Now that the Cubs are inventing new and exciting ways to lose and almost lose games, this season has really picked up. Two nights ago, Ryan Dempster goes Mitch Williams on everyone, walking four straight Phillies batters in the ninth inning of a two-run game before wriggling out of it with two strike outs. And then last night Michael Barrett's panic attack lets in the winning run in the ninth.
Today, Mark Prior takes the mounds in an attempt to stop the madness. He'll face Philadelphia righty Brett Myers, a young pitcher with good stuff, in the rubber match of this three-game series.
On a related note: Do you get the feeling that Derrek Lee is going to lose it any day now? The guy is doing everything in his power and then some to carry this team. He's the best first baseman in the game, does everything amazingly well and three pitchers last night fail to cover first base on ground balls. "It's such a basic play," he said. "It's an out. Those are the plays you have to make." And then to top it off, Barrett pulls a move out of "The Bad News Bears" script and fires the ball to third on a passed ball with the bases loaded, allowing the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins to score the winning run. Lee watched all of this from the infield grass, threw up his hands and then had to look away.
Baseball is on the way.
Now that I've eaten lunch, walked my cloned dog and unintentionally downed my dose of Winstrol, let's get right to business. The newly acquired Matt Lawton starts things off and slices a double down the left-field line. This is my first time seeing Lawton as a Cub because I missed Tuesday's game and RCN doesn't carry Comcast Plus. I should point out that it's 93 degrees in Philly today, Jerry Hairston is out with an injured elbow (we'll get you an update on that) and the immortal Jose Macias gets the start in center. Still no Matt Murton. I guess Lawton can't play center anymore. He hasn't played there in five years. Todd Walker flies out and Lawton has to hold. Derrek Lee bounces it up the middle but Chase Utley was shaded that way and handles it easily. Lawton to third. Aramis Ramirez sends a deep fly to center but Jason Michaels catches up to it on the run and the Cubs waste a leadoff double.
Reader Alec Guroff writes in to report last night's game was on Ch. 51 on RCN. "Don't know how I was supposed to know this, but found it through dumb luck." Thanks, Alec. I didn't even bother to look because they haven't carried it in the past. But, hey, isn't 51 TLC? I hope they didn't preempt "Clean Sweep." There may be dozens of complaints.
Jimmy Rollins sends a single to center to start the Phillies' half of the first. Michaels singles to right and Rollins takes third. About the lineup, Murton cannot play center. He can barely play left. Burnitz has played out there, so, yeah, wouldn't it make more sense to put The Big Murt in left, Burnitz in center and Lawton in right, as someon on the message board asks? Anyway, Prior walks Utley to load the bases. As for Hairston, X-rays were negative. Speaking of negative, Bobby Abreu sends a 1-0 pitch over the center field wall for a grand slam. I swear Macias had a chance to bring that back over the short wall but he didn't even jump. Rather he ran right into the wall. So more fuel for the second-guessing of the lineup. Macias didn't even make an attempt at that ball. Yes, Burnitz may not be able to cover the ground, but he's pretty fundamentally sound defensively. And Macias isn't exactly Andruw Jones out there. Prior walks Pat Burrell. On the 26th pitch of the inning Prior retires the first batter, striking out Ryan Howard. Prior fans David Bell, as well. Todd Pratt goes down swining to end the inning. So Prior strikes out the side, but it's a bit too late.
Phillies 4, Cubs 0
Burnitz sends one deep to left but Burrell catches it on the warning track. Neifi Perez goes with the pitch and bloops a double the other way down the left-field line. The immortal Jose Macias hits one off Myers' glove. But the pitcher recovers and makes the throw to first. Perez takes third. Myers walks Henry Blanco. You never want to pitch to Blanco. Prior fans and fails to help himself. Another runner is left standing on third.
Prior strikes out his counterpart, Myers. So Prior mows through the bottom of the Phillies' lineup with four straight strikeouts. It's the first five guys that were the problem. Rollins lines one to left and Lawton makes not really a diving catch but more of a falling catch. Kind of Carlos Lee-esque. Michaels walks. Utley pops out to Perez at short to end the inning.
Lawton bounces it towards first; Howard makes the play and tags Lawton. Walker flies out to Burrell in left. Lee pops out to Bell and the top of the lineup doesn't do didly in the third.
Abreu rips a hanging curve to left for a single. Burrell flies out to Macias in center. Howard strikes out. Bell pops out to Lee in foul territory and it's taking every fiber of my body to stay awake for this one. Zzzz.
Ramirez leads off the fourth of this instant classic and lines a double down the left-field line. Burnitz moves Ramirez over some how. I missed it because I was checking the Sox score. Perez bloops another double to left and Ramirez scores. That's the Cubs' fourth hit, all doubles, including two bleeders by Perez. Macias chops one towards third that Bell has to eat. Perez takes third on the infield single. Blanco pokes a single through the hole on the right side, scoring Perez. It's unbelievable how well this guy is hitting since changing his number. Prior bats with one out and runners on first and second and lays down a nice sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Lawton bounces out, but the Cubs get two back.
