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Our Long National Nightmare Is Over

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If you are of a "certain age", or follow politics, you will recognize that headline as part of the speech President Gerald Ford gave when he was inaugurated as president in 1974, following the resignation of Richard Nixon.

The Cubs' finally winning a game after seven weeks and eighteen straight televised losses via WGN doesn't quite have the same impact, although WGN IS, of course, "national" via cable and satellite.

Long losing streaks in history:

Philadelphia Phillies, 23, 1961
Baltimore Orioles, 21, 1988
Montreal Expos, 20, 1969
Philadephia A's, 20, 1916 and 1943
Boston Braves, 19, 1906
Detroit Tigers, 19, 1975
Kansas City Royals, 19, 2005
Chicago Cubs on WGN, 18, 2006

OK, I'm joking here, and I hope you know it. The WGN crew even made a joke of it -- Len & Bob mentioned it several times during the telecast, and if you didn't see it, at the end of the game they put on the air a shot of the control-room crew giving each other high-fives.

Isn't it nice to see a win, no matter what channel it's on? The Cubs beat the Reds 9-3 this afternoon, not only winning but winning easily. Juan Pierre even drove in a run today.

Again, a lot of the things about this win made no sense. Neifi Perez hit his first home run since August 21, 2005, a two-run job. Ronny Cedeno and Phil Nevin also cracked two-run homers; they came off three different Reds pitchers. Nevin has now homered twice in 21 Cub at-bats and -- hey, Dusty! Reminder: the White Sox did NOT win last year because they played "small ball", which is, I think, the reason Baker is so fixated on the "speed guys". The Sox won because they had outstanding starting pitching, and also hit 200 HR, fourth in the AL.

Willya start putting the power guys in the lineup??

More stats that are mystifying: Here is the Cubs' record...

vs. NL Central teams over .500: 13-8
vs. NL Central teams under .500: 5-6

Do those numbers make ANY sense to you? Only the Reds, at 25-15, have a better within-the-division record than the Cubs do.

The Cubs came in to Cincinnati to play the hottest team in baseball, at a season-low 13 games under .500 -- and beat them three of four. They also had their first winning road trip since April.

I cannot say enough good things about Carlos Marmol. He looked just as good starting today as in his two relief appearances. He walked three -- but struck out seven. 99 pitches in six innings is reasonable; he gave up only one run, a solo HR to David Ross, who's hit well so far this season. The other two Reds runs were also solo HR, one by Brandon Phillips off David Aardsma, and the other an Adam Dunn HR off Scott Eyre after the Cubs had put the game away with their five-run eighth inning.

At ten games under .500, of course, the Cubs are a long way from even thinking about contending, and I'm going to get flamed, I'm sure, if I say I still have hope. This team has a ton of holes, and yes, I know it.

Still. The play of the last three days has been good -- more solid each day, and in addition to having their first winning trip since April, this is also the first three-game winning streak since April.

Yes, that's pretty sad. Mark Prior will pitch for Iowa vs. New Orleans on Tuesday. After that it is possible that he will be slotted in the rotation to pitch against the Tigers at home next Sunday. Doing this would also allow the Cubs to skip Glendon Rusch's next turn, which would come up on Wednesday, and put both Greg Maddux and Carlos Zambrano on "normal" rest. That, clearly, would help both of them. Meanwhile, Marmol has certainly earned at least one more start.

If -- and yes, at this stage that is a BIG "if" -- Prior is any semblance of what we've always wanted him to be, a rotation of Zambrano, Maddux, Marshall, Marmol and Prior wouldn't be bad at all.

Wish I had better news about Mark's game this afternoon, which I watched while keeping track of the Cubs on my web-cellphone. They lost 11-1. He pitched a couple of innings, registering three strikeouts but also walking in a couple of runs. One of the coaches mentioned his release point is too high. Sound familiar?