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It's been an eventful week for the Cubs. Dusty Baker returned. Alfonso Soriano left, hopping his way onto the 15-day DL with a calf strain he may or may not have tweaked while doing that little jump in left field. Carlos Zambrano responded to manager Lou Piniella taunts that he was just a "BP hitter" by getting three hits last night and, most importantly and surely most frightening, a freakin' mountain lion was shot dead just west of Wrigley Field.
Meow! Rim shot, please.
Baker's return has been a lot like his last two years as Cubs manager, lotta losing. Big losing. The Cubs have out-scored Dusty's Dudes 21-8 in two games.
Ted Lilly toes the slab today and his 0-2 record and 9.95 ERA don't tell the whole story. He's given up given 19 hits and 14 runs in 12 2/3 innings. In other words, not good. Good thing for him the wind has calmed from Hurricane Zambrano levels it reached the past two games.
Edison Volquez (1-0, 0.87) goes for the Nasty Natti.
Today's lineups reveal you won't have Corey Patterson to kick around today or his two siblings on the Cubs, Eric Patterson and Felix Pie. They all sit today.
Probably should've eaten lunch before this started. Lilly misses outside for ball one before Norris Hopper flies out to right. Ryan Freel flies out to right and I detect a trend. Junior sends one to left where Mark DeRosa circles the wagons before gloving it near the line. Good start for Lilly.
Volquez, a fastball-changeup righty, as Bob Brenly explains, gets ahead of Mike Fontenot 0-2. Fontenot grounds to the right side where first baseman Joey Votto makes a diving stop but then lobs it to Volquez, who just beats a sliding Fontenot to the bag. The sun peaks out as Ryan Theriot steps to the plate and bounces to third. Derrek Lee, who's hitting everything in sight and most of it out of the park, fouls off a few pitches. Volquez throws three straight balls and then gets Lee looking at something on the inside corner for strike three. Lee disagrees but doesn't have much say in the matter.
And, no, no Chinese food today. Rahula and I had Max Orient yesterday. Two items. The only sure thing for the Reds is Adam Dunn will hit a homer against the Cubs. It's a given. He hit one last night that landed on Sheffield before the big donkey could even get out of the batter's box. I believe that makes him the active home run leader against the Cubs with, correct me if I'm wrong, 34. Dunn pops it up. Ramirez drifts over near the stands, shields his eyes with his glove and nearly makes the grab reaching into the first row. It didn't help that he took a brick wall in the midsection. Lilly fans Dunn. That homer will have to wait. Jeff Keppinger singles. Edwin Encarnacion pops out to second. Lilly strikes out Votto swining on a full-count pitch.
Ramirez leads off the Cubs' half of the second with a broken-bat single to center. Kosuke Fukudome strikes out swinging at the change. Mark DeRosa gets ahead 3-0 and eventually walks, putting runners on first and second for Reed Johnson. Johnson pokes a single through the hole on the right side of the infield to load the bases. Both runners froze to see if that ball made it to the outfield, which is why Ramirez didn't score. Henry Blanco chases a ball low and away for strike three. So it's up to Lilly and he works it to 3-1. The bat should be glued to his shoulder for this pitch. Umpire Ron Kulpa makes a move to call strike two but then decides not to. Meh. The ol' fake out. Ball four and the Cubs get on the board. Volquez, all of a sudden all over the map and strike zone, goes full to Fontenot. The fans get up and then quickly sit down as Fontenot grounds out to first.
Cubs 1, Reds 0
Former Cubs backstop Paul Bako lines out to center on the first pitch. Volquez hits the second pitch and grounds out to third and I see what you mean about his picture. They have the same one on MLB.com. Nice wings. Hopper walks. With Freel up, Hopper takes second without drawing a throw from Blanco. Lilly hit the dirt like he was taking enemy fire. Freel eventually fans to end the top half and Lilly strolls back to the dugout like a man with an ERA under 9.00, which it might be now. I'll have to get out my calculator.
While the wind was howling out the last two nights, today it's shifted and is coming off the lake. With that come colder temperatures but it's good for Lilly. Bad for the rest of us. Theriot leads things off with a single to center. Lee and Theriot are both erased on the strike 'em out, throw 'em out. Len and Bob are talking about WGN executive producer Bob Vorwald's new book, "Cubs Forever." I guess he doing a signing somewhere tonight. I have a copy here on my desk that I haven't really looked at. Anyway, Bob says, "Lotta great photos in that book." So I arbitrarily poke a finger in it and open it up, right to a page with a picture of Len and Bob. Weird. I apologize for sharing that story. Ramirez draws a two-out walk. Volquez is throwing a ton of pitches. Another full count, this one to Fukudome, who grounds out to short.