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Interlude

Oh.

My.

Gosh.

There are no superlatives that I can possibly write here that could give you a real sense of what it was like to be at today's incredible first-game win, 4-2 over the Cardinals in 15 innings.

So many players stepped up it's hard to know where to start. The bullpen was great, from Farnsworth to Alfonseca to Remlinger to Guthrie -- they allowed the best offense in the league one hit in eight innings of work.

Carlos Zambrano threw well also, and so did the Cardinal pitchers, including starter Jason Simontacchi, who threw four perfect innings before a controversial error on Albert Pujols in LF opened the door for two unearned runs, which tied the game. Who knew there would be nine full scoreless innings after that?

Certainly not me... I decided not to drive up early today. Big mistake, since I knew I'd be there after game time, and parking was impossible. Finally after about 20 minutes of looking around, I found a spot about three blocks away. It'll be easier to go back in a little while and park for the night game.

The crowd was truly into the game... you rarely feel a playoff atmosphere for a regular season game, but we had one. It felt like the Clemens/Wood Yankee game in June, only the stakes are much higher for this one, plus the fact that Cardinal and Cub fans were there to share the tense moments. Truly, I think this is a great rivalry, because this is a healthy rivalry, with mutual respect, unlike Yankee and Red Sox fans, who I think really hate each other.

If Moises Alou hadn't made a bad choice and tried to take 3B in the 9th, the Cubs would have won the game then... or if Orlando Palmeiro hadn't made the catch of the year on Ramon Martinez' drive into the ivy in that same inning.

Of all people, Augie Ojeda nearly won the game with a home run in the 12th; had the wind not been blowing in, he would have; and so it seemed fitting that his first hit of the season, after going 0-for-22, triggered the winning rally. And Sammy Sosa, who looked awful at the plate before his homer, finally stepped up and hit his first homer at home in more than a month.

Wow. I feel drained, so imagine what the players feel like. I thought Dusty managed his players pretty well, hoping to save Lofton, Alou, etc. for the second game. But his moves paid off when Ojeda got that hit. Even Dave, who is usually very critical of Cubs moves, was impressed with the way they all stepped up their game today.

It was nice to spend the afternoon with Scott Lange of the Northside Lounge blog and talk Cubs and baseball all day. Among other things I learned that he has never lived in Chicago (he's from Atlanta; his dad grew up in Evanston and taught him the ways of being a Cub fan), and that Bill Lange, a Cubs outfielder in the 1890's, is a distant relative of his. He'll return to the bleachers tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I am back to the bleachers within the next hour, for game two. If the Cubs win and Houston loses to Los Angeles, the Cubs and Astros will be tied for first place, with the Cardinals dropping to third.

Keep hope alive.