Guzman Makes Debut

CHICAGO -- Greetings, familar blue flag. It had been a couple of weeks, yes, though never long enough.

The long-awaited and much-anticipated major league debut of right-hander Angel Guzman came Wednesday afternoon as the Florida Marlins halted a three-game sweep with a 7-5 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The 24-year-old Guzman, forever heralded as the Cubs top pitching prospect and fresh up from Triple-A Iowa, went five innings and allowed three runs on six hits. He struck out five, but walked four. The Cubs fell to 6-3 at home this season and 12-8 overall.

Promoted from the minors after three starts this season, Guzman picked up a no-decision after going 1-2 with a 6.61 ERA. He missed most all of last year and 2004, and underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery in June of 2003.

"Angel threw the ball pretty well," manager Dusty Baker told reporters after the game. "He made some quality pitches. He just lost command of the strike zone a couple of times, but he had a real good curveball, fastball and changeup. It was just a matter of us cutting down on walks."

The Cubs walked eight batters in the game and surrendered 10 hits to a young Florida team that had dropped 13 of its first 18 contests to open the season and entered the day batting .247 as a team, which was tied with Atlanta for the second lowest average in the National League.

"It seems like every time we walk someone, they score," Baker noted. "We just have to cut down on the walks and play like we've been playing."

The Cubs pitching staff has walked 86 batters this season, which is presently third highest in the National League behind the Marlins (91) and Pirates (88).

Scott Williamson allowed a season-high three runs in only a third of an inning. Three of the team's eight walks were charged to his credit. Scott Eyre issued a free pass in the ninth that led to an insurance run.

Aramis Ramirez finished with two hits, including his fourth home run. He also walked twice.

With the Cubs trailing 6-3 in the eighth following Williamson's implosion earlier in the inning, Matt Murton laced a two-run single into center to bring the Cubs within a run before Eyre gave up just his second run of the season in the ninth and his first earned. The left-hander had not been scored on since April 3 at Cincinnati (Opening Day).

For his part, Murton finished the series 5-for-8 with a double and six RBIs.

Former Cubs pitching prospect Ricky Nolasco picked up his first major league victory in relief of starter Scott Olsen. An all-star at Double-A West Tenn last year, Nolasco threw two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and notching four strikeouts.

Former Cub Joe Borowski returned to face his former home crowd and notched his third save of the season in spite of his 5.14 ERA.

In spite of the walks, the Cubs pitching staff struck out 11 batters in the game. Afterward, Guzman told reporters that he was slightly overwhelmed in his first major league outing.

"In the beginning, it was kind of weird being here for the first time," Guzman said. "I just was thinking about trying to stay calm, you know? The key was to just keep thinking about pitching."

The Cubs had won three straight entering the day. They will have Thursday off before the Milwaukee Brewers come to town for a three-game weekend series beginning Friday.

Game one of the series will be Friday at 1:20 p.m. (CDT). Greg Maddux (4-0, 0.99 ERA) will face Milwaukee's Dave Bush (2-1, 3.54 ERA) with television coverage provided by Comcast Sports Net.

POSTGAME NOTES ...

  • Guzman became the second pitcher to make his major league debut as a starter with the Cubs this season, joining LHP Sean Marshall. The last time two Cub starters had made their big league debuts in one season was in 2002 when Mark Prior and former Cub Steve Smyth did so.

  • Since 1993, the Cubs are 61-57 all-time against the Marlins in regular season play, including a 33-30 mark at Wrigley.

  • Catcher Michael Barrett is day-to-day after jamming his finger while sliding into second base in the Cubs 3-1 win over the Marlins on Tuesday night. Henry Blanco got the start behind the plate Wednesday and finished 0-for-3 as his season average dipped to .071 in five games.

    (Information from the Cubs Media Relations office was used in this report.)

    Contact Frank North: franknorthrup@gmail.com.


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