The Dodgers continue their road trip for a matinee series with the Chicago Cubs beginning in just a few hours at historic Wrigley Field. Before 1988 games played at Wrigley had to be conducted in the daytime because of the stadium’s lack of lighting. In 1942 lights were scheduled to be added to the Field, but were instead a part of a donation to the war effort after the Pearl Harbor attack. For years excuses were made to avert lighting being added before finally the Chicago Tribune Company obliged.
The Dodgers showed an impressive amount of fight in losing two of three games to the Rockies at Coors Field earlier in the week, but still withhold their standing atop both the NL West and National League. They visit a Cubs team that trails the Padres by a half game for the worst record in the NL. They struggle to score runs, crossing the plate 85 times, ranking 25th in the MLB, and hitting .240, ranked 21st. Their ERA stands at a rough 4.07, but somehow includes a BAA of .232.
Infield: The former National League Rookie of the Year is Cubs catcher Geovany Soto, who saw his numbers tank miserably since that campaign. This season he is hitting .161 with two home runs and three RBIs. He is throwing out 29 percent of would-be base-stealers. Since resting for two games, Soto has played three games and is hitting .300 with a home run.
Did anybody see this happening? The first baseman for the Cubs is an unknown player, making a name for himself, named Bryan LaHair. Prior to this season he had career numbers of .261 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in 65 games. This year he already has six home runs and 15 RBIs in just 21 games.
Second baseman Darwin Barney got off to a very hot start to this season, much like he did last year. But yet again, Barney has faded, this time much earlier than expected. On April 23rd, Darwin was batting .311, but since then is hitting only .100 with no HRs or RBIs. Overall he is hitting .259 with a home run and seven RBIs.
On the other hand is a phenomenal talent in shortstop Starlin Castro. Castro is just 22-years-old, and is the proud holder of a .307 batting average with 13 homers and 121 RBIs, coming in 307 career games, where he has racked up 378 hits. Clearly a bright future lies ahead for Castro. This year he bats .340 with no homers and 14 RBIs.
At third is the former top prospect of the Colorado Rockies farm system – Ian Stewart. Stewart has a heavy bat, but cannot put the ball in play consistently. This season he is batting .173 with two home runs and nine RBIs. His .247 OBP indicates that unless he makes contact, he probably won’t get on base another way.
Outfield: Lots of talk is surrounding Southern California because of Angels first baseman Albert Pujols and his lack of production despite receiving a generous check. While the Cubs left-fielder is not that bad, he hovers in the same neighborhood. Alfonso Soriano is hitting .250, but has yet to homer. Soriano is happily making $18 million, and serves as an example of a contract gone bad. He is hardly the base-stealing threat anymore making him a hearty target for the Dodgers to pursue when in need to get out of a jam.
Center-fielder Tony Campana put Major League Baseball on notice last season when he stole 24 bases in 26 tries while playing 95 games. This season he not only has stolen seven bases, but is hitting .355, setting the table up for the Cubs bigs to do their damage.
A career .283 hitter is right-fielder David DeJesus, but he is struggling to make the adjustment to the National League, having spent nine seasons with the Royals and A’s. His OBP of .340 boosts his value, but the average should follow soon enough. In his last five games he is hitting .158 with two strikeouts.
Starters: Two horrendous starts rocked Paul Maholm‘s season, watching him allow six runs and six hits in both outings, lasting 4.0 innings each time. An ERA of 13.50 accompanied the results. Then something clicked. His following two starts saw him pitch 12.1 innings, allow two runs on nine hits, one a home run. His secret seems to be that he’s enducing more groundballs. By the way, the two starts placed him with an ERA of 1.49.
What a great last name (okay I’ll stop) for Saturday’s starter Matt Garza. He was one terrible start away from 1.27 ERA and much consideration not only for an All-Star spot, but perhaps also for early Cy Young consideration. In his last start against the Phillies he struck out 10 batters, forcing an equal balance of grounders and fly balls.
Sunday is probably not the day of the week the Cubs are looking forward to. Starter Chris Volstad is 0-3 on the season, but could very well be 0-5, the team’s record when he starts. The groundball pitcher is allowing 6.4 hits per game, and posting a K/BB ratio of 2.85.
Closer: Perhaps the most obscure closer situation lies in Chicago with the Cubs and Carlos Marmol. Marmol is 2-for-4 in save opportunities, posting a 6.23 ERA. His K/BB ratio of 0.67 is hardly closer-like. By the end of this series a change might be made. Those considered are Rafael Dolis and James Russell. Neither are particularly stable. Lying fourth in line is Kerry Wood, but they are not likely to head in that direction.
Friday, May 4th at 11:20 a.m.: Chad Billingsley (2-1) vs. Paul Maholm (2-2) – Prime Ticket
Saturday, May 5th at 10:05 a.m.: Chris Capuano (3-0) vs. Matt Garza (2-1) – Prime Ticket
Sunday, May 6th at 11:20 a.m.: Aaron Harang (1-2) vs. Chris Volstad (0-3) – Prime Ticket