Talkin’ Cubs Live – Cubs vs. Nationals – 07/21/06

Game Ninety-Five: Cubs (37-57) vs. Nationals (40-56)
Game Time – 6:05pm C.T. Comcast SportsNet, WGN Radio, XM Radio Channel 184
Location – R.F.K. Stadium, Washington D.C.

Mark Prior (0-4, 7.71) vs. Pedro Astacio (1-1, 6.43)

Tonight’s game is the first of a 6-game road trip that concludes on Wednesday with brunch at Shea Stadium. Mark Prior is expected to be activated from the DL before tonight’s game against the Washington Nationals. Prior has been on the 15-day DL with a strained left oblique that happened during batting practice on July 8th. Prior missed his last start against the Brewers just before the All-Star break and has not won a game since September 10, 2005.

Prior had never lost 4 games in a row in his career before his last defeat at the hands of the Astros. Prior is coming off of a seven strikeout performance against the Astros on the 4th of July but like Marmol, Prior has had one bad inning in each of his starts and has “hit a wall” in each of those. Prior was able to get through the 6th inning against the Astros but his error cost the Cubs 2 runs and the game. Prior started nibbling at the plate last season, trying to throw the perfect pitch and while he had little if any command in his first two starts of the season, his command has been much improved his last two starts but he seems to be nibbling again and that has led to 8 walks and only 16 strikeouts. A successful starting pitching must have at least a 3 to 1, strikeouts to walk ratio….not 2 to 1. Prior historically has the stuff to be dominating he just has not shown it in a long time. For the Cubs to show consistent improvement in the 2nd half of the season they will need Mark Prior to pitch every 5th day.

Tonight will be the 25th career game for Pedro Astacio against the Cubs and he is 8-8 with a 4.25 ERA. Astacio spent 2005 with the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers and this will be his 4th start of the season for the Nationals. After a very good season debut against the Marlins in which he allowed only 1 earned run on 3 hits in 5 innings, his past 2 starts have not been anywhere close to that performance. Astacio could not make it through the 4th inning against the Padres and gave up 4 earned runs on 9 hits. His last time out he gave up 8 hits and 4 walks to the Pirates in 5 1/3 innings, the Pirates made him pay to the tune of 5 earned runs.

If the Cubs can continue showing patience at the plate Astacio will beat himself. His 4 home runs in 14 innings of work, with all 4 coming at R.F.K. is amazing. Will the Cubs give themselves a chance? Will they get below 20 below .500? We will have to wait and see….Shaun is at tonight’s game, a special weekend for the Washington Nationals.

Let’s Talk Cubbies Baseball….

Quote of the Day

"Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow." - Plato
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