Enfranchised!

WHITE SOX 3 CUBS 4
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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!
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Comments

Um, you may want to change the graphic to a "W," seeing as how the Cubbies won this one. I know that it just feels natural to hit load the "L" graphic, but hey, lets revel in our victories, no?

That "L" is for Long and far between.

Maybe it's for Latroy didn't get a chance to blow it.

How about Lotsa pitches?

Perhaps it's just short for Lovable Losers.

Oops, thanks for the heads up Eric. Force of habit or just forgetfulness?

I know Mr. John Hill is writing when I read "...Dye put a good swing on a fastball." Just not a phrase anyone has ever uttered in the colonies. Don't mean it as a dis. Love your stuff. It's just sort of... charming, mate.

Anyway, I was at the game. Thank God we won one. There were a hell of a lot of Sox fans there and they were making a lot more noise than the Cub fans.

I would have written something more enlightening, tbone, but I actually missed the home run since I was late getting back to my computer after the inning break! All I caught was the side on slow-motion replay of Dye's swing and it was only the people in the chat that told me of the home run (well, that and the scoreline).

It was good to nab at least one game from the Sox. The Sox scored 6 of their 13 runs on HRs in the series, a little surprising, at least for me.

I'm getting concerned about our dependence upon outings like Prior's for our victories. 14 of the Cubs's 19 wins this year have had the starting pitcher pitch 6 or more innings; 5 of our 6 wins in May (the bobble-fest in DC on Friday the 13th is the only win where we have not had a dominant starting pitching performance). It seems that the answer to the bullpen problems has not been to try and improve it, but to stretch our starters -- a move that may keep us hovering around .500 through the All-Star break but is not a long-term solution.

I'd like to see the Cubs dispatch Remlinger with haste and try to pick up one of the following relievers, who are all having good years on a bad Indian team (listed in order of my preference):

David Riske (0.93 ERA, 14 K in 18.1 innings)
Rafael Betancourt (1.33 ERA, 16 K in 20.1 innings)
Bob Howry (2.55 ERA, 12 K in 17.2 innings)

Betancourt makes the minimum, Riske and Howry make somewhere from $1.5-$2.0 M, arb-eligible dollars. (Cleveland will, of course, rather trade us Arthur Rhodes or Bob Wickman!)

If the Cubs look to pick up a raltively high-priced middle reliever, Shigetoshi Hasegawa (2.61 ERA, 11 K in 20.2 innings) may be available from the Mariners. It is not clear to me that he figures into their long-term plans, which seems to be to load up on expensive offensive talent, pitch Jamie Moyer and Aaron Sele until well-past their expiration date, and wait for Felix Hernandez.

I love the Cleveland bullpen too! In addition to Riske, Betancourt and Howry, and Arthur Rhodes who's throwing great, they also have Matt Miller and Scott Sauerbeck, and in Triple-A they have young Fernando Cabrera who owns this line...

1.17 ERA, 23 IP, 18 H, 1 HR, 3 BB, 28 K

And, of course, they have closer Bob Wickman, who's their worst reliever.

The Indians should be looking to dump the salaries of Howry, Rhodes and Wickman now, while their value is still high. The only one of these that I would like to see as a Cub is Howry, who can be more-effective than Remlinger. Rhodes, Wickman and all Matt Miller scare me.

This Sporting News article has an interesting tidbit -- apparently, the Brewers would have traded Kolb to the Cubs for Hawkins and Wuertz, and indicates that the Brewers think Hawkins is a bargain. How about Hawkins to Milwaukee for Mike Maddux and Jorge de la Rosa?

DC Tom--
"apparently, the Brewers would have traded Kolb to the Cubs for Hawkins and Wuertz"

I'm staggered. You're saying the Brewers would have traded an okay closer for a premium setup man and an excellent young relief arm? Are they crazy or something!

Hawkins is a bargain if the Cubs are stupid enough to sell him now.

Here are Hawkins' numbers from the beginning of the 2002 season through June 4th 2004 (in which time he was used entirely as a setup man)...

1.91 ERA, 188.1 IP, 149 H, 12 HR, 36 BB, 162 K

Allow me to list for you the number of pitchers for the same time frame who posted a lower ERA (minimum of 140 innings, or 60 per season)...

Eric Gagne
Mariano Rivera

That is all.

His numbers from June 4th 2004 through today...

3.42 ERA, 68.1 IP, 11 HR, 14 BB, 57 K

Awful. A 3.42 ERA. A K/BB ratio over 4. God, he's awful. Trade him!

The only real difference is the leap in his home run rate, which is a bit of a problem. But he's still an extremely effective reliever. Which makes it all the more ironic that those that whinge and cry about the ineptitude of the bullpen want him traded. Just get off his back and let him pitch as a setup man and watch him prosper.

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