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Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano Help the Chicago Cubs Rout the Houston Astros

The Chicago Cubs are having fun on the road.

They scored a total of eight runs in the first four innings on Saturday night as they beat the Houston Astros 8-3 in the second game of the final series of the 2010 season.

They improve the record of their current season-ending road trip to 5-1 and they will get a chance to sweep their division arch-rivals Sunday afternoon.

Aramis Ramirez produced four runs with a grand slam in the fourth inning.  Marlon Byrd also had a three-RBI night.

The Cubs offense gave their starter Carlos Zambrano a two-run cushion in the first even before he (11-6) went onto the mound for his 20th start of the season.

The lead-off Jeff Baker received a walk from the Astros starting pitcher, J.A. Happ.  Starlin Castro followed with a double that advanced Baker to third.  Byrd drove in Baker on a groundout to shortstop. 

The inning continued; Ramirez received a walk.  After Xavier Nady’s strikeout, Alfonso Soriano doubled to left field to score Castro from second base.

The Cubs scored another pair of runs in the second to make it 4-0 in the following inning.  Both Zambrano and Baker tallied on Byrd’s left-field single. 

And in the fourth inning, the Cubs doubled their four-run lead.

Baker, who opened the inning, was save at first on Astros third baseman Chris Johnson’s throwing error.  Castro then singled a ground ball to Happ and Byrd’s base hit to center field loaded the bases with no out. 

The following batter, Ramirez, crushed Happ’s changeup and turned it into his 26th home run of the season which went over the left-field wall. 

Putting the Astros to an eight-run deficit, Happ (6-4) was forced to exit the game early right after Ramirez’s ninth grand slam of his career.  The southpaw gave up eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits in three-plus innings.  He walked five of the 22 batters he faced and struck out three.

The Astros tried hard from the beginning to overcome the deficit but they chose the wrong day to do so as the red hot Zambrano was starting for the Cubs. 

The right-hander, who was 7-0 in nine starts since the August 14, pitched another gem for his last start of the year.  He three-hit the home side in 6.1 innings giving up three runs (two earned).  He also struck out five and only walked three.  In the first sixth innings, he allowed three base runners only.

Houston scored all of their runs in the seventh inning off Zambrano.  But four Cubs relievers combined to blank the opponents for the rest of the game and preserved the Cubs victory. 

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Brad Snyder Hits an RBI Single in the Ninth, Chicago Cubs Beat San Diego Padres

Since the September call-up, the Cubs rookie outfielder Brad Snyder has had the privilege of enjoying two double-RBI games in his first eight major league games.  On Thursday afternoon, he reached another level of enjoyment by hitting out first game-winning RBI. 

His single in the ninth inning generated the winning run for the Chicago Cubs who took the four-game series finale with a 1-0 victory over the San Diego Padres in PETCO Park.  With the win, the visitors snapped their two-series losing streak and dimmed the Padres’ chance to make the playoffs.

Both teams’ pitching staffs performed creditably, especially for both starting pitchers, Tom Gorzelanny and Jon Garland who formed an outstanding pitching dual witnessed by a crowd of 28,576 in the last getaway day of the 2010 season.

Gorzelanny returned to his top form after a few disappointing recent outings.  The southpaw tossed six scoreless innings scattering three hits with three strikeouts and four walks. 

A couple of great defensive plays helped him to pass through those innings clean.    

In the second, Yorvit Torrealba led off with a single but with one out, Gorzelanny picked him off, and threw him out at second in a base-stealing attempt.  He gave up another single to Chase Headley, but stranded him at first.

In the sixth, the hurler gave up back-to-back walks to David Eckstein and Miguel Tejada.  He then forced Adrian Gonzalez to hit a 6-3 double play which crossed out Tejada at second.  Moving to third, Eckstein became the only Padre who reached as far as third base in the game.  But he was not sent home after Ryan Ludwick hit an inning-ending fly-out to center-field.

The other game starter, Garland, pitched hard to help his team to close gap with the NL West leaders, the San Francisco Giants who procured their fourth victory in a row against the Arizona Diamondbacks on the same day. 

