Cubs

Cubs prepared to make last stand at Wrigley

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Cubs prepared to make last stand at Wrigley

Monday, Sept. 20, 2010
8:14 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

In six days Wrigley Field will go dark until April 1, 2011. The front office has approximately 117 more innings left in this season to help it decide which pieces should be kept for the next Opening Day.

The San Francisco Giants will wake up Tuesday morning in first place in the National League West, though less than two games separate them from the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies within the division.

That will give some meaning to a three-game series that begins Tuesday night in a city that has moved on to the 2-0 Bears. The years final homestand ends with the St. Louis Cardinals, who could be mathematically eliminated by the weekend.

The goal is to again become playoff contenders, and general manager Jim Hendry has said that the Cubs are only a few moves away, though at this point its unclear what they will be or how much money he will have to spend.

The stronger you finish this year, the more positive things (can happen) next year, Ryan Dempster said. Thats why I think its important to go through the finish line and not to it, because a lot of good comes out of it.

Lets say you were one of the 41,306 fans walking out of the ballpark on April 12 and someone stopped you on Clark Street to tell you all this. After the 2010 home opener, would you take it?

Carlos Zambrano hasnt lost a game since June 25. Dempster is closing in on a 15-win season. Ted Lilly is nearing 30 starts and almost 200 innings with his surgically-repaired left shoulder.

Carlos Marmol has more strikeouts by far than any other reliever in baseball and could finish with close to 40 saves in his first full season as closer. Sean Marshall has developed into one of the best set-up men in baseball.

Alfonso Soriano hasnt spent any time on the disabled list this year. Marlon Byrd is an All-Star. Geovany Soto can put his offensive numbers up against any other catcher. Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin have been in the Rookie of the Year conversation.

That of course isnt a complete view of the big picture. With all that has gone right, the Cubs (68-81) wont spend a single moment above .500 all season.

No one knows if that masks deeper flaws on this roster what if theres a drop-off in any of those areas next year? or maybe you can write-off Aramis Ramirez still hitting under .200 in July as a freak occurrence and bank on some of the 16 other rookies the Cubs used this season to show significant growth in 2011.

(Lets) just keep riding it out, Jeff Samardzija said. Trust me its better to end a season on a positive note than a negative note.

Soto and Colvin spent Mondays day off in separate hospitals roughly 1,300 miles apart. Soto underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in Chicago and is expected to be at full health by New Years Day. Colvin will remain in Miami for further observation after a broken maple bat punctured his chest cavity the day before.

That Colvin became such an integral part of this unpredictable season even though its now over for him will go down as one of its biggest surprises.

Pieces from teams that won two division titles were sold off to the Los Angeles Dodgers (Lilly, Ryan Theriot) and Atlanta Braves (Derrek Lee). Mike Fontenot will be back at Wrigley Field this week in a San Francisco uniform.

If you bought tickets months in advance hoping to see a team fighting for a playoff spot, then the Giants are as good as its going to get. And what might have been a farewell tour for Lou Piniella will instead be a homecoming for Mike Quade.

The Cubs are 17-7 since Quade took over for Piniella and that represents the best start by a Cubs manager in 78 years, since Charlie Grimm in 1932. They just finished an 8-1 road trip, something that had never happened before in club history.

You mean that dude in 32 didnt do that? Quade joked when relayed the stat.

Its hard to ignore the results, and just as difficult to make evaluations once the pressures off and the rosters expand in September.

But the pitching staff did post a 1.46 ERA on the nine-game trip. The veterans still seem very much engaged, and the young players have responded to a new voice. Taken together, that cant hurt Quades candidacy, though he wont say so publicly.

I got Oct. 3 on my mind to do the best job that we can do for the next two weeks, Quade said. Its foolish for me to go any further than that.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Kris Bryant jumping at thunder during a rain delay is pure comedy

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WGN

Kris Bryant jumping at thunder during a rain delay is pure comedy

The Cubs-Braves game on Wednesday got delayed due to a thunderstorm that blew through Chicago.

It made for a pretty scene with a pink and orange sky during sunset that made way to rain clouds, thunder and lightning. Fox Sports South captured the footage of the Wrigley sky and then caught Kris Bryant jumping and then running in the dugout at the sound of thunder.

Even former MVPs can be scared of thunder.

 

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Cubs will need more than Craig Kimbrel to completely change fortunes

Cubs will need more than Craig Kimbrel to completely change fortunes

Cubs fans are understandably excited Craig Kimbrel is ready to make his debut with the team later this week.

He's a future Hall of Fame closer who is still in the midst of his prime and could very well be a shutdown reliever for the entire second half of the season.

But while the bullpen was a clear weakness of this team during tough times earlier in the season, the Cubs haven't slogged out to a 12-12 record in June because their back-end relievers have been blowing late leads.

