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The Domino Effect

It didn't seem so important at the time; a little tweak of the groin putting Aramis Ramirez out of Friday's game against the White Sox.

And when the Cubs won that day and the next two, it really didn't seem that meaningful.

But the last two days, losses to the Brewers, including last night's frustrating 4-2 defeat, show how much the Cubs miss Ramirez, and with Todd Hollandsworth on the DL, the lineup and bench are resembling, at this time, what we saw from the club during the first half of 2003.

With Ramirez out, Dusty decided to start Triple-A callup Brendan Harris, to make his ML debut. This is a move I agreed with, because when Jason Dubois and David Kelton were on the roster, they were barely used. There's no sense in bringing up a guy who's accustomed to playing every day, then expecting him to produce getting two at-bats a week.

Harris didn't waste any time making an error, though it was a tough error, on a bunt by Craig Counsell. He probably wouldn't have been able to get Counsell anyway, but his throwing error allowed Scott Podsednik to score the first run of the game. After the game the Milwaukee hometown scorer changed the error to a hit, which made all four runs allowed by Mark Prior earned, instead of unearned, as they should have been. Harris did hit an RBI double for his first major league hit later, but the rest of the offense couldn't do much against the junkballing Victor Santos, Mike "Don't Call Me Terry" Adams, and the relievers who shut down the Cubs on Monday, Luis Vizcaino and Danny Kolb, who anyone could have had a year ago after the Rangers released him.

Prior struggled through a 35-pitch first inning, and by the time he had thrown 92 pitches after four, he was done -- another example of the domino effect, because Tom Goodwin was forced to pinch-hit early, which left the bench pretty empty for the rest of the game. Jose Macias had a pinch-hit, but was stranded, and when Todd Walker had a chance to drive in some runs, with two runners on and two out in the seventh, he grounded out weakly. That was a Todd Hollandsworth situation, and it may not be till after the All-Star break when everyone comes back.

The bullpen kept the Cubs in the game, particularly Jon Leicester, who has thrived in long relief. Among all the rookie pitchers, he's the most likely to stick in the bullpen when Mike Remlinger and Todd Wellemeyer come back.

There is good news today, though. Kerry Wood threw five strong innings at Iowa last night and should be on target to pitch on Sunday at St. Louis. Incidentally, in that Iowa/Albuquerque game, Sergio Mitre threw the last four innings and allowed only one hit, earning his first save of the year. I have always felt that Mitre needed Triple-A experience (he had none before 2004) and though I don't think he's suited to be a starter at the ML level, perhaps he is finding a place as a middle reliever.

I wound up missing some of the Cub scoring last night because I nodded off on the couch watching the game. Or maybe I was hypnotized by one of Fox Sports Net's cameras, which clearly had a technical problem -- in the early innings they kept going to tight shots of Santos before he pitched with the camera jiggling and losing color, only to switch to a perfectly fine CF shot for the pitch. As a director I can tell you that if you have a piece of equipment that is malfunctioning, don't use it till it's fixed! Someone must have fixed or replaced this camera later on, because it worked fine during the later innings.

The Cardinals won again last night 5-3, putting the Cubs five games behind, so a win tonight is almost mandatory, and even under a very optimistic scenario I don't see the Cubs better than three games out when we hit the All-Star break after Sunday's game. That's not insurmountable by any means, even with no games left vs. St. Louis after July 20, and the Cubs are the wild-card leaders and have been for a couple of weeks.

We remain hopeful.

Oh, and you know the Beatles' song "When I'm Sixty-Four"?

The first of the Fab Four turns 64 today. It's Ringo's 64th birthday.

Man, am I getting old.