From the Cubicle

The first-place Washington Nationals, suddenly a hot ticket everywhere they go, make their first visit to Wrigley Field today for the start of a three-game, weekend series.

Just a year ago when these people were known as the Montreal/San Juan Expos no one would've given a hoot about this series. Well, now that they're in the Nation's Capital, Frank Robinson has his young team playing hard and all the weasely politicians are on the bandwagon, well, they're like a real team now. Which raises one question: What ever happened to Youppi!?

Mon dieu, Youppi! lives.

Today's pitching matchup promises to be a good one. Livan Hernandez has won his last 10 decisions and Mark Prior was quite outstanding in his latest return from the DL.

We'll have baseball soon. Today's lineups.

First inning

It's a beautiful Friday outside. Truly spectacular. I was just wondering aimlessly up and down Michigan Avenue looking for something to eat and nearly didn't come back. If this play-by-play suddenly stops in the mid innings, it's because someone left the basement door open and I made a break for it. As Prior pitches to Brad Wilkerson, here's the weather report: Winds out of the northwest at 16 mph, and 75 degrees and sunny. Prior goes full to Wilkerson before striking him out. Prior fans Junior Spivey, as well. I'm thinking 27 strikeouts today. Well, maybe not. Jose Guillen just treated that fastball like it was Mike Scioscia's face and put it in the junipers in center for a homer. Prior comes back and strikes out Vinny Castilla. Just asking how old is Castilla? Dude's been around forever. We move on.

Nationals 1, Cubs 0
Dusty Baker's guy Livan Hernandez works to Corey Patterson, who's back in the leadoff spot today. Patterson takes a called third strike and walks back to the dugout with a bemused look on his face. Neifi Perez lines out to Spivey at second and Lee does the same for the final out.

Second inning

Marlon Byrd lines out to Jose Macias, who's playing third in place of Aramis Ramirez, who took a pitch in his shin yesterday. Will Cordero is still in baseball? Cordero pops up to Perez in shallow left. Brian Schneider, who's got pack of smokes rolled up in his sleeve, rips one by Lee for a double. I imagine it's hard to run with that toolbelt on. Jamey Carroll bounces one up the middle, scoring Schneider, who's now in the dugout rapping with Valerie Bertinelli. Prior gets Hernandez to end it but the Nationals get another run.

Nationals 2, Cubs 0

Is REO Speedwagon from Illinois? I did not know that. Wow, Styx and REO, that's a lot of male perms for one state. Jeromy Burnitz rips a single to right. Todd Walker draws a walk and the Cubs have something going with no outs in the second. Alas, the other Todd, Hollandsworth, bounces into a 4-6-3 double play. Burnitz takes third. We have a slight delay here. Schneider took a violent foul tip off his knee. .... Here we go. 3-1 to Jose Macias, who bounces out to second. Cubs get nothing.

Third inning

Wilkerson flies out to Burnitz for out No. 1. Prior fans Spivey. Guillen lines out to Lee. For those of you wondering about Aramis Ramirez, Len said that Dusty Baker told him before the game that Ramirez might be available to pinch hit.

Henry Blanco leads off the third with a single to center. First career hit? Prior has been attempting to bunt Blanco over for the last 20 minutes. He gets it done with two outs, gets some knuckles from Gary Matthews, who then hands him Blanco's batting glove to take back to the dugout. "Hey, I'm Mark Prior, get Macias to do that." Patterson take a called third strike that I've got to say was at least four inches inside. Anyway, half way to the sombrero. Perez, wearing some pretty fancy shades, is battling but not getting much of the balls he's fouling off. Check that: Perez lines a single to center, but Chris Speier holds the Battleship Blanco at third. Derrek Lee, who all of a sudden has gone cold, flies out to end it.

Fourth inning

On the Blanco play last inning, I'm not sure he would've scored. Wilkerson made a good throw to the plate. Though, it would've been fun to see Blanco bowl over Schneider. Castilla grounds out. Byrd singles to right. Cordero, 1 for his last 20, Len reports, rips a single to center. Byrd stops at second. Schneider pops one to shallow left that Perez handles. Carroll dumps a two-strike single to left, scoring Byrd. Cordero takes third. As soon as that ball was hit Prior threw up his hands. Hernandez grounds out to Perez, but the Nationals get one more.

Nationals 3, Cubs 0

Burnitz pops up behind first to start things off in the bottom of the fourth. Walker bounces one to third, where Castilla makes a diving stop and throws from his seat too late to get Walker. Castilla probably will have to hit his medic alert thingy to have someone come pick him up. Hollandsworth flies out to center. Just asking but during Cubs broadcasts do they show more babes in the crowd than actual baseball on the field? Macias lines out to Castilla, who, in fact, was on his feet.

Fifth inning

Prior's pitch count is in the 70s, for those of you charting pitches at home. Meanwhile, Hernandez is in the 40s. Prior strikes out Wilkerson. Comcast just showed footage of Nomar taking grounders before the game. Spivey strikes out, as well. Speaking of Nomar, explain to me again why the Cubs are having a Mia Hamm Day this weekend? I mean, nothing against Mia, but I'm not sure I get it. Prior strikes out the side by finishing off Guillen.

Todd in Ft. Laud., yes, I'm certain having HottieCubbieGurl's picture at the top of the page would be much better for business than having mine up there. Of course, that's up to HCG. Blanco flies out and Prior, who was on deck, heads back to the dugout, his day done. He slams his batting helmet on the little ledge behind the bench for good measure. Jerry Hairston will pinch hit. Hairston pinch lines out to Castilla. Prior's line: 5 innings, 6 hits, 3 runs, 7 Ks, no walks. Patterson drags a bunt past Hernandez for a hit. Perez pops out and the Cubs strand their fifth runner of the day.

Sixth inning

Lefty Glendon Rusch is on and strikes out Castilla to start the sixth. Yes, right, uh, Prior gave up three runs, not five, which I typed in the previous paragraph. Byrd pops out. Yes, Cheap Trick is from Rockford, but I wouldn't put them in the same category as Styx and REO, considering they have some songs that don't make you stab madly at the tuner knob of the car radio when they come on. I guess this is why Cordero is still in baseball: He rips his second hit of the day to center. Schneider rips a hit to left-center. You think this guy goes by Schnei-dog? I would, if that were my name. Carroll grounds out to Perez to end the inning.

Lee leads off the sixth with his 24th homer, a shot the other way to the right-field bleachers. Burnitz deep goes the other way but Byrn snares it at the track. Walker bounces out to Spivey. But the other Todd rips one down the right-field line that pings off the foul pole. Bob tells us Lee's homer was the first by a right-handed hitter off Hernandez all season. Macias strikes out but a couple of homers put the Cubs back in the game. Not to bring you guys, down but Mike Remlinger has been spotted throwing in the pen.

Nationals 3, Cubs 2

Seventh inning

Hernandez flies out to Patterson. Wilkerson lines one to the right-field gap that Patterson cuts off nicely and nearly gets Wilkerson at second. With Spivey up Rusch whips one to the backstop and Wilkerson takes third. So Patterson's play to hold Wilkerson to a double means didly now. Spivey grounds out to short and Wilkerson stays put. Dusty does some shuffling, bringing in Roberto Novoa to pitch and Ronny Cedeno to play short. Chris King is back from a Starbucks run and everything is now right in the world. Novoa walks Guillen to put runners on first and third for Castilla. Castilla knocks in Wilkerson with a single to left. Another two-out run for the Nats. Novoa throws two straight balls to Byrd and that wakes up Homewood-Flossmoor's own Larry Rothschild, who trots out to discuss something with the pitcher. Rothschild apparently didn't tell him much because Novoa walks Byrd and that gets Remlinger up again. Bases loaded for Cordero. I guess someone told Remlinger, "Not you, the other lefty. Sit down" because Will Ohman is warming up. Full count to Cordero and Novoa strikes him out.

Nationals 4, Cubs 2

Ron Santo and Bill Holden, the guy who walked halfway across the country to raise money for juvenile diabetes research, sing TMOTTBG.

Blanco bounces out to short. Cedeno does the same. Patterson rips one deep to center, Wilkerson had an idea to go after it and then gave up near the wall. Patterson cruises into third with a triple. Perez leaves him there, grounding out to second to strand another run.

Eighth inning

Novoa stays in the game and Schneider greets him with a double down the left-field line. Carroll strikes out and Hernandez, who threw something like 150 pitches in a game earlier this season, will bat. Hernandez flies out to center. Cubs will walk Wilkerson to get to Spivey, who hasn't done jack today in four at-bats. Spivey strikes out for an 0-for-5 day.

Lee lofts one to right that Guillen has no idea where it is. It bounces at his feet and Derrek Lee pulls into third with a lead-off triple. Burnitz rips the first pitch down the right field line, if it stays fair it's gone. They call it fair. The Nationals are arguing. The umps are huddling. Now it's foul and here comes Dusty. Fans are booing. Burnitz is brooding. Ball looked foul but it was hard to tell. OK, the replay shows it might have been fair. It was way up there. Anyway, foul ball. But Burnitz lines a double down the left-field line on the next pitch to score Lee. Walker sends a flyball deep to center and Burnitz hustles into third. Hollandsworth up and Schneider makes a snap throw to third and picks off Burnitz. Geez. Talk about letting the air out of the joint. Hollandsworth works a walk and Aramis Ramirez will bat. He's got two career homers off Hernandez. Not today. He grounds out to third and we need a better replay of that Burnitz ball. We go to the ninth.

Nationals 4, Cubs 3

Ninth inning

Sergio Mitre comes on to pitch the ninth and will start with Guillen. Comcast comes up with some amateur, Zapruder-like replay of the Burnitz hit from a better angle and it was indeed foul, by a good five or six feet. Mitre gets Guillen to ground out but Castilla singles to right. Byrd grounds out and Castilla takes second. Cordero walks and Dusty yanks Mitre for Ohman. Ohman bounces his first pitch that Blanco botches and the runners move up. Ohman strikes out Schneider.

Hector Carrasco is the Nats' new pitcher and he'll deal to Michael Barrett, who hits for Blanco. After going ahead 3-0 Barrett strikes out looking. Cedeno strikes out looking, as well, this one on a questionable call. Patterson bounces out to end an interesting game.

Final: Nationals 4, Cubs 3

That's it, folks. Tough loss for the Cubs, but there's always tomorrow. And you what tomorrow is? The first day of a three-day set of not working, so not everything's bad. Enjoy yourselves and thanks for reading. We'll talk to you soon.

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