Cubs-Astros

Professional BaseballBaseballSportsChicago CubsHouston AstrosJose MaciasTodd Walker

Yes, this game is absolutely meaningless. But seriously, what else do you have to do on a Friday afternoon? Work?

OK, well it's not totally meaningless. The Houston Astros have a two-game lead over Philadelphia in the wild-card race, so the Cubs, out of it for weeks, could spoil things for a division foe.

Let's get right to it. Glendon Rusch against Wandy Rodriguez. Lineups.

First inning

Rusch strikes out Willy Taveras to start things off. Craig Biggio pops out to Todd Walker. Morgan Ensberg singles to right. We apologize for the late start but we had some trouble with the satellite. Rusch fans Lance Berkman, who is known affectionately by his teammates as "Fat Elvis." Nice teammates.

Neifi Perez grounds out to short. Walker singles to center. Derrek Lee rips one to the alley in right-center. Cut to Walker: He should be sprinting home, but, no, he's hobbling between second and third. Walker drops to a knee at third and obviously doesn't score on the Lee double. We've got the training staff out there and Walker is helped off the field. The immortal Jose Macias takes his spot at third and will play second. Nomar Garciaparra singles, scoring Macias. Len Kasper, chipper as ever, is geeked. Nothing fazes this guy. Lee takes third. Burnitz hits into a fielder's choice and Lee scores. Burnitz takes second on a passed ball. Barrett rips a double to the left-field corner and Burnitz comes home. the Cubs have taken a 3-0 lead and we've got a discussion at the mound. Matt Murton, who hit his first major-league homer off Rodriguez this season, will be intentionally walked with Mr. Winterball, Corey Patterson, due up. Patterson, swinging at anything and everything, high, low, down the middle, strikes out. Kasper called that at-bat a "chess match." More like checkers or Chutes 'n' Ladders.

Walker update: He tweaked his right knee and is on his way to Northwestern Memorial to be checked out.

Cubs 3, Astros 0

Second inning

Jason Lane walks. No Roger Clemens tomorrow. He's got a sore hammy. Bob Brenly just shared this stat: The Astros have been shut out 17 times this year; nine times when Clemens has pitched. Wow. Chris Burke flies out. Okaaaaay, someone on the message board defending checkers. King me. Adam Everett flies out to Patterson. Raul Chavez lines a single to right where Burnitz makes a nice play to cut it off. Lane takes third. Rusch fans Rodriguez and that's that.

Rodriguez returns the favor and strikes out Rusch. Perez chops one off a charging Ensberg's glove and reaches on the error. Macias singles to right. Lee walks, prompting another discussion on the mound. The umpire stalks out there and breaks it up. Nomar pops out to shallow right with the bases loaded and no one can move. And Burnitz fans and the Cubs leave all those guys on base.

Third inning

Taveras grounds to short and Perez makes a good play and throw to get the speedster. Biggio homers to left. Ensberg flies out to Burnitz in right. Fat Elvis lines a center to left. Lane grounds to Macias to end it.

Cubs 3, Astros 1

Hate the Quiznos baby. Turn down the volume. Barrett hits a 3-2 pitch deep to left but Burke catches it on the edge of the track. Murton bounces back to Rodriguez for the second out. Patterson grounds the first pitch to Fat Elvis and that's all she wrote for the third inning.

Fourth inning

Burke leads off the fourth with a single to center. Apparently the gave away Snoopy dolls today and Brenly had a great suggestion: They drop them out of the Metlife blimp all over town today. Everett bounces into a double play. Chavez bloops one to Burnitz to end a quick top half of the fourth. With the risk of jinxing things, this game is moving along nicely.

Rusch dribbles one to second. One out. Perez fans. Two outs. Macias hits one in the hole at short that takes a bad hop off the seam of the grass. It's scored a hit, as well it should be. Lee pokes one down the third-base line, Macias digs all the way around to score and gives Chavez, who's standing on top of the plate, a shot for good measure. The ball gets away and Lee takes third. The immortal Jose Macias always plays hard. Nomar shoots a single to right-center, scoring Lee. Burnitz digs in and, as usual, will end the inning. As predicted Burnitz grounds out.

