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wrigley field from right bleachersSweep! The Cubs can get the two-game sweep today behind The Stache, who hasn’t quite been as Stachey as you’d like to see from The Stache the last couple times out.

On the other bump is Jake Westbrook, the 35-year-old best pitcher in the National League right now (by ERA). Because, you know, voodoo magic.

Alfonso Soriano gets the day off, which means we’ll see the starting debut of Ryan Sweeney, and we’ll also see Luis Valbuena batting third. If I’d told you in February that there would come a day that Luis Valbuena would be batting third and Kevin Gregg would be closing and that you wouldn’t hate it, I would have lost 85% of my readership.

Valbuena is playing second base today, as Darwin Barney also gets a much-needed day off.

Game Info

St. Louis Cardinals (20-12) at Chicago Cubs (13-20), 1:20 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. (It’s a bit small, though … )

Starting Pitchers

Jake Westbrook (2-1, 1.07 ERA, 1.396 WHIP)

versus

Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 2.85 ERA, 0.927 WHIP)

St. Louis Cardinals Lineup

1. Matt Carpenter, 2B

2. Carlos Beltran, RF

3. Matt Holliday, LF

4. Allen Craig, 1B

5. Yadier Molina, C

6. Jon Jay, CF

7. David Freese, 3B

8. Pete Kozma, SS

9. Jake Westbrook, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup

1. David DeJesus, CF

2. Starlin Castro, SS

3. Luis Valbuena, 2B

4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

5. Nate Schierholtz, RF

6. Ryan Sweeney, LF

7. Dioner Navarro, C

8. Cody Ransom, 3B

9. Carlos Villanueva, P

  • JAhl

    Brett:

    I have a suggestion for the “Pre-Gamin’” posts… can you list the handedness of the opposing pitcher? I find myself looking that info up every day.

    • Jed Jam Band

      Yes, this would make a lot of sense.

  • North Side Irish

    If anyone wants last minute tickets, I can’t use mine today…first row of the upper deck, just behind 3B.

  • CM

    Great to see Gregg officially named the closer. Now he can officially begin blowing saves.

    • ssckelley

      I was thinking the same thing.

  • fromthemitten

    lol remember when Joe Mather hit third?

    • DarthHater

      Please. That’s Super Joe Mather. Thank you.

  • another JP

    Nate the Great is killing the Cards this series. Gotta love it.

  • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

    Rizzo 2-2. Now, to teach him a ‘Cardinal’ rule: No run on Molina. (You are not Rickey being Rickey Henderson.)

    http://mlb.mlb.com/team/player.jsp?player_id=425877#gameType=%27R%27&statType=3&sectionType=career&season=2013&level=%27ALL%27
    Lifetime 279 SB, 220 CS. Though this year he’s only thrown out 4 (5) runners out of 16.

  • bbmoney

    There is a great example of why having a 5 or 6 man bullpen would have been great. You could carry 3 catchers more easily so you could more readily pinch hit for your catcher in a situation like that.

  • North Side Irish

    Jon Heyman ‏@JonHeymanCBS 1m
    Nate Schierholtz has been a really good signing by the #cubs. May have only needed a full chance.

  • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

    Russell – how bout getting your pitches down? Yep, you’re done today.

  • North Side Irish

    Derrick Goold ‏@dgoold 11m
    Rivalry in flux: Today’s 26,354 crowd lowest #Cardinals-#Cubs attendance since May 1, 1998. Thanks for @LangoschMLB assist in research.
    Retweeted by Patrick Mooney

    Yikes…factor in the approximately 25K season tickets sold and that’s really sad…

  • morgan

    Again its the fucking bullpen, There is nobody to blame but theo and jed the way this season has started. There were plenty of good bullpen guys in free agency and yet we continue to throw out Bowden Camp Marmol, Just terrible, this team would be above 500 with an average bullpen.

    • TWC

      “There is nobody to blame but theo and jed…”

      Really? Because there are an awful lot of folks that want to blame Sveum for the bullpen. Of course, since it was Russell blowing the game today, no one’s gonna say boo about it. But if Camp or Marmol or anyone else had done it, HELL TO PAY!

      • Rebuilding

        Is it possible for the bullpen to be poorly constructed and for Sveum to misuse it? The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I criticize Sveum when I think he makes the wrong choice, not when the bullpen blows games. I have no problem with anything he has done today, including hitting Schierholtz there against a lefty

        • TWC

          ::rolls eyes::

          I’m so relieved that you don’t have any problems with Sveum today.

          So. Relieved.

          • Rebuilding

            Was that a response? I’m not an 8 year old so I can’t tell. I thought I responded to your original post since I have criticized Sveum for some of his moves

        • Behind enemy lines (south side cub fan)

          Don’t get too nuanced Rebuilding, lord knows you’re either with us or against us.

          • TWC

            Lulz. Because I’m on Team Theo/Jed Kool-Aid, right? Horseshit. I have some huge issues with things the FO has done. But I don’t feel the need to rail on and on about those things all the time. I have almost no real issues with Sveum. But keep casting things in black and white if it’s easier for you to understand.

            • Rebuilding

              I think I did just the opposite as casting things in black and white. I think the FO is responsible for putting together a terrible bullpen and I think Sveum is responsible for sometimes pulling starters too early and/or picking the worst of bad choices. Not sure why that touches such a nerve. I don’t think Sveum has much to work with and I don’t think he does a particularly good job with what he has. Just an opinion

              • TWC

                “I think I did just the opposite as casting things in black and white.”

