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Lesson Learned

Here's what we learned today:

Glendon Rusch stinks out of the bullpen.

He's been so good as a starter replacing Kerry Wood, that it looked like the Cubs would have a good extra lefthanded arm in the bullpen now that Wood is back and definitely pitching tomorrow.

Uh, no.

Jim Edmonds hit Rusch's first pitch for a single and by the time Rusch was mercifully removed for Francis Beltran, the Cardinals had turned a potentially winnable 3-2 deficit into a 5-2 Cardinals win over the Cubs this afternoon, the eighth win in a row for St. Louis and the Cubs' fifth loss in a row, matching the longest losing streak of the year so far, and dropping them to eight games out of first place.

Those of you, who, like me, have tried to compare this to last year ought to quit it right now. Each season is different -- this year alone, we've seen the Giants, who were supposedly dead and buried, 10 games out of first place (and 8 games under .500) in May, run off a ten-game winning streak, and find themselves in the thick of contention; the Marlins, who a couple of weeks ago seemed to be running away with the NL East, are now in fourth place, and at .500. Heck, even the Devil Rays won twelve in a row this year.

It seems to be a streaky year for many teams, and there are still seventy-six games remaining. So many things can happen in seventy-six games.

However, the Cub offense has to revive itself from its moribund state. In the last six games the Cubs have scored the following number of runs:

Two, zero, two, zero, one, two.

And the first one of those was a 2-1 win over the White Sox, which, incidentally, is the last time the Cubs even had a lead.

I call again on Jim Hendry to release Rey Ordonez (who was forced into action today when Ramon Martinez sprained his ankle trying to beat a relay throw, on which he was called out, though replays indicated he was probably safe), and replace him with... well, anyone. Benji Gil. Ricky Gutierrez. Walter the scorecard vendor who sells me my scorecards. ANYONE.

Aramis Ramirez was on deck today when Jose Macias struck out to end the game, and while normally I'd say that was the wrong guy in the game, I suppose it doesn't make any sense to put someone out there who's not 100% (Ramirez) when you are three runs down. If the score had still been 3-2, then Ramirez would have been the right guy in that situation. We hope Ramirez can play tomorrow night, when Kerry Wood makes his return. Is he a savior? No. But you also cannot downplay the psychological lift it ought to give the ballclub. Any team can go through an offensive slump, and this one just seems to have come at the worst possible time. Matt Clement again pitched well enough to win -- 3 earned runs in six IP, but he'd have had to throw a shutout today to guarantee victory.

It simply is not realistic to think that the Cardinals will play for two and a half more months at this level, nor that the Cubs will be this bad for two and a half more months.

Sammy Sosa was about the entire offense today, as he doubled and scored the first run, then sent his 554th career homer into the right-field seats in the sixth, making the score 3-2 at the time. The Cub contingent of fans was particularly loud today, or maybe that was just how the Fox audio people were making it sound. Today's crowd of 50,569 was the largest in St. Louis since they removed a lot of the CF upper-deck seats in a 1997 renovation.

While the Cubs were snoring through their latest offensive non-production, I finished "The Fenway Project", the book I'd started last night.

Kindred spirits to the Cubs, the Red Sox lost that June 28, 2002 game to the Braves 4-2.

On that same day, that the Cubs put up an 8-0 lead against the White Sox, only to lose 13-9. As I was walking out of what was then still Comiskey Park that day, I heard the usual "Cubs suck" calls. I turned to one such Sox fan and said, "I can't argue with you today."