Cubs

Zambranos winning streak is over and done

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Zambranos winning streak is over and done

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Posted: 4:40 p.m. Updated: 6:35 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Mike Quade walked into the interview room on Saturday afternoon with announcement to make: Kerry Woods vacation is over. The reliever who hadnt pitched since April 16 would start ahead of Carlos Zambrano on Sunday.

The manager was joking, and maybe a little annoyed at people wondering why Wood was sitting in the bullpen that long.

The Cubs do not need a radical solution like moving Wood to the rotation (an idea that also happens to be completely unrealistic). They need Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner to get healthy. They need their big-money pitchers to play up to their contracts. Theyll keep waiting.

The Los Angeles Dodgers buried Zambrano in the first inning of Sundays 7-3 loss in front of 32,943 fans at Wrigley Field. It snapped Zambranos personal 10-game winning streak, the longest for a Cubs pitcher since Rick Sutcliffe won 16 in a row across the 1984-85 seasons.

Its over with, Zambrano said. Lets get a new winning streak. I knew sooner or later I was going to lose a game. Lets move on. Lets focus on my next (one).

The Cubs rank last in the majors with five quality starts this season. They led the National League with 96 last year. As much as anything, that explains why theyre now 10-11 and havent won more than two games in a row.

Just too much to overcome, Quade said. Normally when you get on a roll and you start playing well consistently, it has a lot to do with your starting pitching. And once we get that straightened out, Ill feel pretty good about this thing. Were just very inconsistent in that area right now.

Ex-Cub Aaron Miles who went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored tripled to lead off the game. The first five Dodgers reached base and all five scored. It was pretty much game over at that point.

The Dodgers (12-11) just hammered the ball all weekend, and the Cubs were lucky that they didnt get swept. Los Angeles scored 27 runs during this three-game series.

Were right there, third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. I think weve been lucky because we havent pitched the way we liked to. Were giving up a lot of runs, but Im pretty sure we got some good arms here and the pitchers are going to come around.

The last time Zambrano lost a game June 25, 2010 he was kicked out of U.S. Cellular Field. He steered a question about what hes learned during the streak, how hes grown as a pitcher, back toward the team.

Defensive breakdowns led to that meltdown, but there was Zambrano going over to Darwin Barney and telling the second baseman to forget about the error he just made.

Zambrano promised to get the next guy out in the second, and sure enough he induced an inning-ending double play. Zambrano (2-1, 5.28) allowed six runs on eight hits across five innings. But that response may have been just as revealing.

Z loves to play hard, Barney said. He loves guys that play hard. He knows were playing hard behind him.

At this point, it all depends on whether youre an optimist or a pessimist. The Cubs are still hanging around first place, but theyve missed a real opportunity to create some space within the division.

Until the starters get rolling, Wood will be pitching in low-leverage situations, the Cubs down four runs in the eighth inning, the seagulls flying in and the fans heading toward the exits.

I say (it) every year leaving spring training, especially here in Chicago, Wood said. Get to that first week of May .500 or better, youre in a good spot. Its tough (in) this weather, (but) I think the guys have done a good job. Weve been in a lot of games. (Were) right there. I feel good about what we have here.

Box Score

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

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Marlon Byrd discusses his suspensions for PED use and Ozzie Guillen offers a solution to the PED problem

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NBC Sports Chicago

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Marlon Byrd discusses his suspensions for PED use and Ozzie Guillen offers a solution to the PED problem

Ozzie Guillen explains why he thinks Manny Machado is a better fit for the Cubs than the White Sox. Plus, Guillen and Marlon Byrd react to 19-year-old Juan Soto hitting a homer in his first at-bat with the Nationals.

Later in the show the guys debate who had the better rants in front of the media: Guillen or Byrd?

Finally, Byrd opens up about his PED suspensions, relates to the guys caught using PEDs now and Guillen offers up a solution to rid baseball of PEDs entirely.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: