Saturday, July 21, 2007

All is well at Wrigleyville

Friday was a perfect day really.

The Cubs managed to squeeze out a victory against the Diamondbacks, despite an unfavorable pitching matchup. The defending NL Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb, who was 4-0 with a 2.52 ERA lifetime against the Cubs, started for the Diamondbacks, while struggling Jason Marquis, who was 1-4 with a 5.84 ERA in his last 12 starts, was the Cubs' pitcher.

The Brewers lost, bringing us within 2 1/2 games of the division lead. The Padres and Dodgers lost, bringing us within 2 games of the Wild Card lead. The Braves, who are also in the hunt for the National League Wild Card, lost and the Cubs were able to push the Diamondbacks further out.

The bad news is that the Cubs have two more unfavorable matchups ahead of them in the weekend series.

Saturday's game features Micah Owings and Rich Hill. While, Hill's consistency has always been a problem, one thing that has remained constant throughout the year is our inability to get to unfamiliar pitchers. In Sunday's finale, another unfamiliar pitcher, Yusmeiro Petit, will toe the rubber against left hander Sean Marshall.

The Diamondbacks don't hit lefties well; the .225 batting average by Arizona and the .647 OPS are 30 and 89 points below their performance against right handers. Nonetheless, they are 13-12 in games started by left handed pitchers.

Why? Well, when lefties are starting against the Diamondbacks, it seems like their pitchers bear down. In the 25 games against a left-handed starter, the Arizona pitching staff has given up only 108 runs (4.32 runs / game), but more importantly, has given up 4 or fewer runs in 16 of the 25 games. That's more reason to believe that we'll struggle against Owings and Petit.

If the statistics and trends aren't enough, the Cubs are without Derrek Lee, Cliff Floyd, and Daryle Ward. While Lee's bat in the lineup will always be missed, the absenses of Floyd and Ward are really felt against right-handed pitching. It seems like everything is in order for the Cubs to struggling offensively.

One slight thing, though. We're rolling. Good teams find a way to win and good teams usually win the tough ballgames. The last two games of the Diamondbacks series will be really interesting.

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