Well, a series win is on the line today at Wrigley Field, as the Cubs take on the Tigers in a rubber game. Newly-called-up infielder Luis Valbuena is being thrown right into the fire (rather than Adrian Cardenas, who cannot buy a start to save his life).

I feel like I’ve heard of that guy starting for the Tigers before…

Game Info

Detroit Tigers (29-33) at Chicago Cubs (21-41), 1:20pm CT on CSN.

Game Thread and Series Preview

The Game Thread lives here. You should participate in the madness. And, of course, for those who aren’t into message board-style game threads, please feel free to use the comments on this post for your in-game commentary/outbursts.

The Series Preview for this series lives here.

Starting Pitchers

Justin Verlander (5-4, 2.69 ERA, 1.004 WHIP)


Travis Wood (0-2, 4.71 ERA, 1.186 WHIP)

Detroit Tigers Lineup

1. Austin Jackson, CF

2. Brennan Boesch, RF

3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B

4. Prince Fielder, 1B

5. Delmon Young, LF

6. Jhonny Peralta, SS

7. Ryan Raburn, 2B

8. Gerald Laird, C

9. Justin Verlander, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup

1. Tony Campana, CF

2. Starlin Castro, SS

3. David DeJesus, RF

4. Alfonso Soriano, LF

5. Bryan LaHair, 1B

6. Steve Clevenger, C

7. Darwin Barney, 2B

8. Luis Valbuena, 3B

9. Travis Wood, P

  • dreese

    When do you think Dale will figure out that DeJesus does not like the 3 spot?

  • @cubsfantroy

    I really hope Verlander is off of his game. If not, he needs to pitch a perfect game. That is the only two ways I want to see this game. lol

    • Leroy K.

      agreed. they are actually showing the game here in the UK so im excited to watch it but not –that excited

      • MaxM1908

        Hey hey, I’m flying out to London tomorrow night for my wedding. Will my MLB audio account work over there? Though, I probably shouldn’t focus too much on the Cubs before or after the big day. Wife might get pissy.

        • JL

          Congrats on the wedding!

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Congrats again! (The Wife and I are at The Burger Bar right now, by the way.)

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Yes, it works in the UK, or it did 2 summers ago.  Tell your SO that you are listening to cricket and she should understand.  Just say “Wicked googlie!” “Crikey! He bowled the wickets!” and “Oh, look, the tea lady is out” and you will fool her.


          • Leroy K.

            I love London, being stationed just north of Leeds, I try to go down every couple months. It is wonderful. You will enjoy yourself.

        • MaxM1908

          Thanks for all the well wishes, guys! You’ll be happy to know that my fiancee, who grew up abroad, only knows 1 team in MLB: the Cubs. She also pays attention enough that she asked me when Kerry Wood retired, “Isn’t that the guy you get so angry at when he’s pitching?”

          Doc, I spent a couple months in London in January and February for work. Cricket has to be the most non-sensical sport I’ve ever tried to understand. They might as well have been speaking Greek whenever I heard the cricket report on BBC.

          Brett, what did you order?

  • willis

    I can’t wait to see campana attempt to catch up to a 99-100 MPH heater from Verlander. What a mismatch.

    All Reed Johnson does is hit and play good defense in CF. Yet dude can’t get a start over a little leaguer.

    • Cee-Dee-Vee

      You right all Reed can do is hit……PINCH hit. His numbers arent so good when he starts

    • Cee-Dee-Vee

      You’re right all Reed can do is hit……PINCH hit. His numbers arent so good when he starts

    • JL

      I believe Dale’s plan with Campana leading off is to show Verlander who we are right from the get-go!!!

  • http://twitter.com/dkhockey24 David

    Two perfect games in two days? If that’s ever going to happen, I think today’s the day – the Tigers lineup isn’t *that* special and I have a pretty good feeling about Travis Wood.

    • Brian

      Ha…Ha..haaa. Good one.

  • ibcnu2222 (John)

    Verlander is having an off year. compared to last year that is.

  • Featherstone

    So, cubs get shut out on 2 hit CG by Verlander. Any takers?

    • Leroy K.

      I will put 10 in….

    • HuskerCub

      What odds will you give me if I take the under on the 2 hits?

    • RY34

      yeah i think you are just about dead on with that prediction

  • IlliniCubFan

    Considering how awful Campana looks trying to hit most fast balls, I don’t believe this one is going to end well for Tony.

  • Leroy K.

    Well Doug Padilla’s chat sucked….give me a break, I don’t know why I go on ESPN….

    Correction: Apparantly just my computer sucks….

