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Wendell Kim Must Go

How many more of these is it going to take for Jim Hendry to call Dusty Baker in and tell him his pet coach has to go?

This one was so obvious and blatant that virtually every one of the 40,033 in attendance tonight (and incidentally, that's a highly suspicious number, since it was identical to the reported paid attendance on Saturday) knew that Kim had made a mistake.

If you didn't see it, Aramis Ramirez had led off the sixth inning with the Cubs' tenth hit of the game, a line-drive double into the LF corner. Michael Barrett followed with what another announcer in town might have called a duck -- well, you know.... into right field, just in between Reggie Sanders, Tony Womack and Albert Pujols, none of whom could reach it.

Ramirez doesn't have great speed to begin with and he's just coming off a groin injury. And if he stays at third base, the Cubs have two runners on, nobody out, a tie game, the crowd into it and Alex Gonzalez, who had doubled in his last at-bat, coming to the plate, and maybe the Cardinals get their bullpen up.

Nope. Ol' Wavin' Wendell strikes again, sends Ramirez, who is thrown out easily, and that took the air out of the crowd and the Cubs; instead of two on and none out, there's a runner on first and one out and Gonzalez promptly hit into a double play, and though the game was still tied, you knew that was it, and indeed it was, as Scott Rolen's homer in the eighth gave the Cardinals a 5-4 win over the sinking Cubs, clinching the season series over the Cubs with their 10th win to the Cubs' eight, putting the Cubs nine games out of first place and making tomorrow's game, now to be pitched by Glendon Rusch, as Mark Prior is going to throw a simulated game instead.

We tried everything tonight. Devoted reader Chad Savage, having just gotten married, arrived in the bleachers with his new bride Regina tonight, having spent way too much (OK, if you really want to know, $130 a ticket) to come and sit with us, and I enjoyed meeting the two of them. I even had Chad do the honors for tonight's Tomato Inning (holding my scorecard and moving it around while I did the ceremonial drop).

The tomato works in mysterious ways. The only square on which anyone batted where it dropped was Corey Patterson's double play in the third. But two innings later, the bats exploded, thus making up for the two innings early that it had worked yesterday, when Jose Macias homered in the at-bat prior to the tomato square. I also, just before I left for the game, ate the tomato that Jeff's friend Mark had brought me yesterday. I couldn't remember the last time the Cubs had five hits in an inning, and it had the crowd rocking, that is, until Wavin' Wendell threw a wet blanket over everything.

That was after Carlos Zambrano had provided some excitement by hitting Jim Edmonds in the first inning. There's been bad blood between these teams since last year, and there's no love lost between Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker. The hit batsman wasn't intentional -- in the first, Z didn't have any control, having walked two before the HBP. He got out of it nicely and after that settled down, giving up only a monster homer to Edmonds in his next at-bat, one that flew to the CF side of us onto the street, one of the longest ones I can ever remember being hit to RF. Z was throwing well until the eighth, when he got in trouble by walking Tony Womack for the second time (if Womack had been this good last August and September, he might still be a Cub), and after the Scott Rolen homer that iced the game, you knew Z was going to let his emotions get the best of him. He had appeared to be yelling and screaming at Edmonds after he had hit the long homer, perhaps justifiably so since Edmonds stood there and admired it, something pitchers absolutely hate -- and that's when the benches emptied, to the usual effect of having all the players mill around for a few minutes screaming at each other. So, in the eighth, he plunked Edmonds again, getting himself (and Dusty) tossed and getting the Cardinals out of their dugout again, though that was short-lived.

I had just about to tell everyone that Z was showing a lot of heart when he did this. I do think that Z wears his heart on his sleeve, but sometimes he lets his emotions get the best of him, and if he could only harness that energy into his pitching, he'd be nearly unstoppable.

My son Mark came to the game tonight, and I made the mistake of letting him keep score with one of the pencils I got in Houston. I figured it was acquired at a victory, so it was safe. Never again. Jessica also brought a child -- no, not hers, her nephew Jamie, who seemed most interested in the stories that Howard and I had to tell about the ball we threw back instead of Rafael Furcal's home run last July. I had called Jeff earlier to remind him to bring his light-up cap, which had brought us good luck in night games last year, but it didn't have any effect tonight. I may have to resort to something drastic, like changing scoring pencils.

The crowd turned ugly in the eighth, as a huge fight broke out near the juniper bushes in CF, resulting in at least six people being ejected, one of whom fought the security guards all the way down the stairs next to us on the way to Cubbie Jail. Even after that, when Alex Gonzalez walked in the ninth to put the tying run on, the crowd got back into the game, only to see Todd Walker hit into a game-ending DP, after he also thought he had walked on a 3-1 pitch, and flung his bat away, only to be sent back to the batter's box by plate umpire Tim Tschida.

Seriously, umpires hate that kind of thing. Mike has said to me many times, and I agree, that no hitter should take first base on a walk until the umpire says, "Take your base." (or whatever it is that major league umpires say in that situation) Doing the bat-flinging thing on a borderline pitch is only going to get the next borderline call to go against you.

I'm going to pick a bit at Michael Barrett tonight, despite his two hits... he also had two passed balls, neither of which had an effect on the scoring (the first one was in the scoreless first inning, the other was irrelevant because the runner scored on a home run), but this sort of thing is eventually going to lose ballgames for you.

With the Giants beating the awful Diamondbacks tonight (and how in the world I could have picked them to win the NL West, I'll never know), the Cubs drop two games behind in the wild-card race, dropping also a game behind the Padres, who beat up on Colorado. There are still seventy games left, so it's way too early to panic.

The bottom line is, however, that as a fan you can take a loss if your pitcher doesn't pitch well or if your hitters don't hit.

When your third-base coach takes you out of the game and has made a pattern of doing this for nearly two years, it's time make a change.

Come on, Dusty & Jim. Show us you mean business. Let Wendell go.