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OK, Here's The Good News

The Giants blew a 3-0 lead and lost to the Mets 11-9 in 12 innings, so the Cubs remain half a game out of the wild-card lead (and still one loss fewer than San Francisco).

More good news! The Marlins beat the Padres 8-2, so San Diego stays a full game behind the Cubs.

This is all my way of avoiding discussion of a brutal 4-3 Cub loss to the Astros, which, in the space of about ten minutes, went from what could have been one of the most inspirational comeback wins of the year, into one of the most devastating losses.

It wouldn't even have gotten that far if Mark Prior, whose boxscore line (seven innings, two earned runs) wasn't too bad, hadn't issued three walks in the second inning -- including an inexplicable intentional walk to Jose Vizcaino. OK, Dusty, you listening?

DON'T EVER INTENTIONALLY WALK JOSE VIZCAINO!!!

Especially when the next hitter is Brad Ausmus, a guy who doesn't walk much either, and Prior walked him too, and then the pitcher, for heaven's sake, who had zero RBI this year, got two by singling with the bases loaded.

You know, far too many pitchers have had good offensive days against the Cubs this year. I wonder if that's a lack of concentration.

The Cubs managed to squeak out a run in the eighth and then two in the ninth off Houston's version of LaTroy Hawkins, Brad Lidge, including the fifth triple of the year from Michael Barrett (on a swing that was a pulled-back fake bunt), and take the lead. Interestingly, Steve Stone pointed out during the telecast that the Cubs' record when NOT hitting a home run was 9-24. Well, now it's 9-25, and this club is simply going to have to start learning to win without the longball. Sure, it's easy to win when you hit six homers in a game. It's another thing to figure out how to single and double -- AND WALK -- your way to multiple-run rallies. Oh, but Dusty's been quoted as saying that walks "clog up the bases". Hmmm. Not quite sure how this works, but go ask the Oakland Athletics, who live by the walk, and are in first place in the AL West, how clogged their bases are.

Anyway, Hawkins was called on for the ninth, and though it was only his third blown save of the year, it came pretty quickly. I'm not going to blame Hawkins entirely for this one -- Jose Macias decided that a throw on a sacrifice bunt needed to go down the right-field line instead of to Derrek Lee, and instead of a runner on second and one out, there's runners on second and third and nobody out, and I'm guessing even Eric Gagne (especially now, when he seems suddenly vulnerable) isn't going to pull a save out of that magic hat.

There are plenty of games left -- 40. The Cubs have won 66 games. I would think that a 25-15 record -- which is clearly within this team's reach, and would give them 91 wins -- would win the wild card. That is, incidentally, exactly how many games the Marlins won last year as the wild card.

Today's marquee pitching matchup, Kerry Wood vs. Roy Oswalt, will decide the series, and again, all is forgiven with a win. This pitching matchup will be repeated at Wrigley Field next Friday. Let's win both of them.