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Whenever Tom Skilling wants to turn the dial on his weather machine to "spring," it's OK with me. It's still freezing out but, hey, at least the sun is shining. It could be worse. Hello, ! Make that Milwaukee.

The Cubs and Astros get it on at Wrigley Field and as always--or at least day games during the week--we're here for you.

Former Cardinal Jason Marquis, whom I'm having trouble warming up to but who pitched well in his first outing, starts for the Cubs. The Astros trot out fellow right-hander Chris Sampson. Last season this guy baffled the Cubs in his first Major League start, which, if you think about it, isn't surprising. The Cubs were baffled--and baffling--quite a bit last year. No news there.

Here's more than you ever wanted to know about these two guys.

And since I forgot to set the DVR (Argh!), Man. U-Roma updates are allowed.

And anytime the Don Imus story wants to go away, good. Not that I don't think it's a story or what he said was wrong, but I'm sick of looking at that guy's Rawlings face. A little linseed oil and some time under a mattress and Michael Barrett could use his face behind the plate today.

Speaking of which and whom, Barrett bats fifth, while red-headed Matt Murton sits again in favor of Thornwood's Cliff Floyd.

1. Craig Biggio, 2B
2. Morgan Ensberg, 3B
3. Lance Berkman, 1B
4. Carlos Lee, LF
5. Luke Scott, RF
6. Chris Burke, CF
7. Adam Everett, SS
8. Brad Ausmus, C
9. Chris Sampson, P

1. Alfonso Soriano, CF
2. Jacque Jones, RF
3. Derrek Lee, 1B
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5. Cliff Floyd, LF
6. Michael Barrett, C
7. Mark DeRosa, 2B
8. Cesar Izturis, SS
9. Jason Marquis, P

Baseball really soon...

First inning

Wayne Messmer, Gary Pressy and the Lowrey Organ kick out the Anthem, Comcast goes to commercial and we'll be under way shortly. And already I have to kill a post on the message board for some British borderline profanity, but "welcome" I'll be sure I pass on that message to Rahula personally. Yeah, I know I have to get a new picture. But the aforementioned Rahula Strohl has the camera and he's watching Champions League soccer at Fado. Someone on the board asked, so I say Man U. advances. But what do I know? Not saying I like them. Not saying I like Roma, either. On this continent the wind is blowing sideways to left with 47 degrees at gametime. Craig Biggio grounds out to short on the first pitch. One pitch, one out. Ensberg lines a double down the left-field line. Lance Berkman slaps a double over Mark DeRosa's head for a single. Ensberg holds up, thinking the second baseman had a shot at it, and has to stop at third. Cubs killer Carlos Lee hears some boos and takes a mighty cut at a ball in the dirt for strike one. Lee pokes one through the hole on the right side, scoring Ensberg. Runners at the corners again. And, no, I can confirm Amanda is not Linda S. Luke Scott knocks both runners home with a double to deep center over Alfonso Soriano's head. Ever see that thing on ESPN this winter about athletes and guns? Scott was featured prominently and let's just say I hope none of us ever run into this guy. Chris Burke swings at a high fastball for strike three. Adam Everett grounds out to his counterpart at short to end the inning.

Astros 3, Cubs 0

Soriano gets plunked on his hand left hand and that's got to hurt. Some guy sitting behind home plate was up immediately and really screaming at Sampson. Down, Sparky. Where's one of those eagle-eyed octogenarian Wrigley ushers? Check his ticket, please. Jacque Jones bounces into a 4-6-3 double play. Derrek Lee's up and Comcast still has the little yellow blip on first base. Get rid of that already. They never turn it off for Lee's entire at-bat, which ends in a popup to Berkman.

Astros 3, Cubs 0

Second inning

Brad Ausmus, guy's been around forever, grounds out to DeRosa to open the second. Sampson rips a liner to left where Floyd takes about six steps and makes an unnecessary diving/falling catch. Probably was knuckling a bit on him. Anyway, two outs. Marquis strikes out Biggio and has a much better time of it in the second. No doubles.

