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Let the autopsy report on this ghastly series read: three games, two runs, 14 hits, three losses.

Lou Piniella made a lineup change on Thursday night, sliding Mike Fontenot from third base to the more familiar ground at second and starting the seldom-used Ryan Freel at third. The moves paid dividends...to the Cardinals:

The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that the White Sox, not our Cubs, are closing in on acquiring the Padres ace.

The sickening details are here.

Tuesday night in St. Louis...

Joel Piniero, coming off three consecutive losses, recorded the Cardinals' first complete-game shutout of the season. He faced only 28 hitters, threw only 28 non-strikes (never reaching a three-ball count), only allowed one man into scoring position, and dispatched the Cubs in 125 minutes, the Cards' fastest game in almost three years.

Rookie Colby Rasmus, who had just two singles in 25 AB against lefthanded pitching this season, bashed a 2-run homer off of Ted Lilly.

And the Cardinals, who lost three straight to the Brewers in their just concluded series and overall had lost 10 of their previous 14 games, won.

Glad we could help.

Out-of-town scoreboard note: Cubs closer Kevin Gregg, who pitched one shutout inning Tuesday night, now has an ERA of 5.71; former Cubs closer Kerry Wood, who pitched just two-thirds of an inning Tuesday night—and a rollicking two-thirds of an inning it was—now has an ERA of 8.31.

It had been days since we'd heard a new reason why the Cubs-to-Ricketts deal still hasn't been closed, but then on Monday, Crain's Chicago Business ended the wait:

The Astros and Cubs meet in a 12:05 game at Wrigley following yesterday's washout.

The pitching matchup is a reset of what was scheduled Friday, with Roy Oswalt opposing Randy Wells. Oswalt (1-2) fell to the Cubs on Opening Night and didn't notch a win until his most recent and eighth start of the year, versus the Padres.

From mlb.com:

Oswalt, mainly a fastball-curveball pitcher, admitted he's using his
slider more, for no other reason than "I don't know what I'm doing
right now. I've kind of lost my mind."

Wells is coming off his first Major League start, in which he completed five scorless but event-filled innings against the Brewers. In his brief Major League career, spanning 5 games and 10 1/3 innings for the Blue Jays and Cubs, the 26-year-old righty is still unscored upon.

With Wells going today, Sean Marshall moves into the bullpen until Thursday, when he will go against the Cardinals.

About the Theriot story...I'm no great fan of Rick Telander, but I think he's dead on when he says that MLB owners and players have wrought a situation in which any and every player can find himself the subject of suspicion simply for displaying a sudden power surge or otherwise seemingly uncharacteristic jump in performance.

For the record, Telander said he was pretty sure that the notion was Theriot was a steroids-user was "ludicrous," but that's just the point: none of us, not the fans, not the reporters can be certain any more about anybody. And for that, we can thank Mr. Selig, the owners, Mr. Fehr, and the members of the players union who have opposed testing.

 

The Cubs claimed a rain-shortened victory Wednesday night, winning behind: Ted Lilly, who pitched into the seventh inning and improved to 5-2; Alfonso Soriano, who hit his 53rd career leadoff home run; Geovany Soto, who hit his first homer of the season after 96 plate appearances; and George Herman Theriot, who banged out two home runs and now has five in the month of May. (He had seven career homers in 380 games heading into this month.)

On the 39th anniversary of Ernie Banks' 500th home run, Milton Bradley hit a titanic, two-run blast in the sixth inning to lead the Cubs and RIch Harden past Jake Peavy and the Padres.

In the first inning, Harden gave up a leadoff double to Brian Giles and one out later, a two-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez. He limited the Pads to just two more hits and held them scoreless over the remainder of his six innings, at one point retiring 13 San Diego hitters consecutively.

Assuming Aramis Ramirez is out of the Cub lineup for exactly 8 weeks from this past Friday night, he'll be back for the July 4th game between the Cubs and Brewers at Wrigley Field, the third game of a four-game series.

In the interim, the Cubs will play 48 games, including all 15 of their interleague games against AL Central teams. Ramirez will also miss 20 games against NL Central opponents and the one and only visit by the Dodgers to Wrigley Field, which, owing to other, non-injury events, will now be completely Ramirez-free.

Here is what the next 8 weeks hold for the Cubs and their two leading division rivals:

In Houston, Ted Lilly straightened himself out after a ragged beginning—four-pitch leadoff walk to Kaz Matsui, gopher ball to Miguel Tejada; Miggy's first home run in 116 at-bats this season—as the Cubs beat the Astros, 8-5, to sweep the two-game series at Minute Maid Park.

The Cubs have now won six of seven and have climbed to four games above .500 for the second time this year, heading into a weekend series in Milwaukee.

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