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One Step Forward...

... and one back. The Cubs can't seem to capitalize on strong emotional moments like last night's come-from-behind win, as the offense decided to completely stop hitting in today's boring 3-1 loss to the Astros in Houston, which put the club again 5 1/2 games back. They can still win the series with a strong showing by Shawn Estes tomorrow.

Word is that Estes has been "tipping" pitches -- sometimes you find this when a veteran's been traded to the team, like Kenny Lofton (this info from the Cubs newsgroup). So if the coaching staff has been working on this with Estes, we should see results tomorrow. We had better see results, or I'd think that Estes ought to be released. He's been worse than terrible since the middle of June.

Both Jimy Williams (and why does he have only one "m" in his first name?) and Jeff Kent were ejected for arguing ball-strike counts, and I have to say, Matt Hollowell, the home plate umpire, was equal-opportunity in his poor strike zone calls today, as he rang up a number of Cubs, including Eric Karros, on pitches that looked way outside.

Both Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez, who were acquired to boost the offense, have looked pretty sick since they came over; Ramirez did have two hits today, but that was the entire offensive output, and the lone run scored on a throwing error by Geoff Blum, pulling Jeff Bagwell off first base on a play that replays showed might have been a bad call.

I thought Juan Cruz threw pretty well, giving up only four hits himself, but one of them was an RBI double by Lance Berkman and another a homer by Cub-killer Bagwell, and you can't do that when your team isn't scoring anything.

The best thing about this game was that it was over in a snappy 2:28, which allowed me to see the first hour of my son Mark's park district league playoff game -- they were tied when I had to leave, since we are on our way to a wedding shower for our friends Carole & Ernie, who are getting married next month. If they win today, there will be another playoff game tomorrow; an update in the morning.