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All Is Forgiven, Jacque

The AP recap of last night's 7-3 Cubs win over the Phillies says, of Jacque Jones' stunning fielding gaffe in the fifth inning:

With the Phillies trailing 2-1 in the fifth and a runner on first, Jones didn't see the ball off Tadahito Iguchi's bat. The ball bounced a few feet behind Jones and into the stands for a ground-rule double.

"A few feet behind"? Jones appeared at first to be stationed underneath a medium-deep fly ball, about 50-60 feet in front of the warning track. The ball bounced off the track and into the CF shrubbery, at least fifty feet behind Jones.

We were all stunned. At first it appeared to be badly misjudged, but in reality, the only thing we could assume is that he lost it in the lights.

But you know what? It didn't matter. Jones got his forgiveness when he made a fine running catch to end the Phillie sixth with a runner in scoring position, and then got further redemption when he smacked a two-run double down the line in the last of the sixth with two runners on base to give the Cubs a 4-3 lead; after a Jason Kendall sacrifice, Mike Fontenot was sent up to pinch-hit for Jason Marquis (who we thought might be left in to bat for himself, even though it was obvious he was going to be lifted for a pinch-hitter), and smacked a single past the drawn-in infield (why do teams do that? It almost never works), scoring Jones.

So yes, Jacque, you're forgiven -- and the sellout crowd acknowledged him with warm applause when he came to bat in the 7th.

There were a couple of other wacky plays in last night's game, including two really bad Philadelphia throws, one on a Ryan Theriot bunt in the first inning that helped lead to a run, and another in the 8th inning that didn't, in addition to a bad throw by Pat Burrell after Mark DeRosa was inexplicably held up by Mike Quade at 3B when he could have obviously scored on Jones' double; Burrell's throw wasn't that bad but it was offline enough to allow DeRosa to just get in under Chris Coste's tag attempt.

All of this got Jason Marquis off the hook for a pitching performance that wasn't quite as good as the "quality start" (6 IP, 3 ER) he gets in the stat book. Marquis threw 105 pitches in six innings and walked three, although who knows what really would have happened if Jones hadn't lost that ball in the lights. What he did was keep his team in the game long enough for them to take the lead, and then Will Ohman, Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry shut the Phillies down on a combined four hits in three innings, striking out six, including three by Marmol on both increasingly fast fastballs (at least a couple measured 97 on the ballpark pitch speed meter) and some more knee-bending sliders. I had kind of hoped that Lou would leave Marmol in to finish the game, as he had thrown only 23 pitches, saving Howry for another day, and he wound up having to get Ryan Dempster up briefly when Howry gave up two hits, including a double off Jones' glove -- for which he got another round of applause for his diving effort.

See, Jacque? We love you after all.

With the Brewers' 13-inning win over the Mets last night, the Cubs remain a game out of first place. The good news from that game is that Milwaukee ran through its entire bullpen (except for newly-acquired Scott Linebrink), so much so that they had to turn to starter Dave Bush to throw the 13th inning. Good. Let them overtax their pen in anticipation of seeing the Phillies this weekend. And, it set up Tom Glavine, who got a no-decision last night, to try again for his 300th career win Sunday night at Wrigley Field. Hey, Tom: the last two pitchers who tried for their 300th wins at Wrigley (Roger Clemens in 2003 and Greg Maddux in 2004) both failed. Also last night, with Arizona's win over San Diego, and the Giants' win over the Dodgers, the D'backs took over first place in the NL West, and the Cubs and Padres are now tied, 1/2 game behind Los Angeles, the current wild card leader. In fact, the NL contenders are bunching up, perhaps closer than this many teams have been this late in the season ever. There are now nine teams within 4.5 games of each other:

Mets 59 47 .557 --- D'backs 59 49 .546 1.0 Brewers 58 49 .542 1.5 Dodgers 57 49 .538 2.0 Cubs 56 49 .533 2.5 Padres 56 49 .533 2.5 Phillies 56 50 .528 3.0 Braves 56 51 .523 3.5 Rockies 54 51 .514 4.5
The Cubs didn't make any deadline deals. To which I say, "So what?" They're winning. All the various scenarios and pipedreams don't mean a damn thing as the calendar rounds the corner into August and heads into autumn. The Cubs are winning. The players seem to have the right "chemistry", however that happens or whatever you think that means -- but whatever it is, each day they go out there and find ways to win, even when, as last night, there were some bizarre mistakes. That's why columns like this Mariotti blather are just nonsense. Remember that deals can still be made till the end of August, even though waivers must now be acquired, and many important deals have been made after the July 31 deadline.

A couple of notes: it was the silly "70s night" at the ballpark last night, which brought out people wearing costumes and wigs that no one outside of "Saturday Night Fever" ever wore even back then, including one guy wearing an all-purple outfit (even some horrid-looking purple shoes). Creativity points to the people in the section next to us who brought some 70's-topic signs, including one that said "Impeach Nixon" and in smaller letters "Go Cubs, Have A Nice Day", and another reading "Dave Kingman For President".

Finally, Kerry Wood threw well in his rehab inning for AA Tennessee last night; I'd expect him to be activated either tomorrow or Friday. For those of you rolling your eyes at "expecting" something from him or "counting on" him, Lou Piniella has the right idea:

Piniella said he plans to bring Wood along in middle relief to build stamina and strength and get him used to coming out of the pen before looking at a possible late-inning role.

"The back end of our bullpen has worked well, so there's no need tinkering with that," Piniella said. "But, yes, as the season progresses and Kerry does well, roles can change."

Exactly right. I look forward to seeing Kerry Wood on the Wrigley Field mound again. Anything he can give the club is a bonus -- but don't discount the psychological bonus of simply seeing him throw a ball in a meaningful game, and the boost it gives to his teammates, and we who are in the seats.

Onward to August and a real pennant race. And isn't that a refreshing change?