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GAME 47 PREVIEW COLORADO ROCKIES (14-32) at CHICAGO CUBS (22-24) Wrigley Field, 12.05pm CT, TV: CSN
SP *Glendon Rusch SP Byung-Hyun Kim
SS Clint Barmes SS #Neifi Perez
2B Luis Gonzalez 2B *Todd Walker
1B *Todd Helton 1B Derrek Lee
CF Preston Wilson RF *Jeromy Burnitz
C Todd Greene 3B Aramis Ramirez
LF Matt Holliday CF *Corey Patterson
3B Garrett Atkins LF Jason Dubois
RF Dustin Mohr C Michael Barrett
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot
I commented just yesterday that "Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano, Greg Maddux, Glendon Rusch and Sergio Mitre looks to be the rotation for the time being." That last all of a matter of hours, and so, the Cubs now have something in common with every other major league baseball team - no Mark Prior. He's been placed on the 15-day disabled list, with Roberto Novoa promoted from Iowa to the bullpen. One of Ryan Dempster or Todd Wellemeyer will probably move from relief back into the rotation. Todd Walker commented yesterday that the grass is partially responsible for our offence woes. Perhaps at his request the Cubs cut the grass a little shorter then, because the Cubs scored ten runs Friday and won comfortably. Or perhaps the bigger issue was that the wind was blowing out. If anything at Wrigley sets it apart from other ballparks, it's the wind rather than the grass. Wrigley can be transformed from Coors one day to PETCO the next all according to which way it blows. Andy Rutledge from the View From the Bleachers has been tracking the Cubs' performance so far this year and last, and his findings for this year in particular are startling - the Cubs have scored well over twice as many runs per game with the wind carrying the ball as with it holding it up. That's a ridiculous difference. Unlike the grass, is this then an adequate excuse? Again, not really, in my view. Scoring less runs due to the wind is nothing to be ashamed of. Being out-adapted by oppositions that aren't anywhere near as familiar with the conditions certainly is. The Cubs have played in Wrigley for many years now, and they above all should know then that they have to deal with the wind when it comes to formulating their team for the season, their lineup each day and their approach each at-bat. Anecdotally, all of us have noticed that the Cubs seem to go for the long ball regardless. The Cubs won't win like that. There's some good news though. Come the summer the wind tends to blow out more often, and that should help. Mark Prior or not, there's still not enough reason to completely give up on this team yet. Things could be a lot, lot worse. We could be the Rockies, for instance.
Mark Prior was hit in the arm by a comebacker in the 4th inning of today's game and left in obvious pain. Preliminary reports indicate a bruise only, no fracture, so I'm thinking at most he'll miss one start and maybe not even that. Finally a bit of potential good news on the injury front. [Rob G. Update:] Espn is reporting that an MRI later revealed a "slight" fracture. No timetable on his return as of yet. From personal experience, a broken elbow takes at least 3 weeks to heal and 3 weeks for rehab although mine was probably significantly worse. On the other hand I'm not a major league pitcher, nor had access to the same technology and therapists that Prior will.
In doing my research for this weeks organizational report, I came across this small, buried nugget at Inside the Ivy (subscription may be required to access link). Pitcher Dave Crouthers, one of the three prized players we received from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Mr. You-Know-Who, has decided to RETIRE from baseball. Reasons were not given.
WHITE SOX 3 CUBS 4
Recap | Box Score | Play-by-play | Game Chart
W: Mark Prior (4-1) L: Luis Vizcaino (2-2)
After yesterday, not to mention his own last few outings, Mark Prior came to the realisation that he simply can't trust his bullpen. So he went the distance himself and averted a potentially very embarrassing sweep by the White Sox in our own backyard. In the end, thanks to Jason Dubois and the return of the much-missed three-run shot, Mark Prior didn't quite need to throw that perfect game I was speaking of earlier, though he did retire the first ten hitters he faced with ease, effectiveness and efficiency, four of them by strikeout. A solo home run by Tadahito Iguchi though tied the game at one (Henry Blanco had put us ahead!), and Mark Prior, as is becoming slightly unnervingly common, fell apart a little. Aaron Rowand doubled, Paul Konerko followed with a walk as Prior started to pull his fastball down and away from right-handers as he does, and AJ Pierzynski hit a line drive. Derrek Lee saved the day and the tie by leaping to snare the ball and then throwing to second for the double play. That at least made up for his horrendous earlier error that cost the Cubs a run. Lee, who had been at first, paused at second on a Burnitz double upon the say-so of Juan Uribe, who alledged the ball had gone foul. By the time Lee realised he'd been duped, he could only make it to third, where Ramirez stranded him by lining out to left. Ramirez made some good contact today, two lineouts, a warning track shot and a walk, and his .233 batting average on balls in play won't last, so don't worry about him too much. The tie didn't last though. Jermaine Dye put a good swing on a fastball to lead off the fifth, and Prior didn't truly settle down again until he managed to strike out impressive debut pitcher Brandon McCarthy on a full count. A 1-2-3 sixth for Prior followed, the pitch that got Podsednik on strikes (again) being particularly nasty. Podsednik reached just once, and his speed had no influence on the game as a result. You can't steal first base. Well, not today at least. The Cubs last year were supposedly a team overly reliant on the home run, far too inconsistent in their run-scoring, a dozen one day but not very many the next. That's changed so far this year, or at least of late, with the Cubs instead being very consistent, just scoring not very many runs at all every time out. Jason Dubois was obviously a bit fed up with that, so he launched a Luis Vizcaino offering to deep right-center, his natural power alley, and for the first time in what seems an age, the Cubs had a lead of more than a run. Prior kept it that way by pitching his way out of jams in the seventh and eighth, getting a pair of critical pop-ups and a big double play respectively. By the time Konerko hit the third home run of the day off Prior in the ninth to halve the deficit, it was too little too late. Cubs win, Cubs win! The Cubs have a critical seven days coming up. Three against the Astros and four with the Rockies, all at Wrigley. 5-2 would put them back at .500. Let's do it!
