Tagged: Sean Marshall

Cubs Win First Game With Teamwork!

Cubs Win!  Cubs Win!  How?  A combined effort of solid pitching and timely hitting gave the Cubs their first victory of 2011.  Everyone contributed and provided the kind of teamwork that will carry this team to new heights.  As a diehard Cubs’ fan, I am very encouraged by this team’s tenacity to hang in there.  I am pleased by the effort that everyone gave.  Indeed, this will be a fun group to watch.  Mike Quade deserves a world of credit for the way this team has come together.  I think there is good reason to be optimistic this season.

Carlos Zambrano struggled early but managed to keep the game close.  Cramping in his hand forced him to leave the game, but Kerry Wood came in and took care of business.  Sean Marshall followed Wood and also shut down the Pirates.  Then in the bottom of the 8th, the Cubs came to life and battled for a 5 run inning.  The beauty of that inning was that everyone contributed with timely hitting. 
60602722.jpg Alfonso Soriano had a key hit and of course, Blake DeWitt delivered in the clutch.  Dewitt, who struggled in Spring Training, deserves a lot of credit.  His confidence needed a boost and he needed that hit as much as the team did.  It was a total team effort. 
60602747.jpg I like the way that this team sticks together and supports one another.  It is refreshing.  Carlos Marmol came on in the 9th and struck out the side for his first save of the young season.
60602748.jpg  In fact, the bullpen retired the last 9 Pirate batters of the game.  Now that’s a solid bullpen! 

Matt Garza is on the bump today.  He will be starting his first game in a Cub uniform.  If he can have a solid outing, then the Cubs should win again.  Garza seems like a really good teammate.  He’s a gamer, you can tell.  With the addition of Garza, Carlos Pena, and the return of Kerry Wood, I believe the club house chemistry is finally coming together.  Mike Quade has good reason to like his chances this year.  Teamwork is what champions are made of and the Cubs are showing signs of having the right chemistry. 

Good job to everyone!  Keep up the good work!  Go Cubs Go!!! 

Advertisements

Seriously, Are The Cubs Going To Be Any Good This Year?

With Spring Training right around the corner, it’s time to evaluate the offseason moves made by Jim Hendry, the Cubs General Manager.  Each and every year Cubs’ fans get excited around this time.  We are ever hopeful that the new season will bring that elusive championship, but in the end, we are disappointed yet again.  Could this year be different?  Could 2011 be the breakthrough year to remember?  Have the Cubs made the necessary moves to bring the right balance to a team that has struggled to reach its potential?  I am going to gaze into my crystal ball and peek into the future and try to determine what kind of team we have to look forward to.

The first glimpse that may be indicative of a promising year dates back to the last month and a half of last season.  After the sudden retirement of Lou Piniella, Mike Quade took over the helm and steered the Cubs in the right direction.  Under Quade, the Cubs finished strong.  The players responded to his style of managing and won nearly 2/3 of the remaining games.  Quade made a strong impression on Jim Hendry and Cubs’ Chairman, Tom Ricketts, and the interim tag was removed as he won the managerial job over fan favorites such as Ryne Sandberg and Joe Girardi.  There was much controversey over the process, but in the end, Mike Quade had earned the position.  In 2011, Mike Quade will face the challenge of managing over the long haul of the season.  If 2010 was evidence that he has what it takes to turn this team around, then indeed, the Cubs have much to look forward to.

As the Cubs searched the free agent market to fill some obvious holes, Jim Hendry finally found a left-handed first baseman in Carlos Pena.  Was it the right fit?  Some may argue, but seriously, Pena is a great defensive first baseman and has a powerful left-handed bat.  Exactly what the Cubs needed.  Is his .196 batting average and high strikeout ratio a concern?  It would be, but Pena is working with Rudy Jaramillo, the Cubs’ hitting coach, and is totally committed to improving his swing.  That willingness to learn is the key.  There are far too many veterans who think that they are so great that they have nothing more to learn, the very same players who start to stink and drag everyone around them down.  So it is refreshing to see a player who wants to get better.  Carlos Pena is going to work out just fine, you’ll see.

