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Duffy The Vampire Slayer

The title of this post has nothing to do with anything, but it was what Jeff said when the Pirates' Chris Duffy came up to pinch-hit for pitcher Victor Santos in the eighth inning, game tied, and the Pirates with the lead run in scoring position.

Duffy struck out swinging, so no harm came. In fact, no vampires were harmed in the making of this post, and no one at all was harmed when the Cubs pulled the game out and beat the Pirates 2-1.

Sean Marshall. Well, the naysayers are going to say that his last two wins have been against minor-league quality teams, and they'd be right. The Pirates, despite having a couple of gen-yoo-wine major league hitters in their lineup (Craig Wilson and Jason Bay, and maybe Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Randa if you're being charitable), are a really, really, REALLY bad team (now 7-20).

Nevertheless, they wear major league uniforms and defeating them counts, and Marshall was masterful last night. He's said that he sits with Greg Maddux when he's not pitching and picks the master's brain, and whatever Maddux is teaching Marshall is working. Of his 90 pitches -- efficient, in 7.1 innings -- 57 were strikes, and he was moving them around, hitting his spots, especially his curveball.

In the later innings, plate umpire Gary Cederstrom decided to reduce the strike zone to the size of a postage stamp, or the game would have been over earlier than it was.

The dire forecasts of rain and storms kept about half the crowd of 36,602 (the smallest announced house of the year to date) away last night, and in fact, it sprinkled and rained lightly three or four times during the game, at times heavily enough to bring the umbrella out. And when the Cubs scored a gift run -- on a Juan Pierre leadoff single, a stolen base, and a Ronny Cedeno sacrifice on which Pirate pitcher Victor Santos threw wildly -- it began to appear as Marshall sliced his way through the Pirates' lineup as if that run might hold up all night, despite the fact that a fairly cold wind was blowing out to left-center. Even when Cedeno made an error in the third, allowing Santos to reach base (and you could tell by looking at Ronny that it was really bothering him), Marshall struck out Nate McLouth to end the inning.

I'm going to keep this post fairly short as there will be another one for today's afternoon game in a couple of hours. But after seeing the Cub staff give up twenty-five runs in two days to the Brewers, it was VERY nice to see things calm down last night, no matter who the opponent.

And once again Matt Murton turned out to be the hero, driving in the winning run in the last of the 8th with a single that just bounced out of the reach of Pirate SS Jack Wilson (who had made several slick fielding plays earlier in the game). Clutch hitting -- well, there has been endless debate over the last couple of decades, since the invention of sabermetrics, on whether or not it can be measured, and you can make a reasonable argument on both sides.

For Murton, it is my impression that he has had a lot of big hits so far this young season. Statistically, that is borne out by the fact that he is 10-for-24 (.417) with 16 RBI with RISP in 2006.

Define it any way you want, but to me, that's clutch.

Marshall didn't get the win -- he's still 2-0 -- that went to Bob Howry, who shut the door after the game had been tied. And Ryan Dempster notched his seventh save, despite the earlier-described efforts of umpire Cederstrom to drag the game out until it started pouring, which it did within an hour after game's end.

But -- and here's the point of that rather tortured paragraph above -- the Cubs have won all five games Marshall has started. That's all you can ask from a starting pitcher. We are watching the maturation of a young player at the major league level. Should he have been there this year? Probably not. But he has risen to the occasion.

The CF scoreboard stopped posting balls and strikes in the 8th inning. This appeared to be a mechanical problem, not anything deliberate, or someone forgetting.

Last night was the first time I really had time to explore the new bleachers; I walked around upstairs and downstairs both for quite a while. And my initial impression -- that they've done a really nice job with everything -- was confirmed. There are plenty of food stands with more choices. There's plenty of room to walk around, both upstairs and downstairs. And if you sit in the main part of the ballpark and look toward the bleachers, your view doesn't really look much different than it did before.

But. The Campaign For Quiet continues. Jeff even went so far as to "scout" other locations -- this despite the fact that we LIKE the LF corner. This is because even though the new PA speakers were turned down a little last night...


Please turn them down. We can still hear all the advertising. I promise.