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What A Difference An Inning Makes: Cubs 9, Marlins 6

When Mike Jacobs' second homer of the day (and yes, it was definitely a HR, the umpires got it right -- it hit off the concrete facing behind the basket, above the yellow line) left the Yard in the third inning, making the score 5-0 Marlins and you could hear the sound of anguished wrist-slitting all over Wrigleyville, I was contemplating how I'd write up a recap of what appeared to be the makings of another mess of a game, and was thinking I'd write a couple of sentences and shut the computer down -- if I even could; when I left my house my cable was completely out and I had no TV, phone or internet service.

About two hours later, Jeff Samardzija had his first major league save and the Cubs had a come-from-behind 9-6 win over the Marlins, not a moment too soon, and that, combined with the Astros' 11-6 win over the Brewers (and when Houston's seven-run fifth inning was posted on the Wrigley Field scoreboard, a huge cheer rippled through the crowd of 41,017), put the Cubs back in first place by a game, awaiting the four-game showdown with the Brewers in Milwaukee starting tomorrow.

Dave said to me when Samardzija came into the game in the 8th and started mowing down Marlins hitters, "He could do for the Cubs what Bobby Jenks did for the 2005 White Sox", and I think that's an apt comparison -- although Jenks, of course, became the closer, and Samardzija won't (unless some really strange things happen). But the Shark could take over a key setup role and it's clear already that Lou trusts him in a game situation. Today, Samardzija seemed more in control of himself -- wasn't overthrowing, the fastest pitch I saw on the ballpark speed meter was 95, and he threw strikes again (16 in 25 pitches). The game ended on a throwback play, Jim Edmonds laying flat-out like he was ten years younger, and catching Jorge Cantu's line drive into the left-center field gap. (Did you ever think you'd hear a standing ovation like that one for Jim Edmonds? At Wrigley Field? Told you this was one special season.)

The game began to turn when Alfonso Soriano tied it with a three-run homer in the fourth. And even though Jason Marquis coughed it right back with a HR allowed to Dan Uggla -- the eighth hit in the series by the Marlins -- give credit to Marquis for eating up innings again. He managed to finish six innings on a warm, though not too humid, afternoon, saving most of the bullpen. And in that sixth inning, we were sitting in LF shaking our heads at Ryan Theriot again, as he just didn't quite have the range or arm to throw out Hanley Ramirez on a grounder to deep short. But then, Theriot followed that with a diving stop and flip on Jeremy Hermida's ball that looked like it was going up the middle, and Mark DeRosa nearly turned it into the slickest DP of the year (WEB GEM!). When Cantu hit into a DP to end the inning, it seemed to energize the Cubs, though it took them one more inning to break through against Mark Hendrickson.

Derrek Lee homered to tie the game. But the key plays came later, when Hendrickson threw a wild pitch while pinch-hitter Daryle Ward was at bat. That prompted Fredi Gonzalez to order Ward intentionally walked (how many times have you seen a pinch-intentional walk?), loading the bases for the Wonder Hamster.

I still can't figure out how a guy that small hits the ball that far. I said to my son Mark (now with a 9-1 record), "You're almost as tall as Fontenot!" (He is, too: 5-2, at almost 13.) His double over Josh Willingham's head cleared the bases and won the game. And though it had no effect on the final score, Fontenot's heads-up baserunning play on Soriano's subsequent grounder to third prolonged the inning for one more batter.

Must-win? No. But "important win"? Definitely, and it'll put the Cubs in a good frame of mind for the series starting tomorrow night (can you figure out the Astros? They take two of three from the Cubs at home, two of three from the Brewers in Milwaukee, and in between get swept by the Pirates).

Finally, a little musical interlude, prompted by watching Scott Eyre get up ... and sit down ... and get up ... and sit down ... at least that many times in the bullpen today, without getting into the game. In fact, since being activated on Wednesday, Eyre has warmed up every day without ever getting into a game, even the 12-inning game yesterday. So with apologies to the Kingston Trio, here is "Scotty Never Got To Play":

Let me tell you the story
Of a man named Scotty
On this and every day
He put on his uniform,
Went out to the bullpen
But he never got to play

Scotty got the call
From the man in the dugout
So he threw a few baseballs
But when he thought he'd go in,
"Sit on down, Scotty!"
Scotty couldn't get in the game

Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned
He may sit forever
On that bullpen bench
He's the man who never returned.
We deserve a few laughs, don't we? On to Milwaukee. I'll be there Wednesday and Thursday.