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Rats!

No, that's certainly not me saying I didn't like today's walkoff Cub win, 4-2 over the Brewers, sweeping the series, winning their fourth in a row, seventh in their last eight, eighth in the last 11, going to a season-high 14 games over .500 and increasing the wild-card lead to a game and a half over the Giants, pending their game at Florida tonight.

It's me saying Rats! because I had to miss this one.

I work hours that allow me to get to the Yard every day... except today and tomorrow, when I have been asked to work a later-in-the-day shift, not starting at 4 am, but staying till 6:30 pm. So, I arranged with the office to give me a break in the middle, so I could come to the game and stay till about 3:00 or shortly after, which is what I used to do years ago when I worked the 3pm-11pm shift, and see six innings or so.

However, today the weather would not cooperate. I did go to the ballpark, sat and talked to Mike, Jeff and Jessica for a couple of hours, but just as the tarp was being lifted a little before 3:00, I had to leave in order to be back at work as expected by around 3:30. The last home game I missed was on May 31, 2003, one of two I chose to miss last year to go to my 25th anniversary college reunion at Colgate University. That made, up to today, 116 consecutive home games attended (122 including the six home playoff games last year).

Oh, well. I told them "No no-hitters, no four-homer games, nothing historic, just a garden-variety 4-3 Cub win."

Hey, they almost came through on exactly that -- after a little excitement that we didn't want from LaTroy Hawkins, blowing another save and what would have been Greg Maddux' 13th win by giving up a single, a sacrifice and a double for the tying run in the top of the ninth. It seems so unfair for Hawkins to "vulture" a win from Maddux in this way, but we'll take it, and I know Greg will too. It was one of Maddux' best outings of the year, allowing only one run, four hits and a walk in his usual efficiency, 84 pitches in eight innings.

Fortunately, one of the perks of working at a TV station is that there are, in fact, TV's everywhere, many of which are tuned to the Cubs game and so I got a chance to watch most of the game (obviously, not ALL of it -- I did have to do my work as well!).

I was sorry to have missed Paul Bako's first home run since July 7, 2002, when he was playing for -- of all teams -- the Brewers, only the 14th home run of his seven-year, 500+ game career. If you saw the game or the replay, the guy who caught it and was jumping up and down, all excited, was Dave, a semi-regular who used to live in Chicago, now lives in St. Louis (for work reasons), and who sits in the next section over from us; the ball landed probably 20 feet from my regular seat. Right after that I called Jeff, mainly to say how sorry I was that I missed a .183 hitter managing to hit a homer, and he told me how close it had come, and then I saw the replay of Dave catching the ball.

Jeff actually called me at work in the decisive bottom of the ninth after Mark Grudzielanek led off with a triple. I accidentally pressed the wrong button and had to call him back to tell him fair or foul.

The wire service stories say that replays were "inconclusive". I'm not sure what replays that writer was watching, because the one I saw was really clear -- Grudz' ball was several inches foul, maybe even a foot, and it wasn't even close. 1B umpire Mark Wegner (who looks on a closeup TV shot like he's about 20 years old) blew the call. I thought Brewers manager Ned Yost, coming out to argue the call, was about to explode, the veins in his neck got so thick, and it didn't take too long before he got tossed.

You know what? There have been at least two calls like this in the last month alone, that were so obviously wrong, that went against the Cubs, and one of them (the blown DP on August 12 against San Diego) probably cost them that game.

We'll take it. As I've said to Mike before, we have 95 years of breaks coming to us. If a missed umpiring call helped the Cubs win a game, we'll take it.

Even at that, a leadoff triple (at least it appeared to be a triple all the way; the boxscore ruled it a double and an error) in the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs nearly stranded Grudz at third when Bako and Todd Walker both popped up in the infield, before Corey Patterson came up. Patterson, frankly, didn't have that good an at-bat to start off, quickly going down 0-2. But he worked the count even and then had a really good swing at a low pitch and golfed it into the group section in RF, leading to cheers in the newsroom where just about every TV was tuned to the game, even the one being watched by one of the evening executive producers, who is from St. Louis and a Cardinals fan.

Tomorrow's weather forecast calls for warmer and breezy conditions, with no chance of rain till evening, so although I'll have to leave a little after 3 for work again, at least I'll see six innings or so. A win's a win, and you take them any way they come.

Oh, one note that I forgot from yesterday. Though we haven't seen Dr. Tightpants in action since the two blowout wins over the weekend, maybe there's hope for him after all. I spotted him in the outfield yesterday during BP (hanging out by himself)... and he got a haircut, fairly short, maybe the first one he's had all year.

Onward, with faith and hope.