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Coming Of Age

Corey Patterson has arrived, everyone.

Mike said that the reason he caught Corey's homer last week is that he's the only one of us who hasn't been telling him that he sucks. This may be true, and I think that Mike's homer catch is what finally got Corey to realize that he belongs.

Yeah, that's silly.

But Corey singlehandedly won tonight's incredible come-from-behind 3-2 game over the Pirates, with his game-tying two-run homer that rode a gust of wind into the LF basket in the 8th, and his second twelfth-inning homer in a week's time, the game-winner. No, Mike didn't get this one -- it landed in the CF shrubbery, and finally we got some emotion out of this team, with one of the happiest Group-Grope-And-Jumps you'll ever see out of a ballclub.

It seems almost ridiculous to think this, with twenty games to go, but Corey now has twenty-three homers. Assuming Derrek Lee has one more in him for thirty, could Corey hit seven more in twenty games to give the Cubs five thirty-homer players, the first team ever to do that?

The way Patterson is playing now, and with the pump up they have to feel from this game, I'm saying -- it's possible. This is the second half that Corey was on pace to have last year when he got hurt, and not a moment too soon.

Actually, there was some rare emotion shown even earlier in this game. Maybe these guys are finally starting to wake up and actually enjoy playing. Lee made an ill-advised steal of third with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but when he got up you could see how pumped he was that he made something happen. OK, Michael Barrett promptly hit into a double play, but at least the Cubs showed some fire.

Also returning was the Sammy Sosa of about three or four years ago. He had two hits, and had a terrific ninth-inning at-bat, fouling off four pitches before striking out, and that effort carried over into the extra innings, when he made an unbelievable -- and I don't use that word lightly, that was one of the best catches I've ever seen anyone make, not just Sammy -- catch of a sinking Ty Wigginton liner, and then a bullseye throw to double Jason Bay off first, in the top of the eleventh.

This is how you play playoff-intensity baseball, and we have seen glimmers of it over the last week or so, but tonight -- it arrived. Now, let's hope it stays.

Sammy "felt the love" again, as Krista put it, and we justifiably gave it to him, and he did respond with a two-out single in the eleventh inning. You can just sense, especially after his homer last night, that he might be ready to break out with one huge salvo over the last two and a half weeks of the year.

It didn't start out that way. How it started, in fact, was with Howard and Jon making horrible pun on top of horrible pun, and I won't repeat them here, because some are not fit for a G (or even PG) rated blog. I actually got one off on Howard when I said Josh Fogg was pitching, and he said "Maybe he's lifting", and after a bit of thought, I said, "Sure, since it's CLEMENT weather."

I got smacked with the clipboard for that one.

Fogg, for his part, looked terrific, until he was inexplicably yanked by Lloyd McClendon with two out in the seventh after only 78 pitches. We tried everything -- tomatoes (fourth inning, no go), rally Milanos -- nothing doing till after the bag was finished, and maybe that was what the club needed, just pure baseball.

As for Matt Clement, he looked for all the world like his back or shoulder or both were bothering him in the first two innings -- he couldn't seem to throw a strike, yet got out of the first with no runs because of a nifty Neifi Perez (Howard says that if he does well, they could rename Navy Pier "Neifi Pier-ez" -- yes, you can smack him for that one) started DP. He'd have gotten out of the second too, if he hadn't failed to put the .067-hitting Fogg away with two strikes. This has been an annoying tendency of this pitching staff all year.

But I should not malign them too much, because after that Clement, Mike Wuertz, Mike Remlinger, LaTroy Hawkins and eventual winner Todd Wellemeyer threw ten innings of two-hit baseball (and eight K's after the 2ndd), and this is how this ballclub is going to win games -- with pitching and longballs.

Of the wild-card contenders, the Marlins, Giants and Astros all won tonight (the Astros got the Cardinals to lay down pretty good for them, except they must have told St. Louis that it was looking suspicious, so they allowed them to turn a 7-1 blowout into a 7-5 game in the ninth), and the Phillies lost, and the Padres are losing late (to be updated tomorrow).

The bottom line is, though, that the Cubs still have lost fewer games than any of the other teams, and if they go out and just win, that's all that matters.

Finally, you might remember that Jeff and I met Andy Rayburn, the owner of the Daytona Cubs, the Cubs affiliate in the Class A Florida State League, in the bleachers on August 27.

Today, one of his assistants called both of us and asked for our addresses so that Andy could send us some Daytona Cubs merchandise. A truly nice guy, and if you live in Florida or visit there next baseball season, go support the future Cubs and see a game at Daytona.

In the meantime, Mark Prior (though the ESPN website says it's Kerry Wood) goes for the sweep for the Cubs tomorrow afternoon.

Just win, baby.