Cliff!

SAN FRANCISCO -- I think this is why I love baseball so much.

Spending eight innings watching a young pitcher throw 96 MPH fastballs and filthy sliders past the Cubs, who didn't seem to have a clue what to do with any of his pitches, and then within a span of a few minutes watch them slide a double just inside the line, and then a couple of singles bouncing past the Giants infield, and then Cliff Floyd, who's spent the entire season worried about his dad, who passed away far too young a week ago, has perhaps his biggest hit as a Cub, a two-run single that helped put the game away -- what could be better than that? (Yes, I know what really could be better -- but don't say it. Yet.)

The Cubs came from behind to beat the Giants last night 5-1, and I don't think it's hyperbole to say that was the biggest win of the year, and perhaps the best game of the year so far.

I think all of us were ready to throw Jason Marquis into McCovey Cove after eight of his first ten pitches were out of the strike zone (and it was a pretty generous strike zone by Mike Everitt, at least for Tim Lincecum). After a groundout put runners on second and third, pretty much mandating an intentional walk to Barry Bonds, another groundout scored the first run of the game.

And then Marquis settled down. REALLY settled down -- giving up only two more hits and two more walks in six solid innings, striking out Ray Durham with a flourish to end the seventh inning, winding up with 64 strikes in his 112 pitches (that may not sound so great, but take away the first ten pitches, and that's 62 strikes in 102 pitches, much better for seven innings less the first two batters). Happy Birthday, Jason! (He turned 29 yesterday.)

He and Tim Lincecum mowed down batting orders one after the other in the cool San Francisco evening, even with a fairly stiff wind blowing out -- I don't think that has as much effect as a similar wind blowing out at Wrigley Field. The only time the Giants really threatened after the first inning was when Jacque Jones and Mark DeRosa both misjudged a fly ball (right in front of Mark and me) that dropped for a two-out double in the fourth. After another intentional walk to Omar Vizquel (how desperate were the Cubs, anyway? That was only the 14th IBB to Vizquel in over 10,000 career plate appearances), Lincecum hit into an inning ending force to Aramis Ramirez. Incidentally, props to the 40-year-old Vizquel, who hit a triple and made several slick fielding plays last night.

And so it went into the night. Lincecum allowed two harmless singles, walked nobody, and apart from the singles only five balls left the infield in the first eight innings, only 88 pitches thrown (64 strikes, 24 balls), and the game was at one hour, 54 minutes through eight innings.

Then the first five Cubs reached base in the eighth, capped with Floyd's single giving them the lead (after Derrek Lee's base hit had tied the game), and two outs later, Jason Kendall smacked a single up the middle and the Cubs had a 5-1 lead, making the Giants fans near us sigh and say "Hey! Headed toward the #1 draft pick!"

To which I said, "I know how you feel -- we've been there."

A terrific pitcher's duel for 8 innings... followed by an explosion of Cub offense, and if they tell you they don't watch the scoreboard they're lying, because we knew that both the Brewers and Cardinals had won by the time that 9th inning started, so the comeback couldn't have come at a more important time... all adds up to a win that had to give the Cubs an enormous emotional lift, and I couldn't be happier for Cliff Floyd, who played left field for only the 14th time this season, and who's had a very tough year personally.

The Giants fans attempted to taunt him, likely not knowing of everything he's been through, but even that came out pretty weak. One fan would chant, "What's wrong with Floyd?" To which some others would respond, "He's a bum!"

Wow. Giants fans need new material.

Other notes: the new HD scoreboard is really, really impressive. Sitting not too far from it in the LF bleachers, you can really see the sharpness in the video replays they show, and it gives detailed stats and play-by-play results in the lineup lists. (Tried to take a photo with my phone last night, but it doesn't do the board justice, and the light tower next to the board kind of washed out the detail. Will try again tonight.)

There were still multiple flashes going off every time Barry Bonds batted, although the excitement over every one of his at-bats seems to have gone away for the Giants fans. Despite the fact that paid attendance was 41,242, SF's 20th straight sellout, there had to be at least 10,000 no-shows, and Cub fans, though not as numerous as they've been in places like Cincinnati, St. Louis and even Colorado, were clearly evident -- and loud, especially in the decisive ninth inning.

Finally, the rainout from Sunday will be made up Monday, September 10, starting at 2:20 CT. This strikes me as the dumbest possible time to make up this game -- in the middle of road trips for BOTH the Cubs and Cardinals. The Cubs will be finishing up a series in Pittsburgh on 9/9 with a day game; then they will fly on to Houston for a night game on 9/11. Meanwhile, St. Louis has a late-afternoon (Central time) game in Arizona on Sunday, Sept. 9, which means they'll likely not arrive in Chicago till near midnight, then have to fly on to Cincinnati for a game on Tuesday. Oh, well. Not that I feel sorry for the Cardinals or anything.

Anyway, here's some more information on tickets for the makeup game:

Tickets for the rescheduled game will be available starting Friday at 10 a.m. CT at www.cubs.com, by calling 1-800-THE-CUBS or at the Wrigley Field box office.

Tickets stating Aug. 19 vs. St. Louis will not be valid for the makeup game. Full season-ticket holders will receive a new set of tickets for Sept. 10 by mail. Combination Plan holders will be given the option by e-mail to exchange their tickets for the Sept. 10 game or to receive a refund for the Aug. 19 game.

All other non-season ticket holders with a ticket for the Aug. 19 postponed game are eligible for a refund or may exchange that ticket's value toward a ticket for Sept. 10 or any future Cubs game, pending availability. Refunds can be requested by sending the Aug. 19 tickets to Wrigley Field or dropping them off at the box office.

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