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Nearly Perfect, and Open Thread: Cubs vs. Brewers, Saturday 4/7, 12:05 CT

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Rich Hill made one mistake last night, and Corey Hart crushed it over the center field wall for a home run.

That's about all that stood between Hill and, possibly, the first Cub no-hitter in nearly 35 years, and maybe even the eighteenth perfect game in major league history, since Hill had retired the first fifteen batters he faced before Hart's bomb. The next batter, Tony Graffanino, reached base on what was a ridiculous error given to Aramis Ramirez; Aramis bobbled the ball but 1B umpire Charlie Reliford blew the call, saying Derrek Lee had his foot off the base. Replays clearly contradicted this. Then Hill committed an error, allowing pinch-hitter Geoff Jenkins to reach.

But that was it (Hill didn't walk anyone, and showed off that curveball that had everyone salivating over him when he was dominating Triple-A hitters), picking up right where he left off last September; and there was much on-air debate and puzzling by me, when Hill was lifted after only 78 pitches. Len & Bob kept saying that perhaps holding Hill to 78 pitches in April would allow him to throw an effective 115 pitches in September -- maybe this is true, and also, with an unnecessary 12-man pitching staff, you've got to get work for all of them. Angel Guzman threw well enough, though his line -- 2 runs in 2 innings -- doesn't reflect it; a two-out ninth-inning hit gave the Brewers two consolation runs, and the Cubs won easily, 9-3.

I commend all of you to Chris' diary on the game, which he attended; one thing I particularly agree with that he wrote, is that Alfonso Soriano looked far more comfortable in CF last night than I saw him in spring training. It appeared at one point that he and Jacque Jones were about to collide, and I yelled at the TV, "Take charge out there!" Replays, however, showed Soriano clearly calling Jones off the ball. He's still a work in progress, but last night was a very good sign.

As was the offensive explosion, especially the six first-inning runs, which allowed Hill to relax and throw strikes (58 in 78 pitches -- most impressive). Every position-player starter had a hit last night; Michael Barrett (what, did you think he'd go all year hitless?) had his first hits and RBI, and Mark DeRosa hit his second HR, showing signs he's going to continue the offense he had last year with the Rangers.

And Ronny Cedeno homered. As a pinch-hitter. That was his eighth career HR, and second in Miller Park; he hit his first ML home run, in fact, there on May 5, 2005, a game in which the Cubs came from behind to tie in the top of the 9th, only to have LaTroy Hawkins blow up in the last of that inning.

But that was then and this is now. Nice statement by the ballclub last night. Quick turnaround to a noon start today, so let's get to it:

Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
C. Zambrano
Cubs
vs. Ben Sheets
B. Sheets
Brewers
0-1 W-L 1-0
9.00 ERA 1.00
2 SO 3
5 BB 0
2 HR 1
vs. Mil -- vs. Cubs
Those numbers look odd, of course; Z threw poorly in his first start, while Sheets threw a two-hit CG against the Dodgers. In general, Z has thrown very well against Milwaukee; only one current Brewer (Geoff Jenkins) has homered off him. Derrek Lee owns Sheets; lifetime he's .349/.341/.860 off him (that's not a misprint; he's got no walks and a sac fly, which makes his OBA lower than his BA), with 7 HR and 14 RBI in 43 AB.

WGN, FSN North and the Mediacenter have the game today, and as usual, for the broadcast media-less, there's MLB.com Gameday.

If you were thinking about going to this afternoon's game and thought it was sold out, as of posting time tickets are available via this link at the Brewers website.

Discuss amongst yourselves.