Put away your white pants, fire up the grill and get ready for a September that, if last night was any indication, surely will cause acid reflux.
Houston, fifth in the NL Central and a half game from last, helped the Cubs by taking two of three from the Cardinals and now come to Wrigley for a Labor Day weekend series.
It's not exactly a pitching matchup for the ages, but it is two lefties battling. That's not usually good news for the Cubs, but, hey, after beating Manny Parra last night they "improved" to 13-20 against left-handed starters.
Wandy Rodriguez, looking for his first win in seven games, goes for the Astros. Sean Marshall, who's won his last two starts, looks to continue his mini-roll for the Cubs.
The other contenders in the race for the worst division in baseball play later. Milwaukee's in Pittsburgh, while the Cards play host to the Reds.
And wait, Trachsel? What, Dave Veres wasn't available?
And am I the only one watching the FIBA Americas tournament? I thought so.
Wayne Messmer sings the Anthem and we're off on this beautiful day in Chicago. And, yes, no word on why Soriano is out of the lineup, but I suspect he's getting a day off to rest his Mike Quade. It is Soriano life-sized poster day at the park. And I have no update on G-Reg, other than what was said in the paper today. Sprained knee.
OK, let's get going for real now. Marshall starts off rookie-of-the-year candidate Hunter Pence with three straight balls. Pence draws a leadoff walk. Marshall goes to 2-0 against Craig Biggio and Henry Blanco trots out to talk to his pitcher. Full count to Biggio and he can't lay off a high fastball. Lance Berkman lines a double down the third-base line past a diving Aramis Ramirez. Hunter Pence gets on his polo pony and scores all the way from first beating the relay throw easily. Marshall wants no part of Carlos Lee, pitches around him to 3-0 before putting him on intentionally. Mark Loretta strikes out on three pitches. Two on, two out, 2-2 to Ty Wigginton and Blanco again goes out to the mound. An inside curve bounces by Blanco. Both runners move up and I'm sure that's not what Blanco told Marshall when he went out to the mound. Marshall misses on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Here's Larry Rothschild making a first-inning appearance. Two balls to Chris Burke and the natives are getting restless. Ball three isn't close and the bullpen stirs to life in the form of Michael Wuertz. Burke takes a strike down the middle before popping out to second. Trachsel better hurry up; the Cubs may need him today.
Astros 1, Cubs 0
Ryan Theriot, leading off again with Soriano kicking back on the bench today, pops out to Biggio at second. Mark DeRosa hits one right at Lee in left. Two quick outs. Derrek Lee drives one deep to right center. The wind knocks it down a bit and Pence grabs it on the run.
Astros 1, Cubs 0
Here we go. Marshall tossed 31 pitches, 19 of them balls, in the first inning. True to form, he starts Brad Ausmus off with two balls. Two foul balls even the count before Ausmus grounds out to short. Everyone knows it's Wandy: The pitcher Rodriguez bounces out to third. Pence takes a called third strike and Marshall apparently thinks the game starts in the second inning. That went much better than the first, to point out the obvious.
Ramirez singles up the middle. Craig Monroe bounces into a 6-4-3 double play. Murton sprays a single past a diving Berkman. Blanco falls behind 0-2 and fouls a few pitches off to stay alive. Did he get some more tattoos while he was on the DL? Anyway, he lines out to right. Nothing doing in the second.