Aramis Ramirez fouls off a few pitches, breaks his bat, grabs a new one and singles to left. Floyd, who stunningly escaped that "diving" play in left unscathed, forces out Ramirez at second with a fielder's choice. He hustled to avoid the double play. I guess Barrett picked up the tab for an entire Kenosha Cracker Barrel on the way back from Milwaukee the other day, says Len. And that makes me think of those silly Al Pacino crank calls from years ago and that makes me laugh. Barrett flies out. DeRosa takes a called third strike. Doesn't like the call. Has no say in the matter. Onward.

Astros 3, Cubs 0

Third inning

Ensberg pops up to shallow left and Floyd gloves it. So someone gave me some beef sticks they brough from Wisconsin. I ate two and they're retty spicy. Then looked at the package and the second ingredient listed is "beef lips." Man, I hope I make it to the seventh. Berkman walks and here's El Caballo. Apologies for the typos, but with the new owner and cost-cutting initiatives, they've turned off the heat in the building and my hands are numb. Plus, I'm typing this on a borrowed blackberry. Crazy, paranoid Luke Scott grounds to short. Here's that ESPN gun story. I think it's Insider, but you may be able to watch the video, which is worth a look. No, I'm told you can't even watch the video. Damn, ESPN.

Astros 3, Cubs 0

Izturis repays the favor and grounds out to Everet this. I think they have some sort of agreement to hit the ball to each other. Marquis strikes out swinging and Sorriano flies out. Reader Matt Saunders provides this link to a free ABC version of of the gun story. Nice to see Disney subsidiaries are canibalizing each other's content. Though, no video, which is a shame because Scott cruises town with his gun in his waistband.

Astros 3, Cubs 0

Fourth inning

Burke reaches on a Izturis throwing error. Lee nearly bailed him out but couldn't pick it cleanly. Everett bounces it back to Marquis, who lobs it to second and Izturis can't catch it. Sure, that throw was wrong on many levels--high, soft. But the least Izturis can do is catch it. Ausmus bounces to DeRosa, who steps on second himself, lest Izturis screw something else up, and then flips to first for the double play. Burke takes third. But Sampson grounds to Izturis who makes a clean play to end the inning.

A phone has been ringing here for nonstop for, oh, 20 minutes. Someone want to get that? Maybe it's Sam Zell. Jones grounds a 2-0 pitch to Berkman for the first out. OK, that guy behind home plate wearing a red hoody under his Cubs jersey, has a glove on. It's obvious he's not supposed to be sitting there. Who would bring a glove knowing they're sitting in those seats? The only possible way you could get a ball is if it's fouled back so violently that it goes through the screen. And then it probably would strike you in the head and kill you before you could get a glove on it. Where's the usher? Lee lines a single to right-center. Ramirez gives it a ride but to left-center but drops it off early. It doesn't even make the warning track. Two outs. Floyd slices a single the other way to left. Barrett flies out to right, leaving Ramirez and Lee chillin' on the infield dirt. Someone get their hats and gloves for them, will ya? Yeah, you, Jacque.

Astros 3, Cubs 0

Fifth inning

Izturis oles a Biggio ground ball for his third error in the last two innings. Solid. Could Biggio's batting helmet get any bigger? Looks like Dark Helmet in "Space Balls." Ensberg works the count full before ground toward Izturis. Can we get a fourth? No. He back-hands and makes a true throw to first. Biggio takes second. Too softly hit for any chance at a DP. Porco Dio! Man-U up 4-nil. Buona Notte, Roma. On this continent, Fat Elvis works a walk. Larry Rothschild has been rousted from his nap but remains rooted to the bench. For now. Hate to be the pessimist, but this has Carlos Lee badness written all over it. The count goes to 2-2. Marquis misses inside and we're full -- but still a bit hungry. Ball four in the dirt and here's Larry. As usual he takes his sweet time walking out there, gives some sage advice, sticks his hands in his pockets and strolls back to the dugout. Angel Guzman gets up in the pen. Scott leaves his firearms alone long enough to bat with the bases loaded and one out. He grounds to DeRosa, who goes to first, scoring Biggio. Holy, italics. Sorry about that. DeRosa turned and looked at second but still went to first. Never know what would happen with Izturis around the ball. Second and third with two outs for Burke, who walks. Third of the inning. Boos. Everett pops out to Lee.

