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Kerry!

PHOENIX, Arizona -- Kerry Wood threw six strong innings and the Cubs pecked away at four Oakland pitchers for 13 hits in today's 2-1 win over the A's.

But first, a bit about Carole and Ernie.

Carole wanted me to mention that the reason she slept through half yesterday's game was, in her words, that "I'm a Norwegian-German white girl." OK, so there it is. Today she spent part of the game in the shade, went to have a Dove bar, but still kept up with the scorekeeping -- for the most part, anyway. Ernie, for his part, kept moving around seats in our section, couldn't sit still, kept getting booted out of seats, but hey, that's Ernie. At one point I wanted to dispatch him down to where the scouts were sitting so that he could find out for me how fast Kerry Wood was throwing, but he wouldn't do it. In any case, now that the Cubs have won with Ernie present, he can come back again.

In the first inning, Jermaine Dye fouled a ball off the mask of plate umpire Mike Winters, which shook him up a bit. After a five minute delay and a repair to the mask, Dye stepped in and promptly fouled the very next pitch off the very same part of Winters' mask. Winters playfully pushed Dye out of the way, and both men laughed, and the entire crowd began laughing and then applauding. You see so little of this spontaneous fun in pro sports today and it really was a charming moment.

All this happened right after Eric Chavez slammed a ball over the CF hitters' background for what turned out to be the A's only run of the day. Kerry Wood was slated to go seven today, and he would have made it but ran out of gas in the 7th, and Dusty Baker actually erred on the side of caution by yanking him with two on and one out, after he had struck out six and allowed only four hits. Wood will have only one more Arizona start before Opening Day (next Tuesday against the Mariners) and he appears ready to go.

Meanwhile, the Cubs were stranding runners all over the Valley of the Sun -- eight left on in the first five innings, before breaking through in the sixth off A's reliever Chad Harville, and then consecutive doubles by Corey Patterson and Sammy Sosa scored the winning run in the 7th, and at an apparently high cost to the A's. The ball was a little popup over 2B, and 2B Mark Ellis and SS Bobby Crosby collided, and when the dust settled, Ellis had to be helped off the field holding his right arm, and we learned later that Ellis will be out six to eight weeks with a dislocated shoulder, a tough break for him and for the A's as well, since they really don't have a suitable backup... say... you don't think they'd take Mark Grudzielanek, do you?

After Wood was pulled, Jimmy Anderson got out of the jam and then struck out two in the 8th, perhaps solidifying a claim on a bullpen slot. Anderson still has a bit of extra weight on him, which has troubled him in the past. I should mention here that Kerry Wood appears to have trimmed down over the winter -- he looks in terrific shape and this could be his true breakout year.

LaTroy Hawkins finished up and the box score line's going to look great, but he gave up three hard-hit flyouts, and I hope his next appearance is better than the last two.

Phoenix Municipal Stadium had $6 million of renovations over the last offseason, but you could have fooled me. There's still no grass berm (apparently no room behind the LF wall), all they did was build new concession stands and souvenir shops (the food selection is still mediocre, and the only place selling programs was a stand that also had t-shirts, so you had to wait in line behind people who were mulling over 6 different shirts), and a corrugated-aluminum press box that they are all raving about, but that is indeed ugly. Still, Phoenix Muni isn't a bad ballpark, and they kept the concrete "folded roof" that is so 60's and that you can see at Dodger Stadium and also similar to the one I saw last fall at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan.

On the positive side, the PA announcer was quite good, the pregame music selection excellent (Springsteen and Buffett), and it's absolutely the easiest park in the Cactus League to get out of the parking lot afterwards, and even though they force you to go south out of the lot, if you want to drive north (which we did), they conveniently tell you where you can make a legal U-turn to turn around.