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Posted on: September 5, 2009 11:51 pm
 

Wells Pitching

NEW YORK -- The Cubs will look to win their third consecutive series on Sunday behind Randy Wells, the rookie that has arguably been their best pitcher this season.

Wells has emerged as the unlikely ace of the Cubs' staff, leading the starters with a 2.90 ERA and tied for the team lead with 10 wins. It's not exactly what anybody -- not even Wells -- expected in a rotation featuring three All-Stars and Rich Harden.

Wells has been terrific as a starter since he was called up in May. Even as Wells limped to an 0-3 record in his first seven starts, he had a 2.55 ERA. Improved run support and a better bullpen have helped him go 10-4 in his past 14 trips to the mound.

What may be the most impressive thing about Wells' season has been his ability to bounce back from poor outings -- rare for a rookie. He showed that in his most start against Houston, rebounding from a subpar day the start before vs. Washington. After allowing five runs in 6 1/3 innings to the Nationals, Wells gave up one run on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Astros to pick up his 10th win.

Wells said he learned a few lessons from the loss to the Nationals.

"I was just really trying to force it in that one start," Wells said. "I was flying open and it kind of caused everything else to come unraveled. I took a valuable lesson out of that one start where you don't abandon your best pitch just because you're not up to par in that first inning. Give it a chance to figure it out and make the adjustments in-game."

In Wells' loss to Washington, he gave up a walk, RBI double and two-run homer to his first three batters. The first inning has been Wells' biggest problem this year. Opponents are hitting .317 off him in the opening frame, and he's surrendered 13 first-inning runs in 21 starts.

That wasn't an issue against the Astros, who managed only an unearned run in the seventh off of Wells.

"That's been the reason for my success," Wells said. "Tough losses or the tough games I've had, they don't bother me. [Big league hitters] are going to figure you out some days, and when they do, you've got to figure out what they did to be successful against you and fix it."

Wells' prolonged success has earned him a place alongside the Phillies' J.A. Happ and the Braves' Tommy Hanson in a challenging Rookie of the Year race in the National League. Happ is 10-4 with a 2.77 ERA while Hanson is 9-3 with a 3.07 ERA.

"I never wanted to talk about all the Rookie of the Year [stuff], but you know, we're kind of coming to the point now where, why not? Why not make a run at it?" Wells said. "Try to win out and keep pitching well and, hopefully, things work out."

Wells is looking to become the second consecutive Cub to be Rookie of the Year after catcher Geovany Soto took home the award last season. The last Cubs pitcher to win the award was Kerry Wood in 1998.

However it works out, Wells has cherished his rookie season.

"Every game is exciting for me," Wells said. "I like to think that my whole career will be like that, too. Coming from where I came from and the road I took to get here, I can honestly say at this point that I don't ever see it becoming a drag for me. I love showing up every day. I love the excitement of being a big league baseball player."

<!--CHANGE c_id for team-specific probables page-->Pitching matchup
CHC: RHP Randy Wells (10-7, 2.90 ERA)
Wells is the first Cubs rookie to reach double-digit victories since 1998, when Wood won 13 games. The Cubs want to be careful with Wells and his innings. He has already exceeded his personal high in the Minor Leagues and has thrown six or more innings in four consecutive starts. Drafted by the Mets in 2001 -- he didn't sign -- Wells has never faced the Mets.

NYM: RHP Mike Pelfrey (9-10, 5.03 ERA)
Pelfrey has taken a step back in his two most recent starts, losing both. More importantly, he developed serious control issues. He has walked five batters twice this season -- Aug. 26 against the Marlins and Tuesday against the Rockies. He allowed seven runs -- six earned -- on six hits and five walks at Coors Field on Tuesday, walking two batters after getting ahead 0-2, and walking three men in the first inning to produce a run. Manager Jerry Manuel has attributed the struggles to youth, but he also has emphasized that Pelfrey needs to show he can bounce back and deliver again to avoid concerns about his security in the Mets' rotation in 2010. Pelfrey has never pitched against the Cubs. He has a 5-3 record and 3.80 ERA in 14 starts at Citi Field.

