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Kerry Wood, suddenly, has become the pitcher we saw back on May 6, 1998, when he tied the ML record for strikeouts in his fifth major league start.

One elbow operation and five years later, he's stepped into the role of dominating staff ace, and the Cubs beat the Braves 4-2 and took a 1-0 lead in the Division Series, stealing the homefield advantage and playing the way they've played all year on the road. With the best road record in the NL other than the Braves' (and only two games behind Atlanta in that category), the Cubs, as you no doubt heard incessantly last night, not only won their first postseason road game since game 3 of the 1945 World Series, they won their first postseason game of any kind since game 2 of the 1989 NL Championship Series, where they had a six-run first inning and their worst-hitting pitcher, Mike Bielecki, had a two-run single.

I had heard from Dan Lichtenstein in the Cubs newsgroup that his plane to Atlanta was filled with Cubs fans, so much so that United had to switch aircraft from an Airbus to a 757, and people at the airline told him that every flight yesterday was just like that; but I didn't really believe it till I saw the literally thousands of Cub fans that helped the Braves sell out a first-round game for the first time in several years. And they were loud -- I can't ever remember any postseason game in which the visitors had so many visible fans. It will be the same tonight, no doubt.

At first -- this seemed like so many frustrating losses, with the Cubs leaving runners on in the first, and the bases loaded in the fourth, and then when they loaded the bases again in the sixth, I thought, "Here we go again."

But by then I had switched TV watching positions (Superstition Of The Day!) -- I had gone from family room to basement and by the sixth I was watching in the bedroom, when Paul Bako's groundout (and I think he got jobbed by Cub-hater Bruce Froemming on the previous pitch, which looked like ball four) scored the tying run, and then Wood, who is a very good hitter, missed hitting a three-run homer by about fifteen feet, doubling in two runs, then scoring on Kenny Lofton's single.

And the bullpen did their jobs, though with some scary moments from Kyle Farnsworth and Joe Borowski. But we are used to that kind of stuff, and getting over any first-game jitters for those two was so important. Now they know they can step it up in a game like that, and on the road, too. I could do without the Farnsworth histrionics on the mound, though.

I was also dismayed to hear the voices of former Cub radio announcer Thom Brennaman and former Sox Steve Lyons on the telecast. Apparently Fox doesn't think this game is important enough to schedule their lead broadcast team of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Brennaman makes every call seem like it's the biggest event in the history of baseball, and his sense of that history goes back maybe 20 years, and Lyons is a master of the obvious. Fox could have done better. For Chicago-area viewers, then, I would suggest the mute button and WGN radio; Ron Santo's health made it impossible for him to travel, so Steve Stone joins Pat Hughes for the radio call of games 1 and 2.

Second superstition of the day: Mike, who does audio for us in the morning at ABC-7, had told me last week that the Cubs lost the only game he watched in its entirety, the loss to the Reds which had us all so depressed. Last night, he told me, he had to go out when they were losing, and by the time he got back home they had had the four-run rally. So he is now banned from watching the rest of the series.

At the tent sale over the weekend, I tried to buy a Cub jacket for my son Mark. They didn't have his size so I figured, why not buy the next largest size? So I did, and well, it came down to his knees. But he'll grow into it, right?

Guess who it fits perfectly? My wife Alison put it on and loves it!

So, she can wear it until he grows into it.

Wish I could have been in Atlanta last night. Don't want to get overconfident, but I'm hoping to be at the next series.

If you want to try your luck, click here for a link to the sale of NLCS tickets at Wrigley Field. By the time most of you read this, the games will probably be sold out, as the sale begins at 8 am Central time, and though there are four games on sale rather than the two Division Series games that were sold a couple of weeks ago, I'd bet they'll still sell out within an hour at most. Good luck!

Tonight, and fortunately an hour earlier than last night (playoff games really are longer than regular season games, and one of the reasons is the glut of commercials they squeeze into the longer-than-regular-season breaks; at least once they missed the first pitch coming back), Carlos Zambrano faces Mike Hampton. As I mentioned the other day, the Cubs can beat Hampton if they will do what they did last night with Russ Ortiz -- wait him out. The six walks Ortiz issued are really what did him in, and Hampton will do the same thing if the Cubs will be patient. Zambrano is capable of throwing the same type of game that Wood did, IF he will harness his energy toward focusing on the game, which he hasn't done his last couple of starts.

Hope floats. No, that's the title of a mediocre Sandra Bullock movie.

Hope soars.