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Dave Was Impressed

While we were all sitting there glum and depressed over the Cubs' inability to score runs (through the sixth inning today, it was two runs in the previous 24 innings), Dave, who was at his last game before his son, our friend Brian, gets married next Saturday, told us that he sees positive signs in virtually everything.

He said today's 6-1 Cub win over the Pirates turned on three events:

* Pirate substitute manager Pete MacKanin's failure to lift lefty Mike Gonzalez after Corey Patterson had reached on Randall Simon's throwing error which allowed the first run to score. He didn't even have Salomon Torres (who never got into the game) warming up until it was too late, giving right-handed-hitting Rey Ordonez a chance to hit against Gonzalez, and Ordonez drove in the winning runs with a sharp two-run single up the middle (the bad part about that is, that hit probably kept Ordonez in the starting lineup for another week).

I agreed with this, and pointed out that it seemed like MacKanin, who has never managed a major league team and is substituting for Lloyd McClendon this weekend because McClendon is under suspension, was more proud of himself for being able to walk out to the mound and hold his left hand in the air to call in Gonzalez, than to actually make the right strategic move.

* Ordonez' hit itself, which broke open the game, followed by Carlos Zambrano laying down a beauty of a sacrifice bunt. This bunt moved two runners into scoring position and though neither of them scored, the execution of the play shows that the Cubs are still doing the right things.

* Finally, Todd Hollandsworth hustling down the line to beat a double-play throw (Dave said Bobby Hill hot-dogged his relay to short), scoring a run and setting the stage for the absolute bomb of a home run that Derrek Lee sent bouncing down Kenmore Avenue.

Will this be the hit that finally breaks Lee out of his season-long slump? After all, it is June, typically the month when Lee breaks out (from 2001-2003, he hit .223 in April and .246 in May, then .304 in June. This year, he hit .233 in April and .275 in May. Can we expect an even better June?).

I can't say enough about Carlos Zambrano, who has now beaten the Pirates in each of the four series the Cubs have faced them, 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA against them, and we were debating whether Dusty should have sent him out there for the ninth. He'd thrown 113 pitches, which is a lot but not ridiculously so. Dave said he'd do it. I agreed. Dusty had LaTroy Hawkins warming up while the score was 3-1, so at least for today, Joe Borowski has lost his closer's job.

Meanwhile, Zambrano, who has been the most consistent starter all year, is slowly putting together an All-Star season. I was listening to the post-game show on the radio driving home and Z said that having Mark Prior back has already given a lift to the entire team.

After Lee's homer, Francis Beltran hurriedly got up. Fortunately for him, Corey Patterson chose that time to get a hit, so Beltran had extra time to warm up, and threw an uneventful ninth inning. I think if there is a "closer of the future" on the Cub staff today, it's Beltran, who has great stuff (23 strikeouts in 20.2 IP), and if he can learn to harness his control (11 walks so far), he seems to have the mental makeup for the job.

Dave and I also agreed on the subject of Borowski. What he has done so far this year -- not throw strikes, not have command of his breaking ball, and lowered velocity -- all indicate some sort of injury that he's trying to "be a gamer" through. But this is just hurting the team and himself, and he ought to admit it, even if that means surgery. This is what happened to Rod Beck in 1998 -- he admitted later that he was hurt at the end of that season, and if he'd have had offseason surgery after 1998, he'd have been ready to go early in 1999, and not blown the early saves he did, AND make his injury worse by trying to pitch through it.

We also debated yesterday's decision by Dusty Baker to have Todd Walker bunt after Jose Macias' leadoff double in the ninth. I said I wouldn't have done that. Dave said he would have. He also said, "You could get six baseball people together and three would do it and three wouldn't." This is almost certainly true. The "book" says that you play for the tie at home. But, I say, given the fact that the Cubs have had trouble getting runners home lately, and that Macias was already in scoring position, and that Walker had hit the ball hard all day, let him hit.

Moises Alou was taken out in an odd double-switch; I mentioned this to Dave, who thought it was OK, but Jose Macias was put in the nine spot and the pitcher in the three spot. IF it got bad enough that the Cubs would have had to bat in the bottom of the ninth, Macias was going to bat anyway and then you lose Alou.

However, this was done not for double-switch purposes, apparently. On the same postgame radio show, Dusty Baker said that Alou felt "something" and so he was taken out as a precaution only. It better not be more than "something". Alou's been the only offensive bright spot, and his defense and hustle on the basepaths (he even stole a base today) have been as good as any time since 2001.

Finally, the last couple of days they have given away prizes to various seat numbers. Among the numbers called have been bleacher ticket numbers that we recognize as season ticket account numbers. Unfortunately, because they are now giving us the lower half of the ticket with the barcode and that number is on the top half, unless you know the number, you're out of luck.

I know mine, but mine hasn't been called. We were able to sleuth out the winner from Wednesday (an Empress Casino package), and today's winner (from some investment company -- what are they giving away, free stocks?) bore the number of a ticket I had bought for Tuesday night so my son Mark can come to the game. But I can't remember who I got it from!

We'll figure it out, I'm sure.

Today marks the 1/3 point of the season, the 54th game, and the Cubs are 28-26. For perspective, on this date last year, the eventual World Champion Marlins were 28-33.