  • mudge

    Feeling good about Travis Wood & DeJesus today.

    • RY34

      u r one positively over optimistic individual, not that there is anything wrong with that, it just won’t matter in today’s game. verlander is pissed and will totally dominate us, unfortunately.

  • CityCub

    Just wondering but, what’s the cubs’ record vs the top aces in the league? I know they’ve been pretty decent vs Halladay. Maybe Brett has some info on that. But today has great potential to be a terrible day with Verlander on the mound

  • Cub Gone Wild

    Reed Johnson couldn’t get a job on any team other than the Cubs. He hustles and thats all he has going for him. He is blocking anyone in Single A that plays the outfield. He’s a fan favorite but that doesn’t make him any good. He was DFA’d by the Jays 3 years ago and cut loose by the Dodgers. Yet we pick him up and keep him around. Every time I see him hit he is 2 seconds behind on an 92 mph fastball. He swings with his eyes closed and gets lucky and makes contact sometimes. I like his hustle but he is going to be gone for good this time around.

    • Deer

      can’t tell if you’re joking or not. He’s hitting .301 with a .363 OBP. That’s solid for a 4th OF. He just is frustrating because Dale seems to call on him with 2 outs in the 9th to PH, which wouldn’t go well for any bench player.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        In Johnson’s case, it is not simply small sample size, but also a very selective sample.  Sveum uses Johnson almost exclusively against pitchers of the sort against which Reed has had success historically.

        • Cyranojoe

          Tell me that’s not how you’re supposed to use your bench players… 😀

          • King Jeff

            It is, Doc is just pointing out that Reed is being put into those positions to succeed and he’s not coming through very much. I think Johnson’s a valuable bench piece, to a team that needs him as a bench player, not someone expected to come up with big hits in tough situations.

    • KyleNovak

      Situation. I repeat. It’s all about the *situation* of each individual team.

      Johnson is an aging fourth OF. The front office made the decision to re-sign, because A) he is versatile, and despite his declining range and arm, handles himself well with the glove, B) he had a good offensive season last year (even though his BABIP was very high, he has always shown a nice bit of power for a bench player), C) it was for $1 Million, which means he could easily be released if he fell off a cliff, D) NOBODY in the Cubs system was proven enough to take that job from him. Sappelt *could* have taken the job if Johnson played poorly, but it’s now clear that he has his own issues to work out in AAA. Brett Jackson isn’t ready and is working toward being an everyday player, not a bench guy.

      D is a HUGE reason Johnson didn’t have offers from other teams. They had younger talent with higher upside already on the roster or closer to MLB. It wasn’t like he couldn’t be successful elsewhere (most organizations have a Reed Johnson-type comp statistically), they just didn’t NEED him because of what they already had.

      The *situation* is the same reason LaHair got a shot to play first. Contending teams already had a top-tier first baseman or would have been content to sign a proven MLB veteran and remove the possibility of a career slugging minor leaguer falling flat on his face. What did the Cubs have to lose, especially since they were projecting to be bad in 2012 anyways. What did they have to lose with re-signing Johnson.

      Johnson is the perfect example of an average to slightly-above-average bench player who screams “small sample size.” Was his success last year due to a high BABIP? Yes. Has he had seasons with a much lower BABIP? Yes, again. But with just 200-250 PA a season, it is statistically possible that he could repeat his high BABIP. And guess what? At this point in the season he is, all while having another solid year so far.

  • Leroy K.

    1-0 sigh…

  • Danny B

    Some players are actually kept on the roster for their defense. We seem to forget this in the days of the three run homer. Find me a single-A player who is better on D than Reed Johnson. He should be replacing Soriano in left in any close game by the 7th inning.

    • Kyle

      1) The only people worth a major-league roster spot for their defense are pitchers.

      2) Reed Johnson is not that good defensively. He makes some nice, diving catches but he has very limited range, especially in center.

  • Kyle

    Darwin Barney missed taking Verlander deep by a hair with a ripping double off the wall.

    I love new Barney. .736 OPS, .131 ISO.

    Let “Darwin Barney added 15 pounds of muscle” be added to the short list of spring trainings stories that actually turned into results in the regular season.

    • Cubs Dude

      Yes, very much unlike the piece on Byrd showing up in great shape to spring training, and turning into a ninja during the offseason. Ha…

    • CastrotoBarneytoLaHair

      I believed in Barney from the beginning…Still plenty of doubters out there though, especially the posters that like to list “future” lineups with anyone but Barney at second base…

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      Barney might have a higher OPS than Castro by the end of the day.

    • hansman1982

      Whats the league average OPS for a 2nd baseman?

