When Dusty Baker came out to talk to Greg Maddux (with one of the loudest non-Hawkins boos I'd heard all season, and with Ryan Dempster loose in the bullpen), after Maddux allowed a one-out single in the 9th, I said to Mike, "Know what Greg said to him?"
He looked at me.
I said, "He said, 'Get the hell off my mound and go sit down!'"
We laughed. It was a laughing day, today's 11-4 win over the Cardinals, that snapped the eight-game losing streak. It was also a day that made very little sense.
Dusty started the lineup that strikes, well, not fear, but maybe -- disgust, into all of our hearts, and what did Jose F. Macias do today?
Only have two hits, score a run, drive in one and reach on an error that could have been scored a hit. Mike said, and I concur, that this entitles him to a ! after the F.
So, he shall henceforth be known as Jose F! Macias.
Appropriate, dontcha think?
My SB Nation colleague Larry posted this jocular lineup yesterday, and I e-mailed him that that lineup (which had Jason Marquis batting cleanup and playing 1B) might have beaten the Cubs 10-0, the way we were going. (Marquis did get into the game as a pinch-hitter, and singled and scored.)
It was one of those late-summer days that reminds you that autumn isn't all that far away. It was supposed to rain early, clear in the afternoon, then rain again in the evening. Oh, well. Another forecast blown: it rained, sometimes hard, till about 2:15, delaying the start of the game and it never did clear entirely, holding the game-time temperature to 71.
One of the reasons Maddux was able to send Dusty packing back to the dugout was that after he allowed a leadoff double just inside the RF line to David Eckstein (sure looked foul to us, incidentally), and a two-run homer to Albert Pujols (after which we all shook our heads, saying "here we go again"), he was vintage Maddux.
That is to say, he'd allow hits here and there -- the Cardinals had a hit in seven of the nine innings -- but apart from allowing two more runs due to his own defensive lapse on Marquis' single right back to him, he got out of every inning, and made up for the earlier lapse by starting a nifty 1-6-3 DP to end the seventh, and in so doing, did at last achieve his 314th win, tying Gaylord Perry on the all-time list, and at least giving him a chance -- he should have at least nine starts left -- to win 15 for the 18th straight season.
Meanwhile, the Cubs were scoring. And scoring, and scoring again. The 11 runs were more than half the 21 scored in the entire eight-game losing streak, and I cannot remember when the Cubs scored in six consecutive innings (as I reminded Mike, during the losing streak they trailed at one point for 55 consecutive innings). Everyone hit -- it made no sense. Neifi! had two hits; so did Nomar, and in doing so he raised his average to .213 (yeah, that doesn't sound so great, but it was .157 when he came off the DL a week ago). Even Corey Patterson chimed in with three hits and a -- gasp! -- walk, his first since June 30.
Derrek Lee, who only a day ago looked like he had been spending his days helping long-distance movers lug couches around, snapped out of his slump by slamming two homers onto Waveland Avenue; the first one was "officially" designated as 430 feet, but it landed across the street, nearly hitting one of the buildings, which would probably put it more in the range of 480 feet.
This sort of thing really doesn't make any sense -- but then, what about this season has? The Cubs are now 4-2 against the best team in the league this year, yet just got swept by one of the worst. This is, in fact, one of the classic signs of a .500 ballclub, which can play up or down to the level of its opposition. Perhaps that bodes well for the rest of the year, as 20 of the remaining 47 games are against the Cardinals and Astros.
I'm not trying to say here that one victory erases all the troubles of this ballclub, or that it somehow immediately puts the team back into any sort of contention.
But as Mike said to me as the ninth inning was drawing to a close, "At least they've shown themselves that they can do this, that there is still good baseball left in them."
And that's a statement that desperately needed to be made.
Sure, it really needed to be made two weeks ago. But better late than never, right?
I also pointed out to Mike that the Cubs have been a streaky team this year, what with the eight-game losing streaks, the seven-game winning streak earlier in May and June, and the eight-of-nine surrounding the All-Star break. The Yankees have had a similar streakiness to their season, and in fact, at times have looked as bad as the Cubs did during their recent streak.
It's been a weird season that way.
We were joined today by Ken of Die-Hard Cubs Fun, who arrived early, during the rain delay, and snapped quite a few pictures, including one of yours truly with a Sports Illustrated on his lap, trying to balance an umbrella at the same time. I have been "warned" that this photo might appear on Die-Hard Cubs Fun -- and if you've been there, you know that such photos often get, um, altered.
This whole season has been sort of an Altered State. So why not?
We told Ken that since the Cubs won, he now has to come back every day. He'll be in the grandstand on Saturday, and promised to come back to our little bench during the Atlanta series.
Finally, Howard called early in the game to declare that today would be his 61st birthday -- just a week after his real birthday. Why? Because the Cubs hadn't won since then, and he was going to be willing to take one for the team and get into his 90's by the end of the season.
Right after the game, he called back singing "Happy Birthday To Me!", and we'll celebrate his 62nd birthday at the park tomorrow. So when you're watching the game, or following it here, sing along with us, won't you?