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Thirteen!

Before I explain the significance of today's post heading, let me tell you that the day did NOT start out auspiciously.

I had just parked my car, and after I closed the door and started to walk away, I realized I'd left the umbrella in the car. (Never mind that it never rained and I didn't really need it.)

I walked back and stepped square in dog poop.

Worse, I didn't realize this until after I had stepped back into the car, thus getting the dog poop actually IN the car.

Oh well. Cleaned it up and moved on, and hoped the game would work out better.

It did. You know, Dusty Baker and the ballclub must have read my post from yesterday, and also Scott Lange's at the Northside Lounge, referring to the Cubs' low OBP and over-reliance on the home run.

Whatever it took, it worked. The Cubs smacked out five doubles and eight singles (thirteen total hits, get it now?), drew two walks, and beat the Brewers 8-3, their fifth win in the last six games and sixth in the last nine, and they are finally beginning to do what good teams have to do, beat up on the trailing teams, and they're starting to do it in blowout fashion. They also matched their high-water mark of the year, going to 12 games over .500, and now are 12-8 in August. And, carrying on the theme of yesterday's post, it was their first win without a home run since July 2.

It was much cooler than I expected at the Yard last night -- one of those lake breeze fronts had blown through mid-afternoon, and though it was a warm morning, by gametime it was 67 degrees and felt cooler. The shorts were a little too much, though I made it without really freezing. Mike mentioned to me halfway through the game, and then I noticed it myself, that the humidity level was way up, because the pencils were mushing through the scorecards rather than scoring crisply.

Meanwhile, Howard was outside selling a few tickets because "I really have to get some work done tonight", and suddenly he showed up in the first inning, saying "I'm not really here."

Well, he wasn't "really there" through the fourth inning, because Carlos Zambrano was sharp tonight, having what Mike and I give each other knowing looks when this happens early, no-hitter stuff. Howard left, saying he had access to another ticket and would come back if anything was "happening" in the 7th. So when Corey Patterson made what Mike and I both agreed was one of the greatest catches we'd ever seen (credit where credit is due: Patterson's been a whole different player since installed in the leadoff spot on August 1 -- this is the guy who had that great first half in 2003 before getting hurt), laying flat-out to catch a Craig Counsell line drive in the 2nd, and then Moises Alou (!) dove to catch a Scott Podsednik long fly just short of the wall in the sixth, we thought we might be about to see history. So often, no-hitters are made by defensive plays like that, even more so than the pitcher's stuff.

It wasn't to be. Z wound up giving up four hits and three runs, and could have gotten out of it with only one run, if he'd been able to retire pinch-hitter Ben Grieve, who doubled in two runs after Z was pretty much out of gas at 115 pitches.

This made the score 6-3 and we have seen Cub teams this year fold under leads like that, bring in Dr. Tightpants or even one of the good relievers and not be able to, as my friend Phil says, "close the deal".

This is where today's Tomato Inning comes in. It was the bottom of the seventh, and this is where the good teams do exactly what the Cubs did today -- after giving back half their lead, they got two of the three runs back, with a double, a hit batsman, and two singles. It's even more gratifying to see them do this, as noted, without any home runs. The wind was blowing in fairly stiffly last night, though it shifted around quite a bit -- at game time it was straight in, then it died for a while, and by the end of the game it was straight off the lake, blowing in from right field.

It's a little bit disturbing to learn why Nomar missed last night's game. It's not the Achilles, this time he's got a sore wrist, apparently hurt in BP in Houston last Friday. He did hit in BP last night and hopefully, he'll play today. This is another good sign -- the club has won 2 of 3 with him on the bench.

To end at the beginning, the game was played as scheduled despite the city's threat to shut it down based on a misstatement made by a Los Angeles Times reporter. In fact, Stan Kaderbek, the city building inspector, specifically said, in reference to the reporter's misstatement:

I can say at this point we found no evidence of shoddy repairs and the Cubs can play tonight's game.

To which I say, DUH! This was clear long before last week's tempest in a teapot, and all it wound up doing was giving the newspapers some front-page stories for a few days.

With the win, the Cubs move into a virtual tie with the Giants for the wild-card lead -- the Giants having played two more games, with one more win and one more loss. Both teams stand two games ahead of San Diego, and with each passing day this is looking more and more like a three-team race -- the next closest team, the Marlins, is four games back... and here's where it becomes difficult to know who to root for. Florida hosts the Giants this week. I guess you have to root for the Marlins, but I dunno.

Onward, with faith and hope.