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Mike Hampton doesn't save bullpen, Astros lose in Bud Norris' debut

Well, all that talk about Mike Hampton needing to step up and pitch well to save the bullpen didn't exactly come to fruition. The Cubs jumped all over Hampton early for five first inning runs, while his counterpart Randy Wells induced three double plays en route to a blowout Cubs win.

If last night's game was frustrating, yet ultimately rewarding, today's game was frustrating yet ultimately frustrating. Chicago flexed their muscles and showed why they are the prohibitive favorite to win the NL Central. Not to say that the Cards, Astros or Brewers can't sneak up and win it, but this series has gone a long ways to convince me that the Cubs are about to start playing very good baseball.

Alfonso Soriano hit a three run home run, and looks dialed in offensively. Milton Bradley is walking like a mad man, while Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez are skilled RBI men. The top of their lineup gets on base and that's about all they need to do. Their young bullpen throws hard, and the rotation is a combination of veterans and young guys like Wells and tomorrow's starter Kevin Hart.

For everything the Cubs have going for them, we still have a shot to earn a split tomorrow afternoon. To do so, Russ Ortiz has to. I mean HAS TO pitch better than he did last time out.

The time for Hampton and Ortiz to just go out and pitch five ineffective innings is over. If the Astros don't want to get left behind, both of these guys have to produce. That goes for Brian Moehler too.

Bud Norris played janitor today and did a nice job of cleaning up Hampton's mess. He pitched three very effective innings, allowing one error aided run, and struck out four, including Derrek Lee and Kosuke Fukudome twice. Here is the Pitch F/X data from Norris' 52 pitch outing. It's highly doubtful he'll start on Sunday in place of Roy Oswalt, so the Astros will have to go to plan B in case The Wiz can't go.