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One Day At A Time

Remember yesterday I decided to give the Tomato Inning a day off?

Today, I wasn't even sure I'd get a sandwich, since Howard decided not to come and gave his ticket to his son Jon, and I had asked him to tell Jon to get me a sandwich if he was stopping -- but when Jeff (who along with Krista is living with Jon in Howard's building) woke up today, Jon and his dog were gone.

Turns out they had gone to stay with Jon's girlfriend, because the dog gets scared during thunderstorms (of which they had a loud one last night) and Jon was doing Jeff a favor, because otherwise the dog burrows in with Jeff.

Too Much Information. Right?

Anyway, that's more or less irrelevant, except that no one could get in touch with Jon today. When I ran into him outside the 7-11 before the game, he had in fact brought a sandwich.

So I let him do the honors of holding my scorecard and moving it around while I dropped the tomato.

It landed on the exact square where Sammy Sosa hit the game-winning homer.

Or, as Mike e-mailed me:

Forget the damn tomato, find something that provides a driving rain whenever Sammy bats in the late innings.

This, of course, recalls the homer he hit to the opposite field against the White Sox on July 3, into a rain that was falling even harder than today's.

Sammy's 18th homer, and 557th of his career, won the game today, as the Cubs came from behind twice to beat the Reds 5-4 and reclaim second place in the NL Central, stop a three-game losing streak, and generally look pretty good.

Today's other superstitions: I decided it was time to bring out a brand new scoring pencil, which I did, and of course, now I must wear today's cap of choice (my 2004 Cub Convention cap) until they lose. Yes, I will change my underwear. (Too Much Information, right?)

This despite Matt Clement playing Haz-Matt in the first inning, giving up a bunt single and then two more hard-hit balls, resulting in a 2-0 deficit, and then after the Cubs tied the game on Moises Alou's 21st homer in the third, giving it right back with two homers, including a rocket onto Waveland by Jason LaRue.

Clement pretty well settled down after that, and Derrek Lee tied the game with a two-run bomb of his own in the sixth, resulting in what Jon and I felt was a nice pattern on the scoreboard:
 
REDS 200 200
CUBS 002 002

I figured it was time the pattern was broken in the seventh and it was. It started raining hard in the top of the inning, and I think the umpires let the half-inning finish because the game was tied, and it was almost like what they did in that White Sox game on July 3, play the inning as if it were the top of the 9th. Unlike that game, I believe they knew the game would be resumed at some point.

It took the ground crew a while to dry out the infield, and the RF bullpen had nearly a foot of water in it (though it drained fairly quickly), and not two minutes after play resumed, it started raining hard again. That's when Sammy smacked the homer into the LF basket right below the family section -- that's a place that never even used to have a basket until seats were put there in the 1980's.

It didn't rain for too long, and the game was never held up, despite a prolonged visit to the mound by Reds manager Dave Miley, who was clearly trying to stall the umpires into delaying the game again.

Phil was happy today because Todd Wellemeyer got into the game. I told him it was only because the rest of the bullpen had pretty well been used up yesterday, and he was nearly beside himself when LaTroy Hawkins came in to throw the ninth; he kept saying "Keep Wellemeyer out there!"

Wellemeyer had thrown extremely well, and got his first win of the season as a result, but we told him that, for better or worse, Hawkins is still the closer and thus, you have to put him in, because what kind of message are you sending to your players if you don't?

Hawkins had himself a good outing, giving up a harmless single to Adam Dunn and striking out two, including D'Angelo Jimenez to end the game. Incidentally, the last out that Wellemeyer got before the rain delay astonished us; it was a called third strike on John Vander Wal that looked for all the world like it was about a foot out of the strike zone. However, we will take it.

I must issue an apology here to a reader of this blog whose name I did not quite get -- I think it was Mike Hall or Mike Hull; he came up and introduced himself during the rain delay, and I was so focused on keeping me and the scorecard dry that I just said "Hi, and thanks for reading!", and I'm sorry, Mike, I really would have loved to talk to you some more, considering you came all the way from Orlando to see the game. If by chance you are in the bleachers tomorrow, stop on by and we'll talk some more. That is, if it's not raining, and the forecast for tomorrow is much like today's.

During the 8th inning we saw Jon Leicester, who had been sent down when Mike Remlinger was activated, warming up in the bullpen, and we knew a roster move must have been made. It was. Francis Beltran, whose command has been poor over the last few outings, was sent back to Iowa, which is a smart move. Beltran has tremendous ability, but I think, and apparently the Cubs agree, that he needs a little more seasoning before he is thrust into a major league pennant race. The Cubs also traded Ricky Gutierrez, who has been at Iowa, to Boston for a PTBNL, and no, that's not going to be Nomar, unless this is part of a larger deal to come.

And this still is a pennant race, everyone. Do not lose hope. Do not give up. A year ago this coming Saturday, July 24, the Cubs had just been swept in a two-game series by the Phillies at home, and looked bad doing it (Kerry Wood had given up eight runs in an eventual nine-run inning), and were 50-51, in third place, 5.5 games out and 7.5 out of the wild-card lead. Incidentally, on that date Sammy Sosa hit his 21st homer of the year, and today's, as I mentioned, was his 18th. I'm still waiting for him to go on one of his patented hot streaks.

Now would be the time. Now would be the time for someone, anyone, to carry this team for a week.