When You Come By, Bring My Stomach

If you are of a "certain age" you will recognize that headline as one of the pet phrases of the late, legendary broadcaster Jack Brickhouse, who used to say it whenever the Cubs got either into or out of a sticky situation -- sometimes to the point that it became cliched.

It wasn't today. I was ready to write about yet another depressing one-run loss, with wasted opportunities, but instead the Cubs won their second straight game in their last at-bat, a more-exciting-than-it-had-to-be 3-2 win over the Pirates and so come home on an up note, with a winning 3-2 road trip, and some momentum and optimism when having to face the team with the current best record in baseball this weekend -- more on them anon.

Of the five runs scored today, four of them scored on sacrifice flies -- and the only one that didn't, scored on a Todd Hollandsworth single, tying the game in the 9th.

Think about that for a second. Hollandsworth has been terrible this year -- he came into the game hitting .202. But his best performances in 2004 came when he was pinch-hitting, or otherwise coming off the bench, and pretty much all of the Cubs Blog Army has been screaming for Dusty Baker to use him this way all year, and start Jason Dubois.

In the last week, they've done this. Hmmm. Very interesting. Since Dubois first appeared on an everyday basis in the starting lineup, the Cubs are 5-2. Today, Dubois was 0-for-2 with a walk, and since last Tuesday he's only 5-for-25 (.200), with two doubles, one HR and 4 RBI.

And yet, that's coincided with a 5-out-of-7 winning stretch.

Coincidental? Maybe. A psychological thing? Maybe. But whatever it is, Dusty, it's working, so don't mess with it!

The first sac fly today was a foul popup that Neifi! caught just past third base, turned the wrong way, only to see Jack Wilson scampering home. But he had a sac fly of his own later, making up for this, and also singled and walked (!), and Jose Macias got the other Cub sac fly today -- it's weird. As bad a player as Macias is, he does just enough so that you think he might be worth keeping on the team. Dangerous thing, that.

Glendon Rusch threw OK -- though with six walks, he was constantly in trouble, and the Cubs bailed him and LaTroy Hawkins, Cliff Bartosh, Mike Wuertz (the eventual winning pitcher), and Ryan Dempster (second save in as many days) out with four double plays, including the one that ended the game after we were all sure that, just as I feared last night...

HOW ARE THEY GONNA BLOW THIS ONE??

But like last night, they didn't. Even when Jeromy Burnitz led off the 9th with a walk and then was caught stealing on a pitchout, they didn't.

And no, that wasn't a steal. Clearly, that was a hit-and-run, on a 1-0 pitch, and the Pirates did a good job of picking up the sign and with a pitchout, there was nothing Michael Barrett could do at the plate. Even then, Barrett started the winning rally with a double, and Lloyd McClendon helped us out by intentionally walking Corey Patterson.

Think about that for a minute. Why would you EVER intentionally walk someone who swings at everything? I suppose they wanted to try to set up a DP possibility, as Jason Dubois was due up -- but McClendon had to know that Dusty would pinch-hit Holly.

Or, then again, maybe he didn't, and maybe that's one of the reasons why the Pirates have such a woeful record the last few years under McClendon.

And so, it shall be, as the broadcasters love to say, a happy plane ride home tonight for the Cubs.

Despite the fact that both the Cubs and White Sox website front pages list Carlos Zambrano as Friday's starter, it says here that Z will be pushed back a day and start Saturday, and Greg Maddux will go Friday, confirming what Pat and Ron said on WGN Radio last night. Z's side throwing session today went fine, with no pain, and the extra day of rest ought to help.

A couple of other notes on the upcoming series: as opposed to previous years, when only one broadcast was available for both teams, this year on Friday and Sunday, BOTH Cub and Sox broadcast teams will be on the air. Friday, you'll find Len and Bob on CSN, and Sunday, they'll be on WGN. If you want to hear how the other half lives, the Sox announcers will be on WGN Friday and CSN Sunday. Saturday's game goes to the FOX network, in a regional telecast.

And, I have over the last couple of days exchanged "Five Questions" about our respective teams with "The Cheat", who operates the SportsBLOGS White Sox site South Side Sox. I'll post both sets of questions and answers tomorrow.

Rob over at the Dodgers/Angels blog weighs in with this premonition:

I predict the Cubs will smash the Chisox in their upcoming series, for the simple reason that the Sox are not nearly as good a team as they're playing now, and with the pressure of having to defeat their hated crosstown rivals, they'll melt. (There, I've jinxed the already-cursed Cubs.)
Gee, thanks, Rob. I hope the jinx works in reverse. Or something like that.

A non-Sox related note: please head on over to my SportsBLOGS colleague John Sickels' site and read his update on his top 20 Cub prospects.

Finally, Carole, who has been part of our bleacher group but who hasn't been to the ballpark at all this year, gave birth to twin girls today. Congrats to her and her husband Ernie!

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