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From the Cubicle

As timeless pitching matchups go, this one is a doozy. I hope everyone set their DVRs. We've got the rookie Sean Marshall against someone I've never heard of--C. Sampson, who's making his first major league start. Both managers should have double barrels going in the bullpen around the time of the first pitch.

In fairness, Marshall has had his moments for the Cubs. He pitched well his last time out against the Cardinals but didn't factor. He's winless since May 17 and 3-3 on the year with a 4.80 ERA. Glendon Rusch could learn a thing or 10 from the young guy.

For the Astros, the mysterious C. Sampson, google tells me is rookie Chris Sampson, who has been forced into the rotation, at gunpoint presumably, because of the injury to Steve Stone and Chip Caray favorite, Roy Oswalt.

Also, in case you haven't heard it appears the Astros have signed a right-handed pitcher named Roger Clemens. I must've missed that transaction on the agate page.

And looks like Kerry Wood will take his customary .

We'll have baseball soon from that silly little bandbox in Houston. Today's lineups.

First inning

Juan Pierre leads things off and takes a strike and then a ball from Sampson. And then another ball. Pierre then hits a one-hopper to Lance Berkman at first and Berkman steps on the bag himself. Freddie Bynum--I mean Tony Womack bunts and Sampson, whom we're told is a former shortstop, is all over it. Michael Barrett--wasn't this guy suspended?--rips it back to Sampson, who knocks it down and then makes the throw to first. I'd like to know what exactly is the basis of Barrett's appeal. A.J. Pierzynski's face got in the way of his fist?

Yes, that was Tony Womack not Freddie Boom Boom Bynum hitting second. Sorry about that. I've got to say I'm not a big fan of the Astros. Never have been, never will. And it all starts with this guy, Craig Biggio. Biggio grounds out to Womack. Marshall gets Chris Burke. Bob Brenly calls that flag pole 430 feet away from home plate in center field a "safety hazard." My hat's off to any center fielder who can negotiate that hill on a dead run and even get near the pole. I've seen Andruw Jones make a great catch about half way up, but that's about it. Berkman grounds out.

No score

Second inning

DC on the message board, I agree that Biggio is a gamer...well, all the way up to that garbage he wears on his arm at the plate. Still don't like him. Todd Walker flies out to center. LA, I'm sure there are a lot of things you don't get. But that's up to you and your inner demons to work out. Aramis Ramirez grounds out-- as does John Mabry.

Morgan Ensberg grounds out to Ronny Cedeno. Preston Wilson grounds back to Marshall, who makes a minor adventure of it but gets the out. Jason Lane draws a walk. Lane takes off for second and stunningly Barrett throws him out.

No score

Third inning

By the way, the Garden Weasel makes a great gift. Just not for this guy since I don't have a garden. Matt Murton, a big gardener, grounds out to third. Cedeno grounds out Biggio at second as Sampson continues to blow through the Cubs' lineup. Marshall grounds back to Sampson and then runs to first about as hard as Aramis Ramirez. We move on.

For those of you asking, or the one of you, the Cubs are not going deep into the count against Sampson. They're just grounding out every time up. Brad Ausmus leads off the bottom of the third with a homer to left. That was a legitimate; not one of those cheapies into the Crawford Boxes, or whatever they call those infernal seats in left. Adam Everett walks. Sampson bunts Everett to second. Marshall strikes out Biggio on a nasty curve. Burke swings and misses and tumbles to the ground. What the? He hurt his shoulder. That's it for him. He leaves the game. Willy Taveras will step in, will play center and hit with a 1-1 count. Taveras grounds to Ramirez, who makes a nice play and a big throw to get the speedy runner.

Astros 1, Cubs 0

Fourth inning

Juan Pierre, who can never make up his mind if he wants to bunt or not, half bunts it right back to Sampson. Big stunner here: Another ground out. Womack this time. Barrett draws a walk and there goes the perfect game. Walker flies out to a slightly confused Preston Wilson, who quickly throws it back into the infield as if there were fewer than two outs. That's it, the Cubs will get to this rookie the second time through the lineup. Wait, maybe not.

If you love ground balls, boy, do we have a game for you. Berkman bounces out to short. Ensberg fans. Wilson fans. Marshall has looked good, despite the one meatball he tossed to Ausmus.

Astros 1, Cubs 0

Fifth inning

Ramirez grounds out and Mabry squibs one to the right side of Sampson, who reaches for it, gets a glove on it and then in a nod to the upcoming World Cup shows a nice first touch with his left foot, booting it into foul ground. It's ruled a hit. Murton chops it back to Sampson, who wheels and gets Mabry. Biggio made a nice play on the wide throw. Cedeno grounds out to second.

