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Catching Up

This is what I wind up doing on days after homestands end, because with work and the ballgames every day, things wind up getting let go, piled up, you know the drill.

So, I spent the morning running errands, and I just know you're interested in the highlights:

* I took my umbrella to the dry cleaners in the neighborhood, hoping that they could fix it, rather than have to send it to a luggage store. Luckily, the nice Korean ladies who run the place said they could. Charge: $3.

* A couple of weeks ago I lost a piece of my sunglasses, which one of the local sunglasses shops said they could order in a week. Well, it's been two weeks. They said it was backordered, which means waiting another week.

* Then, a trip to the gas station and the car wash, re-stocking on low-carb chocolate bars, a run through the drive-through ATM, and back to catch up on snail-mail.

* And, discussing some moves for one of my fantasy league teams, including dropping Magglio Ordonez (who went back on the DL today) and picking up Eric Chavez. I was actually upset when I checked another of my teams and realized the two moves I made last night, supposedly to take effect today, didn't happen -- because one of them was picking up Dustin Hermanson, who's pitching for the Giants tonight against the Cardinals.

Oh, well.

After all this, it was time to relax and sit down and watch the Cubs try to catch up as well, which they did with a decisive 5-1 win over the Phillies in their first visit to the new ballpark in Philadelphia tonight. And, since the Cardinals lost to the Giants 7-2, the Cubs picked up a game in the division race -- and you'll see below why I'm mentioning this, rather than hoping the Giants, who are ahead of the Cubs in the wild-card race, would have lost this game.

(And besides, I can't root for the Cardinals anyway.)

As advertised, the park is homer-friendly. Three Cubs went deep -- Derrek Lee (#17), Moises Alou (#25), and Sammy Sosa (#19, and career homer #558, putting him five behind Reggie Jackson for 8th place on the all-time list).

It didn't start auspiciously tonight -- I was watching weather radars (so sue me, I'm a weather geek) and tonight's Mets/Braves game in New York was rained out, but the rain cleared through Philadelphia a couple of hours before game time, though Chip and Steve reported at the beginning of the telecast that the rain was falling so hard that, among other things, it prevented three of the four scheduled umpires from making it for the start of the game. The only major league umpire who took the field for the first pitch was vacation replacement Darren Spagnardi, though Mike DiMuro arrived in the middle innings. Perhaps the Cubs should be thankful for this, because veteran Cub-hater Joe West was scheduled to be one of the other umpires, and based on the listed positions in the boxscore, West should be the plate umpire tomorrow.

Joe West, plate umpire; Carlos Zambrano, starting pitcher. This oughta be good.

Tonight, the Cubs got lucky that Jim Thome had taken a cortisone shot and so was sitting firmly anchored to the bench while Chase Utley, normally a second baseman, played first. Even so, Kerry Wood looked pretty bad in the first inning, as the first three batters reached base on a triple, single (scoring a run) and a walk.

But Wood settled down after that, and that was all the Phillies wrote; they had only four hits after the first inning, and though Kerry walked four, he finished a businesslike six innings with 100 pitches, and the bullpen, featuring an inning each from Jon Leicester (who has rapidly become one of the go-to guys in the pen), Mike Remlinger and Kyle Farnsworth, finished the Phillies off easily, once again having a staff total of ten strikeouts (Wood: 6, Leicester: 1, Remlinger: 1, and Farnsworth: 2).

Philadelphia's been suffering from Cub Offense Disease recently and frankly, I'm glad the Cubs gave it to someone else and have had their own bats wake up.

Tonight, Dusty finally relented and started Todd Walker at second base and led him off and guess what? Walker walked. He didn't score, but Dusty -- this is the point of a leadoff man, getting him on base. Walker didn't reach base the rest of the evening, but I hope Baker will stick with him for at least a few more games, and hope he gets hot.

I was reminded today in the Cubs newsgroup that there was another team that blew a ten-game divisional lead, and from almost exactly this point in the season. The calendar date was July 22; 97 games had been played, and the team leading had a 65-32 record and the team trailing had a 55-42 record, exactly ten games behind.

You might be wondering why I didn't mention the team names there, and you'll understand why after I tell you.

The year was 1993.

The trailing team was the Atlanta Braves, who went 49-16 and finished 104-58.

The leading team was the San Francisco Giants, who went 38-27 and finished 103-59, one of the best records ever to not make the postseason.

That was the first year Dusty Baker managed the Giants. He's got one of these coming to him, wouldn't you say?