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Waiting To Exhale

If you're like me you are simply holding your breath.

Or walking around your house muttering under your breath.

Here's an e-mail I received from Carole, written just after last night's game ended (I had shut the computer off by then), in its entirety:

I hate being a Cubs fan. As much as I love the Cubs I hate being their fan. Why oh why can't I just be a fan of oh say the Braves or the Giants. I am a fan of both of those teams. Why can't my passion be for them? Nice, even keel. Productive seasons regularly. You expect to go the playoffs & it's not a gift to be savored. No torture day in, day out, praying for others too help. A bad season would be finishing near the + side of .500. This sucks, yet blows at the same time.

And yet, we love this "torture". We'd take going into the last weekend every season in this spot, right? Tied for first place, with a series at home against a mediocre team?

Of last night's game I can't say too much that you don't already know. The Cubs blew a 4-2 lead and lost to the Reds 9-7, in part because of questionable bullpen decisions by Dusty.

Both Guthrie and Veres have been mediocre this month, and I suspect Veres is still bothered by whatever put him on the DL twice this year. Even though it was only the sixth inning, it might have been time for Farnsworth, Remlinger or even Alfonseca, of all people, who threw a pretty good inning after it was too late.

The good news is that Sammy Sosa hit two home runs, and in the last couple of days has shown signs of breaking out of his monthlong slump. If that carries over into this last series, he could carry the Cubs into the playoffs.

It's all very simple. Win these three games and it doesn't matter what the Astros do; even if they win theirs, you are looking at a tiebreaker game here on Monday, and the Cubs took three of four from Houston last time they were here in August. Of course, Roy Oswalt, who would pitch the tiebreaker for them, was on the DL at the time, and the Cubs would have to go with either Shawn Estes or perhaps even Carlos Zambrano, who did throw 98 pitches last night, but perhaps could come back on three days' rest.

There is still no definitive word on the starting time of any tiebreaker game. The Chicago Sun-Times reported today that it would probably be at 1:20, though I think that's pure speculation.

Mark Prior starts today, having been moved up a day, and I think that's a smart thing. Not only does it mean your best pitcher leads off the series, but it gives Matt Clement an extra day off, to throw tomorrow against Ryan Vogelsong, who pitched very well against the Cubs in Pittsburgh. Like Josh Hall of the Reds, I think the Cubs will solve Vogelsong, seeing him the second time in a week.

The weather forecast for this weekend is iffy; in and out showers today, and probably Sunday, though not tomorrow, and temperatures in the 60's.

Time to end excuses and time to step up. That's what championship teams do.

Oh, and...