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NOW we're talking.

This is about the least likely of the outcomes of the series in San Diego, isn't it? I mean, given that only one of the three starting pitchers (Maddux) was someone we had any confidence in?

So the Cubs reverse their 2-4 homestand of last week by having a 4-2 road trip (and after losing the first two games of it to boot) and come home Tuesday having made themselves and us extremely happy with today's convincing 4-2 win over the Padres.

I spent much of the early afternoon at school, where they were having a ceremony honoring the head of school who is retiring at the end of the school year, and among the presentations was a video made by the 5th graders, which included a poem written and read by Rachel. Meanwhile, Mark was playing baseball ("Did you win?" "Yes." "What was the score?" "I don't know!").

So by the time I got home, I was definitely ready to see this game, and especially once I found out it was on the INHD channel that I now get as part of my high-definition package, and sometimes they black out local games, but not this one -- so I decided to watch not only for the incredible picture (and if you haven't seen a HD ballgame, hie yourself down to your local TV store and see one there), but to check out the Padres announcers, since that was the feed they were carrying.

My friend Dan had told me how bad Matt Vasgersian, a former Brewers announcer now doing play-by-play for San Diego, was. I didn't really believe him.

Until today. Vasgersian is a walking cliche meter stuck on high, my friends. It's all Rick Sutcliffe can do to simply ignore Vasgersian and do the important commentary by himself.

As bad as Vasgersian is, that's how good Sutcliffe is. I'd love to see him back in Chicago to succeed Ron Santo whenever Ron decides to retire. Though Vasgersian roots unabashedly for the Padres, Sutcliffe attempts to be a neutral analyst, but his Cub bias occasionally shows through. At the end of the game he was giving high praise to Dusty Baker and the entire organization, telling everyone in his audience that he could see exactly why the Cubs are favored not only to win the Central, but to "go farther than they did last year."

You could almost feel the Cubbie blue oozing through Sutcliffe's veins.

Both announcers were as amazed as I have been about the human being who is wearing Jose Macias' uniform this weekend. He really was an absolute wrecking crew against the Padres the entire series, going 8-for-15 on the weekend with two triples, a homer today, and four RBI, raising his season average to .333. It made sense to start him today anyway against the lefty David Wells, and man, did he come through.

Now let's hope Dusty has the sense to sit him at home, now that Todd Walker can play again. There's still no timetable for Mark Grudzielanek to come back, and why should they with these two hitting the way they are? And since Dusty has now given Sammy Sosa two days off in the last four (both day games after night games) and the Cubs won them both, look for him to do this again, considering Sosa seemed rejuvenated over the weekend. It'll be a lot harder for him to do it for the home game on Thursday, though -- can you imagine a sellout crowd showing up at Wrigley Field only to find no Sosa in the lineup? Today's day off was, oddly enough, brought on by the same thing I'm dealing with today -- sneezes, which apparently gave Sammy back spasms.

Michael Barrett also homered for the Cubs, giving them an insurance run, and giving the Cubs seven homers in the three games. So who says you can't hit home runs at (Insert Corporate Name Here) Park? Six of the seven (all but Corey Patterson's) were hit by right-handed hitters, so perhaps that part of the theory -- that the park is death on lefties -- may be true. For their part, the Padres hit only one home run off the Cubs in the three games (by a right-handed hitter, Ramon Hernandez).

Glendon Rusch ran out of gas one out short of getting the win, and I was wishing Dusty had left him in because he really did throw well, until I saw his pitch count -- an alarming 100 pitches in less than five innings. The bullpen did an excellent job; Francis Beltran, LaTroy Hawkins, Kyle Farnsworth and Joe Borowski shut down the Padres the rest of the way, allowing no hits and only two harmless walks. Borowski in particular seems to have found himself again, with another swift outing -- it took him only eight pitches to retire the Padres in the ninth for his seventh save of the season. Despite Borowski's troubles this year, he now has a streak of 21 consecutive saves going back to August 5, 2003, which breaks a club record set by Randy Myers in 1994.

I had thought it had been a long time since the Cubs faced David Wells, since he had only been in the NL for half a season in 1995 with the Reds, but you only have to go back to last year, when he beat the Cubs 5-3 in the first Cub-Yankee game last June 6. He also pitched against the Cubs as a White Sox on June 8, 2001, when he had to leave the game after four batters due to his back problems. Wells actually looks in better shape than he has in years, and at 41 pitched creditably today.

With the Mets' 9th-inning comeback and extra-inning 3-2 win over Houston today, the Cubs return home tied for first, and we'll see how Dusty Baker handles his former player, Barry Bonds, in this year's Bonds-Walkfest. Bonds has never hit well in Wrigley Field, believe it or not, and over the last three years (2001-2003) is 3-for-21 at Wrigley with only one home run. Guess who that was hit off of?

It was Bonds' 50th homer of 2001, setting at the time a career high for him, off Joe Borowski on August 11, in the only start he made for the Cubs, called up from Iowa to replace Kerry Wood, and the Giants blew out the Cubs 9-4 that day.

So, I'll take those little sniffles I developed today, and rest up for the homestand starting Tuesday.