The Crystal (base)Ball: Cubs vs Giants Preview

Dusty Baker makes his return to Pac Bell Park tonight for 3 games of a 6 game series with the Cubs. Fans will be spared the atrocity of seeing young Darren Baker in a Cubs uniform chasing after Sammy Sosa's bats.

One almost wonders whether he'll get more or less boos than Jeff Kent.

In any case, Tuesday night begins with Kirk Rueter (2-0, 3.10 ERA) vs. Kerry Wood (3-1, 3.00 ERA), the former Tommy-John victim doing great. Wood, comes equipt with a 90's fastball and a hard curve, not to mention the fastest changeup in the league. He's 3-1 against the Giants, and he's got a great pick off move. The only Giant with any real success against the guy is Neifi Perez (3-8, 1 HR, 3RBI), and I doubt we'll see him in the mix.

Woody needs to be mindful of Eric Karros, who has pretty good numbers against the lefty (14-46, 3 HR, 12 RBI), and the ever present fuel of the Cubs, Sammy Sosa (9-26, 3 doubles, 3HR). Mr. Consistency hasn't been getting his calls in the corners as of late. Look for him to throw that changeup.

Game 2 sees the return of Jason Schmidt, away in mourning after the death of his mother, battling against Matt Clement. Matt Clement (2-2, 2.59) has a fastball and slider with a ton of action; so much in fact, that it has a tendency to move it's way out of the strike zone. He's a consistent 7 inning guy and doesn't seem to tire easily.

However, the Giants have great numbers against him. Marvin Benard is 7-15 lifetime with 2 doubles and 6 RBI's- look for him to be the first to come off the bench. Rich Aurelia is 7-12 against the guy and JT Snow is 5-16 with 2 doubles and 4 RBI's- and this is JT BEFORE he got into his swing. Imagine the damage he could do now!

Finally, Thursday's game has Damian Moss, the Aussie lefty, against Mark Prior, the Cubs phenom dueling it out before both clubs head to Chicago to complete the series. Mark Prior has never faced the Giants before and the only player he has seen on the plate is Ray Durham (1-2). Prior is commanding though, with a hard fastball and curve and excellent command (and not just for his age). Damian has been shaky on the mound- getting too deep into the counts and not going inside too much.

The look of relief pitching for the Cubs seems pretty good for the Giants. Mark Remlinger, the closer for the Cubs, has been rung up 4 times by Barry Bonds and twice by Benito Santiago. If Barry is looking to get back into his swing, this is the guy he'll get it on. He may also let one fly againts middle reliever Mark Guthrie, who is also a lefty and also has two homeruns against.

Sadly, Giants fans will not get to see Shawn Estes pitch in SF.

What will the effects of Dusty in the opposing box be for the Giants? He knows their weaknesses, their strengths. The only thing we could have on him might be pitching, but even then, it's only going to become useful when the Giants head to Chicago (both Kurt Ainsworth, who Baker saw fleetingly, and Jesse Foppert will be pitching there). Felipe Alou will have to come up with something tricky to get passed that guy. And the Giants need to start hammering somtehing out of the park. So many fly balls to the warning track and the only thing we can say is 'close, but no cigar.' We can hope that the Giants will put some pop in their bats for this series.

Jillian Bailles d'Err writes for and has been a Giants fan since 1988. She currently writes the column 'The Crystal (Base)Ball', a preview into upcoming Giants series. If you'd like to say hey, or comment about how amazingly insightful she is (or not), contact her at

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