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The Bat Is There For Your Use

Today, boys and girls, we shall re-learn the lesson we all learned when we were first learning to play baseball.

That is, if you don't hit the bat with the ball when the pitch is right there in the strike zone, you're not going to have many good things happen.

I cannot understand why anyone, as a major league baseball player, would stand at the plate representing the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, and look at strike three, especially when the pitcher is known for his fastball.

But that's what both Troy O'Leary and Alex Gonzalez did tonight and the ugly 3-1 loss to the Astros was made even worse by blunders not only like this one, but OK, here, let me list them:

1) Why did Augie Ojeda, with two runners on and a 3-1 count in the sixth, down only one run with one in already, decide he had to swing? OK, I know, I just got finished telling people to swing. But not in that situation. A walk would have loaded the bases, and either Kerry Wood would have hit, and he's a good hitter, or Hee Seop Choi would have pinch-hit -- something he did with the bases empty in the next inning.

2) Why did Aramis Ramirez think he could get two bases on a short popup to right field that Richard Hidalgo dropped for an error? It wasn't nearly far enough to go for two, and Ramirez was easily thrown out by Hidalgo, who has one of the better outfield arms in the league.

3) Why wasn't Doug Glanville playing deeper on Jeff Kent's double that wound up driving in the runs that made the difference in the game? Glanville doesn't have the speed he once did, and playing deeper, he might have caught Kent's fly, which he waved at as it flew over his head. Doug was only playing tonight because Kenny Lofton has a sore wrist; you can clearly see the value of having a Lofton in the lineup, both offensively and defensively.

It was maddening... to see this lack of fundamental play, on a night when Kerry Wood once again threw well, and did reach the milestone of 1000 strikeouts, faster than any pitcher in ML history. Kerry also reached 200 strikeouts in a season for the fourth time in his career. Giving up three runs at home is fine. But this club simply has to find a way to score more than that, and there are ways to do that even when the wind is howling in from the north at 17 MPH (that was the speed announced, but it had to be more than that on a night that felt more like late September than mid-August).

The deficit is now 3 1/2 games, and with six left with Houston there's still time to make it up. But they had better start tomorrow.

It was 70's night at the park and there were some awfully weird costumes, including one miniskirted person with an Afro wig that I had to look at a couple of times to determine ... uh, the true gender. It was a woman. Mike & I were pretty much dressed the way we were in the '70s -- jeans, me in a t-shirt, Mike in a long-sleeve shirt, though I also put on the pullover Cub golf shirt I had with me -- it was cold!

There was also a, uh, human wearing a leisure suit and about a 4-foot-tall yellow Afro who we had to warn not to stand at the back fence near the smoking section, lest he catch on fire.

Among the 70's prizes they gave away (naturally, none in the bleachers) were LavaLamps, which are manufactured right here on the north side of Chicago.

Sign seen: "Ron for Governor of California". It didn't specify which Ron.