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Spill All The Angst You Want...

... and I know you will, and many of you already have, in last night's game thread.

Last night's 5-4 Cub loss to the Astros in 11 innings is bound to bring out the worst in us, because it puts the Cubs a game out of first place (I remind you again, that the Cubs trailed, later than this date, in both 1998 and 2003, in their playoff races), but more than that, for the manner in which this game was lost.

It was lost at least in part because Jason Kendall couldn't handle the second of Jason Marquis' pitches into the dirt in the sixth inning, allowing the tying run to score. Before that, Marquis had actually thrown a decent game into the sixth.

It was lost at least in part because Carlos Lee made a superb diving catch on Ryan Theriot's drive into left-center in the top of the 8th, a drive that would have easily scored two runs and likely won the game.

It was lost at least in part because the Cubs left fifteen men on base in the eleven innings, and left RISP in the 1st, 2nd, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th innings, drew TEN walks in addition to ten hits and could only score four runs for all those baserunners. We've complained about the Cubs not taking walks. Last night they did -- and couldn't score the runners.

But despite Ryan Dempster giving up the winning run in the 11th inning, it was NOT lost because "Dumpster blew it again" or because of bullpen failures, because up to that time, the bullpen did a superb job. Carlos Marmol, Bob Howry (who was throwing 95-MPH heaters!) and Dempster threw five innings, from the sixth through the tenth, of one-hit, no-walk, eight-strikeout baseball.

You really can't ask a pitching staff to do more than that.

You can ask a lineup of hitters to do more than that. Many of you criticize Alfonso Soriano's approach during his at-bats, and last night, I believe that criticism was justified. He came up with two runners on in the 8th and popped up weakly -- a really bad at-bat. He had come up with Jason Kendall on base in the 6th and flied out weakly. Soriano's got to change his approach in these last three weeks.

But what can you say? Theriot's drive should have won the game. The guy on the other team made a spectactular play to save the game for his team. Sometimes that happens, and it's no one on your team's fault.

All they can do -- and if this team really is going to win, they are going to have to reach down far within themselves and come up with both the inner and outer strength to recover from last night -- is pick up tonight and win. They appear to have caught a break by Cecil Cooper's decision to start RHP Matt Albers (who the Cubs have hit pretty hard in a couple of earlier relief appearances) instead of LHP Troy Patton (who held the Cubs to three hits on September 1, in tonight's game.

Onward -- keep the faith. The Cubs aren't 1.5 games behind with seven left (as they were in 2003) or a game behind the wild card lead with five games left (as they were in 1998). There are eighteen games left. As we have endlessly discussed, the remaining schedule, in theory, favors the Cubs. Time to put that theory into reality.