Astros 4, Cubs nil

ESPN's gamecast crashed my browser. So that IE window that gives you the option to send an error report, you think anyone at Microsoft reads those? I mean, how many times does IE crash a day throughout the world? I'd say a billion and that's on the conservative end. That said, I usually send a profanity-laced rant anyway. DeRosa grounds out. Let's see, what can Izturis do now? Send his bat flying into the crowd? He walks and Ryan Theriot will pinch his for Marquis. The Riot grounds to short; Izturis takes second. Soriano's up there taking some mighty cuts and falls behind 0-2. Two straight balls even up the count. Bob points out that Soriano stands towards the front of the box and swings a giant bat. This is used to kill time as the count goes full. The crowd starts to make noise and I'm not sure if it's because the count's full or Brad Lidge is up in the 'Stros' pen. Soriano strikes out swinging and everyone sits down.

Astros 4, Cubs 0

Sixth inning

To recap Hawk style, 4-4-0 for Houston (or whatever ancient nickname he has for the Astros) and 0-3-3 for the Cubs. Angel Guzman on to pitch for the Cubs and Ausmus drives his first pitch, a fastball down the middle, into the left-field corner for another double. Orlando Palmeiro hits for Sampson. Didn't this guy do something with the Cardinals at Wrigley? Like hurt himself on the wet grass in that crazy, spring wind game a few years back? Something like that. Palmeiro grounds out to DeRosa; Ausmus takes third. Biggio fans. I'm told Biggio looks more like the Great Gazzo than Dark Helmet. I am nearly positive I've had this conversation before. How sad. Ensberg grounds to Izturis for the final out.

Rick White is the new Astros pitcher. Jacque Jones grounds out to the right side again. Lee takes a called third strike. Reader Ron Baietto writes in to help me with my failing memory. "Eli Marrero was the Cardinal that hurt his ankle on the wet grass. I believe it was Mother's Day 3 years ago. Palmeiro was on the Cardinals and made a catch in the ivy to end a game with runners on base." Ramirez grounds to short and Rick White has his way with the Cubs in the sixth.

Astros 4, Cubs 0

Seventh inning

The new Bob Rohrman commercials truly are nightmare fuel. He plays a surgeon. Imagine fading to black on the operating table, and that's the last face you see. "There's only one..." Guzman stays in to pitch to Berkman. Berkman fans. Lee lifts a flyball to shallow center. Soriano started back but may not have been able to come up with it had he charged hard from the start. Drops for a single. Scott bounces into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play. Here's the Rebel Randy Hundley to sing TMOTTBG. A really slow version of TMOTTBG. When's Todd Hundley going to sing?

Rick White remains. Floyd rips one to center but right at Burke. Barrett lines one right off the beefy thigh of White. Hundley interrupts his own story to say, "That looked like it got him in a bad spot." Ha! The replay shows he was almost right. Lord that was close. DeRosa lines back to White, who is thinking, What the heck did I do?

Astros 4, Cubs 0

Eighth inning

Burke grounds to third. Guzman still in there. Everett singles to left. Chad Qualls and Lidge get up in the pen. The ball gets by Barrett and Everett takes second. That was a wild pitch. Ausmus hits a low liner that Izturis snares at his shoe tops for an out. Mike Lamb hits in the pitcher's spot for the Astros. The pinhead Ritalin candidate behind home plate is up and cheering at every strike, while most people are filing out of the park. A buddy has joined him and it looks like the people behind them have complained. The usher is talking to them. But let's them stay? C'mon! Full count to Lamb and Guzman walks him. Biggio flies out to center.

