Chicago (60-48) at San Francisco (58-52)

Breezy Currently: San Francisco, CA, US
Temp: 61° F
  • Game info: 10:15 pm EDT Fri Aug 6, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Chicago Cubs probably won’t win the NL Central, but they are making life difficult for every team that thinks it is in the wild card race.

The Cubs will try for their fifth straight win when they take on the struggling San Francisco Giants in the opener of a three-game series.

Mark Prior pitched six scoreless innings for his first win in more than a month, and the Cubs completed a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies with a 5-1 victory Thursday.

“It just goes to show you how strong our starting rotation is,” said catcher Paul Bako, who had a two-run single. “We’re just happy to have everybody healthy.”

Derrek Lee and Corey Patterson each hit a solo home run for the Cubs, who moved a season-high 12 games above .500. Chicago, which is well back of first-place St. Louis in the Central, holds a slight lead over San Diego in the race for the wild card.

“It starts at one (win) and then it goes from there,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “We’ve got to keep rolling.”

The Cubs are making their move because they are getting solid contributions from all over. Their last four starting pitchers—Greg Maddux, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Prior—have combined for a 3.12 ERA during the win streak, with each pitcher getting through at least six innings.

Chicago’s offense had made things quite easy for the pitchers, batting .295 (41-for-139) and scoring 27 runs over the last four games.

Matt Clement will take the ball for the Cubs on Friday. The 29-year-old right-hander has pitched much better than his 8-10 record, as his 3.03 ERA attests. Clement has received just 3.66 runs of support—89th in the majors— over his 22 starts.

It appears the Cubs are getting the Giants at the right time. San Francisco has lost six of eight during a precarious drop in the NL West standings. The Giants, who are three games back in the wild-card race, are 9-12 since the All-Star break, showing no signs of a second-half surge for one of baseball’s best late-season teams over the last five years.

San Francisco is coming off a brutal 12-3 loss to Cincinnati on Thursday. The Giants’ beleaguered bullpen, which is ranked 27th in the league with a 4.94 ERA, played a big role in the Reds’ huge eighth inning, allowing 10 runs, seven hits and three walks.

“It’s one of those funks,” said closer Matt Herges, who allowed three unearned runs in the eighth. “Not everyone is playing as poor as I am. It’s a brief funk. There should be no panic.”

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Starting Pitchers

M. Clement TOR vs. J. Schmidt LAD
9-13 Record 18-7
3.68 ERA 3.20
190 K 251
77 BB 77
1.28 WHIP 1.08