Mugged: Cubs 11, Astros 7

I shouldn't complain, not after the Cubs win again, 11-7 over the Astros on a muggy afternoon that had hints of yesterday's rainfall even while the sun was shining most of the day.

But I'm going to anyway, just for a moment. What were Lou and Bob Howry thinking? With two out, a runner on second and Carlos Lee at bat and the Cubs hanging on to a precarious 6-5 lead in the top of the seventh, it's an absolute no-brainer. Put Lee, who came into today's game with a .698 SLG and 14 HR in 44 career games at Wrigley Field, on first base with an intentional walk and summon Sean Marshall to pitch to Geoff Blum.

But no. Either Lou told Howry to "go get him" or Howry had Lou convinced that he could get Lee, so instead of doing the obvious, Howry laid a fastball right in Lee's proverbial wheelhouse and Lee deposited it far into the LF bleachers (or maybe even on the street, I didn't see where it landed) for a 7-6 Houston lead; the Cubs had thus frittered away an early 6-1 advantage, hitting the ball all over the yard against Wandy Rodriguez.

The complaint department is now closed. Mike said he wasn't worried even after that; he said the Cubs had been hitting the ball hard all day (they had) and figured they had a few more runs in them. He was right -- they hit relievers Chris Sampson, Wesley Wright and Doug Brocail just as hard if not harder than Rodriguez, tying the game on a couple of hard-hit balls by Reed Johnson and Mark DeRosa and a Kosuke Fukudome sac fly, and then after Daryle Ward drew his second pinch-intentional walk in the last week (giving him three pinch IBB for the year and ten pinch walks; the ML record for a season is 18), Alfonso Soriano won the game with his 20th HR of the year into the second row in left field.

This made a "winner" out of Howry -- well, he gets credit for the victory, yet more proof that individual pitcher wins are meaningless. The team win -- and this was yet another win with virtually everyone contributing -- is, of course, the goal every single day and to me, it doesn't really matter how they get there. Incidentally, the win made the Cubs 42-16 at home and thus clinched a winning home season -- with 23 home games remaining.

Rich Harden had his worst outing as a Cub and it still wasn't all that bad -- eight strikeouts, but two HR allowed, including a two-run job by Blum that cut the lead to 6-5, after many hits and walks by virtually everyone in the lineup in the first two innings had brought six Cubs home. Reed Johnson got hit by a pitch for the eleventh time this year in the first inning, loading the bases for Mark DeRosa, who doubled home two with a bloop; in the second it was Harden bunting -- attempting a sacrifice -- but winding up with a hit, his first as a Cub, and Soriano and Derrek Lee (who went 4-for-5) contributing with key singles.

And then it almost got away till Soriano's blast. After that, Kerry Wood made his return from the DL. Let's be honest -- he wasn't really fooling anyone today, as all four Astros hit the ball fairly hard off him, but three of them hit it right at Cub fielders. Wood threw only seven pitches, six of them strikes, and looked just fine; this was a good tuneup for his eventual return to closing. Carlos Marmol threw 15 pitches (11 strikes) in finishing up today in a non-save situation; he could probably go again tomorrow, or Jeff Samardzija could close if needed. Scott Eyre was DFA'd to make room for Wood, and that gives the Cubs a week to work out a trade. Eyre has cleared waivers and there's apparent interest in him from several AL contending teams. The Cubs will likely have to eat about $1 million of his contract -- that's fine with me, as long as some sort of useful prospect comes in return.

One more small quibble with today's game: Astros catcher Humberto Quintero walked again. That's two days in a row after 65 PA this year without a single base on balls. How do you DO that?

After last night's deluge it was nice to see the sun today, and after a cold front passes through the area tonight, the rest of the homestand should be played in delightful weather conditions, perhaps muting the recent calls for more night games. It truly has not been a hot summer in Chicago -- there's been quite a bit more rain and storms than usual, although until last night, there hadn't been many rain delays and no rainouts, and last night was the first Cub home game shortened to less than nine innings by weather since a 5 1/2 inning, 4-2 win over the White Sox on July 3, 2004.

Note to all: at the last minute I have available two bleacher tickets for tomorrow afternoon's game. Price $45 each. Email if interested -- I will meet you at the ballpark tomorrow. My email link is on the left sidebar. Thanks for your emails -- tickets are gone.

Onward to tomorrow and let's win another series. Go Reds! Go Dodgers!

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