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41,364 fans stood as one and did the Braves' Tomahawk Chop not once, not twice, but three times, as the Braves took the lead over the Brewers with a four-run seventh, then extended it with two in the eighth, and finally, when the 7-4 Atlanta win over Milwaukee was posted on the scoreboard.

I can also report to you, since I took a break to the men's room while Kerry Wood took his extended warmup after Carlos Zambrano left with "cramps" (don't worry, he'll be fine!), that the Chop was being done in the men's room down the LF line.

When I got back I told our group this, and Mike cracked us all up when he said, "With what?"

It was that kind of day, celebratory and festive, sunny and gorgeous, dominant pitching and hitting, and the Cubs completed their first series sweep in two months (since mid-July when they swept the Astros at Wrigley Field), by defeating the Pirates 8-0, a three-hit shutout from Z, Wood (who showed how loved he still is during his first at-bat of the year, when the crowd chanted loudly, "Kerry! Kerry! Kerry!", hoping he'd get a hit, and that was a special moment, even though he wound up called out on srikes), and Michael Wuertz, who bookended Z's first-inning strikeout of the side with the same thing in the ninth inning.

And all of a sudden things seem to be clicking on all cylinders. Once again, this was a team win; Matt Murton had three hits and scored a run, Derrek Lee doubled and homered (giving him, at last, twenty for the season) and drove in three, and Ronny Cedeno (!!!, of all people!) put the exclamation points on this win with a two-run homer of his own in the eighth inning, getting his average -- .097 when he was sent down after the games of May 2, 3-for-31, up to the Mendoza Line at exactly .200. His 3-for-4 day made him 13-for-65 with three homers, a very strange batting line, but perhaps one that even wins him a spot on the postseason roster.

I've returned the magic number to the upper left corner -- at four, that seems pretty safe, doesn't it? The Brewers' bullpen, shaky all year, deserted them again today, and the Braves kept some slim hope alive in their own perhaps desperate quest to make the postseason by winning three of four from Milwaukee; with one week to go, there are still five teams (San Diego, New York, Philadelphia, Colorado and Arizona) within two and a half games of three available playoff spots (the Brewers are now three and a half games behind the Cubs for the other). It should make for a rollicking amount of fun the last week of the season in the NL, even as all four of the AL berths are locked up (all that remains there is to determine who is the AL East champion; Boston leads by 1.5 games, and since both the Red Sox and Yankees are in, the East title could be determined by tiebreaker, which the Yankees own).

I don't want to count this before it's official -- as you well know, weird things can and do happen -- but this situation is nearly identical to 1989, when, on the penultimate Sunday of the season, the Cubs defeated the Pirates to move four games ahead with six games to go, a spot they could find themselves in if the Cardinals can find a way to beat the Brewers while the Cubs enjoy a well-deserved day off tomorrow, the final off-day of the regular season. There are more similarities: that 1989 team finished a stretch of 11 wins in 15 games with that September 24, 1989 4-2 win over the Pirates. This year's team has done precisely the same thing -- won eleven of fifteen, dating back to Z's big win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh on September 8. Today's win also makes the Cubs 15-8 in September, 39-30 since the All-Star break, and 61-42 since June 2, the day Mt. Lou erupted, a day that can now be seen as a true turning point for this ballclub.

After that game on June 2, which they lost to the Braves 5-3, the Cubs were 10-17 at home. They finish the home season 44-37 (eight games better than last year's 36-45), and thus were 34-20 at home since June 2, a very impressive mark.

There is still work to be done, of course, and the Cubs cannot take the Marlins (who swept them at Wrigley Field just before that Atlanta series in June) lightly, and I know that Lou won't allow that to happen.

A few more notes about today's game: just as I had hoped when I posted the game thread, Z came out appearing to be a man on a mission. He struck out the side in the first inning and you could see his arm slot was where it was supposed to be, and he threw with passion and purpose. Although he walked three (and I thought plate umpire Bruce Dreckman's strike zone was fair and consistent throughout), he struck out six and allowed only three harmless singles. Wood was superb, walking only one, striking out three and throwing with zip and command -- this is a very, very good sign for his future, and especially going into the postseason. Isn't it nice to know the Cubs now appear to have four pitchers (Wood, Carlos Marmol, Bob Howry and Ryan Dempster) who can get late-inning outs?

Michael Wuertz threw a solid inning in the ninth, striking out the side to end the game with the full house cheering; the crowd brought the season total to 3,252,462, including a dad who brought a little girl who appeared to be about four years old to her very first game; they sat right in front of us, and the girl, who appeared happy but a bit overwhelmed with all the excitement, stayed to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" in the seventh inning, and then departed, happy as we all were.

There is work yet to be done and four numbers to be taken off that magic number, which I've restored to the sidebar; a division could be clinched as soon as Wednesday, but I don't want to seem overconfident. Each game must be approached with the same seriousness and preparation as it's been clear Lou has had his team doing every day this year, and I know he won't let them lose focus now.

Congratulations to those of you who succeeded in getting through the dreaded VWR this morning and getting playoff tickets. Let's hope we get to use every single one of them.

Enjoy the off day, revel in the win, look forward to more wonders to come. Onward!