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Late Night With The Cubs

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NEW YORK -- Usually, when I have a meeting like the one I attended last night and it's at the same time as the game (7 pm EDT), I don't get to see any baseball -- the meetings usually run three to three and a half hours, and most of the time, as you know, that's more than enough time to finish a baseball game.

And when I turned on my phone (I turned it off during the meeting, lest everyone there be regaled by "Go Cubs Go", my ringtone) during a break to check the score, it said the Cubs were leading 2-0 in the top of the 8th.

"Great!" I thought, and then...

Well, I got to see the last four innings, getting back to my hotel room during the 12th, and all I can say is, I'm glad the Cubs won, defeating the Pirates 6-4 in 15 innings. If we're all exhausted from the second extra-inning game in a row (4:47 of game time on Monday, 4:20 last night), imagine how the players feel! Not to mention the fans in Pittsburgh: announced attendance was 9,735. The TV people kept away from most "crowd" shots late in the game, but in the couple I saw, it looked like there couldn't have been more than a few hundred left when the game ended.

They'll have to be very, very happy to get out of Pittsburgh. These always feel better, of course, no matter how badly the game was played, when you win.

There was plenty of good to go around from last night. Ryan Dempster threw seven outstanding innings. Ask yourself this: before spring training started, did you ever think you'd be screaming at Lou, "Don't take Dempster out!!!"?

Yeah, me either.

Kerry Wood... not so much. He gave up a homer to the first batter he faced, Jason Bay, tying the game. Does this mean Wood can't be a closer? Of course not. This kind of thing happens. However, it can't be happening too much more often; if it does, Lou may have to consider a change. We're not nearly at that point yet, though.

What I'm more concerned about is the failure to put the game away a couple of times in extra innings. The Cubs left RISP in the 11th and 13th and had a two-run lead in the 14th on Aramis Ramirez' HR before they coughed it up with a mirror-image HR off the lefthanded bat of Adam LaRoche.

Finally, Felix Pie came through with a two-run single in the 15th and Sean Marshall, the last available player (other than Ted Lilly and Rich Hill, Monday's and Thursday's starters, and Jason Marquis, who was back in his hotel room, sick) who hadn't appeared in the game, shut the door for his first major league save.

Can we stop overreacting to some players' bad starts now? The Cubs have played eight games. If I believe some of what I read, Felix Pie is absolutely worthless and has to be sent back to the minor leagues never to return.

You can't judge that off of eight games, only four of which Pie started. With Matt Morris, a righthander who the Cubs have pounded the last couple of years, starting tonight, Pie should be back in the starting lineup. I say you've got to give him at least a couple of months before ANY thoughts of a replacement (whether it's Reed Johnson, who probably shouldn't be an everyday player anyway, or someone to be acquired) be entertained. Lou Piniella noticed that Pie did the right thing last night:

"He stayed right on the pitch, and lined it over short and that's what he has to do to be a big league everyday player," Piniella said.

As I noted in the brief post last night, the last time the Cubs won back-to-back extra inning games on the road was June 20 and June 21, 1989, also at Pittsburgh. Does the coincidence mean anything? Of course it doesn't, but that Cubs team did win the NL East. They also played another long extra-inning game in Pittsburgh later that year -- 18 innings on August 6. They lost that one, but the next day moved into first place to stay.

These two games, long and frustrating though they were, have to be seen as a good sign... because the Cubs won both of them. Previous editions of our favorite team would likely have found a way to lose both of these games. Instead, they found a way to win both of them. A sweep would be sweet. I'll have a game thread up later this afternoon. (Wish me luck getting home in the rain today.)