So how much of a direct impact will Kimbrel have on the team's success? We don't know for sure, but let's look back at every loss this month and see if he would've been able to change the outcome in any ballgame:

June 1 — Cardinals 7, Cubs 4

Kimbrel probably wouldn't have pitched in a game that featured a three-hour rain delay, as Tyler Chatwood gave up 3 runs in the sixth inning in relief of Jose Quintana and the Cubs never even tied the game again.

June 2 — Cardinals 2, Cubs 1 

This was at least a close game, but the Cubs actually trailed 2-0 heading to the top of the ninth inning, when they mounted a comeback against the St. Louis bullpen that fell just short. Either way, it's almost assuredly not a game Kimbrel would have even made it into.

June 6 — Rockies 3, Cubs 1

Quintana gave up all 3 runs before the seventh inning ended and the Cubs offense could do nothing against a rookie making his first MLB start (Peter Lambert).

June 10 — Rockies 6, Cubs 5

Here's one where having Kimbrel could've had an indirect impact. The Cubs never had a save situation, but they did lose the game because the bullpen gave up solo runs in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings. If Kimbrel is in the 'pen, the trickle down effect comes into play, which means Joe Maddon has more options at his disposal — including Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop earlier in the game. However, it was Cishek that was saddled with the loss by allowing a run in the eighth inning. The only way it would've set up any differently with Kimbrel is if the Cubs used Cishek in the seventh inning and slotted Strop in for the eighth, and the result may have been different. So we'll say Kimbrel could've had an impact on this one, albeit indirectly.

June 11 — Rockies 10, Cubs 3

When you're losing 9-1 going into the seventh inning, what does it matter who your closer is?

June 13 — Dodgers 7, Cubs 3

This one was all about the Dodgers being good and Jon Lester struggling and had nothing to do with the bullpen. The Cubs mounted a 3-0 lead, but their ace gave it all back and then some — allowing 3 homers and 6 runs over 5 innings. The bullpen would not have done much in this game.

June 14 — Dodgers 5, Cubs 3

Rinse and repeat. The Cubs once again jumped out to an early lead, but starting pitching couldn't hold it as Kyle Hendricks was touched up for 5 runs in 4.1 innings in his final appearance before hitting the injured list. The Cubs bullpen actually pitched admirably in the contest, throwing 3.2 shutout innings against a very good lineup.

June 16 — Dodgers 3, Cubs 2

It's certainly possible this one would've been different if Kimbrel were around. With something of a limited bullpen and Brandon Kintzler already pitching earlier in the contest, Cishek was forced to throw multiple innings and gave up the winning run in the eighth — his second inning of work — to break a 2-2 tie. Again, Kimbrel likely would not have been pitching in that spot, but if he was around and available, maybe Maddon could've gone with Strop or somebody else instead of utilizing Cishek for a second inning.

June 18 — White Sox 3, Cubs 1

Ahh, the Eloy Game. Also a game that it's very possible we would've seen Kimbrel, but you can't really fault Maddon with how this one played out. Cubs had a fresh bullpen coming off a rare off-day and watched Cole Hamels throw a gem, allowing just 1 run in 7 innings. Kintzler pitched a scoreless eighth inning in a tie ballgame and then Maddon called on Strop to throw the ninth inning — when Eloy Jimenez had his signature moment. Maybe Maddon would've gone to Kimbrel to pitch the top of the ninth inning, but you can't really lament losing when one of your best relievers is pitching late in a tie game and it doesn't work out.

June 21 — Mets 5, Cubs 4

Cubs jumped out to a 4-3 lead on Addison Russell's 2-run homer, but Yu Darvish couldn't hold it, giving the lead right back the following inning. The Cubs then lost the game when embattled reliever Brad Brach came into a 4-4 tie and gave up a single that eventually came around to score the winning run. Maybe Kimbrel's presence would've changed that outcome, as it could've been another reliever in the game besides Brach, but the Cubs still didn't hit much (Darvish accounted for half their runs) and it was a couple of groundball basehits that led to the winning run scoring, so it's not like Brach and Mike Montgomery got lit up.

June 22 — Mets 10, Cubs 2

This was a clunker of a game that was over well before either team's bullpen figured into things.

June 25 — Braves 3, Cubs 2

Hard to win many games scoring only 2 runs. Maybe Montgomery would not have been pitching in the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead if Kimbrel were around, but the Cubs also needed/wanted some length after Adbert Alzolay's 4.2-inning start and Montgomery had retired five of the six batters he faced before allowing the game-winning homer. 

So in total, we're looking at maybe three games this month in which Kimbrel could've played a role and potentially changed the outcome for the Cubs. But even those three games are a stretch — who knows if they would've still lost each one of those contests anyways.

This serves as just another reminder that Kimbrel isn't the Cubs' savior. While he will be a very nice piece in the bullpen and help create a positive trickle down effect on the pitching staff, he can't do anything to impact the Cubs' offense or starting pitching and those are the biggest issues plaguing the team at the moment.