Garland had already recorded a win against the Cubs in Wrigley Field on August 17, when he pitched seven scoreless innings.  He had the similar line today but did not get the win for his team.

Since allowing a single to lead-off Blake DeWitt in the first, he retired 14 consecutive Cubs before issuing a walk to Alfonso Soriano in the fifth.  He left the game after blanking the Cubs in 6.1 innings on four hits and striking out eight with a walk.

The Cubs scored the game-winning run in the ninth. 

The Padres closer, Heath Bell (6-1), replaced Mike Adams and gave up a lead-off single to Aramis Ramirez who was then substituted by pinch-runner Darwin Barney.  Xavier Nady followed with a sacrifice bunt which sent the potential go-ahead run to second.  Having struck out twice in three previous at bats, Snyder hit a high-bound groundball that passed between shortstop and third base to left field to tally Barney.

Sean Marshall (7-5) who relieved Andrew Cashner in the eighth inning was credited with the win.  Carlos Marmol retired the side in the ninth including striking out Gonzalez and Ludwick for his 37th save of the year, his 15th straight in as many save situations.

The Cubs left San Diego after the game for Houston where they will play their last series of the year against the Astros.  Meanwhile, the Padres will start their do-or-die series tomorrow in San Francisco as they skid to three games behind the Giants in the NL West standings.

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Chicago Cubs Spoil San Diego Padres’ Hope Back To Top of NL West With a 1-0 Win

Even though the 2010 season is an absolute chaos for the Chicago Cubs, they get a lot of attention at the end of the calendar year. 

They are put in a new mission—spoiling their opponents’ hopes to access to the playoffs.

In the span of the ongoing 10 days, they had faced teams in contention, the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals last week.  They opened another series Monday night in the last road trip of the season in San Diego, playing against the NL West second place team, the San Diego Padres who were only half-game behind the Giants.

Alfonso Soriano scored the only run of the game in the seventh inning and it was enough for the Cubs to beat the home team 1-0 in the opener of this four-game set.  The victory obstructed the Padres to regain the potential shared lead with the Giants in the NL West standings.

Both starters of the game, Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs and Tim Stauffer of the Padres formed a tight and outstanding pitching dual.  By completing seven scoreless frames, Zambrano (10-6) came out with a victory, his seventh in the last nine starts.

He scattered only three hits and four walks, striking out five.  The first and seventh innings were the toughest for him. 

In the first, he gave up two hits to leadoff David Eckstein and Ryan Ludwick but stranded them grounding out Matt Stairs.

The only other threatening situation occurred in the seventh.  He gave up a pair of walks to Stairs and Chase Headley sandwiched by the first out.  But again, he got out of the frame alright retiring Tony Gwynn and Oscar Salazar.

The Cubs’ winning run came in the seventh, the final inning of the night for Stauffer (5-5).  Leading off Xavier Nady grounded out to the hurler.  Soriano doubled to left field and the following batter, Blake DeWitt, sent him home with an RBI-single to center field.

Stauffer did pitch well enough but he surrendered.  He let the Cubs get five hits off him in seven innings but struck out five and walked two. 

Six of the Cubs’ seven hits came from two players: Marlon Byrd and DeWitt.  They both went 3-for-4. 

The Padres had their best chance in the last inning but their rally came close, too close for the comfort of the Cubs but failed.

Closer Carlos Marmol fanned Ludwick and pinch-hitter Mike Baxter easily. 

However, he put himself in the hole from then. 

He allowed a single to Yorvit Torrealba who was replaced by pinch-runner Everth Cabrera.  Cabrera stole second base before Headley, the following batter, was hit by a pitch.  Marmol escalated the problem by walking Tony Gwynn to load the bases. 

At the end, Marmol prevailed.  He forced Nick Hundley to hit the game-ending fly ball caught by Soriano to earn his 35th save of the year.

With the loss, the Padres skid to one-game behind the NL West leaders, the San Francisco Giants who were idle on Monday night.

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Randy Wells Shuts Down the San Francisco Giants in the Chicago Cubs’ 2-0 Win

Randy Wells should be happy tonight. 

