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Dempster Solid, But Bullpen Fails: Cubs 2, Astros 3

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That headline really isn't fair, because the hits that allowed the Astros to beat the Cubs last night 3-2 in 10 innings weren't blasts, they were little dinky things that perhaps on another day would have been fielded.

Instead, Ivan Rodriguez's little infield single couldn't be handled by Aramis Ramirez, and an intentional walk, an out, and two other little singles later, the Astros had a win and the Cubs had their first loss of the year.

Cliche: You can't go 162-0. And by and large, the Cubs bullpen did a pretty good job last night. What really hurts was the Cubs' inability to score off Tim Byrdak and Doug Brocail, two of the lesser lights of Houston's bullpen. Just how old is Brocail, anyway? 70? (Only seems that way. He'll be 42 next month -- among his teammates his rookie year was Larry Andersen, who is older than me, for heaven's sake, and who debuted in 1975. But I digress.)

Actually, there are a a lot of good things to take away from last night's game. Ryan Dempster threw six good innings. Angel Guzman looked outstanding. Koyie Hill, who came into the game after Geovany Soto left with a minor shoulder problem, threw out Kaz Matsui trying to steal.

Oh, about Geo, because I know all of us are worried: the problem is minor and he's expected to miss only a couple of days:

Soto said he had the same problem in Spring Training and doesn't expect to miss much time.

"You never know," he said when asked how long he'd be sidelined. "I just have to stay on top of my exercises, and I'll be all right in a couple days. As long as I stay in good shape and do my exercises, it won't happen again all year."

Soto predicted he could play Wednesday if it was a "super emergency." Shortstop Ryan Theriot was behind the plate catching Aaron Heilman when he was warming up in the ninth. When asked who the emergency third catcher is, Lou Piniella said: "Me."

Hopefully, that means he'll be back in the lineup (Geo, that is, not Lou) on Friday in Milwaukee.

Alfonso Soriano homered for the second day in a row, this one off our old buddy LaTroy Hawkins, after being made to look silly by the junkballing Wandy Rodriguez, who struck him out three times. If this is the beginning of one of Soriano's hot streaks, that's a really good sign: he got off to a slow start last year, and also, when Sori is hot, he can carry the entire team.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez struck out four and walked three, but kept the Cubs off-balance enough that the only run they were able to score off him was on a Derrek Lee single. That gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the third that was matched by Houston on a Hunter Pence homer off Dempster.

The bottom line is that some days, the other guy is just a little better than you are. If Ted Lilly can lead the club to victory tonight, that'll be a series win -- and as Lou said all last year, win series and you're in great shape.