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Now, That's More Like It!

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's tough to "watch" a ballgame via web cellphone and MLB.com's Gameday, but that's what I did today and will again tomorrow, here in San Francisco for a visit with my dad, who lives here, awaiting the arrival of the Cubs for the series on Friday. Flying into Oakland, I figured it would be quicker to get to my dad's place in downtown SF, only to run into a huge traffic jam on the Bay Bridge. Why? Oops! It's 6:45 and everyone's heading to the Giants-Reds game! Anyway, my dad met us outside the garage of his building with a big "welcome" sign and a big smile on his face. That was unexpected and sweet.

What's "more like it" is tonight's 11-8 Cub win over the Rockies in Denver, their third win in a row. The Cubs have also now won seven of nine (and yes, I think of Jeri Ryan when I hear that phrase), and ten of their last fourteen since the disastrous final regular season series against the Cardinals ended on July 20, and it is in such ways that teams start streaking, and as I have mentioned many times before, this 2004 season seems like such a season, not only for the Cubs but for many other teams. The Cubs matched their season-high at 11 games over .500. That sounds good, but what it really means is that they've been 13-13 since that pulsating win over the White Sox on July 4. Onward and upward.

Yesterday's game -- when each team scored in only one of its half-innings -- barely registered on the Richter scale of normal Denver games, but tonight was another story, with each team homering thrice (Ramirez, Sosa, and Walker for the Cubs, and Sweeney, Johnson and Helton for the Rockies), and featuring the ejections of Rockies pitcher Sean Dohmann and manager Clint Hurdle after Dohmann threw high and tight to Ramirez after Sammy's homer, his 24th of the season, tying him with Reggie Jackson on the all-time list with 563.

Here's a perfect example of why pitchers' wins don't mean a darn thing. Of the five Cub pitchers tonight, Kyle Farnsworth, who allowed two solo homers (Sweeney, Johnson) and retired only one batter, throwing only four pitches, wound up with the win when the Cubs came back from the 6-5 hole he had pitched them into.

Official scorers do have leeway in cases like this to give the win to someone other than a "pitcher who throws briefly and ineffectively" (MLB Rule 10.19c), although this is normally done only when the club already has the lead. This is another reason why official scorers ought to be MLB employees, rather than sportswriters, as has been traditional in baseball for decades. I'd have given the win to Mike Remlinger, who held the lead in the bottom of the 8th after the Cubs scored four more runs.

I've been to Coors Field. It's not quite baseball, but it's fun, especially when your team wins, and the Cubs have done that with regularity in Denver.

Tonight's Nomar-watch: he singled, doubled, drove in a run with a sac fly, stole a base, and also made his first error as a Cub, though the error had no impact on the scoring. It appears that Dusty may have, purely by accident, found a lineup that works. Corey Patterson, who most of us in the Cubs Blog Army have correctly felt is not an appropriate leadoff man because of his maddening lack of patience at the plate, has hit lights-out since being installed there on Sunday. He bunted his way on again tonight, had another single and a double, and also stole a base. Putting the second baseman, be it Todd Walker or Mark Grudzielanek (and it does appear that they have finally been installed as a straight platoon -- me, I'd play Walker every day, but at least now they know their role, rather than the guesswork of the last few weeks), in the #7 spot, also seems useful, as does hitting Moises Alou ahead of Sammy.

Accident or purposeful, it's working, so I'd say Dusty ought to stay with it. Almost more important than the 15 hits tonight were the six walks drawn.

As Mike e-mailed me earlier today, this is, at long last, the team we thought we'd see coming out of spring training. Two things have happened to make that reality:

1) Everyone is, at long last, healthy

2) The Garciaparra deal has energized every single player on the roster

Mark Prior throws tomorrow, and amazingly enough, he's been the worst starter on the staff. If he can step his game back to last year's level, there's no telling how far and fast this team can go.

Finally, I'm going to put another sort of Sammy Watch on. He's been hitting better the last week or so, capped with today's homer and three RBI, giving him 55 for the season. There are fifty-five games remaining. He needs forty-five more RBI to give him 100 for the tenth consecutive season.