By beating the San Francisco Giants Wednesday night, following his win last week in St. Louis, it is the first time since April that he won two consecutive games.  He has been trying hard to turn his unfortunate season around but it took him until the end of the year to do so.

The right-hander (8-13) outdueled the hot Giants starter, Jonathan Sanchez in the Cubs’ 2-0 victory to tie the series at one game apiece in the three-game set.

The Cubs’ first run came in the third inning and it was the game-winning run.  Lead-off Kosuke Fukudome connected as his 13th home run of the year went over the right-field wall near the foul pole to make it 1-0.

They threatened to add more runs in the same frame.  With two outs, Darwin Barney had walked before Starlin Castro singled to center field which advanced him to third.  Marlon Byrd came up batting but ended up with a inning-ending strikeout.

In the fifth, the Cubs doubled the lead. 

Koyie Hill opened the fifth inning with a double to left field.  Wells tried to bunt while Jonathan Sanchez threw a wild pitch that ended up in the backstop.  Giants catcher Buster Posey attempted to throw out Hill who was trying to reach third on the play, but Posey’s throw was off-line that allowed Hill to score.

Cruising through eight innings, Randy Wells quieted the Giants offense by not allowing a single run.  He limited his opponents to six hits, striking out six and walking only one.

The Giants’ best chance was in the first; Freddy Sanchez hit a one-out double to center field.  Wells then served up the following batter, Aubrey Huff, a single which moved Sanchez to third on the play.  But he ended the inning striking out both cleanup batter Buster Posey and Pat Burrell.

Since allowing a double to Jose Guillen in the second inning, Wells retired 13 batters in a row.  And in the fifth and sixth, the hurler escaped from trouble with the help of a couple of double plays

Wells was pulled out after issuing a two-out walk to pinch hitter Travis Ishikawa and a double to Cody Ross.  Closer Carlos Marmol came in to rescue his team by fanning Freddy Sanchez.

He completed his mission shutting down the opponents in the ninth.  With two outs, he walked Pat Burrell but struck out the potential game-tying run Jose Guillen to earn his 34th save of the season.

With a record of 2-0 and an ERA of 0.67 in his last four starts, Jonathan Sanchez (11-9) pitched well enough in 5.2 innings by giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits.  His only mistake was the 89-mph fastball he served up which ended up as the third-inning home run.  He also struck out six and gave out two walks. 

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Chicago Cubs Complete The Sweep of The Cardinals in St. Louis With A 7-3 Victory

The Cubs just did something Wednesday night they haven’t done in the last 12 years—sweeping the Cardinals in St. Louis. 

Homers by Tyler Colvin and Aramis Ramirez and another Carlos Zambrano’s strong outing helped the team to win 7-3 in the three-game series finale. 

It has been two nights in a row that the Cubs knocked the top two Cardinals aces out of the game.  Last night, it was Adam Wainwright.  Tonight, it was Chris Carpenter’s turn.

The first run of the game belonged to the Cubs.  Carpenter (15-7) gave up a single to Koyie Hill who stole second and was brought home later by Blake DeWitt’s sacrifice fly.

Zambrano (9-6) stepped in the mound for the Cubs in quest of his sixth win in a row.  He encountered the Cardinals’ first run of the game in the third inning; Colby Rasmus hit a sacrifice fly to score lead-off Skip Schumaker from third.  It was an unearned run for the Big Z due to second baseman DeWitt’s error earlier in the play.

The Cubs ace conceded his second and last run in the sixth.  Rasmus initiated the inning with a double, his second hit of the night.  Felipe Lopez’s sacrifice bunt moved him to third and Yadier Molina drove him home with the Cardinals’ second sacrifice fly of the night.  The Cardinals were ahead 2-1.

Zambrano tossed 104 pitches in six frames giving up one earned run with four hits.  His ERA dropped to 3.75, a significant 1.71 point of improvement before his current six-game winning streak.

It was in the top of seventh when the Cubs decided to take the lead; they scored four runs to overcome a one-run deficit.

