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Aramis!

The title of today's post was going to be "Happy New Year", in honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year we celebrated today, and with the kids off school we went to a service this morning, and then to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in the afternoon.

And that was refreshing -- how often in this modern age, in a big city like Chicago, can you do something with your kids absolutely free?

Thursday is "Free Day" at the nature museum, and with it being a weekday and most people working, parking was free on the street, and the museum was uncrowded, and it was a relaxing and enjoyable afternoon.

I've digressed here from the title discussion, but obviously, I had to retitle this one after Aramis Ramirez tied the Cubs' club record with fourteen total bases (three homers and a double), drove in all five runs, and basically single-handedly led the Cubs to a crucially important 5-4 win over the Reds, their fourth in a row, and sixth win in their last seven games.

I say crucially important for several reasons. First, all the other wild-card contending clubs won their games today (in the case of the Astros, leading big in the middle innings at the time of this post), and as Steve Stone (actually, I was a bit surprised to see Stone tonight, as he is Jewish and typically takes days off on the Jewish High Holidays) pointed out on the telecast, it's always a good thing to start out a road trip with a win, particularly when the trip is as long as this one is.

The third Ramirez homer, which gave the Cubs the lead back after some really bad pitching by Kerry Wood had allowed the Reds a 4-3 lead, also was the Cubs' 213th of the season, breaking the club record, which had been established in 1998. Ramirez, thanks to two walks in the 9th, to Corey Patterson and Neifi Perez (Neifi Perez? Walking? Who IS this guy, anyway?), actually came to bat with a shot at a fourth homer, and he had a pretty good at-bat before hitting a hard line drive to right field for the third out of the inning.

Wood had actually started the game off well, not allowing a hit till the fourth, when Ryan Freel did exactly what Stone said the Cubs should not let him do -- get on base, because then he stole second and by the time the inning was over the Reds had closed the lead to 3-2. Then Wood got wild in the fifth, walking, among other people, pitcher Josh Hancock (who had zero walks in his major league career as a hitter before tonight), and before it was over the Reds had a 4-3 lead.

Dusty had allowed Kerry to bat, amazingly enough, leading off the seventh, and he made Dusty look stupid by hitting the first pitch for a groundout. But that's when Aramis took over (after a hard grounder by Corey Patterson had gone off Sean Casey's glove for an error, and smacked his thirty-third homer) giving the Cubs the 5-4 lead, which was efficiently protected by Kent Mercker (an eight-pitch 1-2-3 eighth) and LaTroy Hawkins (a ten-pitch 1-2-3 ninth for his 22nd save), and at last the bullpen appears to have righted itself.

Dave Otto said on the FSN post-game show that he agreed with Dusty's decision to leave Wood in, and Kerry did throw a scoreless seventh. He had, however, already thrown 102 pitches by then, and I hope this doesn't affect him later on. Otto went on to say that it reminded him of the July 2003 game where Dusty let Carlos Zambrano bat for himself, and the Cubs came back and won -- but Z won that game all by himself when he homered.

It's moot now because the Cubs won, but I hope Dusty is a little more gentle with his starters as the last eighteen games go by.

The crowd appeared, on the FSN telecast, to be half Cub fans, and they were loud throughout, particularly on Aramis' homers, and then during the bottom of the ninth, all on their feet cheering "Let's Go Cubs!"

We remain happy and hopeful tonight, and this weekend, we root for the Brewers (who we hope play the Astros tougher than they played the Giants), the Braves (against the Marlins) -- and I suppose we must root for the Padres to take two of three from the Giants, though not a sweep, because that would put San Diego right back into it.