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Right Back To Where We Started From

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Gary Pressy, the Wrigley Field organist, plays that cheesy old Maxine Nightingale song every time the Cubs tie up a game in which they have trailed early.

And it's appropriate today, too, as the Cubs' 5-3 win over the Nationals, their fourth straight victory, brought them back to the .500 mark for the first time since they were 3-3 after a loss in Milwaukee on April 8, becoming only the second team in the division, at this writing, to have a .500 or better record.

Despite the apparent closeness of the score, the Nats were never really in this game. Mike remarked to me that Manny Acta had managed the game from the sixth inning on as if it were over -- putting .067-hitting Josh Wilson in at SS, and .067-hitting Ryan Langerhans in at LF (man, is this Washington team bad or what?) -- and that hurt their chances when they managed to load the bases against Rocky Cherry and Neal Cotts in the 8th inning. Cotts responded by striking out Kory Casto and Langerhans; Cubs relievers, in fact, had six strikeouts in the last three innings, after Rich Hill had four in the first six.

Hill threw yet another terrific game, allowing only five singles and a double, seemingly tiring a bit in the sixth inning when Ryan Church hit that double and scored the only run he allowed. Hill lowered his ERA to 1.73 and registered his fourth win of the year; Ryan Dempster threw an efficient 13 pitches (8 strikes) in registering his seventh save of the season.

But the real story of the game were those base-clogging walks. Or in this case, three walks that helped unclog the bases -- Nats pitcher Levale Speigner (Mike said that name sounds like something you'd have a disease upon, your "speigner") walked in three runs after starter John Patterson had to leave the game with an injury after allowing the Cubs seven hits and three walks himself. Among the three run-scoring walks was one to Hill, who registered his first major league RBI as a result.

The Cubs drew eight walks today. I can't remember the last time a Cub team walked eight times in a game -- last year, most weeks they didn't walk that many times. That's all good, Dusty Baker. Are you paying attention? Maybe if you are, that'd help you get another managing job.

Derrek Lee singled and scored in the first inning, extending his on-base streak to 28 games, and he continues to lead the major leagues with a .416 average; Aramis Ramirez broke through a pretty good breeze blowing in from right-center field with a HR into the left-center field bleachers, and an unintentionally funny moment was provided by Mark DeRosa and Ryan Theriot when neither of them could quite handle a popup near the pitcher's mound; after it bounced out of DeRosa's glove, it bounced out of Theriot's twice before he caught it. Howard wanted to score it "4-6-6-6" but I told him one six was quite good enough, thankyouverymuch.

Theriot personally was responsible for three of the eight walks; if he can play even an adequate shortstop he ought to be out there every day.

Word is that Cliff Floyd didn't play today because his back went out. Don't know how serious that is, but the Cubs ought to at least consider that as a roster move if it's bad enough, putting Floyd on the DL, when Angel Guzman is recalled to start tomorrow's game. Otherwise, it's entirely possible that Ronny Cedeno might be the odd-man out, being sent back to Iowa. That doesn't solve the outfield logjam, although there are still trade rumblings, as reported by Jayson Stark on ESPN.com, regarding Jacque Jones. No, there's nothing specific, and frankly, Jones has done a good job and as a complementary player to the bigger bats (Lee, Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano), he's a good player to have. Jones also walked once today and had two hits. There may be a clue to the roster move here:

Tennessee also announced third baseman Casey McGehee had joined the team from the Iowa Cubs. McGehee was batting .173 in 18 games at Iowa, but needs to get a chance to play other positions, which he should be able to do with the Double-A team. Catcher Tony Richie was promoted to the Iowa team. He was hitting .217 in nine games at Tennessee.

Does this mean that Iowa now needs an infielder, and so Cedeno will be the guy demoted? I guess we'll find out tomorrow.

It just wouldn't be an afternoon at the ballpark if we didn't hear something odd coming out of Phil's mouth. When Jon Rauch came in to pitch for the Nats, Dave was mentioning some things he had heard about Rauch when he (Rauch) had been drafted by the White Sox, particularly how he had been surprised that a guy 6-11 would be a soft-tosser. Well, all Phil heard was something about "that 6-11 guy, Rauch", and he asked, in all seriousness, "Hey, where is that guy now, anyway?"

Which almost had Dave on the ground laughing, as we all pointed to the pitcher's mound.

Hey, we can laugh now, right? Time to go for the sweep tomorrow. If the Cubs are going to be serious about righting the ship and contending, sweeping teams that are as bad as the Nats appear to be is nearly imperative. And it appears in the NL Central, where not only is no one but Milwaukee over .500, but no one except Milwaukee has a winning record at home, the Cubs might be a team that can compete with the Brewers, who appear for real. Keep in mind that the Cubs have split six games with Milwaukee, who has the best record in the NL, and won two of three in Miller Park, where the Brewers are 11-5.

Finally, I today met Shirl Kennedy, whose son Patrick is the SBNation Devil Rays blogger at DRaysBay. Shirl is in town for a wedding, and had always wanted to check out Wrigley Field and the bleachers. I was astounded to learn that Patrick Kennedy, who I assumed was in his 20's, is not-quite-16 years old. Check out DRaysBay -- excellent writing and analysis there, and it was nice to have Shirl join us in the bleachers this afternoon.

Onward to a winning record tomorrow.