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A Big Fat (Expletive Deleted) Win

That's what Mike said after Ryan Dempster struck out Lance Berkman to end the Cubs' rockin' come-from-behind 6-5 win over the Astros (and yes, he waited till Jason Kendall threw Berkman out at first base after he dropped the ball).

Can you handle one more month... two more months... of this sort of drama? I told Mike he's responsible for calling the paramedics when my heart fails.

And this on a day when Rich Hill had nothing from the very first batter, Hunter Pence, who walked.

And on a day when the offense sputtered through five innings, getting men on base and leaving them there -- eight LOB through five.

And on a day when, inning by inning, the scores from Milwaukee and St. Louis were adding up to pressure put on the first-place Cubs -- and if they tell you they're not watching, they're liars. They watch the scores, same as we do.

Today's game reminded me of this September 3, 2003 game against the Cardinals, one of that amazing five-game series, where the Cubs went down 6-0 (thanks to Dusty Baker deciding that it was a good day for Felix Sanchez to make his major league debut, just in time to allow a grand slam to J. D. Drew), but inched their way back and took a late lead in part thanks to some clutch HR, and with the ballpark rocking, Joe Borowski struck out Jim Edmonds to preserve the win.

The Cubs scratched their way back after being down 5-1 in the sixth and with no sign of any real offense -- but then, Cecil Cooper pulled Woody Williams for a pinch-hitter, and the Cubs began to feast on Houston's bullpen. Mark McLemore -- not the guy who was a second baseman for several teams in the 90's (though he also played briefly for Houston) -- a left-handed reliever, came in and promptly walked Jacque Jones.

Now think about this. Jones hasn't hit lefties well -- ever. This year, he's been a little bit better at it (.258/.319/.348 in 74 PA vs. LHP before today), but drawing a five-pitch walk? Kudos to Jones (and also for the amazing diving catch he made to save a run in the top of the 8th, nearly hurting himself in the process. Jones is a far better center fielder than he ever was in right. Who knew?), and then Jason Kendall bounced what could have been a DP ball up the middle.

We deserve breaks like this one. Eric Bruntlett bobbled it, and after Craig Monroe -- ANOTHER guy who never walks -- drew a pinch-walk to load the bases, the Cubs eked out a couple of runs on an Alfonso Soriano sac fly and a line-single by Ryan Theriot.

Two runs with bases loaded, nobody out isn't terrific, but it did make the score 5-3 and gave everyone in the park the hint, at least the sense, that a comeback was possible.

Everyone contributed. Everyone. Matt Murton pinch-hit a home run leading off the seventh. Murton's barely played since Monroe's acquisition (incidentally, we learn from this article in today's Sun-Times that Monroe was raised by a single mom named Marilyn. Yes, Marilyn Monroe. She might be just about the right age to have been named after the actress), but he stepped up and made the score 5-4... ... thus setting the stage for Derrek Lee's two-run game-winner, following a Soriano single, in the 8th, a ball that barely, just barely, made it (it appeared to just be above the basket in left-center, from where we were). (And thank you, Derrek, for not indulging the crowd, which wanted you to come out for a curtain-call. It's not the time for that.) More props: to Michael Wuertz, Kerry Wood, Scott Eyre, Carlos Marmol and Ryan Dempster, for throwing four innings of no-hit, one-walk, four-strikeout relief (Eyre's appearance dropped his ERA to 4.98 -- the first time it's been under five all season), allowing the offense to get the team back into the game... and for all the nay-sayers who say Dempster shouldn't be closing, he shut the door pretty darn well today, a 13-pitch, 9-strike, two-strikeout inning against three pretty tough Houston hitters. I have been very, very, very impressed with Hunter Pence, who had never played above Double-A before this year, but who pretty much forced Astros management to give him a job by hitting .571/.647/1.071 in spring training, and then .326/.387/.558 in 95 at-bats in Triple-A.

A word or two about the ejection of Aramis Ramirez, who slammed his helmet down angrily after being called out on strikes to end the sixth by plate umpire Tony Randazzo. I agree with those of you who said in the comment thread that the pitch wasn't a strike (I thought the strike zone was pretty strange all day), but also that it was probably close enough for Aramis to at least try to foul it off. Fortunately, he made no umpire-contact, so an ejection and fine is the only likely result, with no suspension.

A team win -- isn't this what they all seem to be this year? Derrek Lee, whose bat has been quiet for a couple of months, has now homered in consecutive games and has five since August 14, and if he's picking right now to get hot, it couldn't come at a better time. The expanded roster is going to help the next few days, what with five relievers being used today -- and in case you didn't see it, Geovany Soto was on deck, ready to pinch-hit for Wood if Jason Kendall had reached base in the bottom of the 7th.

All of this set up Dempster -- who does, for some odd reason, seem to do better with a one-run lead than with a larger lead -- to strike out Berkman, crowd roaring, to end the game, after which nearly the entire ballpark sang along to "Go Cubs Go", which is played after every win.

Let's hope we hear that song quite a bit this week, and the rest of this year. Fasten your seatbelts -- this ride may be a bit like this one.

But you wouldn't trade this, would you? Keep the faith. The best is yet to come. Onward, let's beat the Dodgers!