Ramirez led off with a double to right field corner and moved to third on Xavier Nady’s line-drive single to third base.  Carpenter struck out Alfonso Soriano but gave up Tyler Colvin’s home run No. 20 of the year, a long three-run shot over the right field wall.  

Koyie Hill extended the inning with a double and scored on pinch-hitter Micah Hoffpauir’s long double to right-field corner for the Cubs’ fifth run.  Carpenter was forced to leave the game with what appeared to be a leg injury when a relay ball bounced off his right leg near the third base line.  DeWitt and Darwin Barney were struck out by reliever Jason Motte to end the inning.

Two more insurance runs were added in the eighth.  Thanks to Ramirez’s 23rd home run of the year.  Marlon Byrd doubled off second reliever Blake Hawksworth who delivered a 0-2 count changeup to Ramirez which was golfed out over left field.

The Cardinals rallied in the ninth when they were down by four runs.  After Aaron Miles’ fly-out, Andrew Cashner gave up two singles in a row to Skip Schumaker and Randy Winn. 

Closer Carlos Marmol came in in a save situation but hit Albert Pujols on his first pitch to help the Cardinals load the bases.  However, he escaped unhurt earning his 31st save of the year by striking out Matt Holliday and Rasmus.

Before tonight, the Cubs’ last sweep in St. Louis was in a series of June 10-12, 1988 in the old Busch Stadium.  The Cubs also edge their archrivals by 5-1 this year in St. Louis.  They will face each other next week in Wrigley Field for the last time in 2010. 

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Cubs-Cardinals: Randy Wells Pitches Eight Strong Innings in Chicago’s 7-2 Win

The Chicago Cubs proved on Tuesday night that Cy Young candidate Adam Wainwright is beatable.

They managed to get five runs off him to set up their second victory in as many nights in Busch Stadium. They beat the St. Louis Cardinals by a final score of 7-2.

At the same time, they prevented Wainwright from becoming the National League pitcher with the most wins this season.

Randy Wells pitched a gem to snap his personal two-game winless streak. He gave up only one run and five hits in eight innings, fanning five Cardinals without issuing a walk. The right-hander (7-13) also contributed offensively with two singles and two RBI in four at-bats.

The Cubs scored their first two runs in the second inning.

With one out, Xavier Nady singled off Wainwright. After Geovany Soto’s strikeout, Tyler Colvin walked on four pitches. The Cardinals starter then gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Darwin Barney and Wells that sent Nady and Colvin home.

In the third, Marlon Byrd hit a deep one-out double to right field. Another out later, Nady’s second single of the night tallied Byrd from second.

The Cubs added a couple more runs in the fourth.

Colvin led off with a single, and Barney followed with a double to left field. With runners in scoring position, Wells helped himself to the win again with his second RBI of the night, a single that drove in Colvin from third. After Kosuke Fukudome’s strikeout, Blake DeWitt scored Barney from third with an RBI single.

The Cardinals replied in the bottom of the fourth with their first run of the night. Wells handed a single to leadoff hitter Colby Rasmus, who scored on Matt Holliday’s double to left field. But there was no further damage, as Wells retired the next three batters in a row.

The score remained intact until both teams added runs in the ninth inning. Facing reliever Fernando Salas, Nady singled for the third time to add two more runs for the Cubs.

Rasmus hit his 22nd home run of the season off Cubs reliever James Russell for the Cardinals’ final run. Rasmus, filling in at the No. 3 spot for the injured Albert Pujols, responded well by scoring two runs with two hits tonight.

The Cubs totaled 15 hits tonight, and five different players had multi-hit game. Barney’s three-hit game was the first in his major league career. Nady also had three singles and produced three runs. Besides Wells, Colvin and Byrd also had two-hit nights.

Wainwright (18-11) had faced the Cubs for the first time this season on May 30 in Wrigley Field to help his team win 9-1. But his line tonight was very different; he completed eight innings, giving up five runs on 12 hits, the most he has given up all season long. He also struck out seven, walking only one Cub.

