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Here's The Good News!

After four days off, the Cubs are still tied for the wild card lead.

Of course, the bad news is that the Giants swept the Diamondbacks (yeah, I know, we held out hope for an Arizona win today with Randy Johnson pitching, but these are the 2004 D'backs we are talking about, and they're nearly as bad as last year's Tigers), and that the Astros swept the Pirates, and both of those teams seem really hot right now.

But.

The Giants have now played six more games than the Cubs, which is a double-edged sword... the Giants have less time to catch up, and the Cubs lead everybody except the Marlins (two games) by three games in the loss column. And the Cubs do seem well-suited to play the probable doubleheaders coming up, with the presence of Glendon Rusch on the staff.

At this writing, it appears that makeup dates for this weekend's series in Florida will be announced tomorrow. Speculation has the teams playing a doubleheader in Chicago next weekend -- likely Friday -- with the Marlins batting last in one of the games, and the other two games to be made up as a conventional (not day/night) doubleheader in Miami on September 20. The Marlins also have another doubleheader against the Expos on September 14, so their pitching staff may be rather stretched out.

Schedule-wise, the Astros must play the Giants, and also have six left with St. Louis; the Giants and Padres play each other, and of course, the Cubs have the chance to dispatch the Marlins all by theirownselves with six head-to-head meetings.

With all the injuries, with all the expectations of a great team dashed, with the poor bullpen and poor play from Sammy Sosa, among others, the Cubs can still win the wild card just by winning their own games. Let's start it tomorrow.

That out of the way, let me share with you an e-mail Mike sent to me last night. The "fellow" he refers to is Ichiro:

See this fellow tomorrow. No kidding, you'll regret it if you don't. Last night felt something like the '98 home run chase. You know what he needs to do, you know how difficult it is to do; and you sit there and watch it happen. The baseball equivalent of a magic show.

Sisler's record is crazy enough, but Ichiro now has 188 singles. Record: 206 (the latest researched total) by Willie Keeler in 1898. Both records will be toast, barring catastrophe. If this guy ever were to put this together for the full run of a season (and I know that's not really possible), we'd have the most astounding individual player-season of our lifetimes.

After Ichiro had gone the first three-for-three, Buehrle threw him an eephus the first pitch of the fourth at-bat. Two pitches later, Ichiro singled right back through the mound. Buehrle laughed and tipped his cap in the direction of the hit. Priceless stuff.

With no Cub game and summer having finally arrived, two months late (it was sticky and 85 degrees today), I took Mark and his friend Mitchell (who is, unaccountably, a Sox fan) to the Cell this afternoon to witness Ichiro (and the rest of the Mariners, most of whom are eminently forgettable) play the White Sox.

The Sox won 6-2, and I think Felix Diaz' agent is going to ask me to be present at all his starts, because I have now witnessed both of his major league wins (the other against the Cubs), and that's pretty impressive for a guy who came in with a 9.09 ERA. He mowed down Seattle for six innings, giving up five hits, and I kept shaking my head in Mike's direction every time Ichiro grounded out, which was each time he batted until his last, which was against Jon Adkins in the 8th, when he slashed one of his trademark opposite-field liners over the shortstop's head for his two hundred twenty-fourth hit of 2004, and his one hundred and eighty-ninth single. He needs thirty-four hits in Seattle's remaining twenty-six games to break the record, and that is eminently doable. It's a little in the realm of the absurd, but Ichiro is hitting .378 -- could he hit .400? It would take an average of about .580, which is, of course, ridiculous for a four-week span -- until you note that in the last week alone, he has hit .654, and has hit .486 from August 1 through today. Worth watching, at least.

The rest of the game seemed funereal, as the White Sox completed a sweep of a hapless team; the crowd was larger than I would have expected for such a game (30,406), swelled by about 5,000 Teamsters on "Teamster Day" -- you could see them taking up half the right-field seats in their white T-shirts. The 600-year-old Jamie Moyer threw creditably for the Mariners, making only two mistakes, home runs to Paul Konerko and Joe Borchard (who seems to hit home runs or nothing at all), after walks, and that was the ballgame.

The kids had fun, though Mitchell, who was excited when he opened his Pepsi and found a "Free 20-Ounce Pepsi" bottle cap, wound up losing the cap. Plus, the teams didn't take batting practice, so the boys had to make up their own fun for the pre-game time, which they did, good friends that they are.

Almost more interesting than watching Ichiro was seeing the final Chicago appearance of the retiring Edgar Martinez, hitting machine of the 1990's, and he went out in fine style, with three hits. I was wishing that Bob Melvin would have pinch-run for him after the last hit, so that anyone with a sense of baseball history might have given this classy veteran at least a small standing ovation.

Tomorrow, back to our regularly scheduled program.