The Cubs also re-acquired Kerry Wood.  I am very happy about this because Woody is, was, and always will be a Cub.  He is a club house leader and understands what it means to be a Cub.  He gave the Cubs a huge discount to come home.  He did an awesome job for the Yankees last season and he promises to do more of the same for the Cubs in 2011.  Hopefully he can remain healthy and prove to everyone that HE’S BACK!  I think that he will return with a vengeance.  I am excited to see him again!

Then, there was the controversial trade for Matt Garza.  The Cubs may have lost some top prospects, but they have gained one of the best pitchers in the game today.  He will be a welcomed addition to the Cubs’ pitching staff.  Coming to the National League where hitters aren’t very familiar with him will be to his advantage.  I look for him to have a great year.  Like Woody and Pena, I foresee him silencing the critics very quickly.  I predict that he will win 18 games or more this season.

The Cubs have also made some minor moves, such as re-acquiring Reed Johnson, Todd Wellmeyer, and getting some players in the Tom Gorzellany trade.  We’ll see how those work out as only time will tell.  On a positive note, the Cubs have signed Geovanny Soto, Sean Marshall, and I believe, Carlos Marmol thus avoiding arbitration.  So that is good news.

One important factor that will determine the Cubs destiny is whether or not they can stay healthy.  Last year was a disaster as far as injuries go.  A healthy team learns to play as a team and gel.  A different line-up everyday is disastrous to team chemistry and that was something we saw too much of last year.  The Cubs need to stay healthy, period!  It is good to hear that Tyler Colvin will be back this year.  Watching him being impaled by a broken bat scared us all.  It’s great that he will return, we’ll need him.

The Cubs seem pretty solid up and down the line-up, except for one thing.  We still do not have a protypical lead-off hitter.  I probably sound like a broken record, but this could make or break the Cubs’ offense.  Last season, there was no spark to ignite the offense and consequently no pressure on the opposition.  If the Cubs truly want to contend, this crucial piece must be found.  If no trades are made, then somebody will need to step up and learn how to get on base and rattle the defense.  I hope that Mike Quade doesn’t just pencil in just anybody.  He knows full well that the lead-off hitter sets the tone for what will follow.  Anyway, we’ll see what happens.  Perhaps Starlin Castro or Kosuke Fukudome will be willing to learn how to fill that role.  Who knows, after all, there is still some time before the season begins.

Overall, I think the Cubs will be much improved.  If the lead off role can be filled, I think the Cubs will be in business.  Once again, I am excited about the upcoming season, unfortunately, my crystal ball isn’t as clear as I’d like it to be, but that would take all of the fun out of watching the season unfold now wouldn’t it?

2010 Diehard Attaboy Awards!

The 2010 season is finally over.  Now it’s time to reflect on the players who deserve special recognition.  Introducing the 1st annual Diehard Cubs’ Fan Attaboy Awards.

While my choices may not reflect the opinion of all Cubs’ fans, here are my selections nonetheless.  Feel free to leave comments regarding your choices.  It’s a free country.

The Ernie Banks Award goes to the player who exemplifies the heart and soul of the team.  The player who demonstrated heart, determination, and who led by example.
!cid_6EE51BB917EE44FAAA637C9D313E92FC@PC270429458147.jpg  Numbers aside, it goes to the player who contributed to the team in tangible and intangible ways.

The Ernie Banks Award goes to… Marlon Byrd. 
thumbnailCAGLQ18E.jpg His hustle and determination made him an all-star in 2010.  Marlon batted .293, with 12 homeruns and 66 RBI’s.  Byrd had a .346 OBP and defensively shined in centerfield.  He brought a winning attitude to the club.  Attaboy, Marlon!

Rookie Of The Year Award goes to Starlin Castro AND Tyler Colvin.
thumbnailCAX4JZ3Z.jpg  While Castro would be thumbnailCARXR0C1.jpgmost fans’ choice for the award, Tyler Colvin has proven to be a valuable part of the team as well.  Starlin Castro batted .300, with 3 homeruns and 41 RBI’s.  Castro led the team with 10 stolen bases.  Meanwhile, prior to having his season end prematurely due to the broken bat incident, Tyler Colvin hit .254, with 20 homeruns and 56 RBI’s.  Both youngsters did a tremendous job in 2010.  While both players have room for improvement, Castro and Colvin had an excellent rookie season.  Attaboy, you guys!  Good job!