      • Drew7

        Joking right? Like .690

    • KyleNovak

      It’s been a promising first half for Barney, who already has 15 doubles and is hitting the ball with more authority this year. If he can keep up the .400+ SLG, get 35-ish doubles and continue his great defensive play, he’ll be a very solid cheap option going forward as the Cubs add further pieces. At least for now, the added muscle is translating instead of just making him look better with his shirt off. :)

      It doesn’t help that the Cubs have had such abyssmally poor offensive production from 3B, C, and CF as a whole. Barney would definitely be considered a lovable “glue” guy on a team like the Yankees or Rangers.

  • Jp

    I haven’t been watching the game til the 3rd inning because of errands and such but have to say I half expected Big V to be no hitting to this point… 2 runs, color me impressed

    • MichiganGoat

      I hate it when I have my number one pick fantasy pitcher going against the Cubs, it’s impossible for me to watch. But GO CUBS RUIN MY FANTASY WEEK!

      • Jonski

        I struggle with that very same thing.

      • King Jeff

        I don’t have that problem because the Cubs own Roy Halladay almost every time he pitches against them.

  • Jp

    Is Dempster still in the Cubs dugout?)

  • TakingWrigleyToSãoPaulo

    Quietly, Travis wood is turning into a decent #5. Except for one start has keep us in the game. Not to mention, he can handle the bat a little bit…

  • rbreeze

    Verlander is in a groove now.  We may not get any more runs today if he keeps this up.

  • Cyranojoe

    Nice of the Cubbies to give Verlander an easy day — like with the top of our order going down in a five-pitch 6th inning…

  • Kyle

    Kevin Goldstein ‏@Kevin_Goldstein
    If you dislike Starlin Castro, but you’re all excited about Rizzo and other prospects, you have a horrible case of Shiny New Toy syndrome.

    • Sweetjamesjones

      I saw that too. Kevin Goldstein cracks me up.

  • Rizzofanclub

    If the Rays called up and offered Matt Moore and Hak Ju Lee for Starlin Castro do you take it? I was asked this last night when I was drinking with a group of friends and it was split 50/50 both ways.

    • Kyle

      Probably not. I really, really don’t trust pitchers.

    • Cubs Dude

      No way I do that deal if I am the Cubs. Sorry but it’s really not even close IMO.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Hak Ju Lee is doing significantly (and highly significantly) worse at the age of 21 in AA than Castro was doing at the age of 21 in MLB.

      Moore is really tempting, but I agree with Kyle: it’s just hard to trust them in the sense that it is very probable that Castro will be helping some team win after Moore is pretty much washed out.  Now, getting someone like Moore for a veteran is an entirely different matter: but the Rays are not going to deal him.

    • MichiganGoat

      Nope, Castro can impact every game where a pitcher is only capable of impacting every fifth game. Now if they are interested in prospects not call Rizzo I say go for it.

  • Kyle

    Speaking of Hak Ju Lee, he’s getting dominated by AA pitching again.

    The prospect ranking pundits really, really overreacted to his BABIP-fueled 2011. He still just doesn’t profile as a major-league hitter to me. His defense *might* carry him to a borderline starter role, a la pre-2012 Darwin Barney.

    And speaking of Darwin Barney, guess who just passed Starlin Castro in OPS.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Yeah, for all of the hollering that Hendry “gave away the future” when he acquired Garza, it is very possible that the Rays won’t get anything other than utility players out of the deal.

      • MaxM1908

        I always thought that Garza trade was a good one. It doesn’t make a fan of Hendry overall, but that move definitely goes in his plus column. What will be particularly amazing to see is if the Cubs can turn Garza into impact players with a collective value greater than what they gave away. I think that’s very possible if not probable.

        • Cubs Dude

          I wonder if Theo would accept a trade if the Rays offered the exact same package back for Garza? Something we’ll never know I guess.

          • Edwin

            It’s different though. Garza costs more now, and has less years of control. He’s also older. I think they’ll get less for him than they originally gave up, but I think overall the trade has been a “win” for the Cubs.

            • Cubs Dude

              I agree with you, but I think a lot of Cubs fans are thinking they’ll get more than that package. I don’t think Garza will get us nearly as much as a lot of people expect.

              • Edwin

                True. I think people overvalue deadline trades.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        I never did understand all the outrage over the Garza trade.  At worst, the trade was dead even for the Cubs.  At worst.

        • Edwin

          At the time, the trade didn’t look great. Garza was a fly ball pitcher who didn’t strike out enough batters, and looked better than he did due to the Rays defense. The Cubs were giving up their #1 and #3 prospect, respectively. At worst, the Cubs had just traded a future starting SS and middle of the rotation or better starting pitcher for a pitcher who was going to a park that didn’t fit.

