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They Don't Come Much Tougher Than That

It feels kind of empty, doesn't it? You sit and watch, or listen, for three-plus hours, and the Cubs come oh-so-close with an almost-ninth inning rally, and yet, all we wind up with is another loss, 5-4 to the Diamondbacks, a game that should have been won after the Cubs staked Jason Marquis to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

Marquis didn't waste too much time giving that lead back, as Chris Young homered leading off the bottom of the first inning, and then homered again, this time a three-run job, in the bottom of the second, giving the D'backs a 5-3 lead.

Think the White Sox are regretting trading Young to Arizona for Javier Vazquez now? I'm not gloating here, but this weekend the White Sox got swept in a four-game series by the Red Sox, and got outscored 46-7. That's awfully embarrassing, and Vazquez got hit pretty hard today in the fourth game of the series.

Like I said, I'm not gloating, but wow, that's bad. Even last year's horrendous Cub team never gave up ten runs four consecutive times. (Full disclosure: they did allow ten runs in three of four games from August 27-30, 2006, all losses.)

OK, back to today's bad news, but first some excitement. Derrek Lee cut a run off that lead in the third by hitting a ball about as far as you possibly can in Bank Holding Company Ballpark without hitting it OUT of said park; it took a crazy bounce off a center-field fence railing just to the left of where it would have been above a yellow line and been an out-of-the-park HR, rolling away from two Arizona outfielders. D-Lee chugged (he doesn't really have the speed he once did) all the way around the bases for the Cubs' first inside-the-park job since October 6, 2001 by Sammy Sosa at Wrigley Field. It was the second of Lee's career -- the first one was on April 12, 2003.

Irony time. Guess who Lee hit that inside-the-park HR off of?

Jason Marquis.

Marquis has had this problem before, a lapse or two in an otherwise decent outing; unfortunately, today it was enough to cost the Cubs the game. Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry kept the game close until the 9th inning, when the Cubs got a couple of runners on base. Jason Kendall was unable to lay down a bunt and wound up striking out, unusual enough, but what made it worse was Mike Fontenot's attempted steal of third -- he was thrown out easily. Ryan Theriot kept the rally going by drawing a walk, and then Jacque Jones hit a sharp grounder that the 6-foot-8 Tony Clark, in the game primarily for defense, smothered and flipped to first to Jose Valverde to end the game.

And will someone calm Valverde down? He acted like the D'backs had just won the World Series when he recorded that last out. The Diamondbacks are a potential first-round playoff opponent for the Cubs, and you can bet they won't forget those antics.

So, where do we stand? The Cubs had a decent 3-3 road trip, but as was mentioned on the broadcast, that's not decent when you were 3-1 on the trip. Fortunately, the Brewers lost 5-4 to the Giants, getting swept and dropping to .500 -- amazing for all of those who thought that after a 24-10 start, Milwaukee would never see .500 again. They've gone 41-55 since then. The Cubs thus maintain their 1.5 game division lead. Unfortunately, the Cardinals beat the Braves and now rest only two games out. Even worse, the Reds, who have the best record in the NL since they changed managers, also won today, sweeping the Marlins, and are now, wackily enough, sneaking back into the division race with a record ten games under .500, only 6.5 games out. The Cubs face all these teams again, starting with the Brewers on Tuesday night, so they can take care of business on the field. It'd be nice if they'd start doing that, like, rightfreakingnow!

Help, fortunately, is on the way. Alfonso Soriano, who I saw running in the outfield during BP in San Francisco with no apparent trouble, will be activated for Tuesday night's game and will (unfortunately, I think) be re-installed in the leadoff spot, with Ryan Theriot hitting 2nd. If it were up to me I think I'd leave Theriot leading off (he has hit .321 with a .364 OBA in Soriano's absence). It is, however, not up to me. If nothing else, Soriano will provide a power threat that's badly needed. I also think Aramis Ramirez could use a day off, so maybe with Soriano back, Mark DeRosa could start at 3B in one of the Milwaukee games.

Earlier in the day I was at the luncheon party for Jenna's Bat Mitzvah. Now, normally you probably wouldn't care about this, and I probably wouldn't write about it, but it was held at the Wrigley Field Stadium Club, and I thought many of you might want to hear a bit about what that's about. The venue is spacious, though it has no view of the field (the windows you see on Sheffield just before the bleachers begin are the windows in the club). It holds about 150-175 people comfortably; there are plasma screens throughout. The food was quite good, not ballpark fare, but what might be a typical buffet for an event like this (carved meats, some brunch foods, and desserts). The usual DJ/party events went on, and they also gave a tour of the ballpark to all the kids (or "young adults" as the MC called them). One thing that's become tradition for some Bar and Bat Mitzvah kids is to make a photo/video montage, sort of a "This Is Your Life So Far"... and to finish off Jenna's (in fact, using a video camera loaned to her family by me), there were video greetings and congratulations to her from Ryan Dempster, Scott Eyre, Jason Marquis (the only Cub to have been Bar Mitzvahed himself), Lou Piniella, and all four radio/TV broadcasters, a very cool souvenir of the event.

Incidentally, I too did a doubletake driving by the ballpark and seeing the old car wash on Waveland demolished, as first described by BCB reader lapetino in this diary. The area is fenced off, and makes the entire area west of the ballpark look far more "open". What's to be done with that area, whether the proposed building that the Cubs put on the back burner earlier this year will ever be built, is still to be determined.

In the meantime, time to build a division winner. Enjoy the off day. I think we all need it, maybe as much as the players do.