Monday, September 14, 2009

Cubs-Brewers Preview: Keep the Magic Number Above 6

The headline tells you the mission for the week, the Cardinals magic number is 11 right now. Next weekend we meet in St. Louis for a three game series which is expected to clinch the NL Central for the Redbirds. That is why the Cubs need to keep the magic number at 7 going into Friday. The Cards play three against the Marlins while the Cubs have four against the Brewers. Winning 3 of 4 assures us of not having to watch the Redbirds celebrate on our watch.

Monday- Ryan Dempster (9-8 4.03) vs. Jeff Suppan (6-9 5.05)
Dempster looks to get his 10th win of the season against a lineup that he is very familiar with. Dempster had some issues in May with the Brewers hitters (Ryan Braun) who really just overreacted to Dempster being bad at controlling his pitches. The key for Dempster remains to throw strikes with his fastball to setup his slider and split-finger. Ryan didn't have good stuff last time out against the Pirates, but was able to get the win because of a seven run first inning.
Jeff Suppan was the opening day starter for the pitching starved Brewers and has been bad all season. He really isn't that good and has the control problems that the Cubs hitters love to face. Patience and getting the big hit or two should lead to Suppan getting beat pretty good.

Tuesday- Carlos Zambrano (8-6 3.77) vs. Yovani Gallardo (12-11 3.59)
Big Z has been back to getting lots of outs and not giving up runs again. He appears fully recovered from his back injury and shouldn't be limited in his innings. Z has been taken out after six innings his last two starts and didn't like it, Lou promised he can throw 200 pitches in this start. Let's just hope he doesn't need that if he goes all nine innings.
Gallardo is a great pitcher that will be around for a long time, but he is currently on innings watch. Usually Gallardo struggles with his pitch count and that is something (like I keep saying) the Cubs can exploit. The problem is Gallardo has such good stuff that he gets out of it more often than not. Expect this to be the lowest scoring game of the series and more than likely become a battle of crappy bullpens.

Wednesday- Rich Harden (9-8 4.04) vs. Braden Looper (12-6 4.77)
Harden is back in a stretch of bad pitching, and this tends to happen after he makes too many starts in a row. The Cubs should think about skipping him a start or four rather than have him injure his arm going into free agency. I expect Harden to get hit pretty hard by the Brewers in this start, and probably not make it to the fifth inning again. His control is leaving him again, meaning bad news for the bullpen.
Looper is gone away from the magic Dave Duncan cure for crappy relief pitchers that makes them respectable starting pitchers. He isn't a good pitcher, he can't throw strikes and the Cubs owe him about 20 runs scored after he pulled some shutdown games against us last season. Expect lots of runs in this game from both teams because neither pitcher is very good.

Thursday- Randy Wells (10-8 2.96) vs. Dave Bush (4-7 5.85)
Randy fell victim to a number of bad defensive plays last time out, most of them involving a certain shortstop who may or may not be my least favorite player. Randy was still getting lots of grounders that should have been outs, but whatever it happens. I still want him shut down for the season soon, but the Cubs seem not to care. Sort of refreshing in the midst of some downright strange Joba Rules, but I would rather we not tempt the fates here.
Dave Bush is clearly not a very good pitcher at all. The Cubs should crush him.

Hitters to watch
Prince Fielder- .301/.411/.595/1.006 39 HR 126 RBI 162 OPS+
Prince has become the second best hitter in the National League this season. He hits for sick power still, but now takes more walks and gets more hits too. He is enjoying his best season ever and certainly is a cornerstone to build around. The Brewers pitching is the only reason he isn't among the MVP favorites this season.

Ryan Braun- .308/.377/.547/.924 29 HR 99 RBI 140 OPS+
Braun is the quickest player to 100 career homers ever. He is a great hitter and an imposing force at the plate. He isn't quite as good as Prince, but don't let that fool you. With Braun and Prince the Brewers have a fearsome 3-4 that may be the best in the NL. Braun is also a bad fielder and a douche, his bug-eyes bother me and his little homer stunt in May against Ryan Dempster was one of the more douchy things I've ever seen.

Cubs need to take three of four, I think they can do it. Pitching always favors us, and hopefully the offense gets just enough runs to win the games. Keep that magic number at or above 7.

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