Most Dominant Pitcher Award goes to… Carlos Marmol.

Carlos Marmol has been one of the most dominant closers in the game today. 
thumbnailCA0U7BJV.jpg Marmol has become one of the most feared pitchers for batters to face.  He has a NASTY slider that when Carlos is on top of his game, is unhittable.  He has been lights out this year.  Marmol surpassed Bruce Sutter’s single-season record for strikeouts by a closer with 138 K’s.  Carlos finished the year with a 2.55 ERA and 38 SAVES.  Attaboy, Carlos!  Excellent work!

Comeback Player Award goes to… Carlos Zambrano.

thumbnailCAHAZ47R.jpgBig Z was on the verge of being finished in Chicago following his infamous tirade in the dugout after Derek Lee failed to dive after a ball driven down the first base line.  His outburst landed him on the Restricted List where Carlos was forced to undergo Anger Management classes.  Upon his return to the starting rotation, Big Z was resurrected and given new life.  Zambrano made the best of his second chance as he calmly returned and was better than ever.  Big Z made a statement to silence the critics, not with his mouth, but with masterful pitching performances.  Since the all-star break, Big Z proved that he is one of the best in the business as he went 8-0, with a 1.41 ERA in his last 11 starts.  Zambrano finished the season 11-6, with a 3.33 ERA.  Big Z is back, better than ever!  Attaboy, Carlos!  Keep up the good work, and don’t forget to stay calm! 

The Mr. Consistency Award goes to… Sean Marshall.  Sean is a true team player.  He would rather be in the starting rotation but the team needed his services in the bullpen where Sean has quietly turned into one heck of a reliever.
thumbnailCAOO32DN.jpg  He has been the premiere set up man.  Marshall finished the season with a 7-5 record and a 2.65 ERA in 80 appearances.  Sean has proven to be one of the best left-handed relievers in the game.  Attaboy, Sean!  Nice job!

Special Award goes to… Mike Quade.  Since Lou Piniella retired, Mike Quade assumed managerial duties to finish out the season.  No one had Mike Quade on Jim Hendry’s ShortList but, Quade didn’t waste any time opening people’s eyes. 
thumbnailCACT6MC2.jpg He quickly turned the Cubs around.  Under Mike, the team finished 24-13.  Quade deserves a ton of credit for the turnaround.  No one expected that he would emerge as one of the front runners to win the 2011 managerial position, but here he is.  The players have endorsed him and have played their hearts out to finish the season strong.  The Cubs looked like playoff contenders the last month and a half, a huge accomplishment since there wasn’t anything to play for at that point.  In any event, the strong finish will undoubtedly carry over into next season.  I tip my hat to Mike Quade for making the end of the season enjoyable to watch.  Attaboy, Mike!  Good luck on the interview process!  You have proven your ability to manage and manage well!

The Diehard Award goes to… THE ENTIRE CUBS’ TEAM for not giving up when all was lost, for having the heart to play hard and finish strong. 
thumbnailCA3BRO06.jpg I salute you, Cubs!  This team has given me a new ray of hope as next season draws near.  I can’t wait till next year!  It should prove to be a different story, one with a happier ending!  ATTABOY, CUBS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! See you next Spring!  Get some rest, work hard in the offseason and come back healthy and ready to play!  We shall embark on a journey together, a quest for a World Series Championship!  BELIEVE!!!  What the mind can conceive and believe, the Cubs can achieve!  Believe it!

 

Cubs Rain On Padres’ Parade: Payback For 1984!

Every time the Cubs play in San Diego, the Padres’ pay tribute to the 1984 team that pulled the rug out from beneath the Cubs.  Last night, the Padres paraded the throwback uniforms reminiscent of 1984 in hopes of keeping their playoff hopes alive.
thumbnailCA03FOAF.jpg  That was their first mistake!

