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2 Damn Close

That was what BCB reader San Diego Smooth Jazz Man text-messaged me right after the Cubs' 7-6 win over the Padres, their eighth in a row, ended last night just after midnight Central time.

This was far too late for me; I made it through four innings and then went to sleep. (In fact, I can't believe the phone beep from the text message didn't wake me up, as the phone was right next to me -- I really must have been out cold.)

In any case, yes, Carlos Marmol, showing signs of overwork, gave up a three-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez (raising the question: why wasn't Scott Eyre or Neal Cotts in the game in the 9th, instead of your premier setup man), making what appeared to be an easy win into a close game and forcing Lou to summon Kerry Wood to save the game for the fifth time during this winning streak. Wood's 15 saves now rank second in the National League, tied with Jose Valverde of Houston, one behind Brian Wilson of the Giants. This has prompted Lou to again bring up the idea of a 13th pitcher on the staff.

To which I say: don't do it, Lou. Yes, starters need to go consistently deeper into games, and we all knew Z wasn't going to do that last night after his 130-pitch outing last Wednesday, and especially, Paul Sullivan writes, after his histrionics early in last night's game:

After the Cubs scored on a wild pitch in the second, Zambrano got two quick outs before walking Jody Gerut. He leaped off the mound like Pete Townshend at a Who concert, prompting Piniella to make his first visit of the night.

Zambrano calmed down, relatively speaking. When he tripled to the gap in right-center in the fourth, tying the game at 3-3 with his first triple since 2005, Zambrano chugged into third, pumped his first and let out a primal scream.

Bringing another pitching body on board would likely mean either Mike Fontenot or Micah Hoffpauir would be sent to Iowa (Gordon Wittenmyer says it'd be Hoffpauir), leaving the bench as: Henry Blanco, whoever isn't playing CF (Jim Edmonds or Reed Johnson), Ronny Cedeno and the one of Hoffpauir or Fontenot who isn't sent down. That just isn't a deep enough bench, especially with the number of comeback wins and extra-inning games this team has played.

The rant and complaint department is now closed. How can you complain about yet another comeback win? Z got hit hard in the first inning but shut the Padres down after that, and so did the bullpen until Marmol in the 9th. Z also had his second game of the year in which he's had three or more hits; he is now hitting .366 with a .537 SLG and an OPS+ of 130. Just for comparison's sake, since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941, the most at-bats by anyone who hit .400 or more in a season is 134, by Bob "Hurricane" Hazle for the 1957 Milwaukee Braves. Z has an outside shot at being a .400 hitter with maybe 100 at-bats (he now has 41). And this in a year when the same Braves' Chipper Jones enters today hitting .407.

And... those of us who said Jim Edmonds was D-O-N-E... well, we just might be wrong. Edmonds had two more doubles yesterday and is now hitting .286/.324/.543 in 12 games with 7 RBI. This would make him a more-than-acceptable platoon partner with Reed Johnson. With a lefthander (Wil Ledezma) going tonight, it's likely Edmonds will sit, and Lou also says he's giving Kosuke Fukudome the day off to spend with his wife and baby son, just arrived in the USA from Japan. So expect Johnson in CF, Mark DeRosa in RF, and Ronny Cedeno at 2B, an all-right-handed lineup tonight.

About streaks... the only winning streaks the Cubs have had since 1945 (when they won 11 in a row from July 1-12) that are longer than eight games were a 10-gamer from April 14-27, 1970, and a 12-gamer from May 19-June 2, 2001.

Let's add to that list tonight. Onward in this exceptional baseball season.