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Shawn Estes Must Go!

Perhaps the luckiest guy in the bleachers today was the guy who got hit with a batting practice ball only about 20 minutes after the gates opened -- and it was nasty, drawing blood. Security had to call the paramedics, and he was led off in a wheelchair. I'm sure he'll be OK, as he was sitting up fine; it may require stitches, but all he got was a painful scare.

But for him, it was probably best that he didn't have to watch Shawn Estes blow up yet again, in an ugly 9-5 loss to Milwaukee.

I'm kidding, of course, about the guy's luck -- I'm sure he'd rather not have been hit in the head with a baseball -- but not about not having to watch today's fiasco.

I mean, I tried every superstition. Wore the same cap as yesterday. Got my Super Big Gulp out of the same spigot at the 7-11. Brought my son Mark, who saw Estes pitch probably his best game of the season, a 7-inning, 5-strikeout, no-run performance in Baltimore on June 9, when he got his sixth win of the season. Since then Estes has gone 1-6, with an ERA approaching the view of Mars that we are all now getting.

Dusty, give it up. Maybe Shawn Estes was a serviceable pitcher once. Yes, he won 19 games for one of your division champions. But that was six years ago, and even then, he walked 100 batters that season. Yes, he snapped off a couple of lovely curveballs for strikes today. But that's not enough. He's not any good any more. He is, by far, the worst rotation starter in the National League this year. His ERA is a homer or two short of six.

The Cubs have four good-to-dominant starters, and that may be enough to get past rough games like this. But Juan Cruz has to be in the rotation for the rest of the season; who cares if that means you have no lefties. At least you have a pitcher who might be able to get hitters out. As of the radio post-game show, the Cubs had still not announced a starter for tomorrow, but with Todd Wellemeyer throwing four innings today, they could easily option him out for one day, activate Cruz (which would make Cruz eligible for postseason play), then bring back Wellemeyer on Monday.

Speaking of Wellemeyer, he threw two outstanding innings, striking out four. Too bad that was after he threw two really BAD innings, giving up four runs. All but one of the Brewer runs scored with two out, which is really bad pitching -- inability to close the door on a team that truly has only one good hitter, and he did hit today: Richie Sexson, who homered and had four RBI.

Troy O'Leary tried to make the game close, with a pinch-hit 3-run homer in the sixth, making the score 9-5. To show you how bad the Cubs' bench is, that was O'Leary's first home run since he hit a grand slam in Toronto on June 15, which at the time tied that game, which they wound up losing in extra innings. At least O'Leary is consistent. At the end of play on June 15, he was hitting .215. At the end of play today, he is hitting ... .216.

And for once, I actually agreed with Wavin' Wendell when he sent Kenny Lofton around third on Sammy Sosa's double in the 8th -- the Cubs were having no luck scoring anyone; Lofton's a good baserunner and Milwaukee's defense isn't exactly known for being as tough as, say, the Cardinals'. It would have helped if Eric Karros could have come through with the bases loaded in the seventh. At least the Cubs had baserunners today.

What I worry about tomorrow is Dusty's penchant for platooning whether it makes sense or not, and I fear that Doug Glanville will be installed in the leadoff spot against lefty Doug Davis. Well, that's four automatic outs. Dusty, get it through your head: Glanville is done. He can't hit. Anchor him to the bench.

It felt fall-like at the ballpark today, with the temperature only around 70, clouds moving in late in the game, and the late-afternoon shadows made worse by the 3:05 start, which also added to the large number of drunks who felt they had to stand behind us and make comments about just about anything but the game.

At this writing both St. Louis and Houston are winning, though early in their games, so the Cubs may be back to 1.5 games behind tomorrow morning. We continue to hope and have faith.