Cubs Ticked

It's an age-old complaint that comes up this time of year.

How should teams that are out of playoff contention handle teams that are still playing for a postseason bid?

Should they play their veterans or take a look at their rookies?

The Cubs were not happy that Milwaukee (whom they are in a close race with in the National League Central) has the luxury of facing three rookie Houston pitchers this week. The Astros used Matt Albers on Monday, Felipe Paulino on Tuesday instead of ace Roy Oswalt, whose wife is supposed to have a baby this week, and Juan Gutierrez on Wednesday instead of veteran Woody Williams.

They are not outraged, but a little miffed.

"That ticks us off," Cubs outfielder Cliff Floyd said. "But you can't help a family situation. I had one this year (the death of his father, Cornelius in August). Oswalt's having a kid. God bless him.

"I don't understand the Woody Williams deal. But I'm not going to question (Astros manager) Cecil Cooper's decision. It's their team. They can do what the heck they want to do. At the same time, we would like everybody to play their guys."

"Maybe this kid Paulino will pitch a great ballgame and leave it at that," manager Lou Piniella said.

He didn't get his wish. Paulino gave up five runs in four innings and Milwaukee drilled the Astros.

REDS 5, CUBS 2: The Cubs fell back into a tie with Milwaukee for first place in the National League Central by dropping Tuesday night's game against Cincinnati at Wrigley Field. The Cubs mustered their only two runs off Reds right-handed ace Aaron Harang when OF Jacque Jones singled with the bases loaded. RHP Carlos Zambrano fell to 16-13.

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Astros interim manager Cecil Cooper called baseball commissioner Bud Selig before the start of the series on Monday against the Brewers to explain why he would be starting three rookie pitchers against a team in a pennant race.

Matt Albers made his 16th start Monday and Felipe Paulino made his first major league start Tuesday in place of Roy Oswalt, whose wife gave birth Tuesday. Juan Gutierrez will start Wednesday in favor of Woody Williams, who has been moved to the bullpen.

A few members of the Chicago Cubs, who are tied with the Brewers atop the NL Central, balked at the Astros' rotation. President of baseball operations Tal Smith also called Cubs general manager Jim Hendry to explain.

"I just wanted to assure him we were going to put the best team out there, the best guys we have available," Cooper said. "I don't want to say Woody hasn't pitched well, but he's struggled of late and we're going to give the kid a chance.
"What can I say? We've got to look at these guys and we've got to run them out there. We'll play the best guys we have. I'm sorry they feel that way, but we've got to look for 2008 as well."

Paulino's performance didn't do anything to calm the Cubs. He gave up five runs in four innings and took the loss.

BREWERS 9, ASTROS 1: The Astros were held without a hit over the final seven innings by the Brewers bullpen. Milwaukee's bullpen pitched eight scoreless innings and held the Astros to two hits after RHP Ben Sheets left with a strained hamstring after the first inning. The Astros, who had a home-record 22 hits in Sunday's win over Pittsburgh, have managed 11 hits in the first two games of the Brewers series.

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