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OK, That's It.

Kyle must go.

You know, Dusty Baker's loyalty to his players is one reason they produce for him, and it's admirable, and I know that's one reason a lot of the current roster is even here, because they wanted to play for him.

And Dusty's been loyal to a fault with Kyle Farnsworth, even while saying veiled threat-like things such as this, from a few days ago:

It's up to him and how he performs in whatever role he's in that day before the eighth [inning, referring to Kyle's former setup role]. Just give him time to get his head together, his mechanics together, whatever. We need Farnsy. We need the Farnsy that we know.

Obviously, that "Farnsy" is far, far away right now. If you didn't see it, Farnsworth threw perhaps the worst inning I've ever seen a Cub pitcher throw, allowing three singles, a double, triple, and the crowning blow, a three-run homer by Carlos Beltran (his second of the day, and his first landed about 10 feet to my right -- I had a hand on it, but couldn't grab it), and six runs, turning a potential ninth-inning comeback into a 15-7 loss to the Astros, and that was after the early innings provided some other excitement, which I'll get to in a minute.

It was an interesting day from the moment I walked into the bleachers and saw two people standing near our bench -- normally the place is empty other than security guards, and they were talking to Bill, the guy who's normally assigned to security in our section.

They weren't intruders after all, but guests of Jim Hendry. Turned out to be Andy Rayburn, who is the owner of the Daytona Cubs, the Cubs' High Class A affiliate in the Florida State League, here with his girlfriend.

Jeff and I had a terrific time talking to both of them -- very, very nice people, Andy insisted on buying both of us food and drink. I even had a couple of beers, since he was so nice. Hey, once or twice a year I'll have one in the bleachers, and today was the day.

I even explained the tomato ritual to him and let him help in the performance of the tomato drop, though today it didn't help -- it landed across the sixth and seventh innings, which were both 1-2-3 innings, and since Howard is not coming to tomorrow's game, I MAY give the tomato another day off. That decision will be made before arriving at tomorrow's game.

About the only thing I was right about today was saying to Mike after Houston's four-run top of the fourth: "Four runs isn't going to win this game." I figured that with the wind blowing out the Cub homer bats would get going, but only Derrek Lee solved Roy Oswalt early on, homering into the shrubbery in CF. Some drunk guy who was playing HR Derby came up behind me and claimed to have called that exact shot to that exact location, but who knows. Instead, it was the Astros homering off Kerry Wood, who had one of the worst outings of his career, allowing nine hits, including four homers, one of which, Jeff Kent's bomb leading off the fifth, bounced down Kenmore Avenue, probably close to 500 feet away from the plate.

The Astros pulled some juvenile stunts when Oswalt came up to bat in the first inning; apparently Oswalt said something to Michael Barrett that Barrett took exception to, and the benches cleared. Lance Berkman had already been hit by a pitch in the first inning by Kerry Wood, though it was certainly not a purpose pitch, and no warnings were issued. I guess the Astros just wanted to stir things up, and they should have just let their bats do the talking. Kent Mercker decided to do some stirring of his own when he hit Oswalt with the first pitch he threw upon entering the game in the sixth -- but apparently, no warnings were issued at all, because Mercker was allowed to continue, despite vehement argument by Astros manager Phil Garner, and there were no further incidents.

Nomar finally solved Oswalt for a two-run homer into the LF basket in the 8th, to close the score down to 9-6 and give some hope for a miracle comeback.

This is when Dr. Tightpants comes in, and you might not want to read this while eating, or shortly after doing so.

Yesterday, I wrote of Kyle:

The game was so out of hand that Dr. Tightpants made his first appearance with his new clean-cut look. Didn't make any difference. Sure, he threw a scoreless inning, but as usual, he walked the first batter he faced and it took him twenty-six pitches to finish up, which probably makes him useless tomorrow. (No cracks about the word "useless" here, please.)

"Useless" would have been better than what happened. He almost struck out the side, but this 37-pitch inning, which included 25 strikes (Hey! He didn't walk anyone!) was, as I said, about the worst single inning I've ever seen a Cub pitcher throw, or maybe even ANY pitcher throw. The 25 strike number is misleading, because six of those were hit very, very hard. After Beltran's homer, Dave Groeschner, the trainer, came out, and Kyle was bent over. I have my thoughts about why that was happening, but I'll keep them to myself.

Whatever the cause, it's time for him to go. Whether they send him to the glue factory, make him work midnight security at the ballpark, or just put him on the disabled list, I cannot imagine he'll be on the active roster tomorrow. Bring up Todd Wellemeyer, or sign Rod Beck, or just about anyone living and breathing. ANYONE. In fact, a DL move is beneficial, because if a player is on the DL on August 31, he is eligible for postseason play. And frankly, if Kyle can get his head and his life straightened out in a month's time, he does, after all, throw a hundred mile per hour fastball, and if his brain could actually follow the lead of his arm, he'd be nearly unhittable.

Fortunately, games like this do count as only one loss, and the Cubs are still 15-9 this month, and 22-13 since the disastrous Cardinal series in mid-July, which is also the last time they lost more than two in a row.

It wasn't too likely for the Cubs to sweep this series, and tomorrow, weather permitting (and it may not), Carlos Zambrano faces Roger Clemens. For anyone who doesn't keep up with day-to-day starting times and might want to watch tomorrow's game, Fox-TV decided not to pick up this game and so the time was changed to 3:05 CT and the game will be on WGN. The later starting time, in fact, might be beneficial as the greater chances of rain appear to be earlier in the day.

Today's clipboard-smacking Howard pun: Mike Lamb, who had replaced an apparently injured Morgan Ensberg at third base, came up in the ninth with a runner on first and one out. Howard wondered if he'd bunt, and I couldn't figure out why, until he said, "He's a sacrificial Lamb."

Yeah, you can smack him too. Wish Lamb had bunted -- he tripled into the right-field corner.

Sight seen today: a group of about a dozen young women, wearing pink T-shirts titled "Liz's Bachelorette Party" (and "Liz" was incongruously dressed in a green cheerleader's outfit, with bridal veil), and reading on the back:

The Boston Girls are here
So buy us all a BEER
It's Liz's Last Hoorah
p.s. We're taking back NOMAH

Clever, but that last line ain't gonna happen. In fact, we were today discussing the fact that Mia Hamm, having won the soccer gold medal in Athens along with her USA women's soccer teammates, will now join the Cubs on the road, to travel with her husband Nomar, and that apparently Nomar's been telling her how much he likes life as a Cub, and hoping that perhaps in the next homestand, a first-pitch opportunity could be arranged for Mrs. Nomar, Olympic Gold Medalist.

That might be occasion for the loudest ovation we've heard at the Yard in a long, long time.