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A Marquis Performance

What a strange day.

It was cloudy. Then drizzling. Then sunny, on a day the forecasters swore up and down the sun would make no appearances. Then it started to rain, very lightly -- which made the three twentysomethings in front of us very happy, even when I told them (kidding!) that it would cost them $10 to sit under the big blue & white umbrella. By game's end fog was starting to roll in off the lake.

And Jason Marquis pitched like the guy we knew last April and May, shutting down the Pirates on six hits through six innings, striking out seven, doubling in a run, and the Cubs annihilated the Pirates 13-1 on a twelve-hit attack that included no fewer than ten walks (yes, count 'em, ten, clogging up the bases in the sixth inning, which then got unclogged on another bases-loaded walk, a sac fly and a two-run single by Ronny Cedeno.

Told you it was a strange day. The Cubs came out rocking in the first inning, taking the lead 2-0 on a Derrek Lee HR. Really, we could have all gone home then, because that lead would be enough (yes, of course, I know it doesn't work that way). D-Lee is now leading the major leagues in HR with 7, and last year he hit his seventh HR on July 15. Clearly, he's back to near-2005 form -- and that's great news for this offense, which isn't missing Alfonso Soriano at all (4-1 since Soriano's bunny-hop injury last Tuesday). Just sayin'.

Ryan Theriot, Geovany Soto and Cedeno all had two hits today, and Daryle Ward got his first hit of the year to cap the scoring, a two-run HR off rookie Pirates reliever Evan Meek. "Meek" is what the Pirates have been against the Cubs this season, losing all five games and looking mostly bad doing it. Tom Gorzelanny, who had such a fine year in 2007 and looked like he was going to lead a young Pirates staff to credibility this year, gave up seven runs for the second time this year to the Cubs. He got one more out this time than he did the first time, and his ERA jumped from 6.75 to 9.35. Ugly.

After Marquis, Kevin Hart threw a good inning but got in trouble in the 8th; after having thrown 33 pitches, he got pulled by Lou in favor of Michael Wuertz, who finished up uneventfully. Both Hart and Wuertz needed these good outings, as they have both been shaky lately, and this also saved the rest of the bullpen for tomorrow and the next week; the Cubs are in their first long stretch without a day off (13 consecutive days starting last Tuesday).

Other notes: Kosuke Fukudome made a nice running catch to end the fifth inning after the Pirates had scored what turned out to be their only run of the game on consecutive doubles. At 7-1, the game was probably in hand then but you wouldn't have wanted to see it get any closer than that.

I've said for a while that I thought the Giants were the worst team in baseball -- and they might, in fact, lose 100 games. But the Pirates aren't much better. What on Earth were they doing, putting Doug Mientkiewicz at third base in the sixth inning? Looking this up, I see that Mientkiewicz actually started a game at third last weekend, but before that had played third exactly once in his major league career -- in the ninth inning of a game his team was losing, coincidentally, 13-1. What is John Russell thinking? What plan does this team have? Hopefully, none anytime soon, as in this year's wacky schedule, they'll be back at Wrigley Field a month from now.

With the 13-run outburst, the second time this homestand the Cubs have scored 12 or more, they have now scored 98 runs in 17 games -- 5.76 per game. That's not likely sustainable over a long period, but at this moment the total is second in the majors (behind the Diamondbacks, pending other games tonight).

Back for a moment to the twentysomethings sitting in front of us. After a while listening to us talk and watching us keep score, they must have figured we knew some things. Mike & I got peppered with questions about Cub history -- "Who was hit by pitch the most times?" "Who's the all-time Cub RBI leader?" We wound up telling them about the recent history of Cub no-hitters, among other things, and left a BCB card, so if you guys are here -- welcome. Take off your shoes and stay a while.

I also met BCB readers TCobb1911 and... well, your friend whose posting name I can't remember. Nice to meet both of you. And incidentally, if you're wondering where David's photos are, he can't make every single game. He emailed to let me know he'll be at: all the rest of the weekend games, all night games except Mondays, and a couple of long homestands later in the year when he's taking vacation time. So I'd expect him to be at sixty or so games. He'll be in the park tomorrow.

Finally, rumor heard: the organization is very high on Jeff Samardzija, is pleased with his performance so far, and you may see him promoted to Triple-A very soon.

A strange day? Maybe. But also a productive one. Time to sweep these guys again, tomorrow.

Click here for my scorecard