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Bring Me The Head Of LaTroy Hawkins

Or, more accurately, bring me the head of Dusty Baker, who swore he'd never use Hawkins three days in a row -- and the result when he did was an unbelievable, two-out, two-strike, game-tying homer by Mets rookie Victor Diaz, only his second major league homer, and worse, he grew up in the Chicago area idolizing Sammy Sosa -- who had one of the worst days of his career, striking out four times, and if he'd managed a fifth, the Cubs would have at least had a shot at winning in the tenth, but instead he hit into an inning-ending double play.

You know, if I were Dusty, I might play a hunch and sit Sammy tomorrow -- he's 7-for-33 lifetime against Al Leiter. The only problem is, the replacements are lefthanded hitting Ben Grieve, or rookie Jason Dubois, or Jose Macias, who's 0-for-2 against Leiter.

This has not been a good day. The Cubs lost an emotionally draining game, 4-3 in 11 innings, when another rookie, Craig Brazell, hit his first major league homer off Kent Mercker.

Put it another way: the Mets scored as many runs on Diaz's swing (three) as they had scored in the four previous games against the Cubs this year.

Meanwhile, the Giants were winning in just as emotional a way, 9-5 over the Dodgers when Pedro Feliz broke up a 5-5 tie in the 8th with a grand slam.

My son Mark says the Dodgers lost because Shawn Green didn't play today. Um, nope. They lost because Yhency Brazoban, who came into the game with a 0.93 ERA and having allowed only one homer all year, couldn't throw strikes, and when he did, Feliz punished him. The Dodgers didn't let Barry Bonds beat them -- they walked him every time he came up, including once with first base occupied. Sometimes this works, and sometimes the other Giants do actually hit, and today they did.

So many times, we have seen the Cubs -- or other teams -- have emotional losses or wins like this and it doesn't carry over to the next day. That's what the Cubs have to do tomorrow. The Fox broadcasters -- the smarmy Josh Lewin and the overbearing Tim McCarver -- kept saying that Paul Bako, who got a day-game-after-night-game start today, had tickets to see "Mamma Mia" on Broadway tonight, and maybe he ought to invite some of his teammates, get their minds as far from Shea Stadium as possible, and then ride Kerry Wood to victory tomorrow. Wood, for his part, is 4-1 against the Mets since 2001, with a 1.71 ERA in 49 innings. Al Leiter, for his part, is 1-3 vs. the Cubs in the same period, with a 2.63 ERA in 33 innings.

So, we'll probably expect a pitcher's duel -- and the way things are going in this wacky season, we'll get a blowout. It's time for the Cubs' bats to get going, anyway.

Let us not be Chicken Littles. Neither the sky NOR the wild card is falling. The Cubs maintain a half-game lead, and a full game in the loss column, now with eight games left (the Giants have seven -- they have a Monday off day while the Cubs play). Historical perspective: in last year's division race, with seven games left, the Cubs were half a game behind and still won.

There's a lot of good that came out of today's game that is hidden by the loss -- Mark Prior threw a heck of a game and deserved better than a no-decision, and this is his second straight start just like this one. The starting staff is definitely hitting on all cylinders, and apart from the two homers, the bullpen has actually done a pretty good job in the last week.

One last thing about the Fox telecast -- I haven't seen too many of these, so this was the first time I had seen "Scooter", the silly animated baseball that's supposedly there to teach kids about the game, and to bring more young fans to baseball.

There's a certain nine-year-old in my house who said Scooter is "stupid". Take a lesson from that, Fox honchos -- who, as Josh Lewin said during today's telecast, are still dreaming of that Cubs-Red Sox World Series we were all denied last year.

Speaking of MLB and television: why does MLB insist on Extra Innings blacking out the West Coast Fox games after their time period has ended here? There were zero games being televised into this market from 3-6 pm CT.

Why would MLB object to me watching another three hours of Fox's commercials? If the SF/LA game had been available, I'd definitely have watched it.

Keep the faith. There are eight games left. The Cubs can still win it themselves by winning eight in a row -- not an impossibility, and the Brewers helped the Cubs out by shutting out Houston 8-0, and I have to believe the Dodgers will beat the Giants a couple more times in their four remaining meetings, which would reduce the number of games the Cubs must win.

On to tomorrow. Keep hope and positive energy in all your thoughts tonight.