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We all called it when Freddie Bynum stepped up to the plate to bat for Bob Howry in the bottom of the ninth.

I had just finished telling Greg, a BCB reader from Texas who sat with us last night, how Francisco Cordero had been lights-out as a closer since the Brewers acquired him. In 24.2 innings before last night, Cordero had allowed two earned runs and ZERO home runs.

So it seemed almost destined for Bynum to hit Cordero's first pitch out of the ballpark. In listening to the highlights on the radio on the way home, the ball appeared to confuse Pat Hughes at first -- he said it was off the wall, but it just nestled into the RF basket for a game-tying home run.

What we got wrong was this; we figured that HR was going to lead to some ridiculously-long extra-inning game, so we were all happy when, five batters later, Henry Blanco (please re-sign him -- he is the best backup catcher in baseball, and no, you CANNOT necessarily get the same thing for less from Geovany Soto. Supposedly the White Sox are interested.) singled in Juan Pierre for a meaningless, but still stirring, 3-2 Cub win over the Brewers.

Before yesterday, the Cubs were 2-76 this year in games in which they entered the ninth inning trailing. That isn't as horrendous as it sounds -- MOST teams do this. The game also allowed the Cubs to finish 2006 with a .500 record (42-42) within the NL Central. This may not sound like much, but it is the third-best inside-the-Central record (Houston, 44-32, and Cincinnati, 45-36, are the only ones better). The Cardinals have four games left, all inside the Central, and could wind up better -- although the way they're playing, that might not happen either.

The Cubs also finished with a 14-12 record in home night games, and 8-8 against the Brewers.

Rich Hill threw pretty well, allowing only two runs in seven innings -- one a solo HR to Brady Clark, that a group of Brewers fans in front of us yelled "Keep it!" to the Cub fan who caught it. Eventually, a ball was sent to the field, but I doubt it was the real HR ball. Hill threw 115 pitches in those seven innings and walked two, so it wasn't his sharpest outing of the season, but the way he's thrown since his recall -- 80 IP, 24 BB, 76 K, 2.63 ERA, 6-3 record -- shows he can indeed compete at this level. Either he'll be a key part of the 2007 rotation, or will be offered somewhere in trade; his trade value has never been higher. As I've said, I will freely admit that I was wrong about him, and more power to Hill for doing whatever it was he did, to show that the dominance he had at Triple-A, was indeed convertible to success at the major league level.

Somehow, the tickets-sold number was several thousand higher than the night before; perhaps the last night game attracted some attention early in the season. 36,273 was the announced total, bringing the season total to 3,010,402. When this was announced PA announcer Paul Friedman made a point of saying that it was the first time a "Chicago" franchise had drawn 3 million for three consecutive years, perhaps tweaking the White Sox' nose a bit.

Obviously, this many tickets were sold in anticipation of something that wasn't realistically going to happen. With three dates remaining the Cubs need 89,598 (29,866 per date) to get to 3.1 million, which would be the second-highest total in club history. Remember, there are approximately 1800 more seats in the park this year, so that could account for about 145,000 more admissions anyway.

Further obvious was the fact that not anywhere close to 36,000 people were in the ballpark last night -- it was probably about 12,000-14,000 or so. And even more obviously, if massive changes are not made to this club over the offseason, next year's attendance total will be nowhere near this season's.

In addition to Greg, BCB reader Joe and his wife Dawn, traveling up from Florida, stopped by to say hi right after the gates opened.

During the month of September, the Cubs have hired a few security/usher type people from an independent agency; they've been in the bleachers wearing khaki windbreakers and blue caps. I'm not sure why they felt they needed to do this, given the smallish crowds, but a couple of them were near our section last night.

One of them decided that it was Cubs "policy" to ask us to not "put our feet on the benches". He had asked two Brewers fans in the front row to do this, and they pointed up at us, saying, "If you tell us, tell them too!"

After we, and a couple of regular Cubs employees, pointed out to this man that this was not "Cubs policy", he left the aisle and was never seen again.

Massive tie update: the Dodgers and Cardinals did not cooperate last night; they both won. The Reds also failed to keep up by losing. The best scenario now appears to be that instead of a "massive tie", there could be TWO ties -- between the Phillies and Dodgers, separated by one game, for the wild card, and another, between the Cardinals and Astros, for the Central title. The kicker, of course, in scheduling those games, is that in order for there to be a Central tie, the Cardinals and Giants first would have to play a makeup game on Monday.

Finally, Kerry Wood is continuing his rehab, getting into shape and it sounds like he'd be willing to return to the Cubs with an incentive-laden contract:

"It's obvious Jim [Hendry] and myself have to sit down and discuss that," Wood said. "I know I haven't given this organization or the fans or this team what they paid for two, three years ago. As a player, you feel?you don't want to say 'guilty'?but you [don't] feel like you've done your job and earned your money and gone out and done what you're supposed to do. "There's an obligation there, absolutely. This organization has given me everything I have and gave me a chance to play baseball and they drafted me. There's definitely loyalty here. I love Chicago, I love the fans, I love the stadium, I love Wrigley Field. I love everything about the situation I'm in. "But I understand the reality of the game. Hopefully, it'll be only one conversation. We'll talk and decide what's best for the organization and best for me and, hopefully, that's staying here."
You rarely see an athlete in this day and age stand up and take responsibility for his poor play and say he has an "obligation" to make it right. The Cubs NEED guys like this. Kerry Wood is one of them. Keep him. Make him the closer. Keep him!