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The Hidden Game Of Baseball

Sometimes, it's what happens before the game even starts that is either:

a) more interesting or

b) more significant

than the game itself.

OK, maybe I'm pouring it on here a little, but we had a very significant time before tonight's impressive 7-3 Cub win over the Cardinals.

First of all, Sammy Sosa hit in the batting cage with the regulars, something he wasn't expected to do for several days. He hit several balls into the bleachers, and didn't appear to be in any pain whatsoever.

I don't want to get overoptimistic, but we'll have to see how Sammy feels tomorrow. He may be closer to being back than anyone could have dreamed.

This was also my son Mark's season debut at Wrigley Field, a treat since tomorrow is the last day of school. He spent the entire BP trying to get Greg Maddux to throw him a ball; Maddux seemed more interested in throwing them to a young woman standing across the aisle from Mark. The woman was nice enough to give Mark one of the baseballs, so he was happy for the night -- and no, I did not give in and buy him a bag of sugar (read: cotton candy) tonight. This was his first time back at the Yard since game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, and perhaps we exorcised some of those demons tonight, though Miles showed up around game time and pulled out some headphones that looked eerily like Steve Bartman's.

Then, just as Cardinals BP was ending, I was walking back to my seat to see a Jim Edmonds drive aiming at my head. I moved out of the way and it grazed me on the right temple, knocking my sunglasses off and temporarily knocking one of the side pieces off (I shoved it back in). Then the ball went on to hit a woman who wasn't watching, square in the side of the head, knocking her over. The paramedics who are stationed at our stairs came right over and tended to her, and she did go to first aid with a bag of ice on her head. She was talking and said she was fine, and later we all saw her with a couple of mai tai's, so I suppose all was well.

But the most important thing in kickstarting the Cub offense was the sandwich Howard brought me from Jimmy John's -- where he stops nearly every day, and where many days I'll ask him to pick up "the usual" -- a turkey sub with tomatoes, onions and mayo.

No, I'm serious. While I was eating the sandwich, right before the national anthem, a tomato slid out of the sandwich and plopped right on the Cub third inning on my then-blank scorecard.

When did the Cubs explode? Right there in the bottom of the third. So now I am going to have to get the sandwich every day, and we'll see where the tomato falls.

Six straight hits produced the four-run explosion, and it would have been more if Jose Macias, who led off with a single, hadn't been caught stealing. Derrek Lee had three doubles, and should have been credited with a triple in the fifth, when a single he hit bounced over Jim Edmonds' glove -- Edmonds never touched the ball. It appears that Lee is indeed starting to turn the offense on in his traditional month to do so, June, and not a moment too soon. All in all the Cubs had five doubles and thirteen hits, without hitting a single homer, proving (you listening, Corey Patterson?) that you do not have to hit home runs to have a good offensive game at Wrigley Field. The Cubs also improved their night-game record to 10-17 (20-10 in day games, and thankfully, the next two games are afternoon affairs).

Matt Clement threw another really nice game tonight, allowing only five hits over his eight innings, and two of them were solo homers by Scott Rolen (who is leading the free world in RBI with 62). He struck out nine, and Mike commented that this was a Fergie Jenkins-style game, and I agreed -- Fergie used to do this all the time, give up solo homers to good hitters, and shut down everyone else. Clement threw 113 pitches, which isn't too many, and though Pat Hughes called it a "difficult, hot, humid night" on his radio post-game show, it really wasn't -- once the sun went down it was pretty pleasant, and there was a nice breeze going most of the evening, even though the game-time temperature was reported as 90 degrees.

I was puzzled by Dusty's choice of LaTroy Hawkins in a non-save situation -- with that expansive 12-man pitching staff, why use your closer when you have a day game tomorrow? This would have been a good spot to test out Francis Beltran in a situation where the game wasn't too close, but close enough, and some challenging hitters (Ray Lankford, Reggie Sanders) came up to bat. Luckily, Hawkins dispatched the Cardinals in a quick 12 pitches, so he can go tomorrow.

There was an interesting situation brought up in the Cardinal eighth, when Roger Cedeno disagreed with a strike call and dawdled getting back to the batter's box. Plate umpire Rick Reed emphatically pointed to the box (you could almost hear him saying "Get back in there!") and at that point Cedeno slammed his bat to the ground and was ejected. This shows you why Cedeno, despite obvious talent, is on his sixth team.

Anyway, Japanese outfielder So Taguchi (I even got Mike to threaten to whack me with the clipboard by saying "He is SO Taguchi") was sent up to pinch-hit with the count 0-2 and struck out.

The at-bat is charged to Cedeno, per major league rule 10.17(b):

When the batter leaves the game with two strikes against him, and the substitute batter completes a strikeout, charge the strikeout and the time at bat to the first batter. If the substitute batter completes the turn at bat in any other manner, including a base on balls, score the action as having been that of the substitute batter.

It's odd, but that's the way it works. If Taguchi had done anything other than strike out, he'd have had his own at-bat, but by swinging at strike three, he got a strikeout charged to Cedeno's stat line. Serves Cedeno right.

Prior vs. Morris tomorrow. That ought to be fun.