          Obviously, things have worked out much differently for the Cubs. Garza developed a better slider, and has improved as a pitcher. Archer and Lee haven’t developed as fast as the Rays would like.

          Edit: Still, I agree with you, the trade was nowhere near as bad as a lot of fans made it out to be at the time.

    • Noah

      Klaw was actually the only one who was that high on HJL. Klaw saw doubles power. Everyone else saw singles only.

  • Kyle

    Chance to put some breathing room between us and the Padres. A full game down on them with their game tonight to play.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That actually made me laugh. We’re already there.

  • Noah

    I do think people overrate Castro some. Castro, as he is, is a very good player. However, there is no guarantee that he will ever walk or hit for more power than he does. And if marginal gains in his ability to walk or hit for more power end up being offset by having to move to third, then it ends up being a wash. But Castro’s not a GREAT player. He has the potential to be a great player.

    With that said, I would not require the sort of 5 top prospects in the Top 50 that some have required. However, I would require at least two Top 100s, and to get Castro for two Top 100s, it would have to include a young middle of the field position player in the Top 10. For example, if the Rangers offered Jurickson Profar (draws more walks than Castro, hit for more power at similar ages/levels, probably more polished at the same age defensively) and Mike Olt, who would be an excellent bridge at 3B until Javier Baez is ready, I would be very tempted to take that. What are the odds of the Rangers offering that trade (or any team offering a similar trade?) It is somewhere in the vicinity of zero. It would require: (1) Elvis Andrus suffering at least a season ending injury, if not a career threatening injury; and (2) the Rangers deciding Profar is not ready when he probably is.

    I think people who are saying that Castro is only tradeable for 5 Top 40 prospects, though, are greatly overrating a guy with a 2% walk rate and .130 ISO.

    • Kyle

      The reason we “overrate” Castro is that while there are no guarantees in life, the list of guys who hit like he does *at his age* are very, very short.

      As Goldstein pointed out today, Castro is younger than Jackson, Rizzo or Szczur.

      But yeah, I’d probably do a deal for him involving Profar and something else.

      That’s why people need to be more specific when they talk about “Top X prospects.” Profar is probably the No. 1 prospect in the minors right now.

      There’s an epic bell curve to prospects. We throw around words like “elite” or “great” too casually, so it waters things down and makes it hard to quantify what needs to be quantified.

      I’ll take one Profar over a half-dozen guys in the 20-40 range in the top 100. He’s elite, the rest are merely great. And there’s no amount of great prospects that I’d trade for an elite prospect.

    • Cubs Dude

      Personally I think people under rate Castro big time. I am always hearing people talk negatively about that dude. Sure his approach is garbage at times and he has mental lapses in the field occasionally, but the guy is amazing with what he has done at that age and position.

      • Noah

        I agree with you that what he has done at his age and his position is very impressive.

        What I disagree with is that there is any guarantee he will improve from what he is now. And if he does not do that, he is a very good ball player, but not a great ball player.

        This has been a season of very mixed feelings for me about Castro. I love the defensive improvement I’ve seen since the first few weeks of the season. But his approach at the plate has just been so terrible so often, that it has been discouraging.

  • http://Bleachernation.com Ramy16

    The Cubs are horrible, pitching And Bull pen suck! When in the Hell is Theo going to quit meal piecing shit together and actually put something decent out on the field! Watching this shit day in and down and same result over and over again! I feel bad for Dale Svuem, the guy has nothing to work with! I say trade Garza he’s shit.. His last four outings above 4.00 era! I would rather watch a bunch of youngsters take their knocks at least we know the outcome! The Cubs have been in 80% of the games only to lose after the 6th inning or better! So what does that come down too?

    • Leroy K.

      2015 ramy

    • The Show

      So you are tired of watching shit baseball, so you want to trade everybody for prospects and rush their development by sending them up to the majors even if they are not ready. Yeah nice logic.

    • Jeremy

      Cool, another person that doesn’t understand what a rebuild is.

  • stu

    I do see the value in building a team the right way. If the Cubs bring up 1-2 ready minor leaguers every year and sign 1-2 decent reasonably high ceiling free agents every year, they will slowly get back to a respectable club in a few years. It is just painful to watch the bottoming out process.

    What I don’t get is the extremely high ticket prices that are still being charged. It is indefensible for the current product. Why not charge a discount for this year for goodwill purposes and then escalate it as the team gets on the right track through the next decade?

  • die hard

    3B in good hands?