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Everyone Digs The Long Ball, and Open Thread: Cubs vs. Reds, Sunday 7/29, 12:15 CT

So I write yesterday that the Cubs should trade Sean Marshall as part of a deal to get Jon Garland.

Maybe that's not such a great idea after all.

And just when you wonder when the Cubs are ever going to hit another home run, they smack three long ones -- really long ones, especially Alfonso Soriano's two -- and beat the Reds easily 8-1, evening the series and, even better, picking up a game and a half on the Brewers, who lost the night game of their split doubleheader to the Cardinals, 5-2.

So, the Cubs stand 1.5 games out of the division lead -- one game behind in the loss column -- and two games behind wild-card leader Arizona, though there are now three teams (Arizona, San Diego, and the Cubs) all tied with 48 losses, the Cubs (54-48) having played four fewer games than the Diamondbacks (58-48).

Marshall was sharp in his six innings, allowing only six singles and a walk, and might have gotten out of the game unscored-upon had Jacque Jones not booted one of the singles, allowing runners to advance to second and third with nobody out. The run was earned as it is "assumed" under scoring rules to have scored on base advances on the ensuing two groundouts, but who's to say that one of those groundouts (likely Adam Dunn's) might not have wound up being a double play? Anyway, not only did Marshall throw well, but he got his first hit of the year, a booming double (the first double of his career).

So if you're Jim Hendry, what do you do? We know from various sources -- some more legit than others -- that deals for several different players are being considered. But each day, his emotions -- like ours -- have to be going up and down. After last night, I'm starting to think again, "Hey, it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

But on the other hand, Ryan Dempster had a really shaky ninth inning, loading the bases (and appearing to not be able to throw a pitch anywhere near the strike zone) with nobody out before suddenly figuing out how to retire hitters again (credit, incidentally, to Ryan Theriot and Ronny Cedeno for both making slick plays on Norris Hopper's ground ball that ended the game).

So do the Cubs need bullpen help? In a deal that makes little sense for either team, Houston sent one of their better relievers, Dan Wheeler, to Tampa Bay, for a guy the Cubs were rumored to be after, Ty Wigginton. I'm glad the Cubs didn't get Wigginton, as he seems to me to be nothing more than a poor man's Mark DeRosa. Did the Cubs need Wheeler? Probably not, and Houston wouldn't likely have dealt him within the division. So will there be ANY major deals before Tuesday? Do the Cubs need to make one? I go back and forth on this just about every day, as I'm sure most of you do. In the current front-page poll, 80% of you say the Cubs do need to make another deal before the Tuesday deadline. And don't assume that just because someone (*cough* Matt Murton *cough*) is pulled from the lineup, that he's been dealt. Lou apparently simply changed his mind and decided he'd rather have Cliff Floyd sit today against Matt Belisle. Aramis Ramirez also sat last night, obviously, because it's unlikely he'll play many, or even any, day-game-after-night-game combinations the rest of the year due to the knee injury that put him on the DL in June. This is a good idea, keeping him fresh for August and September.

And here's how tight the National League's races are. If the NL were one league, rather than separated into divisions, here's how the top nine teams would rank:

Mets 58 46 .558 -- Dodgers 57 47 .548 1.0 D'backs 58 48 .547 1.0 Brewers 57 48 .543 1.5 Padres 55 48 .534 2.5 Cubs 54 48 .529 3.0 Phillies 54 49 .524 3.5 Braves 54 51 .514 4.5 Rockies 52 51 .505 5.5
In the meantime, let's hope yesterday's power surge continues.
Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
C. Zambrano
vs. Matt Belisle
M. Belisle
13-7 W-L 5-7
3.65 ERA 5.28
122 SO 81
62 BB 28
17 HR 16
vs. Cin -- vs. Cubs
As all of you know, Z has once again, in the last seven weeks, become the dominant starter we remember from the last four-plus years. He's 8-2, 1.56 in his last ten starts, striking out 71 and allowing only 28 walks and 4 HR in the 69.1 IP in those ten starts (averaging almost 7 per start). He's also become the very definition of a "stopper" -- his last three wins have all followed a Cub loss. He doesn't have to do that today, given last night's win, but winning two of three in this series is nearly imperative. I'm glad to have Z on the mound for this game.

Continuing last night's theme, I have heard that Matt Belisle personally rescued hundreds of people from a sinking boat on the Ohio River just behind the GABP one day when he was otherwise sitting in the Reds' bullpen thinking sad thoughts and minding his own business. (There! That ought to do it. And so should his 0-2, 5.94 lifetime record vs. the Cubs. Aramis Ramirez is 2-for-7 vs. Belisle -- both HR -- and Derrek Lee is 3-for-4 with a double and a HR.)

Today's game is on WGN. It should be on EI -- with the Reds announcers you've come to loathe -- if you don't have WGN -- or try the Mediacenter. Gameday (2007 version) Gameday (2006 version) Gameday for the Brewers/Cardinals game

Discuss amongst yourselves.