                Did I say you did? No. My reply was to South Side Cubs Fan.

                I generally find your comments too tedious to read.

                • Rebuilding

                  If you can’t understand them then please don’t feel the need to reply to so many

              • Kyle

                There’s lots of blame to be put around.

                It’s hard to build a good bullpen without some young, quality, hard-throwing arms to graduate into the majors, and we don’t have those.

                Given the lack of pitching depth organizationally and the stupid financial restrictions we are under, I think their strategy of stacking up on starting pitching while hoping to use the excess to shore up the bullpen.

                But regardless of whether it was a good strategy, it’s failed abysmally. The bullpen was 30th last year in net WPA and on pace this year to be more than twice as bad.

          • DarthHater

            I don’t think the nattering nabobs of negativity should be getting on too high a horse about taking a nuanced position. Remember, the guy who wanted to publicly execute Marmol on the pitcher’s mound is on your side. ;-)

            • DarthHater

              And I am assuming that I may have just provided the first Spiro Agnew quote in the history of Bleacher Nation. You’re welcome. :-P

            • Rebuilding

              What side is that? I’m on the Cubs side, not the FO or Sveum’s side. General managers and managers come and go. A lot of the people on this board seem to think that if you criticize the FO or Sveum you are somehow doing something wrong or attacking the bigger entity that is the “Cubs”. And I do t think I’m a negative nabob when I praise Valbuena or point out the great game Soler had today. It really hasn’t been that hard to be negative about the team/manager/FO the last 2 years

            • Behind enemy lines (south side cub fan)

              …someone wanted to publicly execute marmol? I skip lurking for a week and I miss the crazies.

              • TWC

                It was weird. Real weird.

            • Rebuilding

              And I enjoyed the Agnew reference. I will add that I’ve never called for a relievers execution (including LaTroy Hawkins)

            • Behind enemy lines (south side cub fan)

              It’s interesting to me as mostly a lurker,* in a lot of ways — and I’m using your comment as more of a springboard than a prompt — how things can frequently get pinned as pro-cubs or anti-cubs and lead to well-reasoned analyses getting shouted down on what appear to be inexplicable motivations.

              I’ve been thinking about how it has a lot to do with particular fans’ concept of “the cubs”; we’re all here (except for that cards fan earlier) because we clearly like the cubs, indeed far more than the average (or perhaps even above average) fan. Yet certain ideas are dismissed as being anti-cubs; the “negative nabobs” etc. (which, I lold — one love darth, just a good example).

              I generally tend to align with Kyle and to a lesser extent rebuilding and have a hard time identifying with those who don’t; but I’m seeing that POV more as a different concept of “the cubs.” We might all be well-served to put on those glasses a bit before commenting because hey we love when that W flag flies and I hate to see cubs fans at each others’ throats.

              Back to lurking and occasionally high-fiving the goat,

              SSCF

              *my tendency to be verbose prompts my lurking tendencies; I don’t want to take the tempting time to write a long comment any more than y’all wanna read it ;)

      • Kyle

        The best part about today was that Sveum misused the bullpen by wasting his only remotely useful bullpen pitcher in a spot where almost any pitcher can be expected to get out of the inning unscathed (2 out, none on) rather than save him for a more important situation.

        But Sveum didn’t even get the out he was overplaying his hand to get and the lead was still blown.

        • OCCubFan

          I’d say that Gregg is useful—at least currently. But I concur with your point. Even more egregious was a couple days ago. After Marmol loaded the bases with no outs, the game was clearly on the line and the leverage was as high as it would get, Sveum had Gregg and one other guy available. He “saved” Gregg for the 9th and lost the game in the 8th.

          • Kyle

            With Gregg, you have to either believe

            1) A relief-pitcher with Marmol-like control problems his entire career magically has put it together at the age of 34.

            or

            2) He’s still bad and has had 8.1 hot innings.

            I’m going with option 2.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Or

              3.) He’s not as good as his numbers have been for these 8.1 innings, but he’s slightly better than he’s been for the rest of his career – because if you watch him, he looks good.

              • Rebuilding

                He definitely looks better by the “eye test”. I’ll have to dig around on Fangraphs and see if he is doing something different so far coated to career tendencies

              • Kyle

                He’s always looked good on the eye test. He’s got swing-and-miss stuff.

                • Rebuilding

                  I know your point is that he has always had control issues. I’m just curious as to whether he is using more/less fastballs this year to combat those. Probably hard to draw conclusions after 8 innings

            • OCCubFan

              What I believe is that Russell and Gregg are currently the two best choices from the Cubs’ pen.

  • Rebuilding

    Valbuena just keeps finding ways to get on base. Soler with 2 doubles and a HR at Daytona today. OPS at .934

  • RY

    jesus are we gonna set a record for the most double plays hit into in a game

    • DocPeterWimsey

      8 is a lot. However, with the recent trend towards groundball pitchers, I’ll bet that this is not that rare: we just don’t see it because the Cubs don’t draw many walks, and teams that draw more walks hit into more DP than do teams that draw fewer walks.

      • OCCubFan

        So, not drawing walks is just a clever strategy by the Cubs.

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