From the Cubicle

Juan Pierre, who can never make up his mind if he wants to bunt or not, half bunts it right back to Sampson. Big stunner here: Another ground out. Womack this time. Barrett draws a walk and there goes the perfect game. Walker flies out to a slightly confused Preston Wilson, who quickly throws it back into the infield as if there were fewer than two outs. That's it, the Cubs will get to this rookie the second time through the lineup. Wait, maybe not.

If you love ground balls, boy, do we have a game for you. Berkman bounces out to short. Ensberg fans. Wilson fans. Marshall has looked good, despite the one meatball he tossed to Ausmus.

Astros 1, Cubs 0

Fifth inning

Ramirez grounds out and Mabry squibs one to the right side of Sampson, who reaches for it, gets a glove on it and then in a nod to the upcoming World Cup shows a nice first touch with his left foot, booting it into foul ground. It's ruled a hit. Murton chops it back to Sampson, who wheels and gets Mabry. Biggio made a nice play on the wide throw. Cedeno grounds out to second.

Lane rips one deep to left. It's called a homer, fire works are going off, Marshall is complaining it was foul, Dusty Baker is out on the field, the umps are huddling, Lane has circled the bases and is sitting in the dugout. It's possibly the end of the world. Chaos. It's ruled a foul ball. After all that, Lane walks. Ausmus takes a called third strike. Everett grounds to short, where Cedeno starts a snappy 6-4-3, inning-ending double play.

Astros 1, Cubs 0

Sixth inning

Marshall bounces out to first. Len and Bob now have been talking about Phil Garner's calling out his players during the World Series last year for, oh, about an hour. We thought it was over and then they came back from commercial and Len says, "I didn't want to leave that conversation hanging.." Ugh. It was pretty inconsequential in the scheme of things considering the Astros got out-classed and swept. Why don't we talk about Mike Holmgren complaining about calls in the Super Bowl next. I guess youv'e got to talk about something, besides a parade of ground balls. Speaking of which, Pierre grounds out. Womack joins the club--again--grounding out to third.

Sampson strikes out. Biggio hits it hard off Ramirez's leg. It bounces towards Cedeno, who bare-hands it and nearly gets Biggio at first. Nearly. Nice play, regardless. Hey, Karl Malone got Karl Malone some nice tickets to the game. Taveras grounds to Cedeno, who makes another nice play, quickly getting rid of the ball and opting to throw to first. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild feels like stretching his legs and takes a stroll out to the mound. Nice day for a walk. Berkman hits it off of Ramirez's glove--one of these days he's going to catch one of those. Cedeno grabs it and holds it. There are two on for Ensberg, who flies out to center.

Astros 1, Cubs 0

Seventh inning

Barrett singles to center--the first legit hit off Sampson. Walker flies out to Lane in right and he's not too happy about it. That's three flyouts for Walker. Ramirez flies out to Lane, who had to cover some ground towards the line on that one. OK, how the Cubs didn't draft this guy, is a mystery. Mabry lines a single to right-center: Barrett takes third. Murton works the count full. Astros fans are on their feet--some of them, not the entitled ones with the sweet seats behind home plate. They can't be bothered. Clapping might cause calluses on their otherwise pristine hands. Murton flies out and so much for that.

Here's today's Where's My Cheez Whiz update from Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan in Houston:

"Please note that Astros president Tal Smith came down to press box and berated the official scorer for making a 'brutal' call on the end of the no-no when Sampson kicked the ball.

Very inappropriate, and possibly worthy of an MLB fine since clubs are not allowed to berate the official scorers."

Ha. Too funny. Thanks, Paul, who also notes, "And yes, you can use this..." Sometimes I get a little confused.

Preston Wilson, not to be confused with the great Billy Preston who sadly died yesterday, singles to center. Will Oh, man and David Aardsma up in the Cubs' pen. On a related note, that's probably it for Sampson, who was seen receiving high-fives in the Astros' dugout. Lane flies out to left. Ausmus bounces into a 4-6-3 double play.

Astros 1, Cubs 0

Eighth inning

Dan Wheeler is the new Astros' pitcher. Ronny Cedeno is the batter. Cedeno strikes out. Jacque Jones hits in the pitcher's spot and strikes out. Wheeler's pitch grazes Pierre's over-sized jersey and he takes first base. The count goes 3-0 or Womack and then 3-1 and then Womack flies out.

Scott Eyre joins the party. Everett bloops one over Walker's head where Womack catches up to it on the outfield grass. Eyre chooses not to cover first base, so it's a hit. Pinch hitter Eric Bruntlett sacrifices Everett to second and that's it for Eyre, who it shall be noted nearly threw wild to first after fielding that bunt. The right-hander Aardsma takes over. Biggio flies out to Pierre in center and Everett takes third. Pierre about 10-hopped that throw to Ramirez. Taveras lines out to Walker and we move to the ninth. The Cubs' last chance.

Astros 1, Cubs 0

Ninth inning

Albert Pujols' and Scott Podsednik's personal BP pitcher Brad Lidge will try to close this one out for the Astros. Barrett doesn't quite get the result Albert did with a fly ball to shallow center. Walker grounds out to Biggio. Ramirez pops out and that's it.

Final: Astros 1, Cubs 0

The Cubs take the first game and then drop two straight. They'll go to Cincy now for four games. On the positive side, Sean Marshall looks like a keeper. He pitched well for the second straight outing. It's just too bad the Cubs' hitters couldn't catch up with future Hall-of-Famer Chris Sampson. Thanks for reading and posting everyone. Enjoy the World Cup.
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