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Thank You, Dodgers

That is something I hope we say at least three more times in the next week.

After a tense weekend, the Cubs return home exactly where they were when they arrived in New York -- half a game ahead in the wild-card race, thanks to the Dodgers' 7-4 win over the Giants today, in a game that took only slightly less time than the glaciers did to overrun Europe during the last Ice Age.

I spent the latter half of the afternoon, when the Cubs were probably on their flight home, watching the SF/LA game via MLB Extra Innings, and I can tell you one thing that didn't make the game summary.

In the ninth inning, Barry Bonds hit with two out and with two strikes, and nubbed a little bleeder past Eric Gagne and beat it out for an infield hit. OK, props to a 40-year-old guy for doing that, but replays showed that he did something wrong running to first base, and as he walked off the field to be replaced by pinch-runner Jason Ellison, it looked like he had tweaked his groin in some way.

Cameras showed him leaving the dugout for the clubhouse with the trainer, something I doubt he'd have done in a tense, pennant-race game like this unless he was really hurting.

Hey, I really don't want to see anyone hurt, but if Bonds has to miss any games this last week -- well, the Giants without Barry Bonds are the Colorado Rockies.

So the Cubs lost two of three on the road, including today's game, another depressing one-run loss, 3-2 to the Mets. The Giants lost two of three at home, and they're a much better team at home, where they have played their last game of 2004. Meanwhile, the Cubs, who finished their road season at a respectable 44-36, come home tomorrow, where they have a 43-32 record, with Carlos Zambrano on the mound.

Here's more good news: Kerry Wood threw six innings of six-hit, one-walk, no-run baseball.

Unfortunately, that was after one of the worst first innings of his career, where he walked two, hit two, and put the Cubs, who seemed to have left their bats in Pittsburgh, in a 3-0 hole. Then the offense couldn't hit its way out of it, though they came back to within 3-2 in the fourth, and maybe it'd have been more if Nomar's RBI double hadn't bounced into the stands for an automatic double, although Sammy Sosa actually drove in the run from third with a groundout. I suppose that's an accomplishment considering how poor Sosa has looked lately, and his average is now down to .249, his worst in, well, nearly forever, since he was a 22-year-old strikeout king with the 1991 White Sox, and he hit .203 that year.

Man, I tried everything today. Since the Cubs lost yesterday when I was sitting in the La-Z-Boy, I switched positions to the couch. Didn't help. Then I went down to my computer room in the basement and watched on the TV in there for a while. That did get the two-run rally, so I went back to the La-Z-Boy. No dice.

However, once I simply sat there for the entire LA/SF game (with time out for dinner), it worked, as the Dodgers won. I think I have it figured out, but I'm not revealing that here.

Anyway, for the Cubs, it's time to step up. It's time to stop trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark with every swing, as Corey Patterson and Sosa have been doing. It's time to stop bitching about every missed call, as Moises Alou did again today.

Yes, plate umpire Bill Miller jobbed Alou on a couple of calls. Has Moises ever considered that he doesn't get any breaks because of his constant whining? Here's Alou, from today's AP game summary:

I think because I argue, they're after me. Is it a coincidence? I don't know, but I've got to do something about it. I got a letter that said if I get thrown out again, I'll get suspended. Maybe they know. Maybe they're baiting me. It's like guarding Shaq with five fouls.

Are those the words of a champion?

No.

Just shut up and play baseball, Moises. Just win.

Anyway, the math gets simpler. The Cubs could still win it without anyone's help, by winning their remaining seven games. Yeah, I know, sounds real easy, doesn't it?

But I'd suspect they won't, and I also suspect the Astros and Giants won't win all of their remaining six, either. The players say they don't scoreboard-watch, but do you believe that? I sure don't. In any case, they won't be able to for the Giants games, because every one of them will start after the Cubs game for that day is over, except for Tuesday night's SF/SD game, which begins at 9 PM CT, probably about the sixth or seventh inning of the Cub game. As for the Astros, they'll start tomorrow and Tuesday at the same time as the Cubs in St. Louis (and now, all of us are the world's biggest Cardinal fans for the next three days), then play Wednesday night after the Cubs' 1:20 day game is over.

One more stat reminder: with seven games remaining a year ago, the Cubs were a game and a half behind Houston, and won anyway. I like this year's position much better.

It's funny how your perception changes. When this road trip began, I thought it'd be great if the Cubs went 8-4.

Well, they did exactly that, and now everyone's all depressed. When you get to 8-2, you certainly want more.

But 8-4 is a really good road trip -- they just won an extra game in Pittsburgh and lost one in New York. Let us not lose this perspective.

Finally, I saw a funny local promotion for Fox Sports Bay Area during the SF/LA game... you see an accident scene, or fire, I'm not quite sure, and a man is lying obviously injured in the street. The paramedics arrive, rip the man's jacket open to start trying to help him... and discover he's wearing a Cubs T-shirt, after which they quietly walk back to their truck.

Clever, guys. But I hope your team loses.

Keep the faith.