After winning their first two series against the Astros and Brewers, the Cubs will look to do the same against the Rockies. This time, to win the series, it will have to be a sweep as for some reason the two clubs will only be playing a two game series, with an off-day in between. I guess the Rockies requested a day off in between because, honestly, who wouldn’t want to spend a day in Chi-Town?
1. Dexter Fowler CF
2. Ryan Spilborghs LF
3. Todd Helton 1B
4. Garrett Atkins 3B
5. Brad Hawpe RF
6. Troy Tulowitzki SS
7. Ian Stewart 2B
8. Chris Iannetta C
Chicago will most likely be without two starters, Geovany Soto and Milton Bradley. Soto, who has been out since being hit by a pitch in the second game of the season at Houston, is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday. And Bradley, who left last night’s game in the fourth inning with a right groin injury, is day-to-day (and with a cold/wet forecast for today’s game I’m gonna go ahead and go out on a limb and announce he isn’t playing).
Milton was batting .059 as the Cubs cleanup hitter before leaving last night, but with an .333 OBP and a consistently patient approach at the plate. Bradley isn’t the only Cub struggling early.
Derrek Lee is two for his first 25 at bats, good for an .080 average and with one hit being a double and three walks drawn, Lee is sporting a nifty .292 OPS. Pathetic. He is not making good contact, and it seems like he hasn’t hit the ball out of the infield all season. I defended Lee’s critics before the season, and am hoping he can get this thing turned around quick. Derrek has always been a slow starter, but this is ridiculous!
The Cubs have won eight straight over the Rockies in Wrigley. Now let’s take a look at the pitching matchups:
Game 1 - Monday, April 13th, 2:20 ET, TV-WGN
Chicago Cubs - Ted Lilly (1-0, 9.00 ERA)
Lilly struck out three and didn’t walk a batter in his first start of the year against Houston. And as Guy pointed out, the home runs Lilly gave up were more a product of situational pitching more than anything.
Last year, Lilly was 7–5 with a 4.50 ERA in 15 games started at Wrigley. He held opponents to a .234 batting average, surrendering just 81 hits in 90.0 innings pitched.
In his only meeting with the Rockies in ‘08, Theodore lasted just 3.0 innings, giving up seven runs (four of them earned) on eight hits (two of them YAK EM!s). Also lefty’s batted .307 against Lilly last year, and the Rockies have four viable lefty bats in Helton, Hawpe, Stewart, and Seth Smith. Omar Quintannilla could also see some AB's if Clint Hurdle decides to play the percentages and stack his lineup lefty-heavy.
As goes the Cubbies and Ubaldo, the Rockies haven’t really seen much of Lilly either. When they have seen him though, they have rocked him. This group is batting a combined .366 against Ted, but Lilly is still 2-1 in four career games vs. the Rockies with an unsightly 7.56 earned run average.
Colorado Rockies - Ubaldo Jimenez (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Jimenez cruised through seven shutout innings on Tuesday in Arizona, giving up four hits, three walks, and collecting eight strikeouts and the win. Jimenez is a promising young arm whose raw stuff can at times be as filthy as anyone out there. He has steadily improved with each outing of his career and with a couple more starts like last Tuesday will indisputably be the ace of this Rockies’ staff.
Jimenez went 12-12 last year, posting a 3.99 ERA. This makes sense as Ubaldo will either dominate you or pull his best Rick “The Wild Thing” Vaughn from Major League, unable to find the strike zone. In 13 of his 34 starts in 2008 Jimenez walked four batters or more.
Amazingly Jimenez was a much better pitcher at Coors Field last year than on the road. Ubaldo could only manage a 5-8 record with a 4.72 ERA in 18 road starts in 2008. One of those starts was his only matchup with the Cubs, a 5.0 inning, seven hit three-walk three-run loss. In two career games at Wrigley Jimenez is 0-1 with a 4.63 ERA.
Again, while they haven’t seen much of Ubaldo, Aramis Ramirez and Aaron Miles (5 AB’s each) are both batting .600 off him, with Ramirez sporting an OPS of 1.867.
Advantage: Cubs - moderate
Game 2 - Wednesday, April 15th, 2:20 ET, TV-CSN
Cubs - Rich Harden (0-0, 1.50 ERA)
After going six innings, striking out 10 and allowing just two runs on three hits in a no-decision against the Brewers on Friday, the concern over Rich getting knocked around and not pitching much in the Spring appears to be irrelevant.
Harden has simply been one of the elite pitchers in baseball when he is healthy and takes the mound. After joining the Cubs last year, Rich went 5-1 in 12 starts, with 89 strikeouts in 71 innings, compiling a 1.77 ERA to go with a 0.97 WHIP and allowing NL hitters to bat just .157 off him.
Rockies - Jason Marquis (1-0, 2.57 ERA)
Over the last two years, despite his marginal success (2007: 12-9, 4.60 ERA and 2008: 11-9, 4.53 ERA), I never granted Marquis name privileges, only referring to him as “That Guy Who Stole Sammy’s Number.” Now that he is finally gone, I can lose some of that animosity and be more objective.
As a fifth starter for two years, Marquis did what he was asked to do. Along with providing an extra bat and pair of legs when needed, he went out and ate up innings.
However his start-me-or-trade-me arrogance was just too much to overcome for me, and I could never, or will never give him a fair shake.
After efforts to change his delivery this spring (which did not go well), Marquis allowed just two earned runs and five hits over seven innings in this past Friday’s win over the Phillies.
Marquis can pitch well, but he can also pitch horribly. I am rooting for the latter on Wednesday.
Advantage: Cubs - strong