Tidbits
Saturday was Harden's 10th career double-digit strikeout game. ... Derrek Lee got into New York about 12:30 a.m. ET on Saturday and received congratulations on the birth of his son, Dylan, from many of his teammates prior to the game. ... After Saturday, Lee has 21 career multihomer games and three in 2009. ... Cubs starting pitchers have a 0.84 ERA the most recent time through the rotation.


Wells has done pretty good so far this season. I'd like to see him win 14 or 15 games next year. It'll be hard to unless the Cubs can get some run support. I would love to see him surpass Woods record, however, I think it is unlikely to happen. I will root for him to win the NL Rookie of the Year, and hope his success continues on for many more years to come. Preferably for the Cubs.

Posted on: September 2, 2009 9:36 pm
 

Chicago Cubs Fontenot

CHICAGO -- Mike Fontenot's season hasn't gone as well as he would like at the plate, but he's made up for it with his glove.

The second baseman made a dazzling sliding catch of Kaz Matsui's popup in the visiting team's bullpen in the Houston sixth inning Wednesday to help preserve the Cubs' 2-0 victory over the Astros.

"Fontenot should be the No. 1 web gem," said Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, who had a front-row view of the catch. "That's one of the best plays of the year -- catching it, sliding into the bullpen. It was a tough sun on that side of the diamond. It was a great play."

Ask anyone who has played the right side of the field at Wrigley Field and they'll tell you the sun is almost always in their eyes. Add the wind off Lake Michigan, and it can be an adventure. Fontenot didn't see Matsui's popup right away.

"It went up in the sun, and I was just running over there as fast as I can," Fontenot said. "Eventually, I was going to try to make a slide because I know the wall is right there. The first thing I noticed when I got up was [right fielder Milton Bradley] was right in my face rooting me on. I jumped up and threw the ball back in. It was pretty exciting."

It's one of Fontenot's favorite plays to make.

"I've always liked the balls that go up in the air because you can run after them and make a good play," he said.

But it's just not something he practices.

"Not really," Fontenot said. "Last year, [coach Ivan] DeJesus was just messing around, hitting some fly balls. You just run after it, especially at Wrigley and all the wind and things like that. As an infielder, you're taught to keep going out there because you never know.

"I was just trying to beat D-Lee to the ball because he'll go over there and catch them," the 5-foot-8 Fontenot said of the 6-foot-5 first baseman. "He can just stand right there and I can't jump high enough to get it from him. I try to get over there as fast as I can to get it from him."

OK, all kidding aside, Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly appreciated the effort.

"Games like that, more and more, you realize how important defense is," said Lilly, who picked up the win. "We don't know what would've happened had they not been made, but I believe they changed the game from a momentum standpoint.

"The other dugout, they hit a potential double in the gap, or single -- the ball that [Jeff] Keppinger hit [in the third] -- and [Andres Blanco] comes out and makes an incredible play, and it's tough for any club to handle with the game on the line. It's fun to watch some of those guys play the kind of defense they've been playing."

Lou Piniella appreciated it.

"I've said many times how Fontenot has struggled with the bat, but I admire that he continues to play with the glove," Piniella said of the second baseman, who is batting a less than spectacular .225. "Sometimes that becomes a little more difficult to do. In his case, he's been very professional about it."

That extra hustle and effort shows Piniella the players haven't given up, even though the Cubs have a steep climb to secure a playoff spot.

"I don't see anybody laying down here," Piniella said. "Look at the play that Fontenot made down the right-field line. Bradley has picked up his play in right field. There's nobody laying down here. Our problem is that there are times this year we've been challenged offensively. I commend the guys for playing hard."

Runs have been hard to come by.

"You've got pitchers out there pitching really well, battling, and you want to do anything you can to make plays for them," Fontenot said. "I felt that was one of those opportunities for me."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Even though people are saying that the Cubs are giving up on this season, I don't see it. I don't think they'll make the playoffs but I can see them  maybe giving some wild-card teams a run for their money. Fontenot has struggled mightily this year but I would love to see him make more great catches and maybe raise up his avg. to .250. Any thoughts on this article?

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