The Cubs will attempt to sweep the Cardinals tomorrow to wrap up their last visit to Busch Stadium in 2010. Manager Mike Quade will send their ace Carlos Zambrano (8-6, 3.88) to the mound to face Chris Carpenter (15-6, 3.09).

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Zambrano Gets Fourth Win in a Row; Chicago Cubs Rout Milwaukee Brewers 4-0

Carlos Zambrano continues his hot streak. Before tonight’s contest, he had a 4-0, 1.98 ERA record since his return to the rotation after going through an anger management program in June. 

He had another stellar performance tonight, pitching deep into the ninth to blank the Brewers and limit them to three hits and three walks to give the Cubs a 4-0 victory in a three-game series opener in Miller Park.

He contributed offensively; hitting three singles and producing a Cubs’ run in the sixth inning.

The right-hander (8-6) got into trouble in the second inning allowing back-to-back walks to lead-off Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee. But the Cubs got out of the inning without any damage; Chris Dickerson lined out back to the pitcher and Alcides Escobar grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Cubs scored their first two runs of the game in the third inning. Blake DeWitt led off with a strikeout. Darwin Barney followed with a single off David Bush (7-12) and Zambrano helped himself with another single. 

Kosuke Fukudome drove the ball towards second base and was safe on Rickie Weeks’ throwing error. Barney scored on the play. Zambrano moved to third and Fukudome reached second. 

Starlin Castro hit a sacrifice fly to left field that tallied Zambrano.


The Cubs missed the chance to add more runs in the fourth by stranding two runners.  After Micah Hoffpauir and Geovany Soto were retired by strikeouts, Alfonso Soriano and Blake DeWitt walked back-to-back. But Darwin Barney lined out to right field to end the threat.

The Cubs put themselves three runs ahead of the Brewers in the fifth. A two-out walk to DeWitt became vital for Dave Bush and the Brewers. Zambrano followed Barney’s base hit with a line-drive RBI single to score DeWitt. Bush got pulled out after the run and was replaced by reliever Brandon Kintzler. 

Bush finished the night giving up three runs (two earned) with five hits in 5.2 innings. He struck out six and walked three.

The Brewers’ two-error woe cost them another run in the eighth. Kameron Loe easily retired Soriano and DeWitt; but his off-line throwing error made Barney safe at second.  Zambrano singled to shortstop Alcides Escobar who made another error that scored Barney.

Zambrano almost got his first shutout of the season, but his teammate Castro’s two-out error in the ninth broke the hope.

The Brewers rallied in the ninth. With two out, Ryan Braun singled to left field. He moved to second on defensive indifference.  Prince Fielder hit a routine grounder to shortstop, but Castro’s fielding error by shortstop Castro enabled Fielder to reach first and Braun third.

Manager Mike Quade decided to take the ball from Zambrano and handed it to their closer Carlos Marmol.

Marmol only needed one pitch to fly out Casey McGehee for his 29th save of the season.

Note: Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez missed his fourth game in a row because of his sore right quad injury. 

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Geovany Soto Homers in the Eighth as Cubs Beat Astros 5-4

Cubs catcher Geovany Soto’s home run in the bottom of the eighth inning was the game winning run.  The Chicago Cubs took game one of the three-game set by beating their NL Central archrivals Houston Astros 5-4 in front of an attendance of 31,647.

When the game was deadlocked at 4-4 in the eighth, Soto sent reliever Wilton Lopez’s two-out 1-0 fastball out of Wrigley Field.  The long solo shot is his 17th round-tripper of the season, and his second in two days.

The Astros opened the scoring in the second. 

Cubs starter Casey Coleman struggled in the inning and gave up four runs to the opponents.  Chris Johnson hit a lead-off homer for his seventh dinger of the season.  Coleman struck out Brian Bogusevic looking but issued a walk to Matt Downs. 

Jason Castro followed with a single.  Downs moved to third on a fielding error by left fielder Alfonso Soriano and Castro reached second.

With two out, Coleman’s wild pitch scored Downs.  He then walked Bourn and gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Jeff Keppinger and Hunter Pence.  The Astros took a 4-0 lead.

