Let's try this again. Since it rained yesterday, Mark Prior will make his 2005 Cubs debut today after a stint on the DL and some time in Triple-A convalescing from his latest bout with elbow tenderness. But please do not confuse this with the tenderness he felt last season in a different part of the same elbow, the Cubs warn. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. That's later on in the second half of today's doubleheader. First we have Kerry Wood facing San Diego Padres right-hander Jake Peavy--a 15-game winner and 2.27 ERA owner of a year ago.
At any rate, today is much more suitable for the tender Prior--and everyone else involved, for that matter. It's crisp and cool and the sun is shining on the North Side of Chicago with very few clouds in the way. Unfortunately that's not an apt metaphor for this young season, which already has seen its share of typical Cubness. And no doubt we're in store for more today.
We'll have play-by-play of both halves of today's twin bill, so get comfortable at your desk or wherever you are and please try to look busy. That way your boss will leave you alone. My colleague and fellow cubicle dweller, Rahula Strohl, will take us home with the call of Game 2.
While we wait, let's get this out of the way right now: This advertising board behind home plate is an abomination, a monstrosity, an eyesore, a desecration, a sacrilege. Defacing the backstop of Wrigley Field--as recognizable to any baseball fan as the ivy on the walls or Fenway's Green Monster and a beacon for Cubs fans everywhere watching on TV--isn't worth any amount of dirty advertising money. We're talking ads here; ads for lame products like a Jimmy Fallon movie based on a book about soccer that was re-written for an American audience. And local car dealerships with endorsement deals from prominent Cubs figures like Dusty Baker and Ron Santo, like that's supposed to make this unwelcome intruder any more palatable.
Had the Cubs justified it by using the money to pay, say, Carlos Beltran's salary instead of the departed Sammy Sosa's, that's one thing. But considering they're still giving Sosa close to $12 million to play for the Baltimore Orioles--which means the free-swinging Jeromy Burnitz and his iron hands are costing the Cubs close to $20 million--you would think they could spare us. But, no. OK, on that sunny note, baseball soon. Let's play two!
Kerry Wood starts to Geoff Blum. I'll have the lineups for everyone in a bit. Wood goes to 1-1 on Blum before giving up a lead-off homer to the party section of the right-field bleachers. It was a slider over the plate. Wood plunks Mark Loretta with the first pitch. Didn't look malicious. Brian Giles steps in. Loretta takes off for second, Michael Barrett's throw dribbles into center-field, but not enough for Loretta to take third. Giles walks and Wood is off to a fabulous start. Ryan Klesko, who's either wearing a much tighter uniform this season or is 30 pounds lighter, digs in. Wood walks him, as well. And Phil Nevin steps in with the bags juiced and no outs. I'm not sure Wood has thrown a strike yet. Nevin grounds softly to Nomar, who has time only for the out at second. Another run scores. Runners at the corners with one out. Ramon Hernandez, whom I've never heard of, but that's not saying much, is the next batter and he hits a single to right, scoring Giles. Nevin holds at second. Wood is all over the map. Before he gets yanked maybe he'll drill the billboard behind home plate with a wayward fastball. Xavier Nady pops one foul behind first base that Derrek Lee can't catch up to. Nady taps one short of third, Wood bare-hands it, turns and makes a jump throw that ends up in the Padres' bullpen. Derek Jeter he's not. Another run scores. That puts runners on second and third. Still one out. WGN flashes to a guy in the stands wearing a shirt that reads "I didn't come here to lose." Well, buddy, looks like you picked the wrong day. Wood fans Jesse Garcia. Wood's going to get pulled for wildness or reaching his pitch-count limit, whichever comes first in this opening inning. The pitcher, Peavy, bats. Wood fans him eventually. But holy Nuke Laloosh. Wood throws close to 40 pitches and the Padres put four runs up on the old Wrigley Field scoreboard.
Padres 4, Cubs 0
Here's the Cubs' lineup: Corey Patterson (CF), Neifi Perez (2B), Nomar Garciapara (SS), Aramis Ramirez (3B), Jeromy Burnitz (RF), Derrek Lee (1B), Todd Hollandsworth (LF), Michael Barrett (C), Wood (P).
And this business: With apologies to Pat Hughes, the Cubs are wearing their white tops and pants with blue stripes, white socks, blue stirrups, blue shoes, blue hats with red little buttons on the top and presumably white athletic supporters. The Padres, on the other hand, are wearing the Milwaukee Brewers' uniforms--a putrid combination of dark blue and mustard yellow. They need to bring back those old Dave Winfield brown and yellow numbers.
Cubs' first: Patterson pops out to center on what I believe was the first pitch. Perez bluffs bunt a few times before blooping a ball off the shortstop Garcia's glove and reaching base. Nomar promptly bounces into a 6-4-3 double play to end it.
Nevin bounces to Lee behind the bag; Lee flips to Wood covering. One batter, one out. Now we're getting somewhere. Loretta bounces to Ramirez for another quick out. Giles puts one in the bleachers and so much for a clean inning for Wood. The reason, I guess, Prior was bumped to the second game was that he'd have the benefit of a full bullpen because the Cubs were counting on Wood eating up a lot of innings. This, according to new guys Len Kasper and Bob Brenley. Looks like a good strategy right about now. Klesko strikes out to end the inning.
Padres 5, Cubs 0
And speaking of the new guys in the booth, late in the home opener, after LaTroy Hawkins blew the game in the ninth and Cubs fans booed him and after Corey Patterson was booed for striking out, Kasper and Brenley, said they had been receiving a lot of e-mail through the day about the thing behind home plate. We're to assume most of it was negative based on what we've gotten here. They did their best to put a positive spin on it, saying how hard the Cubs had worked to make it unobtrusive, when a guy sitting behind home plate--one of the few fans left back there--unfurls a little sign that reads "Bring back Stoney." Unbelievable timing. I'm sure the Cubs suits were thrilled to see that. Ramirez bounces out to start the Cubs' half of the second. Here's Burnitz. You think Monday will forever be known in Cubs lore as "The Jeromy Burnitz Game"? Me neither. Burnitz takes a called strike three but not after the new guys defend Burnitz's game on Monday by praising him for talking to the media afterwards. I think Cubs fans would gladly take a clean play in right and a Heisman to the writers afterwards to what actually happened. Lee strikes out and Peavy looks good early. I should be getting a call from Kent Mercker any minute now for that last comment.
Nevin grounds out to start the inning but we'll never know because WGN was still at commercial. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt is now in the TV booth. Not sure why. Burnitz makes a play in right and draws a few sarcastic cheers from the fans. Nady bounces one to Ramirez, who makes a nice back-handed play but throws the ball away. Nady goes to second. Brenley chalks up Ramirez's short throw and Lee's missed pick at first to the cold weather. These guys have an excuse for everything. Garcia pops out to Lee at first and thankfully that ends the inning and bounces the politician out of the booth.
Hollandsworth pops one in foul territory but second baseman Loretta, a Northwestern guy, can't catch up to. He was a bit weary of the bullpen mound there. Hollandsworth again pops it behind first and this time Nevin, the first baseman, takes it. Barrett grounds to Blum at third base and Blum makes a solid pick and throw to get the catcher. Here's Wood. He grounds out to end it.