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Where Do I Begin?

I'll start here, because there were so many things wrong with today's 10-6 loss to the Brewers that I hardly know where to start.

It's the seventh inning. Damian Miller has just homered off Sergio Mitre to make the score 7-5, but that's still manageable on a day when the wind was whipping in our faces (officially 15 MPH, but gusting higher). There are two out. Geoff Jenkins doubles just out of Derrek Lee's reach, and the next hitter, J. J. Hardy, is hitting .180. Mitre gets two quick strikes on him.

You can guess what happens next, even if you don't already know. He threw Hardy "the Hawkins", and Hardy blooped an RBI double down the RF line.

But wait! It gets worse!

That was it for Mitre. Prince Fielder, the highly touted, left-handed-hitting, rookie son of former slugger Cecil Fielder, has already been announced as a pinch-hitter.

So what does Dusty do? Naturally, call on his trusted left-handed relief pitcher, Mike Remlinger.

What's wrong with this picture? All of you already know, but Dusty can't see it. Maybe Darren Baker was managing today, I dunno. Sure seemed like a six-year-old in charge. Remlinger's splits are even more absurd than usual coming into today's game -- a .333 BAA (average against) from left-handed hitters, .185 BAA from right-handed hitters, plus he had struck out twelve right-handers.

OK, strategy hounds, this still might work. First base was open, and the next hitter, Brady Clark, had been 0-for-4. So, Howard, Jeff and I are thinking -- walk Fielder, pitch to Clark, keep the game close.

BZZZZZZZ! Wrong! Fielder hits the first pitch up the middle for an RBI single. Naturally, Remlinger gets Clark to pop up in foul territory to Derrek Lee.

Why can't anyone see the reverse splits that all of us can see? Remlinger could be an effective reliever if he were used in the reverse-split manner. But Baker stubbornly continues to use him as a LOOGY, even though every single person who reads this blog, and in theory thousands of other Cub fans, know that it's going to blow up in his face every single time.

That wasn't even the worst thing Baker did today. I figured this morning that some right-handed hitters would get the start against Chris Capuano, and indeed, Jason Dubois and Jerry Hairston and Ronny Cedeno got starts. But Jose Macias in right field? When Jeromy Burnitz is hot and he's one of only two current Cubs who even had a hit off Capuano?

Then, after Capuano's taken out, Burnitz comes into the game when Aramis Ramirez leaves (hit by a pitch, didn't seem too serious, I suspect he just left as a precaution), and Jose Macias moves to 3B. This was at the same time as Mitre came in, so we all figured "double switch", since the pitcher's spot was due up next.

BZZZZZZZ! Wrong again! Burnitz goes into Ramirez' spot, so he only gets one at-bat. Neifi! wound up batting for Remlinger, and flying out on the first pitch.

Hairston, for his part, led off the game with a home run -- and then Corey Patterson walked for the third time in four games. But for Corey, that was it -- he went 0-for-4 in his remaining at-bats and looked bad doing it, particularly in the ninth after the Cubs had begun a too-little-too-late rally against reliever Tommy Phelps, scoring a run and forcing Ned Yost to call on his closer, Derrick Turnbow, in a non-save situation.

By then, Todd Walker had replaced Hairston, but he and Patterson must have had evening plans, because they both swung at the first pitch and grounded out harmlessly to end the game.

This was all after the Cubs had made a nice comeback from being down 5-1 (I told Howard, "Five runs won't win this game" after the Brewers had gone out to that lead, in part thanks to Corey missing the cutoff man and allowing Hardy to take an extra base after he had singled in a run), tying the game at 5 in the fourth. I'm going to take some credit here -- with two out and Ronny Cedeno on second, Greg Maddux hit a grounder to Bill Hall at 3B.

I yelled out, "Throw it away!" and that's exactly what Hall did, sending it to the dugout seats and allowing Cedeno to score the tying run.

But, Maddux didn't have it today and gave it all back in the next half-inning, throwing 88 pitches in five innings. Only one of the Brewers' three homers (Carlos Lee's 420-foot homer into the juniper bushes in the first) was off him, though.

Dedicated blog reader Paul from Ohio (he and Howard found out they have traversed the same ground often, as Howard's in-laws are from the same part of Ohio) and his girlfriend Isha (hope I remembered to spell that right!) joined us for this afternoon's game, and despite the loss they have been invited to return. A guy came up to Jeff and started talking and after they were done, I asked "Who was that?"

Turned out it was his nephew, of all people, and I gave a BCB card to a buddy of his named J. D., and Howard assured him there would definitely be a "J" and a "D" in today's post, so here they are:



It was warm today, but with the breeze relatively comfortable, but the young ushers with the spritz bottles returned. Again, Bill Our Favorite Security Guard kept them away from us and kept our scorecards dry. By the end of the game the ushers had given up on spritzing and just opened up the bottles and dumped the water on people who seemed to enjoy that sort of thing, though we sure wouldn't have.

Well, enough about today. It's only one loss, and keep in mind that you have only a little more than five hours to get Derrek Lee elected to start the All-Star Game (and frankly, Derrek's in a little down phase -- below .380 for the first time in a couple of weeks). To end this post, I thought I'd share this, sent to me today by e-mail from Dan Cusimano, an expatriate Cub fan living in the Washington, DC area, as a preview of this weekend's first-ever hosting at Wrigley Field of a team from Washington:

My brother, who has Wrigley seats in Section 512, is usually too annoyed to write about the team.

As the Nationals come into Chicago this weekend, I thought you might want a blurb or two on the first year team. I have season tickets at RFK Stadium, so see a lot of the Nats.

Let me start by saying I am TOTALLY in the tank for the Nats - they're one of the most appealing, fan-friendly, hard-nosed teams I've ever seen. They are, for the most part, the anti-Cubs. They do all the little things well - take pitches, play tough defense, take the extra base, and are (at this writing) so far over their collective heads their noses are bleeding. They're 46-31 with a negative run differential.

A lot of this is because of the amazing home field advantage the Nats have - as of today they're 27-10 at home - where everybody simply believes they're going to win the game. The team plays off of RFK's idiosyncracies - the field is HUGE and balls just die in the outfield, there's lots of foul territory and requires speedy defense. The Nationals pitching staff doesn't walk anybody, and just lets the defense catch the ball. Chad Cordero, the closer, is simply lights out, hitting 24 straight save chances, with most of them being very tough.

The Nats offense is anemic - they are light all over the place, and are hurt by injury everywhere. The best two players on the team are probably Jose Vidro, who has been out since mid-April, and Nick Johnson, who is out until the All-Star break. They're using Carlos Baerga a lot, and Wil Cordero, who, as of last night, was at .026 and dropping.

I don't think they're a playoff team, but we're 80 games in, and they're 15 games over. At some point, people have to stop saying its a fluke. The team they most remind me of is the 1989 Baltimore Orioles, the "Why Not" team, that went into the last day of the season with a chance to win the division after going 54-107 the year before. Both teams have one thing in common - Frank Robinson's the manager. Everybody always talks about how intangibles don't mean anything, but I think in the Nationals case, the fact that they're playing in front of 35,000 people who are totally head over heels in love with the team means something. The team has taken on the personality of Frank, who doesn't take any crap from ANYBODY - the whole Scioscia thing two weeks ago was typical - and they play hard all the time.

They're fun to watch. Have a good time this weekend.

This is cogent and to the point, but do keep in mind that home/road split (now 28-10 at home after their win today), but that also makes them 18-21 on the road. Winning two of three from them is imperative.