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An Unexpected Day

Well, this one came out of the blue.

Or more accurately, out of the gray, since when I left the house there was some blue sky and I thought it might stay at least partly sunny all day, and the temperature was tolerable. Game-time temperature was 60 degrees, but it wound up dropping through the 50's and the sun only peeked out for a minute or two at a time all afternoon. I at least had several layers on and it wasn't too uncomfortable; Jeff wore shorts -- big mistake -- but claimed it had been much warmer when he left the house.

And, we can no longer say it hasn't rained during a game, though it wasn't much more than about five minutes worth of horizontal sprinkles.

Meanwhile, during BP the wind was howling out right in our faces at 25+ MPH, so much so that one of the bombs that Mike Piazza hit wound up breaking a windshield of a car parked on Kenmore Avenue. I tried to read the Sun-Times during BP -- too windy. Tried to do the Tribune crossword puzzle -- nope, even that had pages fluttering all over the place.

So we might have expected a slugfest, like last weekend, with homers flying out of the yard all afternoon.

Instead, the Cubs threw their sixth straight pitching gem, this one perhaps the best of all, and won their sixth in a row, 4-1 over the Mets, and have outscored the opposition 39-5 during that streak (five games allowing one run and the shutout yesterday). This is the first three-game sweep of the year (and first at home since... another three-game sweep of the Mets last September), and puts the Cubs in first place by themselves, with the losses by the Reds and Astros today.

Matt Clement, who began this streak with a terrific game on Monday, suddenly turned into Kerry Wood today. He got quick two-strike counts on just about everyone, and took a no-hitter one out into the seventh, with only two walks, when Karim Garcia, who had just about knocked himself out of the game in the fourth when he collided with the RF wall chasing Alex Gonzalez' foul popup (which he hung onto for an out), smacked a solo homer into the suddenly-turning-brown shrubbery in CF. I expect, as last year, that it'll be painted green during the road trip.

Clement also struck out 13, a career high, and threw 115 pitches in his eight innings. He only went to a three-ball count on three batters -- the two walks, and a 3-ball count on Piazza in the 7th. Oddly, during one of Piazza's at-bats, the scoreboard showed an ad for Connie's PIZZA, leading us to wonder if Piazza had gone so far as to be sponsored. Didn't help. He had a miserable weekend here and hardly looks like the Piazza of old. At 35, he may be on a steeper decline than the Mets would like.

And, let's give credit to Joe Borowski, whose confidence-building appearance on Friday, translated into a quick 1-2-3 ninth today, throwing only 13 pitches. Perhaps Joe is back on the right track.

Neither of today's homers -- the Garcia HR and Aramis Ramirez' 2-run shot -- needed any help from the wind, by the way, and Ramirez' was welcome considering the way the Cubs were running the bases in the first couple of innings, running into an out at third in the first, and an out at second (with no one out) in the 2nd. I think both runners went on their own, so don't blame Wendell Kim for this one.

The Cubs have eschewed most regular giveaways this year in favor of prize giveaways where you get a scratch-off card for a small number of winners, today 100 winners of a 1958 Ernie Banks jersey (Banks was in attendance, and presented an award to Sammy Sosa for breaking his club home run record last Sunday, before the game).

Anyway, in addition to the scratch-off winners (I won two autographed balls last year, but have yet to win this year), they are announcing several "second-chance" winners based on a number on the card. So Jeff and I took turns scouting out the concourse and ramps for discarded cards, of which we found about a dozen.

On one of these forays, I came back with only one card, but then announced to everyone that I had found something much better: a $20 bill, which was just lying by itself on the floor, with no one standing near it. So, no winning jersey, but an unexpectedly profitable day anyway!

Here's what'll tell you that our little group knows each other just so well. Right after Garcia's homer, Mike said to me, "So, when is Phil going to say 'Get the pen up!' C'mon, time it!"

I said, "No. You'll have to wait until there's another hit."

Sure enough, two batters later, Eric Valent singled and as if on cue, Phil yelled, "Get the pen up!" Mike shook his head in near disbelief. Phil, despite working for DeVry University, has never been all that technologically oriented, and up till now has never read this blog. But tonight, he's getting an e-mail showing him where it is. I asked him how long it will take him to read the e-mail, and he claims he'll read it right away. We shall see.

Before I go back to comments on the game, I have to pat myself on the back a little for beating Howard and Jon at their usual game of really bad puns.

When Jeff Duncan came up in the 9th, Howard said, "Here's the donut heir."

I said, "No, isn't that Krispy Karim?"

I've been hanging around these guys waaaaaaay too long.

For Jon's birthday, Jessica, in from New York, passed out some cookies she'd been given by one of her mother's clients. They were in the shape of a ballplayer, a baseball and a glove.

Well, that gave us the opening to have our own scoreboard race, when the scoreboard had what is perhaps the lamest race they've ever put on. I can't even remember the sponsor, and isn't that the point? They put up a glove, bat and ball and call it "Batty", "Bally" and "Glovey".

Howard took a real baseball out of his backpack and raced it against the cookie glove. The ball won the scoreboard race. The end result is that the cookie glove got broken up into pieces and eaten. Yes, even me, Mr. Low-Carb, had to have a bite. After all, it was Jon's birthday!

A quick comment on the war of words that Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has started about the disparity in attention that the two teams in Chicago get. Ozzie, put a sock in it. You played here long enough to know it's a Cub town, and the Sox do get the attention that the Cubs do, when they win. And if Frank Thomas had the personality of Sammy Sosa, he'd own this town the way Sosa does.

Mike said to me during the off-season, that hiring Guillen was either the smartest thing the Sox ever did, or the dumbest.

The jury's still out on that one.

Finally, the last two teams the Cubs have played can't by any stretch be put in the upper echelons of baseball this year, so perhaps their dominance isn't representative of what's to come. On the other hand, teams that want to put in a claim to be top contenders, ought to dominate the weaker teams in this way and the Cubs have made a statement this week.

The Diamondbacks, who are next on the agenda, have also gotten off to a poor start, and already have one of their starting players (Roberto Alomar) out for several weeks.

Tomorrow, Carlos Zambrano faces Randy Johnson, a pitcher who's owned the Cubs for most of his career, but whom this Cub team beat up pretty well in the last game played at Mesa in spring training.

Bring 'em on.