Lane rips one deep to left. It's called a homer, fire works are going off, Marshall is complaining it was foul, Dusty Baker is out on the field, the umps are huddling, Lane has circled the bases and is sitting in the dugout. It's possibly the end of the world. Chaos. It's ruled a foul ball. After all that, Lane walks. Ausmus takes a called third strike. Everett grounds to short, where Cedeno starts a snappy 6-4-3, inning-ending double play.

Astros 1, Cubs 0

Sixth inning

Marshall bounces out to first. Len and Bob now have been talking about Phil Garner's calling out his players during the World Series last year for, oh, about an hour. We thought it was over and then they came back from commercial and Len says, "I didn't want to leave that conversation hanging.." Ugh. It was pretty inconsequential in the scheme of things considering the Astros got out-classed and swept. Why don't we talk about Mike Holmgren complaining about calls in the Super Bowl next. I guess youv'e got to talk about something, besides a parade of ground balls. Speaking of which, Pierre grounds out. Womack joins the club--again--grounding out to third.

Sampson strikes out. Biggio hits it hard off Ramirez's leg. It bounces towards Cedeno, who bare-hands it and nearly gets Biggio at first. Nearly. Nice play, regardless. Hey, Karl Malone got Karl Malone some nice tickets to the game. Taveras grounds to Cedeno, who makes another nice play, quickly getting rid of the ball and opting to throw to first. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild feels like stretching his legs and takes a stroll out to the mound. Nice day for a walk. Berkman hits it off of Ramirez's glove--one of these days he's going to catch one of those. Cedeno grabs it and holds it. There are two on for Ensberg, who flies out to center.

Astros 1, Cubs 0

Seventh inning

Barrett singles to center--the first legit hit off Sampson. Walker flies out to Lane in right and he's not too happy about it. That's three flyouts for Walker. Ramirez flies out to Lane, who had to cover some ground towards the line on that one. OK, how the Cubs didn't draft this guy, is a mystery. Mabry lines a single to right-center: Barrett takes third. Murton works the count full. Astros fans are on their feet--some of them, not the entitled ones with the sweet seats behind home plate. They can't be bothered. Clapping might cause calluses on their otherwise pristine hands. Murton flies out and so much for that.

Here's today's Where's My Cheez Whiz update from Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan in Houston:

"Please note that Astros president Tal Smith came down to press box and berated the official scorer for making a 'brutal' call on the end of the no-no when Sampson kicked the ball.

Very inappropriate, and possibly worthy of an MLB fine since clubs are not allowed to berate the official scorers."

Ha. Too funny. Thanks, Paul, who also notes, "And yes, you can use this..." Sometimes I get a little confused.

Preston Wilson, not to be confused with the great Billy Preston who sadly died yesterday, singles to center. Will Oh, man and David Aardsma up in the Cubs' pen. On a related note, that's probably it for Sampson, who was seen receiving high-fives in the Astros' dugout. Lane flies out to left. Ausmus bounces into a 4-6-3 double play.

Astros 1, Cubs 0

Eighth inning

Dan Wheeler is the new Astros' pitcher. Ronny Cedeno is the batter. Cedeno strikes out. Jacque Jones hits in the pitcher's spot and strikes out. Wheeler's pitch grazes Pierre's over-sized jersey and he takes first base. The count goes 3-0 or Womack and then 3-1 and then Womack flies out.

Scott Eyre joins the party. Everett bloops one over Walker's head where Womack catches up to it on the outfield grass. Eyre chooses not to cover first base, so it's a hit. Pinch hitter Eric Bruntlett sacrifices Everett to second and that's it for Eyre, who it shall be noted nearly threw wild to first after fielding that bunt. The right-hander Aardsma takes over. Biggio flies out to Pierre in center and Everett takes third. Pierre about 10-hopped that throw to Ramirez. Taveras lines out to Walker and we move to the ninth. The Cubs' last chance.

Astros 1, Cubs 0

Ninth inning

Albert Pujols' and Scott Podsednik's personal BP pitcher Brad Lidge will try to close this one out for the Astros. Barrett doesn't quite get the result Albert did with a fly ball to shallow center. Walker grounds out to Biggio. Ramirez pops out and that's it.

Final: Astros 1, Cubs 0

The Cubs take the first game and then drop two straight. They'll go to Cincy now for four games. On the positive side, Sean Marshall looks like a keeper. He pitched well for the second straight outing. It's just too bad the Cubs' hitters couldn't catch up with future Hall-of-Famer Chris Sampson. Thanks for reading and posting everyone. Enjoy the World Cup.

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