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A Winning Streak Grows In Chicago

Here's what I said to Mike and Jeff when the Astros' bullpen was imploding in the bottom of the 8th:

In a tearful news conference at Wrigley Field in Chicago Tuesday night, Roger Clemens announced his retirement from baseball.

"I can't take this any more!" Clemens said.

Then, when Brad Lidge came in and gave up the tiebreaking runs on two walks, a hit and two wild pitches, I repeated it -- sort of:
In a tearful news conference at Wrigley Field in Chicago Tuesday night, Brad Lidge announced his retirement from baseball.

"I can't take this any more!" said Lidge.

Well, you couldn't blame either one of them at this point -- Lidge looked like LaTroy Hawkins blowing a lead for Carlos Zambrano, and the Astros fell to 2-21 on the road and the Cubs had the ballpark rocking again in a fall-like chill and the 4-2 come-from-behind win, the third in a row, brought the ballclub back to within one game of the .500 mark.

I shouldn't joke about Clemens' thoughts right now, because after he absolutely handcuffed the Cubs through five innings, he left the game. We didn't think anything of it -- I figured that Phil Garner was thinking the two runs Houston had scored were enough -- but Clemens apparently tweaked a groin muscle at some point, probably while sliding off the mound to snag a Neifi Perez bunt in the third. Clemens sure didn't look 42 years old when he threw Perez out from his knees.

Meanwhile, Sergio Mitre nearly matched Clemens. Dusty Baker's probably going to blame Jason Dubois for misplaying Craig Biggio's double off the ivy in left, but the real culprit in the Houston fourth, when they scored their two runs, was Mitre himself. He had walked Todd Self, and those leadoff walks so often come back to bite you in the butt.

You listening, Dusty?

Even more so than that, was the inability of the fielders, particularly Mitre himself, to retire the side on groundouts. Mitre induced a comebacker from Morgan Ensberg that should have been an inning-ending DP, but he was a little slow getting the ball to Neifi Perez, and the second run of the inning scored -- after the first run had scored on a ground ball to first that Derrek Lee didn't get to Michael Barrett in time to tag Self coming in from third base.

Howard wasn't there last night, but I had to call him in the eighth inning after Willy Taveras doubled to lead off the inning and Self laid down a bunt to advance him.

Why? Isn't it obvious? That was a Self sacrifice.

Mike gave me a ceremonial whack on the head with his clipboard.

Seriously, I'm not going to blame Dubois, because the play he muffed at the warning track wasn't that easy a play. Howard said that it appeared playable, but I'll give Jason the benefit of the doubt, because his eighth-inning line-drive double down the line started the game-winning rally.

I told Jeff and Mike that they should have taken Dubois down for a pinch-runner, maybe Todd Hollandsworth, even Jose Macias, but there he stood. After Enrique Wilson (and yes, let the record show: Enrique Wilson started a game for the Cubs and they won it!) flied out, then Holly came in to pinch-hit and singled Dubois in.

Say, isn't this the way it was supposed to work all along?

That's when Lidge came in and had his implosion, and Ryan Dempster finished up with a not-as-easy-as-the-night-before, but still fairly quick 14-pitch save, his fourth.

Good thing, too, because at that point, long after the sun had gone down, my fingers were starting to freeze up in the cool night, and when I got back to the car I had to blast the heat on full in order to thaw them out. Jeff managed to sit through the whole game in shorts, somehow.

The Astros are really, really bad -- they look like a team that goes out on the field and says, "How are we gonna blow it tonight?" We have all seen Cub teams that are exactly like that, and so the three of us spent some time debating, when Houston has its inevitable fire sale, who the Cubs should go after.

We all agreed: Clemens.

Yes, I know he's making $18 million. Yes, I know there's a trigger clause in his contract giving him an extra $7 million if he's traded.

But acquiring Clemens would give the Cubs, who have now had excellent pitching from the starters for over a week, an absolutely dominant rotation, not to mention allowing Glendon Rusch to go back to the bullpen or be a swingman. If I'm Jim Hendry, I'm sitting around trying to think up ways (national TV exposure, adulation in your home park, etc. etc.) to convince Clemens to come to the Cubs and pitch here for a couple of months.

If this did happen, the number he's worn since he came to the Yankees, and with Houston -- 22 -- isn't available. So maybe he'd go back to wearing his old Red Sox number...


Sign seen: "Give Texas Back To Mexico." Not sure what that means, or why someone would feel the urge to bring that to a baseball game.

Can We Give This Up Now: NASCAR race driver Jeff Gordon was Ditka-esque in his horrible rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch. It wasn't audible on the PA in the bleachers, but he also called the Friendly Confines "Wrigley Stadium". Ugh. Time to stop this worn-out "tradition", or at least stop asking people who don't have a clue about baseball, Chicago or the Cubs to sing.

The scoreboard seemed understaffed last night. It took them till nearly game time to post the AL side of the board, then some games had no scores posted after the second inning, and no relief pitchers were posted for any of the out-of-town games.

I know, this isn't a big deal, but I'm a scoreboard-watcher.

Finally, when Mitre was activated, Ben Grieve was sent back to Iowa. This gave the Cubs 13 pitchers for a night -- the only possible explanation is that when Todd Walker is activated tonight, a pitcher will likely be sent down.