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You Are A Winner!, and Open Thread: Cubs vs. Giants, Wednesday 7/18, 1:20 CT

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No, not the Cubs, who suffered a frustrating 4-2 loss to the Giants last night, in so doing going back to their April and May ways of walking far too many hitters (seven in all) and having that come back to bite them (though, give credit to Barry Zito, who threw one of his best games of the year).

Last night's winner was me. I won one of the 100 Washburn guitars given away via the scratch-off cards we got as we entered the ballpark. These are apparently worth quite a bit of money. I guessed this about three seconds after I walked away from the winner's claim table when someone offered me $150 for it. Or, more correctly, offered me $150 for the winners' letter I was handed. They didn't want the guitars sitting in the stands all game, so I had to walk back through the concourse, fighting against the thousands of people walking out, after the game, to pick it up. It's in a fairly large cardboard box, so maybe this wasn't a bad idea.

I don't play the guitar, so this item, the first thing I've won on a scratch-off (the last one was a Dusty Baker autographed ball, of all things) in three years, may wind up listed next to the one linked above on eBay.

About the rest of last night's game, witnessed by the largest night game crowd of the year so far, 41,102, what can you say? Sometimes you just get beat. Even after giving the Giants the lead after one of those darned leadoff walks in the fourth, Sean Marshall threw well enough to keep the game close and allow Derrek Lee to tie it up with an opposite-field HR in the sixth (there was absolutely no wind last night. The flags hung limp from the flagpoles the entire evening).

But Marshall was lifted for Carlos Marmol in the 7th, and Marmol didn't have it, and that was pretty clear from the beginning of his appearance. After a single and a walk leading off the 8th, Will Ohman was summoned to face ... Barry Bonds, who was making his first appearance of the series, pinch-hitting for Kevin Frandsen (we were amused, last night, by a few people in left field at first chanting "Baaa-reee" at Frandsen, then realizing Bonds wasn't playing, chanting "Barry's Backup! Barry's Backup!" at him), to some of the loudest boos I've heard at Wrigley Field in quite some time. The booing didn't stop thousands of people setting off flashes on their cameras as he batted, though -- the sort of thing we used to see when Sammy Sosa batted.

Ohman got Bonds to line to left field -- the hardest-hit ball of the 8th inning, in which there were three walks (one forcing in a run), two strikeouts, and a ball hit about sixty feet down the first base line, that Michael Wuertz (who had relieved Ohman) inexplicably picked up and then ate. It may or may not have gone foul, but if you don't think you have a play, let it roll!

The other key play in the Giants' winning inning was a foul popup by Bengie Molina that Jason Kendall (who had received a standing ovation when he first came to bat) apparently thought was in the seats; when Kendall, too late, figured out it was playable, he dived after it, but couldn't catch it. Naturally, Molina singled a couple of pitches later. I also thought plate umpire Jim Reynolds (the guy who threw his gum at Michael Barrett in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago) was squeezing both Ohman and Wuertz in that 8th inning.

Kendall also got some jeers from the crowd when he wasn't able to handle a throw to the plate from Alfonso Soriano in the 4th, allowing a run to score. That one wasn't Kendall's fault -- even if he had handled it, I think the run would have scored anyway.

Incidentally, the more I see Billy Petrick, the more I like him. He throws hard, throws strikes (7 of 10 pitches last night), doesn't waste time, and last night at least kept the team in the game in his efficiently-thrown 9th inning.

The bottom line on this game is that the Cubs had a chance to put Zito away in the first inning and failed to do so, scoring only one run on a leadoff Ryan Theriot double and a subsequent error on a sacrifice attempt by Mike Fontenot. A run had scored with no one out and Fontenot was in scoring position on the error, with Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano due up... but no further scoring happened. Zito, who has struggled this year, slammed the door. Apart from Lee's HR he allowed only two harmless singles the rest of the way, through seven, and the Giants' bullpen, which has been horrid, also gave the Cubs nothing. Ramirez doubled leading off the 9th off Brad Hennessey (an unlikely closer, in my opinion, but he's been effective after taking over from the traded Armando Benitez), but that was it. Sometimes... you just get beat. And that's what happened last night. Throwing strikes, however, would have helped.

The good news is this: despite the Brewers gaining a game (to 4.5 ahead) with their win over Arizona, the D-backs' loss, plus the Braves' loss to the Reds, and the Padres' loss to the Mets, moved the Cubs into the third spot in the wild-card race, three games behind the leading Padres.

Finally, the local 7-11's were out of the Official Simpsons Movie Donuts last night, so Jeff was unable to eat them, as he had every day since the homestand began. He'll try again today, as will the Cubs.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
C. Zambrano
vs. Matt Cain
M. Cain
11-7 W-L 3-10
3.83 ERA 3.53
114 SO 84
57 BB 54
17 HR 7
vs. SF -- vs. Cubs
Z has pitched two different seasons: 5-5, 5.62 in his first 12 starts, 6-2, 1.55 in his last eight. Against Bonds, who may or may not play today, he has held him hitless (0-for-4) with three walks and a strikeout. Perhaps the most memorable Bonds/Z confrontation was the first one, on July 31, 2003, when he got Bonds to pop up to end the fifth inning with the bases loaded and the Cubs leading 5-0. Z, according to the link above:
... pounded himself in the chest and pumped his fists twice as he walked off the field before tossing the ball about 12 rows into the stands behind the Cubs dugout.
Mr. Bonds didn't like that:
"I don't get upset about things like that, brother. He will learn respect eventually. I promise you," Bonds said. "He'll learn respect, I guarantee that."
Perhaps we'll see today.

Matt Cain, not yet 23 years old, has already made 57 major league starts. This year, he has pitched in particular hard luck: the Giants have scored a total of 60 runs in his 18 starts, but that's skewed by a 15-2 win at Colorado on May 13; in his other 17 starts the Giants have scored only 45 runs, 2.65 per start, and have been shut out three times.

MSM Error Dept.: The Yahoo preview of today's game says:

Cain got hit hard in his only career start against the Cubs, surrendering eight runs in 5 1-3 innings of an 8-1 loss on May 10, 2006.
Wrong. Yes, last year's awful Cub team did indeed do that to Cain. But it wasn't his only career start against the Cubs. He threw a two-hit CG against the Cubs in his third major league start on September 9, 2005.

You'll find today's game on WGN -- and as of this writing, it appears the rain will hold off till tonight -- and also at the Mediacenter. Gameday (2007 version) Gameday (2006 version)

Discuss amongst yourselves.