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See, Dusty? That's How It's Done

Oh, this is way too easy.

With Dusty Baker in attendance at a Cubs game for the first time since October 1, 2006, in his new capacity as an ESPN broadcaster (and man, he is terrible, isn't he?), the New York Mets gave a demonstration on how "innocent little walks" can not only lead to runs, but directly to wins.

See, Dusty? The Mets clogged the bases in the ninth inning.

And then promptly unclogged them and beat the Cubs 5-4, when Michael Wuertz walked three men in a row after allowing -- that's right, yet again -- a hit after retiring the first two men in the ninth inning easily, making those of us watching at home, and the seemingly significant number of Cubs fans in attendance at Shea, think, "Well, OK, we're going to extra innings."

Jessica? Did you even see the end of the game or were you staring at the ground the whole time?

Many of you spilled a lot of anger out in the game threads and in the diaries about this game, about how you're "done", about how this was one of the most painful Cub losses, and surely, it was, especially after ripping into future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine for four runs in the first two innings.

But Jason Marquis, who has credited his success to "pitching the same way" on every pitch this year, forgot his own advice to himself in the fourth inning, issuing a walk to Carlos Delgado, followed by a home run to David Wright, cutting the lead in half -- and half of that lead had been provided by Marquis himself, when he hit a two-run single.

Now look at those two names -- Delgado entered the game hitting .209, and Wright has been suffering a power shortage, hitting only three home runs before last night. You've got to pitch those two guys better than that.

And once Michael Wuertz started walking people in the ninth inning, either someone has to go out to the mound, at the very least, or get him out of there. Lou Piniella says it may be time to shake up the bullpen (which, up to Wuertz' meltdown, had done a decent job keeping the score tied):

"I'm going to find out if there are some kids down in Triple-A throwing the ball," Piniella said. "Maybe that's the answer -- get some different kids up here who can throw the ball. I don't know what else to say. I've tried everybody out there. You keep hoping it comes around, but we're getting into the middle of May now."
I'm not exactly sure who he'd be talking about on the Iowa roster -- Carlos Marmol? Marmol's starting in Triple-A, but may be more suited to a relief role at the major league level. On the other hand, Marmol's biggest troubles last year came from his lack of control. Honestly, I don't see a single other name on Iowa's pitching staff who could help the Cubs right now. Lou's probably overreacting, as we all were, to Wuertz's complete ninth-inning meltdown. The worst thing that happened wasn't the ten straight balls thrown at one point. It was the fact that on 3-2, Wuertz was nibbling.

In that situation, to a hitter as good as Delgado, you simply have to throw your best fastball in the zone. If he hits it, well, then you got beat by a great hitter. But don't walk in the winning run.

I turned off the game right after that, which is my usual routine after a loss (do you do that? I'll leave the TV on after a win, savoring it for a little bit longer. But after a loss... byebye), so I didn't hear what Dusty said about all the base-clogging. Frankly, a three-man TV booth in a regular-season game basically leaves the third guy -- and Baker, who is in his first year broadcasting, is definitely the third guy -- with not much to do except echo the main analyst, in this case Rick Sutcliffe.

But Dusty -- this is how it's done. Get baserunners any way you can, and eventually, runs will score. Incidentally, Sutcliffe and Baker were Dodger teammates from 1976 through 1981, after which Sutcliffe was traded to Cleveland.

Finally, Derrek Lee was sent back to Chicago for a MRI after having "neck spasms" and being removed from Sunday's game, though he is expected back in New York for tonight's game. The reason for the trip back home:

Lee, who is the National League's leading hitter with a .390 average, was taken to Chicago mainly because it was easier for the Cubs to arrange the tests than to try to do something in New York.
Excuse me? It's not like New York doesn't have MRI centers. It's, like, a big city, remember? Why would you send someone with neck problems on a plane home, then make him take another plane the next day? It makes me think something else is going on. I hope I'm wrong.

Note: just as last year, the Cubs now have a bad-luck TV channel. At one point in 2006, the Cubs lost 18 straight WGN-televised games. So far this year, they are 0-4 on WCIU. Fortunately, there will be only four more WCIU telecasts the rest of the season.

Personal note: I now feel a strong affinity to John Smoltz. Why? Because he dislocated his right pinky finger last night after tagging Austin Kearns out in what looked in replays like an ordinary rundown play. He fell to the ground in obvious pain. I felt that.

Last night's loss was deflating and depressing, but hardly definitive. There remain 136 games, and the Brewers, formerly high-flying, have now lost three of four, last night blowing a 6-2 lead and having a bullpen meltdown of their own, giving the Phillies six runs in the 8th inning and losing 8-6. This race isn't over. All the Cubs can do is pick up the pieces and go at it again tonight.

And stop walking people!!!!11!