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Three The Hard Way

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I don't know what to say.

Wait, wait. Yes, I do.

The beginning of the Yahoo recap of the Cubs' 7-4 loss to the Marlins read as follows, before they just changed it:

By STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer
September 26, 2007

MIAMI (AP) -- Panic, Cubs fans.

The Cubs' grip on the NL Central lead became shaky Wednesday night, when they were shut out over the final 5 2-3 innings and lost for the second night in a row to the last-place Florida Marlins, 7-4.

I reloaded the page just before I started writing this morning, and now it reads:

By STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer
September 26, 2007

MIAMI (AP) -- Alfonso Soriano dressed slowly. Aramis Ramirez hunched over his postgame meal. Mark DeRosa sprawled on a couch. All focused on the TV in the corner of the clubhouse, hoping for help.

I'm glad they changed that (apparently an AP editor got to work this morning and chastised Mr. Wine for editorializing in a game recap!), because panic is one thing that we should NOT do -- I haven't even read the game thread from last night yet; I'm almost afraid to -- and I know one thing about the 2007 Cubs: Lou Piniella won't LET them panic.

Last night's game, really, turned on one play: Mark DeRosa's errant throw on what should have been an inning-ending double play in the second inning. Only one of the three runs that subsequently scored was unearned, because you can't assume a double play on such a throw, but let's say the Cubs turn that DP.

In that case, the Cubs get out of the inning with a 2-1 lead and maybe Jason Marquis settles down. He didn't pitch great, but he wasn't all that bad, either -- when he left the game for pinch-hitter Sam Fuld in the sixth, the Cubs trailed only 5-4.

Then, unfortunately, Carlos Marmol chose a really bad time to have one of his worst outings of the year -- Miguel Cabrera's two-run HR, only the third HR Marmol's allowed all season and the first since July 22, put the game away after it had gone into the seventh inning, still agonizingly close at 5-4. Marmol's been so automatic, so good -- he hadn't allowed any runs at all in his last 18 appearances, that we find ourselves shocked when he looks mortal.

But the bottom line is: do not panic!! I happened to be out last night for a while, and so missed a lot of the carnage on TV -- and when I got home, I found myself yelling, screaming at my TV, rooting for the detested Cardinals when they put their 7-3 win over the Brewers away with a four-run eighth inning -- all four of the runs scoring with two out; in doing so the Cardinals, our bitter arch-rival, helped us reduce the magic number to three.

Now how weird is THAT?? I'm glad I don't have to do THAT any more this year.

The NL playoff race is nothing short of bizarre. If you think the Cubs are having a tough week, imagine being a Mets fan -- they just got swept by the Nationals... at home. The Pirates, who came into Wrigley Field and got swept and got outscored 30-13 by the Cubs, have just won two straight from the Diamondbacks, who entered the series with the best record in the National League. The Colorado Rockies, who were 6.5 games out of first place and fourth in the wild card race eleven days ago after losing two straight to the Marlins AT HOME (!), have now won ten games in a row and stand two games out of first place and one out of the wild card lead. Oh, and what did the Rockies do after losing those two games to Florida, in so doing being outscored 17-8? They beat them 13-0 -- beginning their current ten-game winning streak.

That puts seven teams (Cubs, Brewers, Mets, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies) within two games of a playoff spot with four games remaining, and not a single spot wrapped up. It's the tightest race there has been since MLB went to the three-division-wild-card setup thirteen years ago.

It is exciting, and I remind you again:

Keep the faith, keep believing, know that this team does know how to win, and we'll move onward. I'll have a game thread up early this afternoon.