The Cubs responded with three runs in the bottom third to cut the deficit to one run.  Darwin Barney led off with a single.  Two outs later, he reached second on Rodriguez’s wild pitch and scored on Blake DeWitt’s single. 

Marlon Byrd blasted a two-run home run to left field for his 12th of the year. 

The game-tying run happened in the sixth; Barney led off with his second single of the day.  With one out, he hustled all the way from first to score on Jeff Baker’s line-drive double, which landed at the corner of the left-field wall.

Coleman has given up either hit or walk in six innings but the Cubs’ defense bailed him out each time he got into trouble. 

They turned double plays in the third and fifth innings.  And in the fourth, with Bourn attempting to score from third on Hunter Pence’s ground ball to third base, catcher Soto collided with Bourn at the home plate but he held onto third baseman Baker’s relay to retire the runner.

The Cubs starter finished the day with a no-decision giving up four runs with eight hits and five walks striking out two. 

Manager Mike Quade sent three relievers on the mound, and they combined to shut out the Astros for the last three innings. 

Marcos Mateo tossed a one-hit scoreless seventh inning.  Andrew Cashner (2-5) credited with the win pitching in the eighth.  Carlos Marmol received his 28th save of the year, his fourth in as many days.

Astros starter Rodriguez completed seven innings and allowed four runs and eight hits.  He struck out six Cubs and walked only one.  Lopez (5-2), who gave up the Cubs’ game-winning home run, was the losing pitcher of the game.

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Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves Series Preview

2:20 pm ET, Friday, Aug. 20 TV: CSN, SPSO

Probable pitchers: Ryan Dempster (11-8, 3.62) vs. Jair Jurrjens (5-4, 3.92)

4:10 pm ET, Saturday, Aug. 21 TV: FOX

Probable pitchers: Tom Gorzelanny (6-7, 3.85) vs. Tommy Hanson (8-8, 3.41)

2:20 pm ET, Sunday, Aug. 22 TV: WGN, FSS

Probable pitchers: Randy Wells (5-11, 4.44) vs. Mike Minor (1-0, 3.75)


2010 season matchups

This is the second series between the two clubs this season.  They played against each other in the season-opening series in Atlanta.  The Braves took two games out of three with victories of 16-5 and 3-2.  The Cubs avoided the sweep by winning the last game, 2-0.

This weekend series is the last between Chicago and Atlanta in the 2010 season. 

It also means that this will be the last time both managers, Lou Piniella of the Cubs and Bobby Cox of the Braves, will face against each other as managers.  They both earlier this year announced their retirements after this season.  Cox ranks fourth in all-time managerial wins with 2,484.  Piniella ranks 14th with 1,834.

The Cubs have played 19 times so far this season against teams from the NL East.  They have only won eight with a winning percentage of .421. 

The Braves, however, have won 23 out of 44 (.523) against NL Central teams, but their away-game record is 27-33.


Chicago Cubs (50-72)


The Cubs will end their seven-game homestand with three games against the Braves.  They are going through a very tough schedule.  In the past 2.5 weeks, they have been playing continuously against teams who are in either first or second place in their divisions.

The other clubs they faced were the Cincinnati Reds (0-3), the San Francisco Giants (1-3), the St. Louis Cardinals (2-1), and the San Diego Padres (0-4). 

In that span they lost 11 games out of 14, and in the month of August they have a record of 5-14.

The Cubs will visit the Washington Nationals for a three-game set starting on Monday.  Then, on Thursday, they will enjoy a rare day off, which they have not had since August 5.

The Cubs were just swept by the San Diego Padres, the NL West leaders, in this week’s four-game series. 

It will be weird this weekend to see recently-traded former Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee in a Braves’ uniform and sitting in the visitors’ dugout.  On Tuesday he was acquired by Atlanta.  In return, the Cubs received for three minor league pitchersRobinson Lopez, Tyrelle Harris, and Jeffrey Lorick.

Outfielder Sam Fuld was promoted from Triple-A Iowa to fill in Lee’s spot on the Cubs’ roster.  He appeared in Thursday’s game, pinch-hitting in the sixth inning.


