Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry received a two-year extension, keeping him in Chicago through 2008. Manager Dusty Baker is still a lame duck, not to be confused with a dead duck.
Coming into Sunday, Milwaukee is 5-0 and Pittsburgh is 0-6. The Brewers are neither that good, nor the Pirates that bad, but the direction looks accurate.
Yes, the Sun sets in the West, even in Chicago
Obviously, ESPN's Jon Miller doesn't get out much. Before the bottom of the first, the camera showed a beautiful sunset. Miller struggled before suggesting the view may have been to the West. Sidekick Joe Morgan didn't help as he simply offered, "I'll take your word for it."
Ponson's rap sheet
During his first at-bat, ESPN twice showed a graphic outlining Ponson's arrest record and did a live in-game report by Peter Gammons. There was no discussion of his baseball skills. But, what do you expect from the network that shills Barry Bonds' "reality" series? Somehow, I doubt that ESPN shows graphics reflecting Bonds' Grand Jury testimony, but I don't plan to watch the garbage to find out.
Sidney Ponson faced rookie Sean Marshall, in his first major league start.
Eckstein, Encarnacion, Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Molina, Taguchi, Luna and Carpenter. Yadier Molina moved up a spot in the order. Juan Encarnacion returned as did So Taguchi, as lefties Skip Schumaker and John Rodriguez sat against the lefty Marshall. Hector Luna replaced Aaron Miles at second base for the first time this season.
On to the game…
Cards first – Rolen waves one out
David Eckstein uncharacteristically swung at the first pitch and grounded out. Albert Pujols showed patience, however, drawing a two-out walk. Scott Rolen made Marshall pay as he blasted a home run on a full count that flew past the left field foul pole and bounced onto Waveland Avenue. Cards 2-0.
Cubs first – Not this time, Derrek
Todd Walker singled up the middle with one out, but was retired on a broken bat grounder that was turned into the inning-ending double play off the bat of Derrek Lee.
Cards second – Bottom feeders
Marshall came back to retire the Cards in order. So hit a high fly ball to right – why? Luna fanned swinging for the third out.
Cubs second – 1-2-3
Ponson retired the bad guys in order.
Cards third – 1-2-3, too
Another fast inning.
Cubs third – RISP stranded
With one down, Ronny Cedeno hit a chopper over Rolen's head. So Taguchi must have thought he was John Rodriguez as his throw bounced at least four times and was way late into second base. Juan Pierre worked a full count before grounding out 4-3 to end the inning.
Cards fourth – Yadi has no afterburner
Marshall had retired nine in a row before Edmonds went down and blooped a two-out single to short center. Aramis Ramirez struggled with Yadier Molina's dribbler, but threw out the catcher by an eyelash.
Cubs fourth – Jones jerks one
Leading off, Walker singled to left. Lee ground into a 5-4-3, despite both Rolen and Luna having trouble. Pujols made another fine stretch at first. This part of his defense is definitely Gold Glove-caliber. Ramirez' chopper hit off the edge of the grass and bounced off Rolen's glove. It bounded to Eckstein, but his throw was late. It was correctly scored a single. Michael Barrett's single to right put runners on the corners. Jacque Jones' first hit of the season was a three-run home run that just cleared the wall in dead center. Luna dropped Matt Murton's grounder, but recovered just in time to throw him out. Cubs 3-2.
Cards fifth – Juan's struggles continue, but not Albert
So led off with a double dropped into the left field corner. Luna singled to center to put runners at the corners. Can Sid handle the bunt? Yes, he did, though it was not a squeeze. Eckstein was drilled in the shoulder to load the bases. Time for Juan to deliver after two ground outs, as Baker made the decision to pull Marshall in favor of Michael Wuertz. Encarnacion fanned on a full-count offering down and away. Pujols shot a 2-2 fastball past short to score two runs. Rolen singled to deep short, but Eckstein was almost caught between third and home. Edmonds came up with the bases reloaded, but ground out to Lee. Cards 4-3.
Cubs fifth – Bad call
Eckstein made a high throw on Cedeno leading off, but Pujols pulled the ball down. Yet, the ump called the runner safe. La Russa argued even before seeing the replays that confirmed the mistake. Freddie Bynum pinch hit. Rolen made a gutsy play to nail the lead runner at second base for the first out. Pierre's ground out moved Bynum up to second base, but he was stranded there.
Cards sixth – J-Rod overanxious?
#5 starter Jerome Williams took over for the Cubs as Adam Wainwright warmed up in the pen. With one out, Taguchi coaxed a walk. Luna shot a broken-bat single past Lee. Ponson was pulled for pinch-hitter John Rodriguez, who ground into a double play on the first pitch.
Cubs sixth – Back in order
Adam Wainwright pitched a nice 1-2-3 frame.
Cards seventh – Albert strikes out
Eckstein singled up the middle, but Encarnacion hit a one-hopper to second that was an easy double play on a full count as Eckstein was breaking. Pujols then fanned.
Cubs seventh – Wainwright jam averted
Cedeno singled to left center with two out against Wainwright. John Mabry stepped in to pinch hit. He stroked a first-pitch single past Pujols to put runners on the corners. Ricardo Rincon came in to face the lefty Pierre, who was retired on a check-swing strike three that would have been ball four. Pierre protested vigorously, as did the Cubs bench.
Cards eighth – Good Scott, bad Scott
Rolen greeted Scott Williamson with a single. He swiped second on a 2-1 count on Edmonds, who fanned one pitch later. With Molina up, Rolen took off for third, but was picked off easily. Yadi also fanned for the third out.
Cubs eighth – No Looper, no Brad, just trouble
Rincon walked Walker on four pitches. Edmonds was replaced by Schumaker on a double switch as Jason Isringhausen came in to pitch to Lee. Izzy is going to be asked to get six outs (hopefully). His first pitch clanged off Yadi's glove for a passed ball as Walker moved up to second. None of the four balls were anywhere near the plate. A fifth ball brought Duncan out for a visit. Ramirez took four straight balls. Izzy bounced a pitch to Barrett, but Molina blocked it before the runner could break for home. It didn't matter, as Barrett's grand slam on a 2-2 pitched sealed the deal. Jones reached on a single as Luna's throw to Pujols was late. Still no outs. Izzy out and Hancock in. With one out, there was another bad hop to Rolen on a ball by Cedeno. Angel Pagan grounded to Eckstein, but Luna turned it slowly, so only one out, not two. Another run came home on a wild pitch. Cubs 8-4.
Cards ninth – Closed out
Closer Ryan Dempster retired the Cards in order.
Cubs ninth – Never happened
Upcoming action (times CDT)
Monday vs. Brewers: Mark Mulder vs. Tomo Ohka 3:10pm FSNM
Tuesday: Off day
Wednesday vs. Brewers: Jason Marquis vs. Dave Bush 7:10pm FSNM
Thursday vs. Brewers: Jeff Suppan vs. Doug Davis 12:10pm FSNM
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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