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Prior good, Bonser better
The Cubs have been bloodied, beaten down and buried during the first three months, but on Saturday night they simply were "Boofed."
Mark Prior rebounded in his second start, but Minnesota rookie Boof Bonser stymied the Cubs' offense in a 3-0 victory before a crowd of 42,304 at the Metrodome.
Bonser, who legally changed his name from John to Boof, entered with a 5.81 earned-run average in five career starts but held the Cubs scoreless over 61/3 innings.
"It gets very tiresome when you see a bunch of zeroes up there," manager Dusty Baker said.
Three Twins relievers finished it off as the Cubs were shut out for the eighth time, lost for the ninth time in 11 games and fell a season-worst 17 games below .500. The Cubs are now on pace to lose 100 games.
Prior allowed three runs over 52/3 innings, averaged between 91 and 94 m.p.h. and was clocked as high as 96 m.p.h. But it was small consolation for the struggling Cubs.
The Cubs' season in a nutshell was on display in one third-inning at-bat.
With runners on first and second and no outs, Henry Blanco failed to lay down a sacrifice, then hit a 350-foot shot to left that landed just left of the foul pole. Finally, he grounded into a double play to help kill a rally as Tony Womack came up lame at second with back spasms and had to be carried off the field.
In the fourth, Freddie Bynum singled leading off and stole second but was nailed trying to steal third on the next pitch, with Aramis Ramirez at the plate.
"We made too many mistakes," Baker said. "We messed up the bunt, ended up in a double play, and Freddie wasn't supposed to be running and got thrown out at third with our big guy up there.
"Those were our real threats. We sort of shot ourselves."
Prior was perfect the first three innings and carried a two-hit shutout into the fifth. After a one-out walk to Torii Hunter, Jason Kubel singled to right and Terry Tiffee singled home a run on a 96-m.p.h. fastball, before Jason Bartlett, the No. 9 hitter, doubled home the second run.
With two outs in the sixth, Justin Morneau singled and Hunter's line shot forced Prior to duck.
Baker went to the mound but left Prior in. Kubel promptly singled home another run, prompting Prior's exit.
"I just didn't put guys away at the end when I had them in situations," Prior said.
The Cubs will have to rebound with young pitchers in the rotation, an unenviable task because Baker's future is uncertain. They may struggle on the job at times while learning to pitch in the majors, which makes Baker's job even shakier.
"I don't think you're hurting them necessarily, as long as their minds are strong enough to learn from it, much like Detroit's young kids," Baker said.
"Remember, they took their lumps. But can the city and the organization and everybody wait for some of these kids [while they] take their lumps, so they can get to that maturity level?
"Look at Detroit. Those [players] were taking their lumps big-time, and look where they are now. That's the question."