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I'm going to warn you ahead of time: the creativity quotient for this morning's game post is pretty low. I hope you're forgiving of that.

It's a bit easier to do that this morning, because don't you love it when the Cubs play a maddeningly frustrating game... and the other guys play worse?

And when, as a result, they win?

I made it till the 11th inning last night and then had to go to sleep to get up for work this morning, leaving the game to the rest of you, and thus I was most pleased to wake up and learn that the Cubs had defeated the Cardinals 5-4 in 14 innings, the game ending about 12:15 am.

Go try to figure stats like this out, and it will drive you mad:

Cubs vs. Cardinals: 5-2
Cubs vs. everyone else: 16-30

Cubs vs. NL Central: 13-10
Cubs vs. everyone else: 8-22

I know, that makes no sense whatsoever. Incidentally, only the Reds (19-9) have a better inside-the-division record among NL Central teams.

One win doesn't turn a season around, but this one feels mighty, mighty nice. The Cubs won despite:

  • hitting into a double play with the tying and lead runs on base in the 8th;
  • hitting what should have been a game-ending DP ball to the usually-reliable Scott Rolen, only to see it go through his legs to tie up the game;
  • having the potential lead run erased on a caught-stealing to end the 10th;
  • seeing the Cardinals have the winning run in scoring position in the 10th and 12th innings, and preventing it from scoring, and
  • scoring the winning run on an infield out.
The Cubs left thirteen men on base. That's bad, although not ridiculous for a fourteen-inning game.

The Cardinals left seventeen men on base. That's bad, even for a fourteen-inning game, especially one that you're leading with two out in the ninth and a two-run lead.

See? The Cubs aren't the only team that can blow ninth-inning leads.

It is, however, a sobering thought that this one-run win, the first the Cubs have had by that margin since May 1 vs. the Pirates at Wrigley Field, "improved" their one-run decision record to a miserable 5-13, and it is the first time all year that they have won a game that they trailed going into the ninth inning. The last such game they won was in Houston last September 30.

There's a day game today, so I'll make this short, especially since I didn't see the end of it. Even though the day game isn't an early one (and can you imagine how tired the players would be if they had to be back for a noon start?), that will likely keep the offense down. With Glendon Rusch scheduled to start this afternoon, that's a good thing.

Both teams went through their entire bullpens. The Cubs might be in a bit better shape, as three relievers (Will Ohman, Scott Williamson and Roberto Novoa) all threw five pitches or fewer. The Cardinals had two such pitchers (Adam Wainwright, two pitches for an out, and Tyler Johnson, five pitches for an out). The bullpens in toto last night:

Cubs: 7.2 IP, 11 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K
Cardinals: 8 IP, 7 H, 3 R (1 ER), 6 BB, 6 K

And you know what? Dusty Baker made some of his usual head-scratching moves:

  • taking Matt Murton down for a pinch-hitter, John Mabry, hitting 100 points lower than Murton;
  • leaving Sean Marshall in to bat for himself in the seventh (note to management: please send Marshall back to bunt training school!);
  • putting Neifi! in to run for Phil Nevin. Yes, I know Nevin is slower than a 386-processor PC, but it'd have been nice to have his bat in the lineup. Since Nevin had hit for Tony Womack, he could have gone in to play 1B, with Todd Walker moving to 2B.
  • running his bullpen ragged before extra innings even hit, forcing Scott Eyre and Ryan Dempster to throw 2.1 and 2 innings, respectively...
... and yet, the Cubs won anyway.

Repeat after me: the Cubs have won three of their last four. That makes up for the lack of wordsmithiness (Look! I just made up a word!), right? I'll try to do better tonight. How about if I start like this...

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness ...
And if you don't know where that comes from, click here to enter the:
Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.
Note that:
The official deadline is April 15 (a date that Americans associate with painful submissions and making up bad stories). The actual deadline may be as late as June 30.
And no, you can't enter stuff that's been posted at BCB. It's a FICTION contest. The Cubs really did win last night. Sometimes truth IS stranger than fiction.

Or is truth just strange? There's been a flap this week, caused by a report that Prior had a "tear" in his shoulder instead of a "strain".

I can speak from personal experience here. About 15 years ago I severely strained my right knee -- it took almost a year before it felt perfect again. I had an MRI -- and they showed me a slight "tear" in one of the ligaments. But the ligament was not "torn" all the way through, and I didn't need surgery.

Thus it is for Prior -- as Cub trainer Mark O'Neal confirmed in the article linked above:

''Mark was frustrated and felt one of the questions belittled in his mind the severity of the strain he had," O'Neal said. "Strain and tear in all reality are pretty synonymous. A tear in my opinion is when you look at an anterior cruciate ligament tear or you tear a meniscus or ligament that has to be repaired.

"I still feel very comfortable and confident in the way we revealed the injury. I went back through everything. Whenever you use the word 'tear' [people] think it's something that's torn in two that needs to be repaired and that's not what happened. Could a moderate strain be correlated as a tear? Any time you have soreness or irritation to your muscles there are micro-tears. It's just the severity."

Exactly. It does, of course, still mean that Prior has to build up muscle strength, and as we saw in his first rehab start, his velocity was down. I only wish they'd been upfront about this when the injury occurred last March.

Prior will make another rehab start tonight for Peoria. We'll see if the velocity improves. Hopefully, it won't be a "dark and stormy night".