Monday, April 25, 2011

Cubs Series Recap: Curing the Dodger Blues

Article first published as Cubs Series Recap: Curing the Dodger Blues on Blogcritics.

Easter weekend delivered some sunshine and slightly warmer weather for the city of Chicago. Unfortunately, although the Chicago Cubs' (10-11) bats heated up as well, the pitching couldn't keep the team in games long enough to take advantage of the number of hits produced. A day-by-day analysis of the three game home series against the Los Angeles Dodgers (12-11).

Good Friday - not so much.  The holy day did not live up to its name for the Cubs, as Casey Coleman proved that his victory over Colorado last week was soon forgotten as he was knocked around for six runs early and got pulled after 2 2/3 innings. The drubbing continued as the bullpen surrendered six more courtesy of Jeff Stevens and Marcos Mateo. The bats never really came alive in this game despite Kosuke Fukudome going 3-for-4 with a walk, and the team left eleven runners on base.

This team has heart - The bats did come through for the Cubs on Saturday, in front of a sun drenched crowd that finally looked like the announced attendance matched what was seen in the stands. Despite giving up a 5-1 lead, the Cubs came back from an 8-5 deficit by scoring the final five runs of the game. Manager Mike Quade continues to add to discussion board fodder with his decision to let Ryan Dempster bat with the bases loaded in the fifth (end result: strikeout) and then to allow Jeff Baker to swing against a right-handed pitcher with slugger Carlos Pena available as a pinch hitter (end result: game winning RBI). I appreciate the gut instincts that Quade displays, as Pena is clearly struggling and Baker has earned some playing time. Pena is still the starter, so he'll get his at-bats and hopefully will start hitting homers soon, but it was nice to see Baker get the job done and make Quade look good.

One streak ends - No, it's not the (1-1, 2-2, 3-3, etc.) .500 record streak, though the Cubs will be hard pressed to get a win on Monday versus the Rockies in order to keep that streak alive. Instead, it was Carlos Zambrano's win streak that ended at 10 and dated back to June 25, 2010. Big Z was roughed up early on with the suddenly hot hitting Dodgers putting up a five spot on the board in the first inning. Although the Cubs showed some resiliency on Saturday, the team could not break through with any big hits on Sunday.  Quade continues to juggle the lineup around, as we saw Fukudome back in the leadoff spot, Starlin Castro hitting in the 3-hole, which meant that slumping Marlon Byrd moved down in the order. I liked the move, but I hope that Pena's bat gets hot soon, as the team needs some power from the left side (or any side for that matter.)

Keeping Score - A minor setback, as the Cubs will need to win a series versus the Colorado Rockies to keep pace with .500 and on track to achieve my predicted 85 wins.

On-Deck: The Rockies come into town for the second series meeting between the two teams. Who should start on Tuesday night (currently slated to be James Russell) is the talk of the town, as the Cubs can't afford to give up every fifth start. Still, Monday's game may be the most important, as Matt Garza goes for the Cubs as they attempt to get back to .500 for the 11th time this season. We'll call this a "critical" series since they dropped 2-of-3 to the Dodgers this weekend.

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