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Nothing's Ever Easy: Cubs 5, Dodgers 4

Yes, I stayed up for the end of this one -- when Kerry Wood loaded the bases in the last of the 9th I was starting to wish I hadn't -- but in the end, all was well, after Kerry struck out Matt Kemp to preserve the Cubs' 5-4 win over the Dodgers, their fourth straight win over LA (giving them the all-time series lead over the Dodger franchise, 1011-1010).

Figures, doesn't it, that the one game I'm going to manage to stay up late to see its conclusion this week, is the longest one of the week, going three hours and seven minutes. So I am a bit bleary-eyed but happy this morning, as the Cubs maintain the best record in baseball at 39-22; check the "Best Starts Since 1900" box on the sidebar to see the 2008 team has now moved up; there are now only five Cub teams since 1900 that have started better: 1906, 1907, 1910, 1918 and 1969.

That's four pennant winners and one that shoulda.

And Kerry Wood, who some here were ready to throw under the bus when he had a tough debut as closer on Opening Day, is now leading the National League in saves.

Once again, this team won with a different hero; last night it was Kosuke Fukudome, who hit his first MLB home run away from Wrigley Field and who drove in the winning run with e perfectly-placed single off his countryman Takashi Saito in the 9th inning. Maybe the arrival of Kosuke's family in the USA has something to do with it:

"Perhaps it's because my family is in town," Fukudome said of his wife and young son, who joined him in San Diego. "I'll make sure they stay."

Hey, whatever works. The Cubs blew an early 4-0 lead when Jeff Kent homered twice, once off Ryan Dempster, once off Bob Howry, who nearly did a Ted Lilly slam-the-glove-down move, rare for him -- you almost never see Howry show emotion on the mound -- but this resilient team came back. Props to Neal Cotts for throwing a scoreless inning -- so far, since his recall, Cotts looks more like the setup man who had a 1.94 ERA for the 2005 champion White Sox, than the guy who got sent down seemingly never to return last year.

I still worry, as I am sure you do, a bit about Derrek Lee, who went 0-for-4 again last night. I'm sure he'll come out of this; it hasn't hurt his defense, which was clearly in evidence again last night, and plenty of great players go into slumps. Right now, with Daryle Ward out (and not likely to return anytime soon) and Micah Hoffpauir back at Iowa, it's not likely D-Lee will get a day off until the team off day on Monday, after which -- I never thought I'd write this -- I actually hope Hoffpauir will be back, not only to maybe give D-Lee a breather, but to get rid of the 13th pitcher, an unnecessary luxury for a manager who seems to have fallen in love with the scourge of the first decade of the 21st Century, the one-batter appearance.

This is too much complaining for a team that's playing this well, I fear. Even Jim Edmonds seems to be getting a bit closer to the guy we all hated in Cardinal red; he had two more hits last night and made a slick diving catch in CF. So enjoy the moment; there's only one more Late Night With The Cubs (tonight) until the team heads to San Francisco at the end of this month. Onward, and this morning please give some thanks to the Nationsls' Elijah Dukes, who hit a two-run walkoff HR in the 10th inning to give Washington a doubleheader split with St. Louis after they had blown a 7-0 lead; this kept the Cubs' lead in the NL Central at its largest of the year, 3.5 games. Till tonight.