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Emotional Rescue

I'll be your savior, steadfast and true
I'll come to your emotional rescue
-- The Rolling Stones

How long does it take to go from dark despair, depression and desperation to utter elation and joy?

Nine minutes.

That's all it took for a walk, a single, a gap-finding triple, another intentional walk, and a single that barely went one hundred feet, to score three runs for the Cubs in the bottom of the ninth and to post a stunning, exhilarating, dramatic (I'm almost out of thesaurus listings here!), heart-attack-inducing 7-6 win over the Reds, and in a season of wild endings and pulsating victories, making the new bleacher structure literally shake beneath us, this was the biggest, most important, and as I told Mike, maybe the biggest and most important comeback win in many, many years, given the impact on the pennant race. (I asked him, right after Sam Fuld scored the winning run, "Can you take five more weeks of this?" We agreed that we BOTH can. And what a thrill for Fuld, called up at the last moment, having barely played above Double-A this year, inserted into a pennant race and scoring the winning run in such an important game.)

I watched the replay of the last play, a single by Mark DeRosa into a five-man infield (which included CF Norris Hopper playing between 2B and SS), and the look of joy on his face, the mob scene as everyone raced out of the dugout, spoke for all of us who were there, maybe even louder than we were the day Aramis Ramirez hit the walkoff against the Brewers, and DeRosa has quietly become a leader on this team. Last night was his second five-hit game of the season (the other one coming a month ago at Wrigley Field, also against the Reds), and this quote from the Yahoo AP recap of the game epitomizes not only DeRosa's attitude, but the way the entire team seemed to come together in that ninth inning:

"It was huge. You look at the scoreboard and see 6-0 Milwaukee, you can't quit in that situation. You got to keep fighting in front of your home fans," DeRosa said after Chicago's 7-6 victory.
And they didn't quit -- I heard DeRosa on WGN on the postgame show in the car, and he freely admitted the Cubs hadn't played good fundamental baseball in the first eight innings, missing a couple of DP chances, making a couple of baserunning mistakes, and leaving, once again, too many men on base.

But sometimes one little break, or two, opens things up. This time it was Ryan Theriot carefully working the count for a leadoff walk. Derrek Lee poked a single to right, and then Ramirez' sinking fly ball landed just out of the reach of Hopper, diving to his left, and rolling all the way to the wall (where Hopper had made a superb catch of a Ramirez fly ball earlier, off the ivy, a ball ALL of us thought was a home run), it tied the game. Did you all see Ramirez after he slid safely into third with a triple? He got up and openly showed emotion, something he almost never does.

This is something Dave and I had a long discussion about before the game. Dave went to St. Louis and saw the series there and said that he never really saw the Cubs show emotion or passion -- even when they were winning. I was surprised to hear this, frankly -- but that showed somewhat even in the early innings last night, even after Cliff Floyd and DeRosa's back-to-back HR got the crowd into the game (we played HR Derby last night, as we do every time my friend Sue is with us. I've never been so happy to pay off). The pitching staff gave it right back -- it wasn't Rich Hill's night, though he fought pretty well until he fell apart in the fifth inning. Michael Wuertz and Scott Eyre weren't much better, and though Eyre's ERA goes down again (to 4.41), the two singles he allowed gave up a run charged to Wuertz.

So it went, and major props to Kevin Hart, who threw two efficient scoreless innings, and Will Ohman. Yes, Ohman, who I was terrified to see come in to throw the 9th -- but he threw great, looked confident, and kept the team in the game with an easy 1-2-3 ninth (what was Kerry Wood doing warming up if Lou had no intention of bringing him into the game?).

There was brief and goofy gamesmanship evidenced by Reds manager Pete Mackanin when he announced the Reds were playing the game under protest. Alleged infraction: Lou hadn't told the umpires about the double-switch, when Eyre and Geovany Soto came in, until after he had crossed the foul line. This is only going to embarrass Mackanin; there's no way this protest will be upheld, and here's the explanation:

Rick Reed, the plate umpire and crew chief, cited a rule that says there is no requirement for a manager to announce a double switch before he crosses the line. He said on a first trip to the mound a manager has the option when to double switch as long as he hasn't called a pitcher into the game.

"We were pretty sure when we allowed Lou to make the switch," Reed said.

Exactly. The Cubs needed this game badly, not only because you need every game badly when a playoff race is this close, but because it was clear that Milwaukee was going to win easily in Houston by the scoreless innings that kept being posted by the "HOUSTON" line on the scoreboard. And just when it looked hopeless, more heroes were born. (Incidentally, my friend of whom I wrote yesterday is coming tonight. I'm not sure his heart could have handled last night!)

Speaking of tonight, if the Cubs wanted to give Alfonso Soriano a day off (and I doubt he'd take it), tonight might be a good time. He was clearly hurting when leading off the game with a double -- that was a ball that many hitters would have tried to stretch into a triple, including Soriano before his leg injuries. He needs the rest; maybe he can tough it out till the off day on Thursday.

A couple of personal notes: I got my first BP home run of the season -- in fact, the first one since the new bleachers were constructed -- hit by either Jorge Cantu or Joey Votto of the Reds, it hit my backpack right in the side, breaking a pencil I had put in the side pocket, and coming to rest on the bench, where I picked it up. And the annual "Tent Sale", where the Cubs sell surplus merchandise and game-used jerseys and bats, began yesterday. Since I'm not going to wear the road jersey I picked up last year any more (since Neifi's disgrace), I bought a game-worn Scott Moore shirt. It was also nice to meet BCB reader Tangled Up In Blue, who stopped by to say hi during the game.

The Cubs are now on a nice little run, seven of nine (and eight of eleven), and don't look now, but the win and the Mets and Diamondbacks losses last night put the Cubs within five games of the NL's best record. Will they catch that with only eleven left? Not likely, but for those who say that the "Comedy Central" doesn't "deserve" a representative in the postseason, if the Cubs, say, come within three or so games of that mark, to me that says there really isn't much to differentiate the top six or seven teams in the National League. The Mets have dominated at times; now, though, they've lost four in a row and five of six and have allowed ten or more runs three times in the last week; the D'backs have lost four of six and their run differential is now -38, something that's bound to catch up to them sooner or later.

Rumor heard: the on-again, off-again plan to completely resod Wrigley Field after the season is apparently on again. More details if I can get them.

Finally, as I was leaving the still-rocking ballpark, I looked up and the guy right in front of me was wearing one of those T-shirts that says, on the back, just one word: "Believe."

Are you starting to? Hang on; this ride gets better every day. Keep the faith.