So much for home cooking.
The Cubs (5-7) started off their first homestand of the 2010 season in strong fashion, just missing out on a sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Then the one-win Houston Astros came to town and did just enough to take two of three from a punchless Cubs squad.
While it’s not time to panic, I wouldn’t smack you over the top of the head for being worried.
Team defense—fifth-worst in baseball with 11 errors—and the bullpen (5.59 ERA) have been a major letdown the first two weeks, and the offense (27 runs in 12 games) has been anything but spectacular.
The bright spot, without question, is the starting pitching. Cubs starters have combined to go 4-2 with a 3.71 ERA. More importantly, Cubs starters are near the top of the MLB leaderboard with seven quality starts.
Take away Carlos Zambrano’s forgettable season opener against Atlanta and Tom Gorzelanny’s injury-shortened start Saturday, and the numbers get even better.
Speaking of getting better—Carlos Silva couldn’t get much better. In his first two starts, he’s 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA with eight strikeouts and no walks.
That’s ZERO walks.
Next up for the Cubs is a four-game set against a New York Mets (4-8) team that is eerily similar to the North Siders.
Both teams were pegged as early season favorites to win their divisions a year ago, and both teams fell well short of expectations.
Not much has gone right for either team to start the season, and this four-game set should shed some light on which team is more like their '09 version.
Chicago Cubs @ New York Mets
Pitching matchups are subject to change .
Monday, April 19: Wells, Randy (1-0, 2.92) vs. Niese, Jon (0-1, 6.55)
Tuesday, April 20: Zambrano, Carlos (1-1, 9.45) vs. Pelfrey (2-0, 1.29)
Wednesday, April 21: Silva, Carlos (2-0, 0.69) vs. Perez, Oliver (0-1, 3.75)
Thursday, April 22: Gorzelanny, Tom (0-1, 1.93) vs. Santana, Johan (1-1, 3.00 ERA)
On the mound: It’s almost a rarity to face two left-handers in one series these days, but to face four is unheard of.
Facing lefties Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey, and Oliver Perez before facing Johan Santana is a good break for the Cubs. Santana, the '04 and '06 American League Cy Young Award winner, has only started two games against the Cubs, but he sports a 2-0 record with a 1.71 ERA and 21 strikeouts.
This just not in: Santana is very good.
For the Cubs, Zambrano is 4-2 with a 3.71 ERA against the Mets in 10 starts. I would be happy to throw out any stats regarding Big Z as long as he would consistently go six-plus innings.
Zambrano had to leave his last start against the Brewers because of cramps in his right calf and right hand, throwing 121 pitches over five innings.
At the plate: The Cubs went 16-16 against left handed pitching last year, and that’s a little surprising given the Cubs right-handed dominant lineup the past two seasons.
In case you missed it, Lou Piniella is already playing around with a new lineup to oppose left-handed pitching. Marlon Byrd will hit leadoff with Ryan Theriot falling all the way down to the eighth spot.
Byrd is a career .280 hitter in the leadoff spot with a .346 OBP. Not terrible, but not quite electrifying either. It would make more sense if Byrd had more speed, but the only time Marlon has stolen more than 10 bags was in 2003 when when he stole 11.
Series prediction: Split, 2-2
And I’m hoping they don’t drop three of four. It’s unsettling to see Piniella shuffle with the lineup so early in the season, and making drastic changes in the lineup may not be the answer. We’ve seen it before with Sweet Lou, who is quick to move players around but not so willing to change personnel.