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Remember Home Runs?

I wish the Cubs did. After today's 6-2 loss to the Pirates, the Cubs have now gone nine games without a HR.

That's the longest such streak in nineteen years -- since July 14-21, 1988. And 1988 was a down year in general in baseball for HR, sort of a reaction to the aberrational HR blast of 1987 -- the team lead in HR in '88 was 24, by Andre Dawson. That's the lowest team-leading total since 1986, when Gary Matthews and Jody Davis led the club with 21. In '88, only two other Cubs (Ryne Sandberg, 19, and Vance Law, 11) were in double figures.

The 2007 team, allegedly, has more power than that. The team total of 74, which has been static since Aramis Ramirez' walkoff on June 29 (I keep thinking, "Did that HR suck all the HR energy out of this club?"), now ranks eleventh in the league.

A home run -- by Carlos Zambrano's nemesis Jason Bay -- helped do the Cubs in today, though Z got himself into trouble in the inning where Bay hit his three-run homer by walking Nate McLouth, leading off that inning. Z wasn't sharp today, walking three and throwing a very large number of pitches, 122 in seven innings, 70 strikes. Even so, the game was within reach at 3-2 going into the last of the 8th, but Bob Howry decided to be "bad Howry" today and got smacked all around sunny PNC Park and allowed three runs in his one inning of work, putting the game out of reach.

Fortunately, the Brewers cooperated today by getting blown out by the Nationals in Washington 7-2,, the big blow being a bases-clearing double by Ronnie Belliard, so the Cubs go into the break 4.5 games behind, a deficit which is certainly not insurmountable with 75 games remaining, especially when you consider that the "unstoppable" Brewers went on the same road trip the Cubs did and went 2-5, while the Cubs were going 4-3.

The Pirates are a better team than a lot of people, myself included, gave them credit for -- they won five of seven from the Brewers and Cubs on their homestand, but if you think the Brewers are unbeatable, any team that goes into Washington, where the Nats were 18-27 before this afternoon's game, and loses two out of three, isn't dominant in my estimation.

Also, don't ignore the wild card race. At this writing the Marlins and Dodgers have just begun on the West Coast. If the Marlins win, the Cubs will stand fourth, but only three games behind the Dodgers, currently wild card leaders. The Cubs have two series left with the Diamondbacks, who are ahead of them in the wild card standings, and a four-game set vs. the Dodgers at Wrigley Field in September, more games than they have left with Milwaukee (only one three-game series at Wrigley Field at the end of August).

I look forward to an exciting second half, and for the Cubs to make a run at one or both of the available playoff spots.

But it'd be nice if they'd hit a couple of home runs, too.