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Pregame Thread: Cubs vs. Astros, Sunday 7/20, 1:05 CT

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Chicago Cubs
@ Houston Astros

Sunday, Jul 20, 2008, 1:05 PM CDT
Minute Maid Park

Ryan Dempster vs Brandon Backe

Partly cloudy. Winds blowing out to left field at 5-10 m.p.h. Game Time temperature: Around 95.

Complete Coverage >


Once again, this box is telling us the weather conditions outside the Juice Box. There's no way the roof is going to be open with weather like that.

Rick Morrissey, whose columns are often headscratchers, wrote this mishmash today. Can any of you tell me what the point of this is?

You may remember that for the last month or so of the 2003 season, Eric Karros had a home video camera with him, recording the memorable events of that time. Now he's not sure what he's going to do with them:

"I have not edited them at all, and nobody else has seen them," said Karros, a first baseman on the '03 team and currently a baseball analyst for Fox. "I don't even let my buddies see them. No other player has seen them. But I don't know what I'm going to do with them. It's not all for public consumption."

...

"It wasn't because I was trying to chronicle the Cubs," Karros said. "It was more or less, 'I don't think I'm going to play after this year, so I'll just do the last month for the heck of it.' That's how it started.

"It has not only the players, but Eddie Vedder is on there talking, and Michael Jordan spraying champagne in Atlanta (after the division series clincher) and acting like a little kid. And Ron Santo giving an emotional speech."

Don't know about you, but I'd love to see some of that.

Today's Boston Globe has has a long article on Boston-area native Rich Hill and even asked him about Steve Blass Disease:"I don't even know what Steve Blass Disease is," said the 28-year-old Hill. "I hurt my back. You can ask anyone who's ever played the game that when you suffer an injury, especially a pitcher, it throws your mechanics off. That's what's happened to me. I don't have anything structurally wrong with my back, but I've had back spasms and I've had to do my rehab and stretching. I'm much better."

The problem isn't mental?

"Absolutely not," he said. "I can still throw strikes. When I had the back issues, I couldn't throw my changeup where I wanted. I was just off. Now I'm getting my rhythm back. I'm becoming more aggressive. I know I'm only pitching at A ball, but that doesn't matter. It feels better. I'm more in control. I just feel like I'm getting back to where I was."

If he's telling the truth -- that it's all due to a back injury -- then maybe we will see the "old" Rich Hill back soon.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Ryan Dempster
R. Dempster
Cubs
vs. Brandon Backe
B.
Backe

Astros
10-4 W-L 6-9
3.25 ERA 4.76
104 SO 83
50 BB 50
11 HR 22
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2008 - Ryan Dempster 10-4 20 20 1 0 0 0 124.2 97 52 45 11 50 104 3.25 1.18


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2008 - Brandon Backe 6-9 20 20 0 0 0 0 111.2 124 61 59 22 50 83 4.76 1.56

Ryan Dempster has been a revelation this year, as you know. Here's one of the best numbers: in 66.2 IP last year he allowed 8 HR. In almost twice as many innings so far this year -- 124.2 -- he's allowed 11. I know, I know, the type of pitching isn't really comparable. His WHIP is a solid 1.179. He struck out the side in the 9th inning on Tuesday in the All-Star Game. One of those 11 HR was by Hunter Pence on May 20 in Houston, one of Dempster's three road losses so far this season.

Brandon Backe threw a fairly solid six innings at Wrigley Field on April 6 in a game the Cubs won 3-2 off Houston's bullpen. They haven't had much chance to get into the Astro pen this weekend yet. He is working on a 10-inning scoreless streak. WAY past time for this Cub team to have an offensive outburst, particularly the slumping Aramis Ramirez, who is .438/.500/.625 (7-for-16, 1 HR) lifetime vs. Backe.

I've given up predicting the result based on TV channel. You can watch on WGN, or check the MLB.com Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday (2007 version)

MLB.com Gameday (2008 version)

Baseball-reference.com game preview

Today's first pitch thread will post at 1:00 pm CT and the overflow comment threads will post at 2:15 pm and 3:15 pm CT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.