Tagged: Jose Ascanio

A Look at the Division

While the Cubs enjoy a day off, I decided to take a look at the state of the NL Central.

Who says the NL Central is a weak division.  Right now, four of the six teams are over .500.  The top four teams are separated by 3 and a half games.  As of the end of play on May 18, here are the standings.
                Milwaukee 24-14   —
                Chicago    21-15   2
                St. Louis   21-17   3
                Cincinnati  20-17   3.5
                Houston    17-19   6
                Pittsburgh 17-21   7
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The Brewers have been red hot as of late.  In their last three series, the Brew Crew took 2 out of three from the Cubs, swept three from the Marlins, and swept three from the Cardinals.  Trevor Hoffman has been lights out, converting all nine save opportunities.  The offense has been clicking, led by the Villainous Braun and Prince Fielder.  The starting pitching has been better than expected.  Will it last?  Prince Fielder is the absolute worst defensive first baseman I’ve seen at the big league level.  Having watched a lot of bad Cubs baseball over the years, that’s saying something.  The strain he puts on the pitching staff over the course of the season by giving teams extra outs is great.  The Brewers should trade him the to AL for some starting pitching.  At least there he can be someone’s DH.  Milwaukee got some bad news today when they learned they had lost Rickie Weeks for the season with a wrist injury.  Weeks had nine homers, 24 RBI, and a .517 on base percentage.
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I really don’t know how the Cubs have the record they have considering how erratic their starting pitching has been, how dreadful the bullpen has been, and how many key injuries they’ve had.  Piniella’s team has found a way to persevere.  This does give me hope for this season. Bobby Scales and Randy Wells have been pleasant surprises thus far.  Will the Cubs be able to maintain their offense during Ramirez’s absence?  Has Derrek Lee finally turned the corner with Sunday’s big performance?  Can Marmol be lights out again?  Can the Cubs really rely on Kevin Gregg?  Will Fukudome have another second half swoon?  These are some of the questions the Cubs face.
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The Cardinals came out of the gate like gangbusters.  Their high powered offense, led by Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick, was clobbering everyone.  Albert Pujols is the best player in the game right now, but things are going to get tougher for him now that his protector in the lineup, Ludwick, has gone on the DL.  They were just swept by Milwaukee in a series where they produced little offense.  Their bullpen has looked shaky at times once again.  They don’t have a true closer.  Sorry, Dad, But I think the Cardinals are beginning their slide down the standings.  Don’t forget who they play next!
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Cincinnati was my sleeper team this year.  They have a boatload of really good young talent. Could this be the Tampa Bay Rays of 2009?  Cincinnati is finding out “In Dusty, we trusty”.
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Houston has a scary offense with no pitching.  If they try hard, they could end up .500.
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The Pirates started out strong.  It looked like their young pitchers, such as Duke, Snell, & Gorzelanny had turned the corner like Verlander & Bonderman had for the Tigers in 2006.  However, they’ve slid back down in the last couple of weeks.  They still could figure in as a spoiler for the contenders down the stretch.
Extra! Extra!
Meet Jose Ascanio, the Cubs new reliever extraordinaire.
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Here are the results of the first four batters Jose faced in Sunday’s 6-5 loss to the Astros.
Batter 1 – Hit by Pitch (Hey, watch it!)
Batter 2 – Hit by Pitch (Ouch! That had to hurt.)
Batter 3 – Single to right, RBI
Batter 4 – Oops! Wild pitch, run scores
Someone actually figured out something Larry Rothschild hasn’t been able to, how to make Kevin Gregg, Neil Cotts, & Aaron Heilman look good.  Watch it now, these guys have got some competition.
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The Villainous Braun

It’s always good to see Ryan Braun look like this after an at bat.
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                       Darren Hauck, Associated Press / May 10, 2009     


Braun is
one Brewer who is starting to rub me the wrong way.  He seems to have an
arrogance about him   When he hits a home run, he throws his bat, runs
around the bases with his arms extended and his tongue sticking out.  If
the Brewers win, he pulls his shirt out of his pants right away and struts
around with an arrogant bravado.  He’s the perfect villain in the Cubs vs.
Brewers rivalry.  We couldn’t contain him Friday, but thankfully we did yesterday.

46809840.jpg     Darren Hauck, Associated Press / May 8, 2009

See what I mean?

Yesterday, the Cub bullpen finally did its job in preserving a 4-2 win in Milwaukee.  Marmol looked shaky again in the 8th, having loaded the bases, but he managed to pitch out of it.  Gregg was actually effective in closing out the ninth.

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                          Darren Hauck,
Associated Press / May 10, 2009     

Sean Marshall turned in another strong outing.  He struggled early, but only gave up two runs.  He really settled down after the rocky start.

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                                  Darren Hauck,
Associated Press / May 10, 2009  

I heard that Piniella feels that fixing the bullpen should be priority number one.  Yeah, no kidding.  The Cubs did call up reliever Jose Ascanio to replace the injured Chad Fox.
Finally, here’s some good news coming out of Cubs camp.  Derrek Lee had an MRI on his neck and it was determined that he will not need to go on the DL and should be back in the lineup during the upcoming home stand.
It’s a good thing that there is no Cubs game tonight, because all eyes in Chicago will be on our beloved Blackhawks as they look to close out the Canucks at the United Center and punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals.
Hopefully, we’ll see more scenes like these.
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      Darryl Dyck, Associated Press / May 9, 2009

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               Jonathan
Hayward, Associated Press / May 9, 2009  

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                 Jonathan
Hayward, Associated Press / May 9, 2009  

Let’s start the chant now.  “Let’s go Hawks!”  “Let’s go Hawks!”
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