Just to recap, the Cubs have three hits. That's one fewer than four and three more than Randy Hundley has today. And to clarify the Palmeiro thing, I guess it kept the game tied and the Cubs eventually won it in extras. Thanks to a few readers for pointing this out. Qualls comes in to pitch, Izturis grounds to Biggio, who boots it. Anything Izturis touches is cursed. My guy behind the plate is gone. Hopefully he's in the holding cell under the third-base grandstand. Daryle Ward pinch hits in the nine hole and works the count full. The fans get up because there's nothing else to do and Ward breaks his bat grounding into a 4-6-3 double play. Not sure how Ward didn't beat that out. Damn, that guy's back. He just moved over a few seats. Soriano grounds to Berkman, who steps on the bag. Is Soriano under .200 yet? We move to the ninth.

Astros 4, Cubs 0

Ninth inning

Scott Eyre will try to do something about his 22.50 ERA. He strikes out Ensberg. That's a start. Berkman bounces out to DeRosa. Jones chases down Lee's drive down the right-field line. Jones will leadoff the ninth for the Cubs. OK, I should've listened to my mom when she scolded me once by telling me, "Everyone has a mother." Here's the proof:

"Hello Adam:

1. I'm a diehard Cubs fan who's only updates on gamedays will be from your blog. I greatly appreciate it (no matter how the Cubbies are playing!).

2. I'm also the mother of the "pinhead Ritalin candidate"! My son went to the game today. (If I'm a diehard fan--he's a psycho fan!) When I read about the overly enthusiastic fan behind homeplate on your blog, I text-messaged his phone and said "Is that you yelling behind the plate?" He answered "You know it! How are you watching the game?"I said, "I'm your mother, I have spies everywhere..."Thanks for giving me the best laugh I've had all day...."

Now I feel really bad. Though, I wonder what she's been feeding him. What are the odds?

But we must soldier on. Dan Wheeler will pitch the ninth for the Astros. Jones sends a drive over Lee's head in left and ends up on second. That nice exuberant kid in the Cubs jersey behind home plate really got a kick out of that. Lee lines a single to the gap, scoring Jones. Sure, Ryan Dempster up in the pen. Talk about your jinxes. Ramirez is ripping away up there, but falls behind 1-2, hole on the right side of the infield be damned. He strikes out at something hanging over the plate. Floyd singles to right. Lee stops at second. The 40 people who stuck around are getting a kick out of this. Lidge gets up for the third time. Barrett down 0-2, bloops one down the right-field line ... but it's just foul and bounces off the bullpen mound, nearly getting a piece of Lidge. Barrett takes a called third strike at his knees and my guy behind the plate nearly loses it. The buzz in the park has faded as DeRosa takes a strike. DeRosa bounces it back up the middle, scoring Lee. It's 4-2 and Matt Murton will hit, denying Izturis a chance to redeem himself. He fouls off the first pitch straight back. Interesting tidbit from Bob: Murton is 0-for-5 against Wheeler and 4-for-5 against Lidge with a homer. A foul ball just over the Astros' dugout makes the count 0-2. Murton pops it way up on the right side, Biggio and Berkman slowly creep towards each other looking skyward. Closer, closer, they're going to collide! Berkman, the taller one, reaches over Biggio and squeezes it for the final out. Audible gasps are heard in the Cubune newsroom. Wait, that was me.

Final: Astros 4, Cubs 2

Well, that was nearly thrilling. Alas, my heart sped up only when the mother of the guy behind home plate wrote in. Apologies all around. Thanks for reading, ranting and writing in. everyone. That's it. Time to go home. It's only 4:15? Damn.

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