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Now THOSE are impressive numbers, not the artificial 40/40/100/100 that the broadcasters invented.

They represent, as you probably know, Derrek Lee's XBH/TB/hit totals after last night's surprisingly exciting 3-2 Cub win over the Astros in Houston, which kept the NL wild-card race a toss-up; the Astros are two games ahead with three left.

And, it kept alive, however faintly, the Cubs' hopes for a .500 season. Yeah, it ain't much. But it's all we've got.

The win also raised the Cub record against Houston to 8-5 this year and 18-11 against the two top teams in the NL Central.

Frustrating, isn't it?

But back to Lee, who hit his forty-sixth home run of the year tonight. We discussed total bases (which, if you are not familiar with this not-very-often-discussed category, is simply a total of all bases run on hits; i.e. a single gets you one, a double two, etc.) in yesterday's open thread; 400 TB is a significant milestone and Derrek needs only eight more in the remaining three games; if he can get four more XBH, he'll tie the club record set by Sammy Sosa in 2001, and two more hits will make him the first Cub to have 200 hits in a season since Ryne Sandberg in 1984.

Yeah, I know. You'd rather be competing for a postseason berth and so would I.

Matt Murton also homered tonight, his seventh of the season in 129 at-bats, and I would truly like to think that a 2006 Cub outfield could have Nomar Garciaparra manning LF, Murton RF and someone other than Corey Patterson in CF.

Speaking of Corey, he struck out twice tonight and on the second one, in the eighth inning, Brad Ausmus dropped strike three. Corey either didn't notice or simply didn't care, because he headed back to the dugout rather than try to run to first base. This lack of concentration or caring -- whichever it is -- is simply inexcusable in a major league player. Len and Bob let Corey have it for his lapse, too. I'm hoping no scouts were watching Corey play tonight, because what sort of report would they write to their bosses who might be interested in trading for Patterson?

"Doesn't care." Yeah, that'll get a lot of interest going.

Jose Macias walked leading off the game. On four pitches. No, do not adjust your TV set, he really did walk -- and in doing so, eclipsed his 2004 walk total of five.

Six walks in almost 170 plate appearances. How is this a good leadoff man?

Never mind, you and I know it's not. The only way to tell Dusty Baker that it's not, is to remove the walkless personage from the ballclub. Dave said yesterday that Macias is useful because he can play many positions. I counter by saying sure, but he doesn't play any of them particularly well, and you surely don't want him starting anywhere on a major league ballclub for an extended period of time. We've discussed this here before, how if a guy like that is your 25th man, he's OK to have around. But the Cubs have, through injury and inertia, been forced to use him as the first man off the bench, and there have to be a dozen people in Triple-A who are more suited to this sort of role.

The key is, to find one of them and bring him to the 2006 Cubs, and give Macias his gold watch, or whatever it is you give released ballplayers these days, and move on.

Hey, this was a nicely played ballgame -- a couple of timely home runs, the eventual winning run scoring on heads-up baserunning on a wild pitch, and all three pitchers (Glendon Rusch, Mike Wuertz, and Ryan Dempster -- 32nd save) throwing well, and the game ending on an exciting play at the plate, with a nice throw by both Corey Patterson and relay throw by Macias -- see, he IS useful for something! -- and perfect positioning by Henry Blanco (put into the game for defense, once again pointing up the need for defense behind the plate -- Michael Barrett doesn't make that play).

And the sun came out in Chicago today.