpen in April following a start in which he gave up two runs. Now Piniella has declared the Zambrano-in-relief move a failure following five consecutive appearances in which he wasn't scored on. But what would you expect from an organization that rushed a 20-year-old shortstop who can't field to the majors, forcing a pretty good shortstop in Ryan Theriot to move to second base, all for the sake of benching Mike Fontenot. Mike Fontenot is currently having a career year, hitting .337/.386/.500, so I guess it's important to keep his bat out of the lineup. Zach Duke is great in home games, so my pick is the Pirates.

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