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Crop Failure

SAN FRANCISCO -- You knew it wasn't going to be the Cubs' night when Matt Clement got Barry Bonds to pop up -- twice in the same at-bat -- and still didn't retire him.

Michael Barrett dropped the first one, something that he's done annoyingly often this year, and Aramis Ramirez couldn't locate the second one.

Bonds, naturally, walked, and then you could see Clement stomping around the mound after the walk, letting this get into his head, and he promptly walked J. T. Snow on four pitches, and one out later Michael Tucker homered, and that, for the most part, was that. The Giants went on to beat the Cubs 6-2, ending the Cubs' winning streak at four, although they have still won eleven of their last sixteen.

But I'm starting at the end of a busy day.

We headed over to Chinatown just to look around at the people and the activity and show the kids a different part of life. While Rachel was buying a pair of shoes, Mark spotted a store that sold swords and other, um, interesting Asian weapons.

No, Mark, we're not buying a sword.

I figured the Cubs needed all the help they could get on this road trip, and since the Jimmy John's tomatoes have been a very good indicator for the ballclub, I checked out whether this expanding Chicago-based chain had any stores in San Francisco.

Nope. There's only one in the entire state of California, and it's in Clovis, which is near Fresno, about 200 miles from here.

However! Jeff & Krista, who are here along with many of the rest of our bleacher group, drove here from Chicago (they stopped in Denver to see the Cub sweep) and were going to pass through Reno -- where there's a Jimmy John's conveniently located about a block off I-80.

So, they stopped and got me four sandwiches (yes, there's a spare), dropped them off yesterday afternoon, and I brought one to the park while storing the rest in my dad's fridge.

I hate to report that the sandwich failed last night. With Mark's help the tomato piece landed on the sixth spot in the batting order, straddling the sixth and seventh innings -- Derrek Lee's spot.

Lee struck out four times last night and looked bad doing it, and did I mention that Corey Patterson also struck out four times? The Cubs had all kinds of chances to win, or at least score more than two runs, and off Jason Schmidt, who one-hit them on May 18, this kept encouraging me, but runners kept getting stranded, ten in all. My dad says this is because they came from Denver and had gotten used to the altitude there and couldn't get the runners home at sea level. I don't know that I buy this, but -- anyone ever do a study of what happens to teams the first day they come off a Colorado series? I seem to recall some stats that the Rockies themselves generally do poorly on the road the first day after a homestand, but that may be just a reflection of the fact that the Rockies usually suck on the road anyway.

I have been to SBC Park before -- when it was still Pacific Bell, and many of the natives treat the new name with disdain; I mean, really, does the generic name SBC mean anything to you? It means even less to people out here -- and it's still, I think, the best of all the new ballparks. We sat in the "AAA Club" level, the second tier, down the RF line, and from there you have what is probably the most beautiful view of any ballpark in the country, I think -- the Bay Bridge off to the left, which fades into the sunset and then lights up, and sailboats drifting across the bay to the RF side of the scoreboard (which, incidentally, is almost impossible to read from that angle in the early innings as the setting sun glares right into it), which has about the most detail of any scoreboard I've seen, giving stats like OBA and SLG for all the players.

Mark & I met up with Howard, Jon, Jon's brother Mark (who lives here in SF), Sue and her friend, Jeff and Jeff's friend Mark (too many Marks, right?) before the game and as we were all sitting in scattered sections, Mark (that's my son) and I went up to our seats to wait for my dad and his friend Patty to arrive.

They, along with much of the rest of the crowd, were very late-arriving; the place was probably only half-full at game time, which I understand isn't uncommon for night games here, given the fact that people have to come across the Bay Bridge and other normally jammed-up rush-hour routes. There were way more Cub fans than I expected, considering how many Giants season-ticketholders there are; so many that the Cubs got a warm round of applause after taking batting practice, something unheard-of on the road. Incidentally, Todd Hollandsworth took BP, wearing a shin guard of course, and skied a number of balls into McCovey Cove -- Todd's one of the great HR hitters in BP, for whatever that's worth -- and maybe this is a good sign that he's close to returning.

The Cubs need him. They were forced to use Jose Macias and Tom Goodwin as their two pinch-hitters last night, and got a flyout and a strikeout as a result. Despite the nine hits, Schmidt seemed dominant, striking out eleven (though as mentioned, eight of those were Patterson and Lee).

I was also puzzled, after setting up what appeared to be a straight platoon at 2B with Todd Walker and Mark Grudzielanek, Dusty started Grudz against the right-hander Schmidt. Had to be a hunch -- Grudz was 10-for-37 lifetime against Schmidt coming into this game. Brad Hennessey, a rookie being called up today to make his ML debut against the Cubs, is a right-hander, so we'll see what Dusty decides.

During the game, Ernie called me with the news of the Cardinals' acquisition of Larry Walker. Frankly, I think this move is bizarre, even though the Rockies are picking up most of the contract. The Cardinals are already second in the league in runs scored (first among all teams not named Colorado). If they needed anything, it's pitching. Walker's a great player, no question about it. But he is nearly thirty-eight years old and missed almost half this season with injuries.

Anyway, today, we hope we see history in the form of Greg Maddux' 300th win. But more importantly, and Greg himself would tell you this, a win of any kind is the most important thing.

Finally, I know that many in the mainstream media as well as some of my fellow soldiers in the Cubs Blog Army, have spent a lot of time talking about Nomar Garciaparra and the various intrigues "revealed" since he left the Red Sox.

Here's the only thing I have to say about this: I generally like the Red Sox and their fans. But if this is what they spend their time thinking and talking about, it's no wonder they haven't won a World Series since 1918. Get over it!