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Cosmic Things Are Happening

Longtime readers of my old blog will remember this headline as one I used when things occur that can't be explained by logic or "normal" reasoning, or when convergences begin to happen that make us think that maybe, just maybe, the Cubs will begin to become the team we all hoped they'd be.

And yes, such things indeed began to happen last night.

Mike came in and showed me his scorecard, and noted that the printing had a weird "doubling" effect -- he claimed the card must have been "haunted".

Then, when Derrek Lee homered in the third inning, I wanted to double-check his stats, and knew that because the Cubs had an off-day Monday, the scorecard's printed stats on the back would be correct.

Hmmmm. That wasn't true either -- all the Cub stats were ridiculously messed up. According to the card, Lee came into the game with 64 HR and 200 RBI -- and all this on 26 hits. The stat list had eight players with 20 or more HR, five with 100 or more RBI, and Corey Patterson with 24 HR and 114 RBI and only nine hits.

Well, we all had a good laugh at that, and then settled down to watch -- wasn't that the same game we saw on Sunday?

The Cubs won 2-0. The two runs scored on a solo homer, and a scratched-out run. And the Cubs' starting pitcher was absolutely dominant.

It was indeed almost identical to Sunday's win over the White Sox -- only the location (Wrigley Field), the time (night instead of day) and opponent (the Brewers) were different.

Carlos Zambrano had said he was going to take a different approach to the game than his previous couple of starts, and here's what he said he did:

The only change was the location. I was ahead in the count a lot of times today. In Milwaukee, I was all over the place. When I came up to look for the zone, they hit the ball hard.

Isn't that what I wrote here the other day? That to beat the White Sox, you have to get ahead of the hitters?

This is a no-brainer, I think. But whatever it took, Big Z did it last night, and put to rest some of the worries we'd had about him being slightly injured after that goofy slide he made into second base against the Red Sox on June 11.

In fact, after Lyle Overbay singled for the first hit of the game in the fifth inning, Mike and I agreed that Z had no-hitter stuff last night, and Howard even called me to say the same thing and that he was upset that he couldn't be there!

Z was also reasonably efficient, throwing a large but not ridiculous number of pitches (115) in his eight innings, and Ryan Dempster dispatched the Brewers easily in a ten-pitch ninth inning for -- and yes, you are reading this about a Cubs closer -- his twelfth consecutive save.

This is the way Cub teams were supposed to win this season, on the strength of their starting pitching. Yes, I'd like to see them hit more homers with men on base, instead of the solo shots, and yes, I'd like to see a lineup constructed in a way that makes sense, rather than one with Corey Patterson leading off (and more on Corey anon!).

But as long as the team is winning -- and the pitching staff, not just the starters but the entire staff, has now thrown twenty-five consecutive scoreless innings. The last runs scored on them were the two solo homers of Greg Maddux by Carl Everett and Jermaine Dye in the second inning last Saturday.

This is what makes Kerry Wood's return this afternoon even more important. If he returns and is Kerry Wood, the twenty-strikeout guy, the guy with the yakker of a curveball, the dominant guy, instead of the guy who continually leaves the mound with twinges in various body parts, well, then we'll have something.

The Cubs were helped immensely by defense too last night. There were three double plays, and in the eighth inning Lee took a perfectly placed bunt by Trent Durrington and threw Geoff Jenkins out at third. That was followed by the third double play, a terrific diving catch by Patterson on a sinking line drive off the bat of Brady Clark (almost identical to the play he nearly made back on May 21 against the White Sox), after which Corey threw a laser beam to Neifi! to double off Damian Miller, and end the Brewers' only real threat, and he left the field to a rousing standing ovation.

After which the cliched "guy who makes the great defensive play leads off the next inning" happened, and Corey promptly struck out, to yet another chorus of boos.

I'm still on the "Trade Corey Before The Other Teams Realize He Sucks" bandwagon, but the great defensive play did save the game last night. He still doesn't belong in the leadoff spot, and while this offense-sucking lineup is in effect, the pitching staff will have to continue to step up as it has the past three days.

It was supposed to be very muggy and sticky, and we watched a big dark cloud head eastward across the south side of the city before the game and during the early innings, but nothing ever happened at the ballpark except the appearance of some threatening-looking clouds. The wind shifted off the lake and by the time the sun disappeared behind said clouds about an hour before sunset, it actually became a fairly pleasant evening. Despite the lack of any real heat, the Cubs sent some ushers out with the squirt canisters of water, and at times they were indiscriminately spritzing people with water. As I've said before -- if it's hot, and you don't want to be hot, don't come to a baseball game, go to a waterpark.

But hey, maybe that's just me. (And Jeff too.)

More fun: we did a bit of scoreboard-watching, and saw the back-and-forth in the Kansas City-Minnesota game. The Royals had taken an 8-7 lead just before we left the park, and I said to Jeff and Mike, "It doesn't matter. They WILL blow that lead."

They did, and lost 11-8.

Hey, we can afford to laugh, right? The Cubs have a baby three-game winning streak, and have leaped in front of a couple of other teams in the wild-card race, and are now second (three games back) to the Braves, who have won five in a row, and who the Cubs will face next week in Atlanta, a good test for the finally-reconstituted pitching staff.

Good news: the Cubs finally admitted what all of us knew from the day he was acquired, that Enrique Wilson does not belong on a major league roster. He was outrighted to Iowa and Ronny Cedeno was recalled. Wilson doesn't belong on a minor league roster either, but that's another story. Cedeno's been hitting really well, and much as Neifi! did so well for a month or two, it's clear that he's starting to wear down. Let us hope that Cedeno hasn't been brought up to sit.

Another roster move will have to be made before today's game in order to activate Kerry Wood. I find myself hoping it's NOT Joe Borowski. Yes, maybe I'm a bit too sentimental, but JoeBo's a standup guy who's worked hard to come back, never complained, never made excuses, and I'd love to see him make it. Sergio Mitre might be better served starting every fifth day at Iowa rather than pitching in garbage time in the majors, AND that might enhance his trade value to other teams. That's the move I would make. We'll see in a couple of hours.