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Of course, saying "We have a closer" after one day of Chad Fox dispatching the Pittsburgh Pirates in the ninth inning, is about as silly as thinking that just because LaTroy Hawkins can't get people out in the ninth inning, that he's not a good pitcher in the eighth.

Fox did the job, and as a result, probably has the job for the time being. Howard called to say that it's "Closer By Circumstance", and that's just about right.

When Fox started to warm up I quizzed the assembled multitudes about how many career saves Fox had prior to today.

Guesses ranged from one to twenty; only Dave got it close by saying "half a dozen". The correct answer was "Five", so we have now witnessed one-sixth of Fox's career saves, in only one sun-filled afternoon at Wrigley Field, as whatever team stunk out the joint yesterday left and was replaced by timely-hitting, timely-pitching Cubs, and the 5-2 win over the Pirates, returning the club to the .500 mark, came just at the right time.

We were joined today by devoted blog reader Matt Burtz and his wife Jackie -- and Jackie helped us out by sitting in the "hell seat". What's the hell seat, you're asking?

It's the seat on the end of the row below mine, where all the people returning from beer runs want to climb over whoever's sitting there. Jackie wouldn't let a single person by. That's the first time anyone's been able to do that in that seat.

With that, and with the win, we told them that they now have to return every day. Matt, for his part, decided he absolutely had to see Mark Prior pitch tomorrow, so he'll be back tomorrow night.

Before the game I bought my scorecard from Walter, who's been trying to give me the "free" pencils that they are handing out with the scorecard. I put "free" in quotes because the scorecard went up from $1 to $2 this year, so "free" is a relative term. I told him my kids would like the little half-pencils, so he gave me about two dozen of them -- and upon showing them to everyone, they were termed a weapon of mass destruction.

Fortunately for the bleacher denizens and everyone else, they'll stay in my house. I took the rubber band that held them together off, and last I saw the kids, they were happily dividing them into presumably equal portions.

Can you tell I'm in a good mood today? It started when the sun came out, an unexpected treat when the temperature still struggled to get above forty degrees, and that made it feel much warmer than yesterday's Arctic blast. The wind shifted just a bit today, blowing a little more out toward right field than yesterday, but that didn't stop Neifi! from hitting his second homer of the year to left field in the fourth inning.

Look. Whoever this guy is wearing #13, will you all promise not to wake him up?

We started calling him "Neifi Garciaparra" this afternoon. I have no idea how he's doing what he's been doing since he's become a Cub (including today, 42-for-110, .381, with 5 2B, 4 HR and 14 RBI), and I suspect he doesn't either, but whatever it is, let's not disturb the karma.

Jon and Howard both agree that Neifi! came here because he liked the fact that there was already a big Chicago landmark named after him.

Which one?

Oh, you know. Neifi Pier.

(That's the sound of clipboards smacking heads.)

It didn't start well. Kerry Wood got into another one of those two-out jams that we've been oh-so-disgusted with, and Dave was absolutely railing at the fact that with first base open and the pitcher due up in the second inning, why the Cubs didn't walk Freddy Sanchez intentionally. He had a point, particularly when Sanchez doubled in two runs.

But after that Wood settled down and struck out eight through five innings, and had a reasonable pitch count of 76, and batted for himself in the last of the fifth. Only then did Glendon Rusch start warming up -- and Howard, watching at home today, called to say that they hadn't said anything about Wood being hurt. Let's hope not.

The bullpen -- Rusch, Mike Wuertz and Fox -- did their jobs today, although Rusch gave up three hits in his two innings, and Fox just couldn't stand to have a 1-2-3 inning, walking Sanchez before striking out pinch-hitter Tike Redman to end the snappy two-hour-and-fourteen-minute game.

Other things of note: Jeromy Burnitz' three-run homer in the fourth landed just below us -- and off a guy who actually had a glove on, and was picked up by someone who spilled beer all over the section, luckily not on us.

Through the last two innings, there were several women standing behind us screaming in very loud voices every time a Cub did something good. This was very strange, not to mention hurtful to the ears. Luckily again, the innings went quickly and so it didn't last very long.

And finally, some people about five rows down attempted to start the wave. We don't do waves at Wrigley Field, and for the first time in my memory -- they were actually shouted down.

This didn't stop the usual chants of "Right field sucks - left field sucks", but that's a tradition that goes back to the early 1970's.

In honor of Matt's visit to the bleachers, we decided to do the Tomato Inning today -- something I hadn't done since the home opener, since it didn't really work. It took three tomato pieces before I got it to land on an inning, and it kind of bounced between the 4th, 5th and 6th, and so we'll take it to be the decisive rally in the fourth inning. Thanks, Matt!

Closer By Circumstance. That was Chad Fox today. Don't assume this will last another day... but for today, we'll take it.

UPDATE [2005-4-24 20:29:35 by Al]: Kerry Wood felt a twinge in his shoulder today, which is why he left the game to no immediate explanation.

Yeah, I know, I know, this is going to sound like all the other debates about the Cubs covering up something more serious. Wood blamed it on the cold weather.

The only way we are going to know for sure is when he does or doesn't come out for his next start. Until then, or until I hear otherwise, I reserve judgment.

Also, I wanted to add this. The new PA announcer is... well, he's not very good. For one thing, I still can't figure out his name, because he hasn't enunciated it well enough. I thought it was "Mike Verson", but today it sounded like "Mike Turson". Incidentally, the Cubs website still lists Paul Friedman as the PA announcer. What's up with that? Is Friedman ill?

Anyway, in addition to having a fairly high-pitched, nasal voice seemingly ill-suited to PA work, Verson/Turson today announced the Cubs' opponent as the "Milwaukee Pittsburgh Pirates", an interesting idea, and when Mike Wuertz came in to pitch, he announced Chad Fox, even though Fox hadn't even warmed up at the time.

Maybe he'll get better, but he could use more practice.