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Open Thread: Cubs vs. Phillies, Monday 8/21, 7:05 CT

The Phillies are ... well, they're almost anonymous to me. I know, they have a great HR hitter in Ryan Howard, some good young pitchers, and a solid All-Star 2B in Chase Utley.

But with the unbalanced schedule, it's been a VERY long time since the Cubs last played them -- since August 4, 2005, in fact -- 177 games ago. The Cubs have gone 78-99 in those games.

And the Phillies have been busy swapping players, and recently, scoring runs. In their last 23 games, they have scored 165 runs -- 7.17 per game. Yes, that's a lot -- if a team did that for a full season, they'd score 1162 runs, something no team has ever done. Seven times in thos 23 games, they scored ten or more runs. Now, here's the kicker -- they went 15-8 in those 23 games. That's good, but in their last 23 games, the Cubs have had a respectable average of 4.65 per game (108 total runs, 57 fewer than the Phillies) -- and gone 14-9.

What does this tell us? Well, likely that the Phillies pitchers (who have allowed 110 runs in those 23 games, including two shutouts) are ripe for hitting. And that the Philly hitters have to cool off sometime. Tonight would be a good time to start.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Rich Hill
R. Hill
vs. Jon Lieber
J. Lieber
3-5 W-L 5-9
6.90 ERA 5.10
32 SO 72
26 BB 22
9 HR 18
vs. Phi -- vs. Cubs

This could bode well: Rich Hill is 2-1 with a 4.18 ERA in four starts at Wrigley Field so far this season, compared to a 1-4 mark and 10.02 ERA in five games on the road.

A few notes: in this Paul Sullivan article from today's Tribune, he lists contract commitments for next year:

Of the players who remain Cubs property in 2007, the team is committed to only $55 million: Lee ($13 million), Ramirez ($11.5 million), Ryan Dempster ($5.3 million), Jacque Jones ($5 million), Bob Howry ($4.5 million), Michael Barrett ($4.3 million), Cesar Izturis ($4.15 million), Scott Eyre ($4 million) and Glendon Rusch ($3.25 million).
And, maybe Rusch's total could be deducted if he can be traded. That'd leave lots of room for free agents, and maybe even a big bid for Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Finally, it's official -- names will return to the backs of Cub home uniforms in 2007. I know many of you are up in arms about this -- I can take it or leave it, but I wanted to note marketing VP John McDonough's explanation as to why this is being done:

"This whole franchise speaks to tradition, history and nostalgia," McDonough said. "You look back and say that part of that [tradition] was just the numbers on the backs on uniforms without the names. So we experimented with it for a couple of years, and then collectively we thought it was time to bring back [the names]."
"Experimented"? Sure. What they "experimented" with was the sale of "game replica" jerseys with no numbers. I doubt that even a Zambrano jersey with JUST "38" on the back, without his name, was as desirable a sale item as one that says "ZAMBRANO 38". Sure, you can still buy the latter, but it's not an "official game jersey". Next year it will be again. I suspect that's the real reason.

Notes: Freddie Bynum has been activated to replace Neifi on the roster. Ugh.

And, with his 30th HR yesterday, Aramis Ramirez became the first Cub to have 30 HR in his first three full seasons (2004, 2005, 2006) with the club since Hank Sauer (1950, 1951, 1952). Cubs Gameday

Discuss amongst yourselves.