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Starting Over

After the horrendous road trip, and although it's not the first day of a new month yet, I felt it was important to put a "new beginning" stamp on today.

So I brought out a new scoring pencil. I wore my spring training t-shirt and cap (though it wasn't really warm enough to sit in the t-shirt for the whole game).

It worked. OK, I guess I shouldn't take all the credit. Greg Maddux threw probably his best game of the year so far (until he walked off the mound with trainer Dave Groeschner in the 7th, and might be hurt), and Moises Alou kept going what could be, if he continues and the Cubs do make the playoffs, an MVP-type season, with a two-run homer, and the Cubs started the homestand happily, beating the Astros 3-1.

You know, that reminds me of what Jack Brickhouse used to say whenever the Cubs won, and he'd come back on the air after a break to do the recap, and say, "Here are the happy totals."

I'd have this image of the numbers dancing happily up and down on the screen. If I'd been directing and they'd have had that sort of technology back in the 60's, I'd have done that, but we had to settle for Jack's goofy smile, and being happy that the Cubs won any sort of game back then.

But I digress.

It was a weird weather day. It rained steadily, not all that hard, for about 45 minutes before the game. About half an hour before game time it stopped and the sun came out, and the ground crew easily had the field ready for the scheduled 3:05 start.

Angry looking clouds kept scudding in and out all afternoon, and showers kept popping up for a few minutes, never all that hard; in fact, a couple of the rain events must have lasted only a minute or so. It never rained hard enough or long enough to delay the game, which went in a snappy two hours and fifteen minutes. I had the umbrella up and down several times, as did many of the people throughout the bleachers. I had to hear the drunk idiots behind me yell, "Put the umbrella down!" Well hey, I had to keep my scorecard dry! Howard was in his pink Teletubbie-like poncho, Jeff in his Eddie Bauer rain suit ($40 at Target; he's suggested I should get one and maybe I will), and Brian, who drove around for an hour looking for a place to park, also had an umbrella up.

I suppose I should consider it a positive sign that the drunks actually wanted to see the game rather than just standing back there drinking; this is a sign that people are actually into baseball this season.

Maddux threw an efficient 94 pitches, and we certainly hope he doesn't become the third member of the starting rotation to go on the DL. Maddux has never been on the DL in his career; the Cubs website doesn't specify exactly why he left the game, though mentions again the fact that he got hit in the shin in his last start last week in Houston.

That makes the news that Mark Prior will indeed come off the DL and make his season debut Friday against Pittsburgh, even more timely. The Cubs will have 110 games remaining at that time, so that will, presuming no more injuries, give Prior approximately 22 starts, somewhere around 150 or 160 innings. Since his injury was not arm-related, his arm ought to be strong when the stretch drive comes around in September.

Today, the bullpen did its job exactly the way it's supposed to: Farnsworth in the 7th, Hawkins the 8th, and Borowski the 9th, although Joe did make us worry a bit by giving up two line singles, he didn't walk anyone and finished up in a quick 11 pitches, seven for strikes. Perhaps he has found his consistency again. Let us hope so.

After having lost the two games in Houston, it was important to come out and win the first one here, and the Astros have injury problems of their own: Andy Pettitte, who was already scratched from tomorrow's start in favor of Brandon Duckworth, is now going on the DL himself.

Tomorrow, my friend Craig from the Cubs newsgroup will join us in the bleachers. The Cubs won last year when he attended, so he's now considered good luck.

Today, I also met a reader of this blog, Clayton from California, who is a friend of Donna who sits in the RF corner. It was cool to meet him, and since he brought us a win (even though he also brought us the rain!) he can come back any time.

The umpires showed up today wearing what looked like their normal black pullover tops -- and either sweatpants or jeans. This isn't a big deal, but we know who's to blame here, because Jeff's friend Mark works for the company that is in charge of delivering umpire uniforms. There was some sort of delay, and though they apparently do keep some parts of uniforms (like the pullovers) as spares, they must not have had enough pants that fit, because a couple of them looked like they were wearing pajamas.

Greg Gibson, the plate umpire (Wayne Messmer called him "Mike" Gibson when introducing the umpires), had a very small strike zone today, but I'll at least give him credit -- it was consistently small for both teams.

Mike said today that he was disappointed that the White Sox were sending Jon Rauch back down, because he was looking forward to a possible Rauch-Rusch matchup in June. I didn't smack him with the clipboard, but reminded him we do have Clemens-Clement to look forward to on Wednesday.

Finally, something weird happened to the new logo I had put at the top of the page here, resulting in the text scrolling off the right-hand side, so I've removed it temporarily until I can figure out how to make it look right!