The Cubs offense is struggling. 

They were shut down by the Padres pitching staff this week.  They only scored nine runs in four games (2.25 per game) and had a .224 batting average. 

Chicago only hit one home run in the last four games, and it came from second baseman Blake DeWitt.  He hit for .308 (4-for-13) during the current homestand.

The Cubs’ clean-up hitter, Aramis Ramirez, has not scored a run in his past five games and drew only one walk with two RBI.

Xavier Nady, who replaced Derrek Lee at first base, was unable to post the same offensive numbers that Lee did.  He was the starter in the past five games but had only four hits in 16 at-bats (.250) and struck out five times.


Ryan Dempster is the Cubs’ most consistent and reliable starter.   Looking for his 12th win of the season Friday, he tied last year’s total victories (11) last Sunday by beating the St. Louis Cardinals.  The right-hander tossed 6.2 innings, allowing two runs and five hits with six strikeouts.  His career-high in wins is 17, which he established in 2008 with the Cubs. 

He is 3-0 in August with an excellent ERA of 1.40.  But his lifetime record against the Braves is not so pretty: 2-11, 4.94.   

Tom Gorzelanny will pitch on Saturday.  He took the loss against the San Diego Padres Monday night and was responsible for five runs in 6.1 innings.  He has not won in last four starts, including two no-decisions.

In his career he made three starts and two relief appearances against the Braves.  He is 1-1 with a 3.80 ERA. 

Randy Wells’ win total has been stuck at five since July 23, when he won 5-0 against the St. Louis Cardinals.  He has been on the losing side ever since, taking four losses in five games. 

But he pitched a gem in his last outing by limiting the Padres to one run and three hits in seven innings.  He still lost that match because the Cubs did not provide any run support in a 1-0 loss.

He got his first win of this season in the season-opening series against the Braves.  The right-hander shut out the opponents in six innings of work. 

There are some concerns about the bullpen, which is filled with five rookies.  Their recent performances show their immaturity and lack of major league experience. 

For example, James Russell has given up three runs in his last 1.2 innings.  Marcos Mateo has conceded six in 3.1.  Andrew Cashner has choked up four runs in 3.1 (two coming from two wild pitches).  

But it seems manager Lou Piniella has to stick with these youngsters until the end of the year.


Atlanta Braves (71-50)


The Braves are sitting in first place in the NL East, a position they have been occupying since May 31.  Through Friday, they are 2.5 games ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies. 

They completed a six-game homestand before coming to Chicago, winning both series against the Los Angeles Dodgers (3-1) and the Washington Nationals (2-1).  Their last game was a 6-2 loss to the Nationals.

Chicago is their first destination on a six-game road trip.  They will finish it with the Colorado Rockies in Denver next week. 


The signing of Derrek Lee came at the right time for the Braves, as their regular first baseman Troy Glaus was inserted onto the 15-day disabled list because of his sore left knee.  Glaus leads the team in RBI (70).

Atlanta-bound Lee will play first base for the Braves some time in this series.  Before the trade, he missed a couple of Cubs games this week because of stiffness in his back.  He had four home runs in his last three games before the injury. 

Lee is batting .251 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI this season.

The Braves also lost their veteran third baseman Chipper Jones.  He was diagnosed with a torn ACL.  Surgery is required, and he is out for the rest of this season.

Martin Prado rejoined the team Monday in Washington after he was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list.  His first game back with the team provided an immediate offensive boost, as he went 3-for-5 and produced two runs with a double.

He leads the team in batting average (.320) and has played third base since his return from injury.  He only played that position four times in 101 games before his trip to the disabled list.

Catcher Brian McCann has 17 home runs this year, best on the team.  His last one was on August 11, a two-run shot off Houston Astros’ reliever Jeff Fulchino.

Second baseman Omar Infante has an eight-game hitting streak.  He has hit .424 (14-for-33) in that span.


The Braves’ pitching staff is one of the best in the National League.  They are tied for second with the St. Louis Cardinals for the best team ERA (3.42).  They also rank second in hits allowed (969) and in WHIP (1.25).

