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But before I tell you about those, let me tell you what I was thinking Art Howe, the Mets manager must be saying to himself... "What was I thinking? At least Lou Piniella gets to live at home. Plus, I have to sit next to Don Baylor every day."

We thought we were seeing the Reds again, as the 63-85 Mets have retooled their team in just about the same way, except unlike the Cincinnati series, there was only one player with a number higher than 60.

Oh, superstitions, right. Well, I changed caps. Shirts. Shoes. (Yes, underwear too.) New spigot at the 7-11 for my Super Big Gulp. And after using the same two #3 pencils all season, I put it to a vote of our group. Early on, just Jeff and Jon were there and they were split as to whether I should keep using those two pencils or switch to a new, never-before-sharpened one.

Howard was next to arrive so he cast the tiebreaking vote, in favor of the new pencil. And so, you now know what's responsible for tonight's efficient 4-1 win over the Mets, although it wasn't very efficient for the first three innings, which took over an hour.

Matt Clement threw very well again, only this time he remembered how to throw strikes. Only five balls were hit by Mets out of the infield, and only one of their four hits reached the outfield. Clement was pulled after 102 pitches and 7 innings, which might have been about his limit given his leg problem anyway, and Mike Remlinger and Joe Borowski made quick work out of the 8th and 9th innings. Borowski registered his 29th save, which is now sixth in the league (only Gagne, Smoltz, Worrell, Biddle and Wagner have more, and Biddle lost his closer's spot, so Joe will probably wind up fifth, and it'll be the Cubs' first 30-save season since 1998).

What's gotten into Randall Simon? Suddenly, he's a divin' fool, making stabs left and right. Mike said he reminded him of a young George Scott. If he could hit half as well as Scott in his better years, we'd take it.

And today we got treated to a two-extra-base-hit day from Paul Bako, who tallied one-twelfth of his season RBI total (1 out of 12, if you're not counting). The only discordant note was sounded by Sammy Sosa's performance. He really looks flat. He hates to take days off, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs win tomorrow, that Dusty will push him to sit out Wednesday's game. Baker used to do this with Barry Bonds from time to time and it seemed to really help him.

So, the Cubs gain half a game on the idle Astros, and the stupid Cardinals picked today to score 11 runs (OK, so it was just the Brewers), so they are now five games out, and the Cubs trail by 1.5 games, and with Prior and Wood scheduled to throw the next two games of the series, hope is once again perking up.

Oh, and just for grins read Bernie Miklasz' column from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch yesterday in which he absolutely rips the Cardinals for their lack of heart in their effort against the Astros. Good for you, Bernie. I especially liked when he termed them "Deadbirds".