Cubs 5, Astros 1

Fifth inning

Luke Scott hits for Rodriguez and hits it off Macias' glove for an infield single. Taveras is retired but Biggio rips a double to left, scoring Rodriguez from first. Ensberg flies out to right but it's deep enough for Biggio to tag and go to third. Fat Elvis knocks home Biggio with a single to make it 5-3. Lane singles to left for the fourth hit of the inning. Burke bloops one to center, Patterson goes back, sprints in and the ball bounces right off his glove. Solid play. Fat Elvis has left the basepaths. First and second with two outs for Everett, who flies out to Burnitz for the last out. He's always part of the end of the inning.

Cubs 5, Astros 4

Former DePaul great, right-hander Scott Strickland comes on to pitch and he'll face Barrett, who bounces it right back to Strickland. Murton grounds out to second for out No. 2. Patterson dumps a single into right field. After sitting the bench for 17 days, Geovany Soto gets his first major league at-bat. And ... he lines out to right. Bring on the sixth.

Sixth inning

Michael Wuertz on to pitch and he fans Chavez. Orlando Palmeiro bats for Strickland and he flies out to Patterson who makes the catch this time, drawing some sarcastic cheers. Taveras strikes out.

Yet another pitcher: It's Russ Springer! Perez pops out to short. Macias does the same. Lee shoots a single the other way. He's 3-for-3 and has his average over .340. Nomar lines out. Onward.

Still 5-4, Cubs

Seventh inning

Wayne Messmer will sing TMOTTBG today and Glenallen Hill, whom Harry Caray used to call Glenallen Allen among other things, is up tomorrow. Biggio grounds out to Nomar. Ensberg strikes out looking at a big, fat hanging slider and does not agree with the call. Brenly said, "Well, he should be called out just for taking that pitch." Fat Elvis strikes out. Bring on Wayne, who just introduced himself. Nice.

Burnitz pops out, this time to start the inning. Mike Burns is the Astros' 40th pitcher of the day. Barrett pops one back to Burns. Murton pops out to Fat Elvis and the seventh has left the building. Bring on the eighth.

Eighth inning

Enter Scott Williamson. Lane pops one to left. Murton has no clue, goes back, digs hard forward and nearly takes out Perez. The ball drops between them and Lane ends up on second. Burke will bunt Lane over. Well, he doesn't have to because Williamson whips one by Barrett and to the backstop. Williamson then walks him. Dusty wakes up Larry Rothschild and he goes out to the mound. Everett lays down a safety squeeze. Lane stays put at third, Burke takes second and Everett takes a seat on the bench. Jeff Bagwell hits for Chavez. Not a bad guy to have coming off the bench. Williamson drills Bagwell to load the bases and he's done. Roberto Novoa trots on. Charles Gibson runs for Jason Lane at third. Jose Vizcaino will hit. He bounces to Lee, who throws home to nail Gibson. Novoa fans Taveras and escapes a huge jam. Or as huge as a jam can be for the Cubs at this point in the season. At any rate, he got the job done.

Lefty Mike Gallo faces Patterson to open the eighth and he grounds out to second. Almost beat it out, but no. Scott McClain bats for the Cubs. McClain hits one up the middle where Everett makes a great play and 360 throw. Fat Elvis makes an equally nice play at first to hold the bag. Larry Rothschild wakes up Dusty and he goes out and argues. This is just wasting everyone's time. Had McClain not gone with the head-first slide at first he probably would've been safe. Perez bounces out and the Cubs go down in order.

Still 5-4, Cubs

Ninth inning

It's Biggio, Ensberg and Fat Elvis for Ryan Dempster in the top of the ninth. Biggio beats out an infield hit that went past Nomar, who was guarding the line. Dempster falls behind Ensberg but comes back and strikes him out. Biggio takes off and Fat Elvis bounces out to Macias. So Michael Lamb bats with Biggio on second and two outs in the ninth. Dempster strikes him out and this one's over.

Final: Cubs 5, Astros 4

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