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The Value Of Hustle

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In today's game, we saw a perfect example of one of those things "that cannot be measured".

In the second inning, with two out -- one of the outs recorded on yet another baserunning blunder by Jacque Jones -- and runners on second and third, Ryan Theriot hustled down the line, legging out a little dribbler to Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, who's usually one of the slickest defensive shortstops in baseball.

That gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead and appeared to unhinge Mets starter John Maine; he walked the next two hitters, forcing in a run, hit Cliff Floyd, scoring another, and when Mark DeRosa smacked a two-run single to left and Jones redeemed his baserunning mistake with a RBI single (and when was the last time you saw a batter get two hits in an inning?), Maine was done, the Cubs had a 6-0 lead, and cruised to a 6-2 victory over the Mets, evening the series and possibly reaching another tie with the Brewers for first place in the NL Central, pending the result of their game with the Phillies, at this writing led by the Phillies 4-1 in the 4th. (See the open thread below for the MLB.com Gameday link for that game.)

Little things done right. We know, we know. Theriot's not the best player on the team, and he may not even be the regular SS past this season. Yes, I know his .715 OPS going into today's game is mediocre. But he hustles and plays the game the right way, and today, that hustle helped the Cubs win.

And isn't that what's important? Wins?

There were so many little things done right today. DeRosa made a spectacular catch, over-his-shoulder, Willie-Mays-basket-style, on a popup into short RF by David Wright in the third inning, with a runner on second and the game, at that time, scoreless. Little things. Ted Lilly threw a terrific game, and helped save the bullpen by throwing 113 pitches (76 strikes) and going until there were two out in the 8th, when there was no way Lou was going to let him face Moises Alou a third time, after Alou had homered off him twice.

Incidentally, the second Alou HR landed about six rows in front of us. Something happened to whoever was attempting to throw the ball back on the field, and it wound up in the RF corner in the lower box seats, from where it was then deposited on the field. Incidentally, when this ball was mis-thrown, Phil said he could throw a ball from our bleacher bench and hit Aramis Ramirez, standing in his position at 3B, on the fly.

This notion made us all laugh hysterically, just so you don't think we're buying what Phil tells us.

Meanwhile, Carlos Marmol got the last out of the 8th (after pitching around Alou and walking him), and we were somewhat surprised to see Bob Howry come out to throw the 9th, pitching for the second day in a row. Fortunately, his 9th inning was uneventful, and having thrown only ten pitches, he's probably available tomorrow. Lou said in his postgame news conference that Marmol (who, with Billy Petrick and Rocky Cherry and Sean Gallagher back at Iowa, is now the designated carrier of the pink backpack that is toted to the bullpen with water, sunflower seeds, etc. for the relief pitchers) won't throw at all tomorrow, and that he'd get Kerry Wood in there "soon". Again, the 9th inning today might have been a good place to get Wood in a game with minimal pressure -- a four-run lead.

This led to some speculation among us that Lou was saving Wood for the nationally-televised game tomorrow night. But managers don't do that. Do they?

Tim McClelland is one of the most respected ball-and-strike umpires in the major leagues. But doesn't it drive you nuts the way he has that delayed strike call? It must drive the players nuts, too, because more than one hitter started down to first base thinking he had walked, only to be called out on strikes. Hey, Tim: if it's a strike, call it a strike, willya?

Alfonso Soriano didn't look very good today, grounding out four times, the first two on comebackers to Maine. But it didn't matter, as other players picked up the slack. That's the way it's seemed to work for this club this year -- it's become a winner, and become likeable in so doing, by being a true team, having players pick each other up, and not relying on only one or two superstars. Jones made a horrendous baserunning blunder today -- he overslid third base, and 3B umpire Paul Schrieber made no call, which means no play has been made yet. David Wright had trouble finding the ball, and Jones could have scrambled back to third and been called safe, but delayed too long, long enough for Wright to tag him out. And yet, Jones got his redemption for the second time this week after a flub, by driving in a run later in the inning; he had a third hit to raise his average over .250. OK, so it's still not great, but if he can contribute in this way, he's still a useful player. So is Jason Kendall, who walked in the big six-run third, also singled, and is now hitting .244 with a .361 OBA. That's just fine, as long as the rest of the big hitters do their thing.

I also learned today that the primary reason the Cubs made no deadline deals, and also the reason that there were very few big-name deadline deals by any team, is that general managers who were offering big names for trade were asking for far too much in return. That doesn't mean that deals cannot be made in August, on a lower level, to fill any holes that might develop.

So tomorrow, Tom Glavine of the Mets goes for his milestone 300th win. The last pitcher to attempt such a milestone at Wrigley Field, also throwing for a New York team, was Roger Clemens, four years ago, in a game that turned out to be one of the most memorable of that magical 2003 season. Clemens failed in his quest, which was, like Glavine's, not his first try (for Clemens, it was his third such effort), and let us hope that Glavine suffers the same fate. Incidentally, the winning pitcher that day in 2003 was... Kerry Wood. Somehow, I have the feeling that Wood will play an important role tomorrow night. Just a hunch. Till then.