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Secret Weapon

I finally figured it out -- a secret weapon to help the Cubs win this thing.

Hear me out, OK?

As many of you know, I am a television director, and belong to the Directors Guild of America.

I serve on a couple of DGA boards. One of them is the Chicago Coordinating Committee, which met in downtown Chicago tonight, right during the time today's game was scheduled to be played.

When this meeting was scheduled, I knew I wouldn't be able to see much of this game, and when I left the meeting the Cubs had a 4-3 lead after eight. OK, you'll say, I got home just in time to see LaTroy Hawkins blow a save (ominously, this is seven of nine -- no Star Trek jokes, please -- one-run saves blown by Hawkins).

But I also got to see the Cubs, who have lived and died by the home run this year, win the game over the Pirates 5-4 in the tenth by having the following weird, uncharacteristic inning:

* A leadoff double by Corey Patterson on which Pirates LF Jason Bay attempted an ill-advised sliding catch. He touched the ball in fair territory -- had he let it drop, it might have dropped foul.

* Another successful sacrifice bunt by whoever's wearing the uniform that says "Perez" on it.

* An intentional walk to Aramis Ramirez -- putting him exactly 100 IBB's behind Barry Bonds (six to 106).

* A really rotten-looking strikeout from Moises Alou, and then...

* Salomon Torres, who was throwing sinkers to Alou, sunk one into the dirt that Jason Kendall played extremely poorly (Steve Stone was all over him for poor positioning, and that is unusual, since Kendall's usually a very good defensive catcher), and Patterson trotted home on the wild pitch with the winning run.

And then, Ryan Dempster, who may be a starter for the 2005 Cubs and a VERY important part of the 2004 (dare I say it?) postseason bullpen, mowed the Pirates down 1-2-3 in the last of the 10th for the second save he's ever had.

OK, you'll say -- that's one game credit to the DGA. But let me go further.

I also serve on the DGA's Eastern Directors Council, which meets several times a year in New York.

The next scheduled meeting is Saturday, October 9.

Yes, that's right -- the date of the possible first Cub home playoff game.

Today, I finalized plans to go to that meeting.

I figure that ought to do it. And yes, presuming it's a night game (and this being the identical postseason schedule to 1998, it ought to be), I can make it back from New York in time for the game that day.

So give the DGA an assist today, but most of the credit to Ramirez, who broke Ron Santo's team record for home runs by a 3B with his thirty-fourth, also matching his career high (set in 2001), and all the pitchers other than Hawkins.

The Giants/Astros game is just beginning as I write this, so the Cubs will be in one of two situations after it is over:

* still half a game behind the Giants, but 1 1/2 games ahead of Houston; or

* half a game ahead of San Francisco, who would then be tied with the Astros for second in the wild-card.

Either way, the Cubs pick up a game in the loss column on someone, and I'd think the Philadelphia win over Florida tonight -- the first time the Phillies have won in Miami in two years -- pretty much does the Marlins in, putting them five games out with twelve remaining.

Finally, if you are clicking on the game recap/boxscore links that I've put in my posts and on the top of this blog, you will notice that I've switched to Yahoo's links rather than ESPN's. The content is the same for either one, since both use wire service reports, but in recent weeks, ESPN's site has been redesigned, and not for the good, in my opinion. It takes longer to load and frequently crashes my browser.

Onward, tomorrow, with Carlos Zambrano (who was spotted in the dugout in the 10th, leading cheers with his cap on sideways) on the mound. Keep the faith.