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Center field at Wrigley Field during batting practice, Friday, July 13. Photo by Al

Now, I ask you, does that outfield grass look "destroyed", as radio reporter Bruce Levine breathlessly told us it was yesterday?

Of course it doesn't. There were a few resodded patches, a few bare spots where the stage posts had been for the concert, and a couple of spots painted green. Otherwise it looked OK to me, and it had absolutely no impact on today's game.

Meanwhile, "destroyed" is what well describes what the Cubs did to the Astros in today's 6-0 victory at Wrigley Field, a fine way to start the second half.

After a couple of early rallies that fizzled (Dave was wondering why, with Eric Munson catching for Houston today, the Cubs didn't run with Ryan Theriot and Jacque Jones on base in the first two innings. Theriot eventually stole second in the third, but was stranded), the Cubs exploded for three runs in the fourth, helped along by two horrendous throwing errors, one by third baseman Mike Lamb, who threw away a Geovany Soto rocket that he had actually made a nice play to even glove; and then Lance Berkman ill-advisedly tried to nail Mark DeRosa at third base, but instead threw the ball into about the third row of seats, allowing DeRosa to score and putting Soto on third, where he scored on Carlos Zambrano's first hit of the game, a sweet-looking line drive over Lamb's head.

That was just the sort of day it was -- everything clicking on all cylinders. Jacque Jones, who has been installed as the regular CF for now (at least against RHP), had a single and a run-scoring sac fly and played a good CF, although at one point Alfonso Soriano had to cut in front of him to catch a fly ball that Jones apparently had lost in the sun. Soriano looked bad in his first three at-bats, striking out swinging all three times, but wound up 2-for-5, including a leadoff single in the 8th which helped start a two-run rally which, we all said nearly in unison, "Howry-proofed" the game with a six-run lead.

Thank heavens for the wind blowing in today, because with the score 4-0 in the top of the 7th, Z was lifted for Carlos Marmol, who faced Munson. Apparently, Lou had decided he'd rather have that matchup rather than bringing in Will Ohman, at which point Phil Garner would likely have sent up a pinch-hitter for Munson. Or did he? Lou came out and at first there was some confusion about which arm he raised to call in a reliever, because Ohman started to run in, at which point both Lou and the umpires signalled for Marmol. This sort of thing has happened in other games, most notably a number of years ago with the White Sox, when Sox manager Terry Bevington went to the mound and signalled for a relief pitcher -- only to have infielder Dave Martinez point out that there was no one warming up. The umpires made Bevington bring someone in, and predictably, whoever it was (I cannot remember the specific game, or I'd link to it) got pounded.

Anyway, Munson hit, with the bases loaded, a ball that on most other days would have been a game-tying grand slam, but on this day, wound up in the glove of Jones for an inning-ending out.

It was just that sort of day -- Z threw great, although, as usual, too many pitches (115 at the time he was yanked for Marmol), allowing only three singles and three walks and striking out seven, and hitting a ball into the gap in left-center in the 6th on which you could tell he wanted to try to go for a double, but had to settle for a single. You could tell that Z wanted to finish the 7th inning; he showed real anger at himself for walking Luke Scott, which is when Lou came to get him.

But all in all -- this is the sort of thing that has to happen more often for the Cubs to move closer to first place. A solid offense, with twelve hits -- still no home runs, though there weren't likely to be any with the wind blowing in the way it is -- good defense, and good pitching.

And man, is that Astros defense awful. Only one of the runs was unearned, but four errors made them look truly bad in the field.

There were many BCB'ers in attendance today, including jessica, in from NY; kaseyi, in what he termed his "annual appearance" in the bleachers; and also mrcubsfan, with a whole group of people from Iowa, along with ihatethecards. They got me into an attendance pool (something we used to do more often, but have stopped in recent years). I chose 40,715 and was surprised to see the number 41,593 announced -- on a Friday, with a non-marquee opponent. It ranks as the third-largest crowd of the year so far, and gives the Cubs a chance to break the three-game series attendance record which was set... in the last three-game series at home vs. the Brewers.

Till tomorrow. Go Rockies!