There are huge implications in this game, so let's get right down to it.
The Mets, the National League's finest, look to avoid the ultimate humiliation, a sweep at the hands of the Cubs. The Cubs, for their part, try to win three in a row. Look out. I'm told a representative from Cooperstown is on hand with a small humidity regulated, velvet lined cedar box to immediately whisk the ball from this game upstate to the Hall of Fame, where it will be displayed in its own wing protected by a matrix of red laser eyes.
OK, so much for the implications. The Cubs haven't played for anything since 2003.
Mark Prior attempts to make it through a game without a stint on the disabled list, while the Mets trot out some guy named John Maine.
We'll have red-hot Aramis Ramirez and the Cubs against a couple guys named Carlos shortly. In the meantime, study these lineups as if your life depended on it.
Baseball soon and this morning edition of From the Cubicle will attempt to bring you all the potential action.
After my latest bit of brilliance--putting the message board in the headline collection on the front of the site--we're ready to go. Juan Pierre draws a walk. With Todd Walker up, Pierre is thrown out stealing by Ramon Castro. Todd Walker works the count full before flying out to Carlos Beltran in center. Aramis Ramirez bloops the first pitch into right for a single. Jacque Jones grounds out.
Mark Prior starts Jose Reyes with a strike. Reyes grounds to first where John Mabry makes the play and flips to a hustling Prior who steps on the bag. Check all your parts, Mark. You OK? Good. Let's continue. Endy Chavez draws a walk. Prior, who is taking his sweet time, stepping off, using the rosin bag, asking for new baseballs, talking to Michael Barrett, throwing balls, goes full to Carlos Beltran before Beltran pops out in foul ground near the dugout. Prior strikes out Carlos Delgado with a high fastball to end a long bottom half of the first.
Michael Barrett grounds out to open the second. The immortal John Mabry strikes out. Angel Pagan grounds out and the Cubs fail to hit the ball out of the infield.
Prior starts out promising with a few strikes and then walks the great David Wright by missing badly on a curve. Prior then asks for a new ball and requests a conference with Barrett. The man looks a bit uncomfortable out there, not to mention confused. He throws twice to first and then misses to Jose Valentin. Valentin gives it a ride but Jones flags it down on the track. For some strange reason Wright takes off for second and Barrett guns him down. Xavier Nady flies out to Angel Pagan in left. Outside of Nady, who swung at the first or second pitch, most of the Mets have made Prior pitch to them.
Ronny Cedeno grounds out to shortstop Jose Reyes. Prior tries to reach with a bunt down the third-base line and nearly beats Wright's throw. Pierre pops out to Wright in foul ground. The comments should be showing up now on the rail.
Another lengthy at-bat, this one by Ramon Castro, eventually leads to another walk. Prior looks like he thinks he's being squeezed. He's not getting the outside corner and he threw up his arms after that ball four. Maine bunts and Mabry is all over it, nailing Castro at second. The return throw to first is just late. Nearly a really nice double play. Reyes bounces to Walker, who steps on second to get Maine. Reyes is safe at first. Reyes then steals second, his major-league leading 43 of the season. Prior strikes out Chavez.
Beltran robs Walker of an extra-base hit with a nice running catch in the left-center gap. Ramirez grounds a single through the hole on the left side, for his and the Cubs' second hit of the game. Hey, there's the Jose Valentin we all remember. Jones hits a routine double-play ball right at him and he boots it. He does recover to get Jones at first. Barrett grounds out to Valentin, who fields this one cleanly.
Prior goes full before walking Beltran. He's walked the leadoff guy to start the last three innings. He discusses matters with Barrett--again. He can't get his breaking ball over at all. Len and Bob blame the humidity, which is a valid point I think, especially since Prior keeps grabbing the rosin bag. Delgado pops out behind the plate. David Wright digs in to the Beastie Boys' "Brass Monkey." Wright flies out to Jones in right and I apologize for my spelling error in the last inning. Valentin grounds out.
Maine strikes out Mabry and it is not lost on me that Prior has a no-hitter going. Pagan bounces out to first. Cedeno pops out to Castro behind the plate. The Cubs again fail to hit the ball out of the infield as Cedeno falls to 0-fer-10 in the series.
Nady pops it up behind home plate and initially Barrett can't find it. He circles the wagons and it falls right into his glove at the screen. He then blinks repeatedly after staring directly into the sun for a good five seconds. A couple of balls might be coming on the next pitch. Prior stikes out Castro looking on his best curve of the afternoon. Maine bounces back to the mound and Prior has himself a 1-2-3 inning.
If you like walks and scratch singles, hunker down, people. This one's right up your alley. David Cassidy must be thankful for the Cubs. Is '70s Night his only gig on his calendar each year? Mr. no-no THROUGH five, Mark Prior takes a called strike three. Pierre slaps a bunt all the way to Valentin on the dirt and beats it out. Interesting technique right out of the page of high school softball, but it worked. Maine throws repeatedly to first and Pierre dives back head first each time. Walker draws a walk. For those of you wondering, Jim from Omaha, our guy on the message board says Prior has 85 pitches through five innings, so in order to pitch a no-hitter Dusty Baker and Larry Rothschild will have to fall asleep on the bench, which isn't out of the realm of possibility. The hot-bloop-single-hitting Ramirez steps in and strikes out waving at a high fastball. He can't hit with all these people on base. Too distracting. Maine gets two strikes on Jones and either there's a scoreboard race going on or Mets fans actually care about this game/at-bat because they're cheering. Jones bounces out to Valentin and so much for those two guys on base.
