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Just What The Doctor Ordered

Chip Caray, believe it or not, said it best, in the eighth inning: "Maybe the Cubs should get in to the next stop on the road at 2 am."

They'll have a chance, actually, to do that on Thursday night, though they're coming home to play instead of another road stop, as the schedule-maker has for the second and last time this year, provided for a night game on the road and a day game at home.

If that's what it takes, keep these guys up till all hours of the night more often, because they came out with their hitting shoes on in Houston tonight, smacking twelve hits, including four homers, two by Todd Walker, and beat the Astros easily 7-2.

In fact, Walker would have given back the second homer, as two pitches before he hit it, he'd smoked a pitch down the right field line that was about two inches foul. Why is this important? Because he had a triple, single and homer in his other three at-bats, and a double would have made him the first Cub to hit for the cycle since Mark Grace in 1993. Walker kicked the dirt in mock disgust nearing first base, but it was a night for happiness in the Cub dugout.

Mark Prior threw 92 effective pitches, struck out eight and walked only one, in picking up his first win of the 2004 season. He ran out of gas in the sixth and Dusty wisely (yes, wisely!) pulled him after he allowed a double to Lance Berkman.

Jimmy Anderson, who used to give the Cubs fits when he was with Pittsburgh, came in and threw three terrific innings of relief. Unfortunately, Anderson actually pitched four innings in this game, and by the time the Astros saw him the second time around, they got three hits and two runs, which didn't do much for his stat line. Anderson, who had been mostly a starter in his years with the Pirates and last year with the Reds, got his first major league save, and more importantly, saved the rest of the bullpen, which got a real workout yesterday in Anaheim.

As good as Roger Clemens was in shutting off the Cub offense twelve days ago at Wrigley Field, that's how easily the Cubs solved him today, getting ten hits, including one of Walker's homers and one by Aramis Ramirez. So, the Cubs now are 2-1 lifetime against Clemens, having also beaten him in the famous interleague game at Wrigley Field against the Yankees on June 7, 2003.

I'm going to rev up the cliche meter a little bit, if you don't mind... the Cub offense seems to be warming up just as the weather in Chicago turns warm and beautiful, as it was today (after some pretty nasty-looking thunderstorms roared through the area early this morning), and the third win in a row moved the Cubs past the Astros into sole possession of third place in the NL Central (pending the result of tonight's rain-delayed Reds-Phillies game, the Cubs could be tied for second with Cincinnati).

That sets the stage for Al's first road trip of the season. Tomorrow morning I'll fly to Houston and see the last three games of the series at the Juice Box, a ballpark I've never visited before. I'll report on tomorrow night's game from there, either late tomorrow night, or more likely, Wednesday morning.