Phillies 4, Cubs 2
Pratt hits the first pitch he sees--a Prior meatball right down the heart of the plate--into the left-field bleachers for a solo homer. And now it's raining. What the? The radar showed nothing. Myers flies out to Macias. JA and Working Man, two anonymous jokers on the message board, don't work too hard there yourselves. New Cubs fan? Um, sure thing there. I enjoy your irreverent spelling, too. Rollins bounces out to Walker and Michaels fans.
Phillies 5, Cubs 2
Walker draws a walk after falling behind 0-2. Lee rips one to left, Walker takes third and Lee slides into second just beating Utley's tag. Close play but he appeared to be safe. Ramirez sends one to left that scores both Walker and Lee but is thrown out by a lot trying to stretch it into a double. Burnitz flies out to center. Perez slaps a bunt past a drawn-in Bell at third. Interesting. Not really a bunt; he just shortened up on the bat. That is what they used to call a butcher boy. Macias strikes out, but the Cubs climb back in it.
Phillies 5, Cubs 4
And just like last inning, Prior gives up a leadoff homer, this one to Chase Utley. Abreu foul tips one and Blanco holds on. Seven strikeouts for Prior. Unfortunately he's given up three homers. And Larry Rothschild comes out and yanks Prior for Michael Wuertz. Are they going to show this Friday's commercial where the guy's doing the "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" biker bar dance every break? Abreu flies out to left. Ha! As they showed the replay of the end of last night's game for about the 50th time, Bob Brenly said, "Here we go, start the circus music." Ramirez gloves Burrell's bloop to end the fifth.
Phillies 6, Cubs 4
A reader on the message board with the handle "an" reports since changing his number from 9 to 24 on July 14, Henry Blanco is hitting .379. Before that he hit .059 in May, .172 in June and .200 in July. Excellent work, an. Of course Blanco strikes out looking here. Myers has an easy job the rest of the way, striking out Wuertz and getting Lawton to ground out to first.
Again with the Friday's commercial. This is enough to make someone a Sox fan or turn on the Oakland-Minny game on ESPN. Bell pops out to Ramirez in foul ground. Pratt sends one to the deepest part of the park and Macias makes a nice leaping catch on the track in front of the 409 sign. The pitcher Myers singles up the middle. Rollins hits one foul that Lawton gloves down the line right by the wall. He flips the ball to a fan and jogs back to the dugout.
Walker grounds out to Utley. Lee singles up the middle. Charlie Manuel, who's not just the Phillies' manager but also a poet, comes out to break the news that he's taking Myers out of the game in rhyming couplets. And the new pitcher is...did they tell us? Ryan Madson. A tall drink of water, Madson is. And he works quickly. Ramirez grounds into a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play.
For those of you asking, Lee's last home run was July 23 in St. Louis. Wuertz remains in the game and gets Michaels to fly out on the first pitch and that's it for him. Here comes lefty Will Ohman. Utley checks his swing and, after an appeal to the third-base ump, takes his base. Ball four. Ohman does not agree. With an 1-1 count to Abreu, Utley steals second. Blanco's throw was high. Abreu grounds out to Walker; Utley takes third. They just showed Scott Williamson in the dugout. He's got the Andres Nocioni look going. Ohman will walk Burrell intentionally. The strategy appears to have worked: Howard flies out to left to end the seventh.
Burnitz flies out to right. Perez comes up looking for a 4-for-4 afternoon. Not today. He bloops one foul behind third and Bell makes a nice hustling catch. Macias bloops a single to center and takes a giant turn around first. Whoa, nellie. Almost got caught in a rundown. Blanco sends one foul down the right-field line and Utley covers some serious ground and makes a basket catch near the tarp for the third out.
Enter Roberto Novoa. He'll face Bell, who greets him with a leadoff single to center. Well, this one's over: Bill Wagner is up in the Phils' pen. Pratt drives one to right-center. Macias makes a running catch and nearly collides with Burnitz. Bell has to hustle back to first to avoid being doubled up. Endy Chavez pinch hits and flies out to left. Rollins pops out to Lee behind first and we go to the ninth.
Michael Barrett, who came on in the double switch in the bottom of the eighth, leads off and faces the aforementioned Mr. Wagner. Wagner makes quick work of Barrett, making him look bad swinging at a slider for strike three. Lawton grounds out or lines out to second. Walker grounds out to short to end the game.
Final: Phillies 6, Cubs 4
Thanks everyone for reading, writing in and posting. Sorry about bringing you another loss. I think I'm a jinx.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times