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Let's get the good news out of the way right at the beginning tonight:

Kerry Wood struck out ten Brewers tonight.

Hey, ain't that great? Strikeouts are fun! Of course, he also gave up seven hits and two really damaging homers, one a two-run job by a guy who isn't a power hitter, Bill (Don't Call Me Mel) Hall, and the Cubs' baby two-game winning streak ended in a 6-3 loss to Milwaukee.

There's lots of bad news this day, so let's get right to it. Mark's dream of a Park District World Series championship also ended tonight, as his Diamondbacks couldn't get it done and lost 12-4, including an awful ten-run inning.

But, they played hard and they should be proud of themselves for winning a league championship, even though they couldn't take it one step further.

I'd take that from the Cubs. Now, let's dissect tonight's debacle, starting near the end.

Have I mentioned how much I hate it when managers take out a relief pitcher who's sailing along, in order to get the by-the-book, written-in-stone-tablets-handed-down-by-Connie-Mack-or-somebody, platoon advantage?

Dusty Baker does this all the time and it drives me nuts. He finally resurrected Todd Wellemeyer in the seventh inning tonight, and Wellemeyer should have been out of the inning with no damage at all, because after he struck out Brooks Kieschnick, Scott Podsednik grounded harmlessly to first, and Craig Counsell also K'd.

Oh, except that's not what the box score showed, because first base umpire Ron Kulpa blew the call on Podsednik's groundout -- this was almost as bad as the Don Denkinger call in the 1985 World Series, only this game doesn't have quite the impact that the WS game did. Replays showed Podsednik out by at least half a step, and it was obvious, and Dusty came out to make the pro forma argument that you have to make in that situation, and then the cameras followed him back to the dugout and showed him raising his arms in one of those "What are you gonna do?" gestures.

So, after Geoff Jenkins singled, why, of course, Dusty had to bring in LOOGY (if you've not heard that term before, it stands for "Lefthanded One Out Guy") Kent Mercker to face Russell Branyan. Quickly, Branyan was down 0-2, but then Mercker decided he'd like to see how many bounces he could throw his pitches with. (Answer: quite a few!) Michael Barrett bravely stopped two of them, but the third went through, scoring the sixth run, and Steve Stone said it best: "You can't expect Michael Barrett to keep stopping those, one after the other."

Anyway, this rotten pitching saddled Wellemeyer with an undeserved earned run, but Wellemeyer threw well enough, as has Jon Leicester, for either of them to be given consideration as a closer. Say, maybe we can get a fake birth certificate for one of them that says he's really 30 years old -- because then you could tell Dusty that he's actually a Proven Veteran, and he'd actually use him in this role. Tonight was Wellemeyer's eleventh appearance of the season, and yes, I know he was on the DL for a while, but he's gone as many as 12 days without throwing a pitch that meant anything, and once again, I say:

[end rant]

Oh, and did I mention how many Cubs decided to swing feebly at the first pitch and ground out tonight?

And yes, Wood looked good, for the most part, on the mound. But what on Earth was he doing getting picked off after he managed to draw a four-pitch walk leading off the third inning?

Dusty's lineup selection was... well, I guess I understand the theory, as he started all right-handed hitters against the goofy-throwing lefty Chris Capuano, but leading off Jose Macias, who came in with a .292 OBA, is... well, it's dumb, is what it is. All Dusty has to do is look at his own pitching staff and how they get in trouble with walks, and wouldn't you think it'd dawn on him that maybe if the other team's pitchers did the same thing, it'd be good for his own team?

Yeah, I guess not either.

The Cardinals nearly blew a seven-run lead tonight (sound familiar?) but hung on for an 11-10 win over the Reds, so they increased their division lead to eleven games. Also, the Padres beat the Giants last night so the Cubs now trail San Diego, now the wild-card leader, by two games.

There are still sixty-one games left. That's a lot of games; it is not yet August. But this offense needs help, and if a Clement/Gonzalez for Garciaparra deal can really be made, I think Jim Hendry has to roll the dice and do it. Don't think small (Orlando Cabrera, YUCK!) -- think BIG!

Now -- fair warning. I am heading up to Milwaukee tomorrow morning for the matinee series finale.

Weird stuff happens when I go to Milwaukee -- from the Brant Brown game to monsoons to drenching thunderstorms after one game that turned the drive home into a three-hour ordeal, to last year's 17-inning marathon.

I expect nothing less tomorrow.