They say, what goes around, comes around.  This time it was the Cubs turn to crush the other teams’ postseason dreams.  With the win last night, the Cubs took 3 of 4 games from San Diego and virtually stripped the Padres from contention.  Although San Diego could pull off a miracle and sweep the Giants to force a one game playoff, it is doubtful.  The Padres have a better chance at the wildcard race in which they find themselves 2 games back of the Braves.  Atlanta will play Philadelphia but the Phillies will most likely rest their starters so they are ready for the playoffs, so it is unlikely that the Braves will have the same fight on their hand that they normally would.

thumbnailCANQBIR8.jpgBottom Line:  The San Diego Padres will be fighting for their lives in San Francisco, and even then, it may be too late.

The Cubbies outpitched an outstanding San Diego staff, handing Heath Bell his first blown save in 38 straight save opportunities.  The Cubs’ pitching staff has been remarkable down the stretch.  The combination of Cashner, Marshall, and Marmol has worked like a charm.  Tom Gorzellany pitched six shutout innings and deserves credit for keeping the Cubs in the ballgame.  It was another team effort and a job well done all the way around.

The younger players may not care too much about what happened in 1984 but that horrible image of the ball bouncing through Leon Durham’s legs in Game 5 of the NLCS still burns in my brain.  Last night’s game was sweet, sweet revenge.  I have been saying that it’s payback time for 1984 and indeed, the Padres have been paid in full!  Now, San Diego can feel my pain of the past 26 years.  Maybe next time, San Diego will reconsider throwing 1984 in the Cubs’ face. 

 

Cubs Win Pitching Duel!

The San Diego Padres ran into a brick wall on Monday as Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs came calling.  The playoff contending Padres fall a game back of the Giants for the divisional lead and a half game back behind the Braves in the wildcard race.

Big Z returned to the mound on Monday and pitched seven shut out innings while surrendering only three hits as his mother watched on.  Carlos Zambrano escaped the bases loaded jam in the seventh to earn another win.  Big Z has allowed two runs or less and pitched five innings or more for the tenth straight start, the most such string by a Cubs’ starter since 1920.  It was vintage Zambrano.  Big Z is 7-0, with a 1.07 ERA in his last 9 starts.  Zambrano hasn’t been throwing as hard as he used to but has been effectively mixing up his pitches and keeping hitters off balance.  Whatever he is doing, it’s working.  Big Z is back, and better than ever!

thumbnailCAHAZ47R.jpgThe Cubs would need a quality start from Big Z since the only run of the ballgame came in the top of the seventh when Blake Dewitt lined a single scoring Alfonso Soriano who had reached on a double to left.  The San Diego Padres had solid pitching and solid defense but the Cubs’ pitching staff was even tougher.

Sean Marshall pitched a scoreless eighth.

thumbnailCAOO32DN.jpgCarlos Marmol entered the game in the ninth with a 1-0 lead.  That’s when it got really interesting.  With two outs, Marmol gave up a single and Chase Headley was awarded first base when a pitched bounced between his feet.  The umpire, apparently thought that the pitch had hit Headley.  It did not.  Mike Quade came out of the dugout to argue but to no avail.  There’s no replay in baseball.  Then, Marmol walked Tony Gwynn, Jr. to load the bases and Cubs’ fans were biting their nails at this point.  At least, I was.  Everytime Marmol pitches, there is lots of drama.  The game hangs delicately in the balance, sort of twisting in the wind as it were.

thumbnailCAOOZ7K3.jpgNick Hundly hit a drive to left.  It scared me when he hit it, because I thought it was going to be a grand slam but to my relief, it was caught for the final out. 

Carlos Marmol made his 300th career relief appearance and notched his 35th save of the season. 

The Cubs’ pitchers outdueled one of the best pitching staffs in the majors for the shutout.   The Cubs have come to play in the final week.  Hope it doesn’t SPOIL San Diego’s fun too much.  After all, it’s still payback time.  Remember 1984.  I haven’t forgotten and the Cubs haven’t either!  Go, Cubs, Go!  Let’s do it again tonight!