Game One Hundred Ten: Cubs (45-64) vs. Pirates (42-68)
Game Time – 3:05pm C.T. Comcast Sports Net, WGN Radio, XM Radio Channel 186
Location – Wrigley Field, Chicago
Mark Prior (0-5, 7.20) vs. Zach Duke (7-9, 5.26)
A struggling Mark Prior and a left-handed pitcher in Zach Duke that has never lost to the Cubs….those are recipes for a long afternoon at Wrigley. After a promising outing against the Mets, Prior had little to no command against the Diamondbacks and the latest version of Mark Prior lost his 5th game of the season and has not won a game in eleven months. Prior has all of the physical requirements to be a dominant Major League pitcher, he has shown he can dominate at this level but it has been so long that many question if he has lost what once made him a household name in Chicago and throughout the baseball world. With the season on the Northside reduced to building for 2007 and beyond the Cubs must figure out the future of Mark Prior. Like Derrek Lee, if Prior is still not at 100% the Cubs must shut him down and allow him time to heal, to continue to run Prior out every fifth day and for him not to be healthy, would ruin any chances he has to help this organization win down the line, whether it be pitching in Cubbie blue or a part of a trade that could take this organization to the next level.
Prior is not throwing strikes on a regular basis and when he is, he is throwing a steady diet of fastballs, with little to no movement that the opposition is just treating as batting practice. In his last 4 starts he has thrown 394 pitches, just under 100 per start, but only 214 for strikes, obviously just below a 2 to 1 ratio and that stat is the glaring reason as to why the once Cy Young award candidate is winless on the season. Prior has to throw strikes and go deep into ballgames; that is the recipe for his past success and has to be again….opponents batting averages, or hitless outings are meaningless when a dominating figure, such as Prior, has given up 21 walks and struck out just 32 in 35 innings this season.
Zach Duke is another left-hander (can anyone say Chris Capuano?) that has mystified the Cubs. Duke is 2-0 this season against the Cubbies, including a shutout at Wrigley on May 2nd, and has allowed them to score just 1 run in 16 innings of work (0.56 ERA), while allowing just 11 hits in the process. The overly aggressive Cubs’ offense also has just walked twice in those 2 games. The Cubs have never beaten Duke and while he has struggled in his sophomore season, unlike the rest of the league, the Cubs have not figured him out.
Let’s Talk Cubbies Baseball….