The Cubs are lucky to be avoiding the two aces in the Braves rotation.  They will not have to deal with Tim Hudson (14-5, 2.15) and Derek Lowe (11-11, 4.32) this weekend.

Friday’s starter will be right-hander Jair Jurrjens.  This is his fourth year in the Major Leagues.  He has been limited to 14 starts this year because of injury and was idle in the whole month of May.  The healthy Jurrjens made 34 starts in 2009.

He has limited his opponents to one run in each of his last two starts.  In his last one he struck out seven and issued one walk in seven innings pitched for a 13-1 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Turner Field last Sunday. 

He has faced the Cubs twice in his career and has a 0-1 record and a 3.27 ERA. 

Tommy Hanson leads the Braves in strikeouts (137).  Although he has had six quality starts in his last eight outings, he does not have a win in that span.  His last victory came on July 3 against the Florida Marlins.  In between he took three losses and five no-decisions.

Hanson has had only one start in his career against the Cubs.  He lost that one on April 8, 2010.  During the game the right-hander conceded two earned runs in 5.1 innings with seven strikeouts and three walks.

Sunday’s starter Mike Minor is a rookie.  He only has had two starts in the majors this season after a recent call-up from Triple-A Gwinnett.  The 22-year-old left-hander made six starts for Gwinnett with a 4-1 record and had an ERA of 1.89.

His first Major League victory came on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals.  He completed six innings, allowing two runs and striking out five.

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Chicago Cubs: Bullpen Blows Save for a 5-3 Loss To San Diego Padres

The San Diego Padres are simply too strong for the Cubs.

The Chicago Cubs could not avoid the sweep by the NL West leaders Thursday afternoon.  Once again, their bullpen sank and a careless defensive play in the seventh inning put them down 5-3 in the series finale.

Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs’ starter, did not have a stellar performance.  However, he managed to limit the Padres to one run and four hits in six innings.  Even though he walked far too many battersgiving six Padres free passes to first basehe got out of his jams, stranding runners one inning after another.

Well…except in the second, when the Padres took a 1-0 lead. 

He issued back-to-back walks to Yorvit Torrealba and Will Venable.  Chris Denorfia followed and loaded the bases with a single to shortstop.  One out later, Jerry Hairston, Jr. hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Torrealba from third.

The Cubs scored two runs off Mat Latos in the sixth for a 2-1 lead, the first time they had a lead in this series.  Lead-off man Kosuke Fukudome singled and scored on Marlon Byrd’s line-drive double to left field.  Aramis Ramirez also doubled to left field to drive in Byrd. 

The lead did not last long.  The following inning hurt the Cubs.  The Padres scored four runs with help from the careless Cubs’ defense.

Left-handed reliever Sean Marshall was brought in to try to protect the Cubs’ one-run lead.  But he walked lead-off batter Miguel Tejada and gave up a single to Adrian Gonzalez.  Ryan Ludwick tied the game with an RBI single that brought Tejada home. 

Chase Headley followed with another single to load the bases.  One out later, Venable hit a single to score Gonzalez and Ludwick.

Then with Headley on third and Venable on second, Chris Denorfia hit a ground ball to third baseman Aramis Ramirez.  Headley tried to head home, but he was tagged out on a 5-2-5 rundown.  Having already reached third on the play, Venable caught the Cubs off guard.  Seeing no Cub covering home plate, he hustled home and scored before the late relay arrived.

Marshall (6-4), who had not given up a run in the month of August, blew the save and took the loss.

On the other hand, Padres starter Latos (13-5) tossed seven innings, giving up two runs with 10 strikeouts and one walk for the Padres, who improve their season record to a National League-best 73-47.  They sit six games over the second-place San Francisco Giants in the NL West.

The Cubs got a consolation run in the bottom of ninth.  Alfonso Soriano scored on Blake DeWitt’s two-out single.  But Heath Bell struck out Koyie Hill, the potential game-tying run, to end the game for his 37th save of the year.

NOTE: The Cubs recalled outfielder Sam Fuld from Triple-A Iowa Thursday.  He pinch-hit in the sixth inning.

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