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Today was a very warm (85 degrees) and windy afternoon; just the hint of yellow and orange began to appear in the Wrigley Field ivy, with the autumnal equinox to occur on Sunday. The Cubs took a game that appeared at first to be easily won and made it look like just another one of those blown leads. And just when you expected the worst, they took advantage of shoddy Pittsburgh defense for a five-run outburst in the sixth inning, blasting open a tie game and going on to defeat the Pirates 13-8, in front of 41,591 joyous fans, most of whom stuck around to the end, in the late summer sunshine.

The crowd, incidentally, made the season total 3,169,827, just 328 people short of breaking the club record of 3,170,154 (set in 2004), so that will fall tomorrow afternoon.

In the meantime, let's all celebrate Aramis Ramirez' big day -- he smacked a pair of two-run homers, the first of which landed in the front yard of the second house on the east side of Kenmore Avenue (and then was fought for by several ballhawks who tackled each other for the privilege). The scoreboard said it was 430 feet, but a blast that far has to be at least 480-490 feet, maybe even 500. That HR, and Alfonso Soriano's leading off the game (the second game in a row he's hit the first pitch he saw into the seats, and Aramis' second, a laser-blast into left-center, needed no help from the wind. Only Geovany Soto's high fly ball that just made the first row, two batters after Aramis made the score 10-7, was windblown today. In fact, Ramirez came up with a man on in the seventh inning and hit a ball that almost was his third HR of the day, caught by Pirates OF Nate McLouth on the warning track.

The key play in the Cubs' five-run, two-HR sixth inning was, of course, SS Matt Kata's wild throw on what otherwise would have been an inning-ending double-play ball hit by Derrek Lee. The bad throw made everyone safe, and Ramirez' second blast followed. We nearly missed Kata's entrance into the game; it wasn't announced, and I was puzzled as to why Cesar Izturis, who started and had doubled and tripled, was pulled in the first place, and especially for Kata, who had played only 15 career games at SS before today (his primary position is 2B).

Neither starting pitcher was any good today -- Jason Marquis got hit hard in the first and second innings, and was lucky to get out of them with single runs in each. In the fourth, the Pirates had two singles, two doubles and Izturis' triple, and after that, Lou had seen enough. Will Ohman gave up a bunt single to Pirates starter Paul Maholm that landed just out of the reach of everyone, scoring Izturis, but after that the bullpen did a superb job, combining for 6.1 innings, allowing four hits, one run (a meaningless ninth-inning shot by Xavier Nady off Ryan Dempster), and striking out nine. Kerry Wood had excellent stuff today, throwing strikes (9 in 13 pitches) and striking out two; Scott Eyre continued his spectacular second half with a hitless, one-walk inning and was the lucky recipient of the win, as the pitcher of record in the sixth; Carlos Marmol threw a few more of his filthy sliders in striking out the side in the seventh, and I continue to be impressed by Kevin Hart, who struck out three in his two scoreless innings.

We were joined today by BCB reader jessica, and jazzman56, visiting from his home in Arizona. Dave said to me that he was so convinced of the importance of this game, that during the innings it was tied, he said, "If the Cubs come back to win today, they'll go on to win the division."

I'm not ready to claim victory that quickly, with eight games remaining. But this victory was satisfying, given that Marquis was so poor -- the Cubs proved that they could indeed hit a left-handed starter, and come back even after blowing an early lead, and of course this puts pressure on the Brewers, reporting to the ballpark for tonight's game in Atlanta knowing that they have to win just to keep pace (and that they're facing a very tough pitcher in Tim Hudson).

So onward we go. I heard a couple of broadcast-related rumors today, on the day in which we heard a recording of Harry Caray's final seventh-inning stretch song, from ten years ago today -- first, both Bob Brenly and Steve Stone will be working some of the Division Series games on TBS. Not sure which games they'll work, but it seems likely one or the other might wind up on any series involving the Cubs. The bigger news is about Stone -- he's apparently interviewing for a couple of open general manager slots, but if he doesn't get hired, he may wind up replacing Chris Singleton on White Sox radio broadcasts (if so, Stone and Ed Farmer would each do half the game's play by play, and half color commentary).

And there are also, today, two articles on ESPN.com discussing the upcoming sale of the Cubs. I pass them along to you for informational purposes, without comment at this time, because right now my focus is on the here and now, the present and immediate future, the grand possibilities that exist for making the postseason and accomplishing something really special with the 2007 season. We can worry about the future later. This team seems to play with a growing confidence each time they take the field.

Onward. It gets better every day. Go Braves.

MLB.com Gameday for the Brewers/Braves game (6:05 CT start, TV on ESPN)