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It's All Phil's Fault

So Jeff, Krista & I decided this today... that since Carole was at the ballpark all week, and she's getting married on Friday, there must be some connection between that and the winning streak the ballclub was on until yesterday.

We figured we have to have someone in that spot, engaged and ready to be married during an upcoming road trip, so Phil got nominated. And despite the fact that a nice young woman came up and started talking to him during the game, Phil wouldn't pop the question right then and there.

So if you are wondering who is responsible for today's inoffensive 3-0 loss to the Dodgers, just blame Phil, who is still single tonight. Keep in mind that I have known Phil since we both got out of college in the late '70s, yet last year he was trying to convince everyone that he was 38. Um, Phil, that would mean that I met you when you were 14. Not likely, my friend.

We are just kidding. I think.

I say "inoffensive" because that's what the new-look lineup did today. We are now starting 3/8 of the Opening Day lineup of a team (the Pirates) that is eight games under .500. This makes no logical sense, especially since two of the best Pirate hitters, Jason Kendall and Brian Giles, are still there. On the other hand, the Pirates have outscored the Cubs by 27 runs, including today's action, so maybe there's something to continuing to acquire their hitters.

I'm not as down on the Randall Simon deal as many are -- clearly, this is a six-week attempt to get someone with some real major league experience in the lineup, since Hee Seop Choi is simply not hitting. I personally think Hee Seop is still suffering aftereffects of his concussion. Let him hit every day the rest of the month at Iowa, and next year, since Eric Karros will be gone, and Simon won't be offered arbitration, Hee Seop will be the starter.

Really, the game wasn't that far out of hand -- Carlos Zambrano just got wild at the wrong time, then issued an ill-considered intentional walk, and that was it. The Cubs did have Hideo Nomo on the ropes in the first inning, but couldn't cash in; Simon hit a rope that Robin Ventura made a great play on, and that was it. Usually it's get Nomo early or don't, and today, it was "don't", even though the Cubs were run out of another inning when Kenny Lofton was caught stealing to end the seventh. He jumped up and screamed in protest, but he looked pretty out from where we sat. So the Cubs left nine on base, and Sammy Sosa didn't hit a home run during the entire homestand.

And really, sending someone like Paul Bako up to hit against Eric Gagne is totally unfair; like those kid scrub games where you'd give the scrawny kid a 2-ball advantage. Bako did actually hit the ball (he popped up), but that was after swinging and missing at an 88-MPH slider. I mean, really. Gagne extended his ML record for consecutive saves at the start of a season to 41. He's now struck out 102 in 61 innings. That's almost ridiculous. The Cubs don't match up well against the Dodgers, whose pitching staff pretty much tied the Cubs in knots last weekend and this. It's odd to think that the Cubs would have a better shot in the playoffs against the Giants, who are clearly a better team than LA, but I believe that would be true.

The good news, of course, is that while the Cubs were losing two of three to a pretty good team, the Astros were losing two of three to the pitiful Reds, 4-3 today, and so the deficit is still only half a game, and even in the loss column, and if the Phillies can beat the Cardinals tonight, the Cubs will retain second place. While Albert Pujols continues his hitting streak, it doesn't seem to be helping his team very much.

There are now eighteen home games and twenty-one road games remaining, and that may be a good thing. Only Atlanta, Seattle, the Yankees, and oddly, Toronto, have better road records than the Cubs (32-27).

Maybe we should send Phil on the road in our quest to get him engaged. I mean, we all have to take one for the team.