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I had the incredible good fortune to watch Saturday’s Cubs-Padres game from the second row behind home plate, from a seat in nearly a direct line with the plate and the left field corner. In other words, I was about 25-30 feet from much of the brouhaha. (I have seen myself in the ESPN replays of the brawl. I’m wearing a light green polo shirt and I’m right behind the woman with the white shirt and the white hat who appears in the left part of the screen just after Derrek Lee throws the first punch.) A few thoughts on a remarkable game as seen from a perspective I won't enjoy again anytime soon:
Game chat Rich Hill (5-4, 2.81) vs. Greg Maddux (5-3, 3.86) This will be Maddux’s second start against the Cubs since he donned the blue and gold and brown and tan or whatever the hell the Padres’ colors are. The Mad Dog threw five innings in Wrigley back on April 17th, coughing up a 3-1 lead and settling for a no-decision in a game the Pads would eventually win in 14 innings. By the way, since Jim Hendry shipped Maddux west last July 31st, the now 41-year-old Hall-of-Famer-to-be has gone 11-6, 3.59. With a win, Hill will equal his victory total for 2006. The young lefty is coming off a no-decision Tuesday against the Mariners, in which he had a very spirited and well chronicled dugout discussion with his catcher, Michael Barrett. I hope someone has spoken to Hill since then. He needs to know that displays of raw emotion are simply not the Cub Way.
Game chat Carlos Zambrano v. Chris Young Ten days ago, Z (7-5, 4.89) declared he was starting the season anew. In the two starts since, against Milwaukee and Houston, he has allowed just eight hits and two earned runs over 14 2/3 innings (1.23 ERA) and earned two victories. Also, after clubbing a home run against the Astros Monday night, his second of the year, Carlos is just one short of Fergie Jenkins’ all-time Cub record for career HRs by a pitcher (13). Chris Young (6-3, 2.34) is very good. When he pitched against the Cubs on May 24th in San Diego, he looked very, very good, striking out a season-high 10 batters and allowing just three hits. Young wound up with a no-decision, however, and the Cubs wound up winning the game after scoring twice in the ninth inning against the Padre bullpen.
Game Chat Ted Lilly (4-4, 3.96) v. David Wells (3-3, 4.76) After taking the Mariners two out of three, the Cubs have climbed to within five games of .500. It’s hardly the sort of accomplishment Cub fans dreamed of this past off-season, but still, it’s the first time the team has been this close to breakeven since May 28th. This will be Lilly's first start since umpire Jim Wolf read his mind, saw dark intentions and tossed him, just two outs into the bottom of the first inning in Atlanta. The Padres, who ended a season-high, four-game losing streak on Wednesday, lead the season series 3-2. The teams split a pair at Wrigley back in mid-April. On a personal note, I will attending today’s game in lower deck seats along the third-base line. I’ll be the middle-aged white guy seated with three other middle-aged white guys. See if you can spot me.
Game chat Jason Marquis vs. Jeff Weaver In the rubber game of the series, Marquis (5-3, 3.01) faces Weaver (0-6, 12.46—do not adjust your monitor; you’re actually seeing the ERA you think you’re seeing). Marquis, who only lasted an inning and two-thirds when he pitched in Atlanta last Saturday and is three starts removed from his last truly decent outing, beat the Mariners in his one game against them, back in 2004 for the Cardinals. In six games (four starts) against the Cubs, the 30-year-old Weaver is 2-0 with a 4.34 ERA. The three starters Seattle will have sent to the Wrigley Field mound this week—Washburn, Batista, and Weaver--had a combined 5.86 ERA coming into the series. It doesn’t seem much to ask for the Cubs to win two out of three.
Game Chat Sean Marshall vs. Miguel Batista In a sequel to last night’s dark comedy, the Cubs will throw young Marshall (2-2, 2.08) against the one-time Cub, Batista (7-4, 5.48). Interestingly, Marshall, coming off an excellent start in Atlanta (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER), has identical numbers at home and on the road: 1-1, 2.08 ERA. I’m a big fan of parallelism, so if Marshall does something like, say, shuts out the Mariners for 7 or 8 innings, thus dropping his home ERA below the road number, I’m going to be furious. Though he’s won 7 games already this year, Batista has been hit hard. Opposing batters have tuned him up for a composite .301 AVG with a .361 on-base percentage. In 17 career games against his former Cub mates, his ERA is 6.27. In 1997, Batista’s one season on the North Side, he went 0-5, 5.70, i.e., a winless pitcher with a horrid ERA--a role being assumed on the 2007 team quite capably by Will Ohman and Scott Eyre.
Game chat Rich Hill vs. Jarrod Washburn This is Hill's first-ever start against the Mariners, Washburn's first-ever start against the Cubs, and the first-ever meeting between the teams at Wrigley. (In 2002, the M's took 2 of 3 from the C's at Safeco.) Hill (5-4, 2.71) is coming off a stunning effort against the Braves: 8 IP, 1 R, 3 H and 11 K. Washburn (5-4, 3.94) has pitched like hell the last two times out: 8 1/3 IP, 10 ER, 18 H.
(THE SOUNDS OF A MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL GAME ARE AUDIBLE IN THE BACKGROUND THROUGHOUT. OCCASIONALLY, CROWD REACTION SWELLS, BUT THE CONVERSATION CONTINUES MOSTLY UNINTERRUPTED) PAT: Pat Hughes and Ron Santo back at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs behind the pitching of Rich Hill are leading the Mariners 3-0, and on “Country Music Night,” we’re pleased to welcome in country recording artist and former American Idol contestant, Kellie Pickler. Kellie, welcome. KELLIE: Why thank you, it’s wonderful to be here. PAT: Now Kellie, is this your first time at Wrigley Field? KELLIE: Yes it is. It’s my first time in Chicago. (SHE LAUGHS)
I can’t say this with certainty, not having checked all the numbers, but I’m pretty sure the Cubs are unbeaten this year in games in which Alfonso Soriano clubs three home runs in the first four innings, every starting position player gets at least one hit, the starting pitcher allows one earned run or fewer in six innings or more, and our catcher steals a base. Overall, the current five-wins-in-six-games run has been handsome indeed. The Cubs have outscored the opposition (i.e., Braves and Brewers) 39-14. They’ve scored in the first inning of all five victories. Cub starting pitchers have thrown 37 2/3 innings while allowing just 12 earned runs (2.87 ERA) and the bullpen has yielded one run over 15 1/3 innings. Oh, yeah—Alfonso Soriano and Felix Pie have gone a combined 27-for-56 (.482) with 6 HR, 16 RBI and 16 runs scored. Handsome.
In Sunday’s edition of the New York Times PLAY magazine, Buzz Bissinger (“Friday Night Lights" and "Three Nights In August”) profiles Kerry Wood and his famously injured right arm. There is not a lot of news here, particularly for anyone who has lived with this story the way Cub fans have—and the readers of TCR more than most Cub fans—but the piece is well done and, in case the 2007 season hasn’t already been heartbreaking enough, you’ll find plenty of memories here to be heartbroken about. Aside from interviewing Wood, Bissinger hooks up with Jim Riggelman, who sounds sorry for possibly having contributed to Wood’s health issues; Dusty Baker, who sounds completely defensive; and Mike McGilvray, Wood’s coach at Grand Prairie High School, who places 100% of the blame on the Cubs.

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