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Here! Now! New And Inventive Ways To Lose Baseball Games!

Mike and I often say to each other something along the lines of, "Well, we've never seen that before", despite having seen literally thousands of baseball games in person, or, "Anyone who tells you they know everything about this game, laugh in their face".

But tonight takes the proverbial cake (and we thought we had seen three Orthodox Jews sit down with cake tonight in front of us; instead, they pulled out of boxes that looked like cake boxes, some veggie salads) -- I don't think any of us have ever seen a catcher take a nearly perfect throw and then tag the runner, who had missed the plate, with the glove -- without the ball in it.

As I said the other night, Michael, you're a really nice guy and I know you are trying really hard, but it's time for you to go.

And that was after Jacque Jones, who as we all saw last year throw balls either ten feet into the ground right in front of him, or ten feet over the catcher's head, throw a perfect strike to the plate, in time to get Jose Vidro, who had doubled -- and that would have been the last out of the thirteenth inning of the Cubs' eventual 5-3 loss to the Mariners, on a night that turned out to be even cooler than last night, with a wind blowing in fairly strongly off Lake Michigan. In fact, that wind had knocked down Vidro's ball, which off the bat had looked like it would wind up five rows in front of us in the seats in LF; instead, it hit high off the wall for a double.

There's enough blame to go around in that 11th inning -- Will Ohman, who had thrown well enough for five outs (three in the 12th, sandwiched around a walk, and the first two in the 13th), blew up after Vidro's double and the RBI single by Willie Bloomquist (after an intentional walk to Yuniesky Betancourt -- and I only mention that because I wanted to type "Yuniesky" at least once during this series), and then another RBI single after another intentional walk that resulted because after Barrett's boo-boo, the runners advanced to second and third.

The Cubs tried to excite the small remnant (maybe 7,000 of 40,071) of the crowd in the bottom of the 13th, loading the bases with two out on a pair of singles by Ryan Theriot and Felix Pie and a walk to Alfonso Soriano, before the last position player left on Lou Piniella's bench, Koyie Hill, the fortieth player to appear in the game, grounded out to first to end it, four hours and six minutes after it began.

The Cubs should have put the game away off Jarrod Washburn in the first inning -- two runs had scored before an out was made, and there were two runners on after one out. But that was it until the 8th inning -- only three singles interrupted some solid pitching by Washburn after that. Meanwhile, Rich Hill was getting nibbled at, one run per inning in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th, before settling down himself. The Cubs actually drew five walks off Washburn, and two other walks later, leaving 14 men on base in the 13 innings, most notably the bases loaded in the 8th with nobody out after a Derrek Lee double and Barrett single had tied the game.

Now, I'll bet you were screaming and yelling when Mark DeRosa's double followed the Barrett single, and Barrett was held at third. It was the right call in a tie game with nobody out in the 8th -- Barrett, not a good runner, would have been thrown out by plenty. What I then quibble with is Lou's failure to try a suicide squeeze. Not with Barrett on third and Ryan Theriot at bat, but after Theriot's grounder forced Barrett at the plate, I was thinking Felix Pie might have been able to drag a bunt past George Sherrill down the 1B line, and DeRosa, a better baserunner, then on 3B, might have scored on the suicide.

Didn't happen, and eventually it cost the Cubs the game. Except for Ohman melting down, the bullpen did a good job, throwing five scoreless innings from the eighth through the 12th.

But when you have the other team on the ropes in the late innings at home, you have to put them away. The Cubs failed today.

Mariners RF Jose Guillen, who had homered in the third, must have done something with one of the warmup balls later in the game, because after about the 10th inning, chants of "Guillen sucks!" rang out from the RF bleachers, and he was booed loudly each time he ran back out there. Guillen, of course, has played quite a bit at Wrigley Field in his travels around the major leagues (with the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Nationals, and Reds), and I remember him from my days sitting in RF as being kind of a sour guy, not responding well to hecklers (for a fine example of the opposite attitude, see what Carlos Lee does any time he comes to town -- he plays along with heckling, and the LF fans loveit).

So the most exciting event of the evening wound up being following along with Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander's no-hitter over the Brewers; we even got to see a replay of the last out on the big plasma screen in the rooftop building's third-floor bar behind us. The best news there is that the Brewers were the losing team, and the Cardinals also lost (for those of you complaining that the Cardinals get it "easy" in interleague play because they get two series with the Royals, note that KC tonight not only beat St. Louis, but beat them rather handeily), thus keeping the Cubs in second place, 5.5 games behind.

Remember the 1994 AL West? At the time of the strike, the Rangers were in first place, ten games under .500, and there was serious talk that that division, had the season not been halted, would have become the first to have a champion with a losing record. We almost had it in last year's NL Central, with the Cardinals and Astros both barely over the break-even mark.

It might happen this year. This division is still winnable.

But the Cubs had better get better on fundamentals, like keeping the ball in one's glove while making a tag. And NOW would be a good time to do that.