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Moises Alou had two homers.

Greg Maddux was sailing along.

There was another road-game loud, Cub-partisan crowd (a sellout of 41,829).

The Cubs went in knowing that the Giants had lost and so a win would put them into first place in the wild-card race.

So what went wrong?

Well, first of all, I'm not going to blame Wendell Kim for this one. Yes, he waved Mark Grudzielanek around third in the eighth inning with what would have been the tying run, but I think I'd have done that too. It took a perfect throw from Wily Mo Pena to get him, and even then the play was close. Chip Caray, of all people, had some insight on this when the play was replayed, when he noted that Grudz had taken a really wide turn around third and that tiny bit of extra time might have been the difference in beating the throw or not.

It was Wily Mo's day, anyway. The one thing that's bitten Maddux all year has been the long ball, and Wily Mo hit two, including a monstrous shot to straightaway center that exceeded 450 feet, and D'Angelo Jimenez also homered, and the Reds beat the Cubs in another depressing one-run game, 6-5. The homers ran Maddux' total allowed to a somewhat alarming 29, only one fewer than the number of walks he's allowed this season -- and he didn't walk anyone last night.

Live by the homer, die by the homer. The Cubs have now extended their team record to 219, and allowed 151, which isn't a bad ratio. But knowing that the GABP in Cincinnati is a launching pad, maybe Maddux should have pitched around Pena when he came up in the sixth. There have now been twelve home runs in the first three games in the series -- and those have all been in night games, when the ball typically doesn't carry as well as it does in the daytime.

That's why it's a good thing that Glendon Rusch is throwing this afternoon, against left-handed hitters like Sean Casey and Adam Dunn, neither of whom hit as well against lefties; neither does Jimenez, though Rusch ought to pitch carefully around Pena, who has hit nine homers in 85 at-bats against left-handed pitching and is only twenty-two years old and could be primed for a breakout season in 2005.

That's in the future, though, and for now the Cubs will simply have to lament a missed opportunity. This would be more worrisome if there were fewer games remaining, but:

* there are still seventeen games left, twelve of them against teams with losing records;

* the Cubs still lead the Giants in the loss column;

* the Marlins appear to be fading out of the race, with their overburdened pitching staff, and that bodes well for the doubleheader on Monday;

* the Cub pitching staff, even with its recent woes, is still second in the majors in fewest runs allowed;

* the offense did its job again last night, getting twelve hits and three walks and three homers, the third from Sammy Sosa, who is now one homer short of tying Harmon Killebrew for seventh place on the all-time list.

Finally, the Cubs have been pleased with the progress of Kyle Farnsworth's recovery from his stupid kicking injury of the year (remember a couple of years ago? He was kicking a football around the outfield during BP and hurt himself then too), and he may be activated as soon as today.

I'll let you decide whether that's good news or bad news.

When the Cubs went in to this series I had hoped they'd win three of four. As I've said several times before...

Win today and all is forgiven. Keep the faith and hope.