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Wow!

Since the beginning of June I haven't missed much Cubs baseball, either in person or on TV -- and it had been in person for all but six games (the four in Cincinnati and the first two in Philadelphia), and I only missed the last seven innings of the last game in Baltimore (due to the rain delays and the adventure we had getting back to Washington).

So I decided to stop obsessing. A little. I took in a movie (review to be posted tomorrow -- come back to find out which movie!), and a quick dinner, and missed the first four innings of the telecast tonight.

Smart move, I think. I really didn't miss too much, except for some fine pitching by Matt Clement (despite six walks), and that continued through seven, and between Clement, Mark Guthrie, Kyle Farnsworth and Joe Borowski, the Cubs one-hit the Phillies and won 1-0, the Cubs' first one-hitter since Jon Lieber and Kerry Wood did it back-to-back in May 2001. The Cubs also got a key caught-stealing of Bobby Abreu by Paul Bako to snuff out one late-inning threat.

This continues the streak of great pitching by the Cubs' starting pitchers that goes all the way back to June 21, the second Cubs/White Sox game at Wrigley Field. That's why I keep saying, if they can generate any offense, a very long winning streak could follow. Today, all they wound up needing was Sammy Sosa's bomb of a home run to center field in the 9th inning. I keep hoping that any HR by Sammy will turn him onto one of his patented tears where he hits 10 in a week or so, and maybe coming home in a couple of days will start one of those streaks. In 2001, Sammy had 35 HR and 85 RBI after the All-Star break, and doing that again this year would silence all his critics, and give him a year statistically similar to last year (actually, it'd be better, since he's missed 24 games this year).

It seems that the loud booing and yells of "Corky" have been made fashionable by the Sox fans; I heard lots of that in Philly the last couple of nights. As I've said before, that's really too bad. It's yesterday's news -- he's paid his penalty, and all he can do is prove that he really is the player that everyone has always known him to be, for the rest of his career.

I would have started Hee Seop Choi tonight, given the righthander Duckworth starting, but you can't argue with Eric Karros' two hits. Steve Stone said on the telecast that Choi "doesn't have his stroke back yet". Well, how can you do that sitting on the bench? Eventually, I'd like to see them back in a strict platoon.

With the Cardinals' 4-1 loss to the Giants, the Cubs and Cardinals are now tied, and if Milwaukee can hold onto its lead over the Astros, all three teams will be tied for first place (if not, the Astros will be up by a game). Many people have already forgotten that the 1998 wild-card race was just like this; for the last 45 days of the season, no more than one game separated the wild-card leader and trailer (at the time, the Cubs and Mets; the Giants only sneaked in because they won five in a row while the Mets were losing five in a row the last week of the 1998 season). This year could turn out just the same way, and don't count the Reds out either (though unless they get some pitching, they're likely to fade out of the race).

That's the reason I encourage Jim Hendry to think outside the box. Today, the Kansas City Royals traded for Curtis Leskanic of the Brewers. There's a team that you wouldn't have thought of, right in play for help as they think that maybe their first-half success isn't an illusion, and that with bullpen help they can stay right there with the Twins and White Sox. It's been said that you can't trade for someone that's "not available", but how can you know unless you ask? That's how Billy Beane has made some steals of trades in the last three years that have put the A's, a small-payroll team, into the playoffs and has them seriously contending again. Maybe there's someone out there, someone even the rumormongers haven't thought of, who Hendry could get, if only he tried.