GAME 41 PREVIEW CHICAGO WHITE SOX (31-12) at CHICAGO CUBS (18-22) Wrigley Field, 2.20pm CT, TV: WGN
SP Mark Prior SP Brandon McCarthy
LF *Scott Podsednik 2B Jerry Hairston
2B Tadahito Iguchi SS #Neifi Perez
CF Aaron Rowand 1B Derrek Lee
1B Paul Konerko RF *Jeromy Burnitz
C *AJ Pierzynski 3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Jermaine Dye CF *Corey Patterson
SS Juan Uribe LF Jason Dubois
3B Joe Crede C Henry Blanco
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot
The Cubs have managed just two runs total in the first six innings of their last four games. That simply isn't a recipe for winning a lot of games, and it puts a tremendous pressure upon the the pitching staff and the defence behind them. Zambrano yesterday was simply masterful, and given his seven shutout inning performance, the Cubs should have been in a position in the game where they could afford the odd defensive mistake. A lack of offence though and Corey Patterson's prematurely closed mitt, after fantastic hustle and pace to make the ball playable at all, cost the Cubs dear. These bats simply have to wake up if the Cubs are going to win a decent number of games. Either that, or Mark Prior and co will have to throw a perfect game. Either way, or both. Today the Cubs get to see a major league debutant on the mound for the Chicago White Sox. Brandon McCarthy was the minor league strikeout leader last year, having a fantastic campaign in the Southern League (Double-A). Though he hadn't quite been at his best so far this year in Triple-A, he did have a fantastic Spring Training with the Sox, looking so dominating that the White Sox seemed to have few qualms about inserting him into their rotation to start the year when it seemed Mark Buerhle would miss time. Buerhle's injury wasn't as serious as first feared though, so McCarthy's had to wait, but he now gets his shot while El Duque takes his annual trip to the disabled list. Hopefully those Cub bats can say "welcome to the big leagues, kid, we do things differently here". While the Cubs are labouring against the best team in baseball, the St Louis Cardinals are beating upon the worst, the Kansas City Royals, and the rest of their interleague schedule is undisputedly easier too. While with the way the Cubs are playing this year this probably will prove to be irrelevant, major league baseball really needs to look into ensuring a more balanced and fairer schedule in future. [ruz] I'm in Harrisburg PA right now, looking at houses (we found one!) so I've had to follow the Cubs solely online, here and at Exile in Wrigleyville. It hasn't been fun, but luckily Vince hasn't rubbed it in my face too much. There hasn't been a cross-town sweep since 1999, so hopefully Prior can prevent that!
WHITE SOX 5 CUBS 3
Recap | Box Score | Play-by-play | Game Chart
W: Jose Contreras (2-1) L: Mike Wuertz (2-2) S: Dustin Hermanson (10)
Zambrano's elbow really was the least of the Cubs' worries, the big Venezuelan throwing seven innings that were all but flawless but for a little wildness. He was dealing throughout, with velocity and movement, confidence and swagger, not to mention plenty of emotion. In other words, he was just the same good old Zambrano. The offence though simply didn't show up yet again, and so when Zambrano departed after those seven innings having thrown 108 pitches, the bullpen had the slenderest of 1-0 margins to protect. Mike Wuertz didn't pitch particularly well, working too high in the zone for my liking and hanging a few breaking balls that he was lucky went unpunished. But he deserves little blame for the way the critical runs crossed the plate. In spite of some excellent defence (particularly from Neifi in the hole) that made the plays closer than they should have been, two infield hits gave the White Sox first and third with two outs, setting the stage for "Paulie", as the White Sox could all too loudly be heard chanting on the broadcast. Konerko half lined and half blooped the ball towards short left center. Corey, reading it well right off the bat and using his sheer speed to good effect, covered a lot of ground and got within a dive of the ball. He dove, but just as the fans thought he'd got it covered and was about to end the inning, he closed his glove just a moment too soon. The ball hit off the glove and squirted into left field, behind Dubois who had been backing up Corey in case it got by him. Podsednik scored from third, and Rowand wasn't so far behind him that he couldn't plate the go-ahead run. And, just like that, the Cubs' one-run lead was not only gone but they trailed by one. Damn. From there on out, there was a sense of inevitability to the game. Will Ohman came in and allowed hits to both runners he faced, and with that another two runs, and it was left to Hawkins to record the final out of the four-run rally. The Cubs got two back in the bottom of the inning (Hairston picking up a 3rd RBI and Lee a 38th), but Hawkins, left in to pitch the ninth, served up a meatball to Jermaine Dye. Then if was Bartosh's turn to make a mess of things, before Dusty finally decided he'd go to his best reliever of late, only a bit too late. Wellemeyer for closer? And so the White Sox take the series. I'm not indifferent to that.
GAME 40 PREVIEW CHICAGO WHITE SOX (30-12) at CHICAGO CUBS (18-21) Wrigley Field, 12.15pm CT, TV: FOX (blackout restrictions)
SP Carlos Zambrano SP Jose Contreras
LF *Scott Podsednik 2B Jerry Hairston
2B *Willie Harris SS #Neifi Perez
CF Aaron Rowand 1B Derrek Lee
1B Paul Konerko RF *Jeromy Burnitz
C *AJ Pierzynski 3B Aramis Ramirez
RF *Carl Everett CF *Corey Patterson
SS Juan Uribe LF Jason Dubois
3B Joe Crede C Henry Blanco
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot

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