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Wasted

About the eighth inning, a security guard escorted a rather inebriated young woman up the aisle and began admonishing her, right behind us, because she had supposedly removed her shirt and exposed her breasts. She indignantly denied this repeatedly to security, but as soon as they turned their backs she told the guys standing behind us that she had done this, and giggled triumphantly as they let her go back to her seat.

I did not witness the actual event, only the aftermath as security was talking to this woman, and she was pretty wasted indeed, and so was Mark Prior's terrific return to the starting rotation today.

Prior was nearly perfect -- he retired the first thirteen batters he faced, and gave up only two harmless singles, while walking nobody and striking out eight. He didn't even hit 95 on the pitch speed meter till his last inning, the sixth, holding his best stuff for last, and four of the K's were called, including a couple on really nice knee-bending curveballs.

It was all for naught, as the bullpen blew up again in the ninth and the Cubs lost to the Pirates 2-1; it appears that the Pirates are the Cubs' designated nemesis team this year. Even though the Cubs are 5-5 against the Pirates, it feels like a lot worse than that. Let's just say that I'm very glad that after this weekend, that's it vs. Pittsburgh till six games in September.

Apart from Prior's triumphant return, everything went wrong today. Joe Borowski got roundly booed, but even though he pitched poorly (it could have been more runs off him except Moises Alou made a WebGem-type catch off a sinking Jason Kendall liner to start the ninth), it wasn't his fault; it was Mike Remlinger allowing a line-drive single to, of all people, Chris Stynes, who never got a clutch hit like that when he was a Cub, to drive in what turned out to be the winning run.

It seemed like both managers wanted to screw up this game. Lloyd McClendon, who will not manage the other two games in this series, serving a two-game suspension for a shouting match he had with Tony LaRussa in Pittsburgh yesterday, put in Stynes to face Remlinger, even though Rob Mackowiak (who Stynes pinch-hit for) wore out the Cubs last weekend, and Remlinger is generally tougher on right-handed hitters than lefties.

Dusty Baker, for his part, made some odd moves today as well. There was never any question of Prior throwing more than six or seven innings today, and his 85 pitches included 55 strikes. Still, Howard and I wondered what Dusty would have done if Prior had been perfect through six innings.

Kent Mercker and LaTroy Hawkins threw well, but then I was puzzled when Dusty pulled a double-switch when bringing Remlinger into a then-tied game, pulling Todd Hollandsworth and putting Jose Macias in right field. What if the game went into extra innings? Wouldn't you want Hollandsworth in there? Macias was going to lead off the 9th anyway, either as a pinch-hitter or in the game. Why waste a player?

Macias made this moot by hitting a double, and then I was absolutely mystified why Todd Walker, who had hit the ball hard all day (although he had only a third-inning double to show for it), was asked to bunt. I know the "book" says you are supposed to play for the tie, down a run in the 9th, but maybe Walker would have gotten a hit, driving in the tying run. I thought Dusty liked playing aggressive baseball; this move was more out of the Don Baylor Big Book Of Scoring One Run At A Time.

I was even more puzzled as to why Baker asked David Kelton to pinch-hit for Mercker and bunt in the bottom of the seventh. I doubt Kelton has had to lay down a sacrifice in several years, and he failed. If you want a bunt in that situation, why not leave Mercker in to do it? Or ask Greg Maddux, a good bunter, to do it? Again, I say, as I have said here before, the Cubs are completely wasting two roster spots with Triple-A outfielders who are used to playing every day, and are not accustomed to bench roles, and so when they fail time after time, when getting three or four at-bats a week, we should not be surprised.

My friend Mike from L.A. called and asked who was getting booed louder, Borowski or Corey Patterson. Today, it had to be Borowski, though Patterson struck out again in the first. He got a standing ovation when he drew a five-pitch walk in the sixth, but that only led to the situation that Howard and I both dreaded -- bases loaded. The Cubs haven't been able to do anything with the bases loaded this entire homestand. We thought that maybe since it wasn't a nobody-out situation, this would help. Nope. Hollandsworth struck out and Michael Barrett flied to right. I'll give Patterson credit for something today, at least: batting in the game situation, two out and the tying run at third in the bottom of the ninth, he actually ran the count to 3-2 and fouled a pitch off before flying to center to end the game.

And whatever convinced Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker that Rey Ordonez can still play major league baseball, ought to have been negated today, as Ordonez looked horrible at the plate (two strikeouts, a lazy fly to left and reaching on an error) and when he tried to make a fancy swipe at a ball in the sixth, all it resulted in was an error. Fortunately, Prior struck out Jack Wilson to end that inning.

This is a series the Cubs should have swept. Now, it'll take two great pitching performances from Carlos Zambrano and Greg Maddux, just to win two of three.

Finally, the Chicago Sun-Times' moronic columnist, Jay Mariotti, decided to take a slam at Mark Prior for leaving an autograph session in Naperville early on Thursday night.

I spoke to someone today who was actually there. As do some of these sessions, they turned into much more than autographs, many people trying to be selfish and get extra time, photographs, etc. with Prior, and he got frustrated. Honestly, this session should have been rescheduled, due to the start today, and his agent and the store should have worked this out. But I have seen many major league players try to accomodate autograph-seekers, both at sessions like this and at the ballpark, and frequently rude and selfish people try to take advantage. In those cases I truly can't blame the player for wanting to cut the session short.

Well, there was one good thing about today. The weather was gorgeous, and it's supposed to be so again tomorrow. Some entrepreneurs without MLB licenses were selling T-shirts with "PRIOR 22" on the front (no Cub or MLB logo, so they can legally do this). Howard bought one for $10. He was going to see if he could get his money back.