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Giveaway, and Open Thread: Cubs vs. Nationals, Saturday 7/22, 12:20 CT

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With yet another quick night/day turnaround for the Cubs, this post will serve as both a recap of last night's ridiculous 7-6 loss to the Nationals, and also your venting spot for today's game, which will be viewable in TV markets only where people have agreed to put shields on their televisions, in order to prevent bad baseball from ruining picture tubes or plasma screens.

Or in Chicago and Washington only. The other early Fox games today are A's/Tigers and Astros/Mets, which leads me to wonder why Fox chose the Cubs/Nats game in the first place.

After last night, perhaps this afternoon's game is better avoided. The game turned on two plays -- Mark Prior's wild pitch which allowed the first Nats run to score in the first inning (and on the very next pitch, Prior got a ground ball which would have ended the inning scoreless), and Ronny Cedeno's failure to throw out the eventual winning run at the plate on an EASY relay from Matt Murton.

Let's talk about that last play some more. If you didn't see it, the CSN folks helpfully gave us a freeze-frame at the very moment Cedeno got the relay throw and turned to make the throw. At that moment, Nick Johnson -- who isn't the world's fastest baserunner -- was only halfway down the line. He should have been thrown out by twenty feet.

Instead, Cedeno's throw pulled Michael Barrett toward first base, and though Barrett did try to make a desperation dive to tag Johnson out, it was too late. Game over.

Really and truly, Cedeno is proving that he's not major-league ready. Will he ever be? It's hard to say. He has poor strike zone judgment. Though he can make the flashy play at SS, often, as last night, he'll make what should be a routine throw (for a quality major league infielder) into a bad play; or he'll botch a routine DP ball, or make a throw that even Derrek Lee, who's a terrific defensive 1B, can't handle.

Sometimes this doesn't matter. Other times, it can cost the Cubs games.

In this deformed mess of a season, maybe it doesn't matter. But I think the Cubs need a new shortstop next year.

Blame Dusty Baker if you'd like -- and I know some of you will -- but it surely isn't his fault that Scott Eyre's back seized up on him and he had to leave the game, and then Bob Howry came in and gave up four singles, none of which was hard-hit. This was after Glendon Rusch threw two credible innings -- we can only hope scouts from other teams were watching. Nor is it Baker's fault that Mark Prior sucked again. He simply couldn't throw strikes at all. Here's Prior's excuse:

"Physically, I felt fine," he said. "My command was there at times, and at other times I just couldn't execute.

"It was nothing mechanical. It's just a lack of pitching. It's like golf. I don't have my touch yet and I'm not able to put guys away."

No, Mark. You didn't have command at all, and if you can't "put guys away", why are you pitching at all? It's sad, really.

All of this was too bad, because the Cubs fought back from a 4-1 deficit to take a 6-4 lead, mostly on the strength of two Aramis Ramirez homers. For more on that, plus a first-hand recap from DC, check out Chris' diary from RFK Stadium.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Sean Marshall
S. Marshall
vs. Livan Hernandez
L. Hernandez
5-8 W-L 6-8
5.00 ERA 5.87
65 SO 69
46 BB 48
12 HR 18
vs. Was -- vs. Cubs

Sean Marshall's best start of the year was against the Nats at Wrigley Field on May 17, when he allowed them only one hit in six innings. Today, he'll face a Hernandez brother for the second consecutive start (well, a half-brother, anyway).

Marshall deserved better than what he got in that last start, too -- he threw well for five innings, then got a bunch of runs scored off him after he left last Sunday's game. I think it's best left right there.

Hernandez is continuing to crop up in trade rumors, because he's been a "horse" for so many years. That horse done gone, I think. Hernandez has been pretty bad all year -- he'll throw a good start or two, then get pounded. In two of his last five starts he hasn't even made it to the third inning. Let's hope he has another one of those today.

Discuss amongst yourselves.