92 Years in the Making: Cubs Series Snapshot
September 11, 1918 was the last time the Chicago Cubs played at Fenway Park. A lot has happened in baseball and the world since these 2 teams squared-off at the Fens. There have been 17 different Presidents of the United States, 25 Massachusetts Governors, and most importantly, 2 World Series titles for the Boston Red Sox. Baseball has experienced the end of the dead ball era, segregation and integration, scandals too numerous to count, and most recently, the steroid era. The Cubs and Red Sox have seen well over 60 managers combined patrol their dugouts, yet this series still means a lot on both sides of the diamond. After the Red Sox won the World Series in 1918, their 86-year drought defined the franchise, while the Cubs are amidst an even more heart-breaking 102-year dry spell entering 2011. It’s hard not to sympathize with our brothers and sisters from the north side of Chicago.
This series will be special on many levels for all the reasons above and much more. Red Sox fans and Cubs fans have always felt a special connection, because in most everyone of our lifetimes, these 2 franchises have held the longest World Series droughts in all of baseball. Despite the fact that the Red Sox have won 2 titles in the last 6 years, there is still an understanding for the type of commitment it takes to continue to follow and support a franchise, even when circumstance after circumstance stands in the way of that coveted trophy. Long-time Red Sox fans are some of the few people that can honestly say to the Cubs fans that they understand and get how frustrating and difficult it can be at times. On another level, the Cubs and Red Sox have 2 of the oldest stadiums in all of baseball. They are tourist attractions and living witnesses to some of the greatest performances in the history of the game. They both have amazingly unique character and appeal, like very few venues in all of sports.
This is not an ordinary weekend series in May. It is a special 3-game set with two of the greatest baseball franchises of all time, steeped in tradition and history, each with fan-bases that are committed and dedicated to their team. Putting aside the past, let’s take a look at the upcoming series.
Regular Season Record: 19-23, in NL Central (5.5 GB)
Boston Red Sox
Regular Season Record: 23-20, in AL East (1.5 GB)
The Red Sox are primed for this 3-game set at Fenway, having won 6 straight games after their 2-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers, winning Thursday night in walk-off fashion. They have popped 3-games above .500 for the 1st time this season. Like the Red Sox, the Cubs are coming off a 2-game sweep (Florida Marlins), but are looking to climb back closer to the .500 mark and gain some ground in the NL Central.
Friday, May 20 – LHP Doug Davis (0-1, 1.80) vs. LHP Jon Lester (5-1, 3.28)
Lester has had a strong campaign thus far and is looking to keep it going in a lefty-lefty showdown on Friday night.
Saturday, May 21 – RHP Carlos Zambrano (4-2, 4.89) vs. RHP Alfredo Aceves (1-0, 2.60)
Aceves is making a spot start for the Red Sox with the recent DL trips for Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey. Zambrano comes in looking for win #5 on the season.
Sunday, May 22 – RHP Matt Garza (2-4, 3.72) vs. RHP Tim Wakefield (0-1, 5.40)
Wake is making a spot start like Aceves and matches up against a Red Sox nemesis, Garza. Garza always seemed to pitch an amazing game against the Red Sox as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. As Jordan of Cubbies Crib points out in the question section below, Garza’s record is deceiving. He has pitched extremely well in 2011, so this could be the toughest match-up of the weekend for the Red Sox.
Chicago HOT Player:
Marlon Byrd is the hottest hitter on the Cubs right now. Byrd had two home runs during the Cubs 2 game sweep of the Florida Marlins, and is hitting .304 in the his last 7 games.
Chicago COLD Player:
After hitting 10 home runs in the month of April, Soriano only has 1 in May. While he is hitting .316 in his last 7 games, he simply is not hitting for the power. Soriano is not paid for hitting for average, he is paid for his power output. With the rest of the Cubs offense struggling to put up power numbers, the Cubs can ill-afford Soriano to struggle in the power department as well.
The Walking Wounded:
– Junichi Tazawa (P) – 60-day DL, torn ulnar collateral ligament – could being rehab assignment in late May. Return in July.
– Bobby Jenks (P) – 15-day DL with right biceps strain. He’s scheduled for first catch session on May 16 with a return possible in June.
– Dan Wheeler (P) – 15-day DL with a calf strain. Made a Triple A rehab appearance on May 14 and could return to the big club in a few days.
– Marco Scutaro (SS) – 15-day DL with injury to left side. He underwent MRI on May 8 and may return late May.
– Andrew Cashner (P) – 15-day DL with strained right rotator cuff.
– Angel Guzman (P) – Out Indefinitely with tear in shoulder.
– Brian Schlitter (P) – 15-day DL with strained right elbow, possible June return.
– Geovany Soto (C) – 15-day DL with strained left groin, due back on May 26.
– Randy Wells (P) – 15-day DL with strained right forearm.
3 Questions with Jordan Campbell of Cubbies Crib:
Q: Matt Garza was brought in to Chicago to help solidify the pitching staff. How has he adjusted to life in Chicago where there is more pressure from fans and the media?
A: Garza has been as good as advertised. Obviously when you see a 2-4 record and 3.72 ERA some may start to criticize the trade. But if you go deeper into the sabermetrics of Garza’s season, it would be discovered that Garza is actually the second best pitcher in the National League to Roy Halladay. That is not just the homer in me, Garza has been that good. As far as how he has adjusted, he is already when of the biggest team cheerleaders on days that he is not pitching. From every aspect of his personality, Garza is a perfect fit for the Cubs.
Q: Off to a slow start this year at 19-23, what’s been the biggest reason for a sub .500 Cubs team?
A: Their starting pitching, Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner have been sidelined since April 8, and neither of their replacements–Casey Coleman and James Russell–have been able to put together consistent outings. Doug Davis, who the Red Sox will see Friday, replaces Russell as the fifth starter. Davis had a successful debut for the Cubs against the Giants last weekend, and looks to be up to his old tricks.
Q: Who’s been the MVP through the first quarter of the season for the Cubs? Who’s been the LVP?
A: The MVP is really tough. Obviously Starlin Castro deserves all the credit in the world, but he was expected to be this good. Darwin Barney would be my choice for Cubs MVP. Barney leads all rookies in terms of batting average, entering this week, and has really become a stellar player for the Cubs at the second base position.
The LVP would have to be Carlos Pena. While Pena has turned it on as of late, he still is no where near the $10 million that the Cubs gave him this off-season. The Cubs expected a low average and high strikeouts this season from Pena but they also were expecting the power output. If not for the past couple of weeks, you would not even be able to classify Pena as a power hitter.
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