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It Was Fun While It Lasted

Now really, who do we think we are fooling?

Come on, a guy whose home run total equals his uniform number (zero) hits a walk-off homer?

Crushing defeats because of bullpen implosions do happen, but when they happen a second day in a row, maybe someone's trying to tell us something.

You already know about the devastating 3-2 loss to the Cardinals last night. I am trying to find some good that came out of the series, and there is some:

* Kerry Wood pitched great after throwing poorly for a month.

* Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior established themselves as dominating starting pitchers over a team that has a tremendous offense.

* That offense, which has blown through most pitching staffs in the league (third in runs, and second among teams not playing in Denver), was held to ten runs in three games.

But contending teams can't make stupid mistakes, like the nonchalant throw Zambrano made that prolonged the sixth inning, on an easy comebacker by Matt Morris -- who has a bad ankle and can't run; Zambrano could have run over and tagged him out, and perhaps led to Zambrano throwing way too many pitches; maybe Scott Rolen wouldn't have hit his home run, and Carlos might have made it through eight innings instead of seven, and Joe Borowski would have come in to protect a 2-0 lead in the ninth.

Or maybe a bigger lead -- what the heck were Doug Glanville and Wendell Kim thinking, trying to score on a fairly shallow fly ball hit to Jim Edmonds, who's one of the top defensive outfielders in the game? That ended a potential rally, with Sammy Sosa on deck. You know, there is a place for aggressiveness in baseball, but that wasn't the time. Sosa had already homered in the game, and I keep hoping that he's going to go on one of his ten-homers-in-a-week tears, but it hasn't happened yet. Taking the Cubs out of that inning really took some of the air out of the balloon, with the game still tied.

So, here's where we stand, and intellectually, it still doesn't look that bad. One and a half games out, behind the Cardinals and Astros who are tied. St. Louis plays at Cincinnati this weekend, and though the Reds have a poor overall home record, they have a knack of scoring off shaky bullpens late in home games. The Cardinals have one of those. Houston plays San Diego at home to end their longest homestand of the season. The Cubs had a 4-5 road trip but lost only one game in the standings during the nine games.

The Cubs are also one and a half games out of the wild-card lead, though there, they are behind six other teams -- but with the closeness of that race, seven teams within that 1.5 games, leaping over several of them in one day isn't impossible. The Milwaukee series ought to be interesting; the Brewers have inexplicably won ten games in a row, and you'd figure that has to end sometime soon.

Intellectually that all makes sense. Emotionally, though, I go back to a statement that came from, of all people, Ron Santo, back in his playing days, when he said: "When you're eight games in front, it feels like eight inches. When you're eight games behind, it feels like eight miles."

Pretty much spot-on, surprising from someone who now talks like he has a sock stuck in his mouth.