Prior's pitch count is now 88, if you include the three pitches he just threw. Prior was toweled off in the dugout between innings and Bob Brenly is now talking about mango-scented towels. I'm not sure. Reyes pops out to Walker. Mr. Keith "Who's the chucker?" Hernandez in the house. Mabry makes a nice play on a Chavez ground ball and Prior comes up limping after covering first on the play. Dusty has awoken from his nap and walks out to check on Prior. Nothing doing. Back to sleep. Prior falls behind 3-0 to Beltran and Len wonders if he has "tweaked something." The possibilities are endless. Beltran walks and after being shaken awake by Dick Pole, Dusty can't get back to sleep, so he goes out and pulls Prior, who threw 103 pitches without giving up a hit. He walked five. Will Ohman comes in to face Delgado. Beltran steals second but Ohman gets Delgado, so another stolen base on Barrett doesn't matter much.
We've got nothing, no score
Barrett fans to open the seventh. Mabry strikes out, as well. Pagan walks. Cedeno strikes out. We stretch.
It looked as if Prior had some kind of hand cramp leaving the game. His right hand was frozen with all his fingers were extended as his teammates attempted to give him a high-five. Fluids, people. Got to stay hydrated. Roberto Novoa is the Cubs' third pitcher of the day and he'll try to keep the no-hitter by committee going. We'll see about that. Wright leads things off. Considering Cedeno can't hit a lick, he better make plays like that--deep in the hole, back-handed pick and a rifle throw across his body to get Wright at first. Great play. The count goes full to Valentin before he pops up to shallow center, where it falls right between Cedeno and Pierre. Cedeno alligator armed it. Brutal. One great play followed by one inexcusable play. It goes as a hit but should've been an out and there goes the combined no-hitter. Nady pops out to Mabry in foul ground. Anything of any interest in this game just died with that play. At least we might get a Julio Franco sighting with the pitcher due up next. Castro drives it deep to center but Pierre catches up to it.
That commercial with the American Idol nitwit has surpassed that brutal Applebees spot during the NCAA tournament with those two guys singing the "Gilligan's Island" theme as the worst commercial ever. Duaner Sanchez is the new Mets' pitcher and Phil Nevin will pinch hit. Nevin flies out to Nady in right. Pierre tries to bunt--again--and is thrown out. Walker grounds out to Valentin, who boots it but recovers in time.
OK, Scott Eyre is the new pitcher and--Yes!--message board favorite Neifi Perez comes in to play second. And here's our guy Julio Franco. Eyre strikes out Franco and makes him look like the 67-year-old he is. Reyes lines--what's it called?--a single to left. Chavez flies out to center. Beltran bloops a single to center and Reyes takes third. Beltran saunters down to second without drawing a throw and Eyre strikes out Delgado to end the eighth. We move to the ninth.
Billy Wagner makes an appearance. Ramirez makes an out--a fly ball to center. Jones bounces to short. Barrett fans. Who's going to pitch the ninth for the Cubs?
And it's Michael Wuertz and he walks David Wright to start the inning. Valentin squares to bunt, pops it up and Barrett gloves it. Nady flies out to center. Castro lines a 1-2 pitch to left for a single. Glendon Rusch is up in the pen and Cliff Floyd will hit for the Mets. Here comes Dusty to set up the lefty-lefty matchup with two outs and runners on the corners. OK, Rusch is warm and we're back from commercial. First pitch is a ball, high. Rusch goes off speed and Floyd is way out in front for strike one. Floyd grounds out to Cedeno and we go to extras.
Righty Aaron Heilman comes on to pitch for the Mets. Mabry, 0-for-3, looks to get something going and draws a leadoff walk. Pagan bunts him over. Cedeno bounces to third but Wright slips and falls. An infield hit. Cedeno will definitely send him a Christmas card this year. Everyone's favorite Neifi works the count full before popping up to third. Pierre works the count full and the Mets fans who are still there--the ones who are awake--stand and cheer. Pierre pops out to Valentin on the grass.
Rusch stays in there and Reyes flies out to Pierre in center. Chavez grounds out to third. OK, the Mets are the best thing the NL has going and I'm not impressed, especially when the big three--Beltran, Delgado and Wright--don't do anything. That said, here's Beltran with two outs and he lines a single to right. The Cubs have a shift on against Delgado and he slices one the other way past Ramirez for a double. Strange looking hit there. So second and third with two outs for Wright. Gotta put him on. They will and Valentin will hit with the bases loaded. Rusch gets ahead of Valentin 1-2. Valentin singles to center and this one's over.
Final: Mets 1, Cubs 0
Thanks for reading, everyone. You're brave souls with clearly nothing better to do. We'll be back Friday for the Cardinals.