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Gorgeous: Cubs 5, Pirates 1

That title describes both the day's weather -- beautiful, sunny, with the wind blowing in (and that was important, as at least two or three fly balls hit by Pirates today off Ted Lilly would have been on the street on most other days), and the baseball played by the Cubs, in another solidly played win, 5-1 over the Pirates this afternoon.

This truly has been a team effort all season long -- no one's really having a monster career year, but everyone is contributing. Today it was Reed Johnson's turn -- he had three hits, two runs scored and a stolen base. Since the All-Star break Johnson is hitting .452/.500/.742 in 31 at-bats -- obviously, he's not going to keep up that pace the rest of the season, but the Cubs have an excellent platoon arrangement in center field, and Lou has been able to rest other starters (today, Kosuke Fukudome didn't start, but pinch-hit and singled in the 8th inning).

This, for those of you too young to remember, is what didn't happen in 1969 -- the '69 team, which was 69-41 (with one tie game) after this point, 111 games played in that year, was ridden till it collapsed from exhaustion in early September, because Leo Durocher simply didn't have bench players he could trust (or, depending on what you believe, didn't choose to trust in them). Lou Piniella has an excellent bench and bullpen and is using them wisely. That will keep D-Lee and A-Ram and Geo and Alfonso Soriano, fresh for the stretch run, and, we hope, the postseason.

Ted Lilly didn't start off very well in this game. In the second inning he walked two and allowed Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm to dribble a single to deep short that Ryan Theriot couldn't handle (I would have scored it an error, but it wasn't), allowing the Pirates' only run to score. I wasn't counting pitches but it had to be a huge pitch count early, as the scoreboard on the upper deck showed 80 pitches in the fourth inning. But darned if Lilly didn't settle down and mow through the Pirates in the fifth and sixth, and finally had to be removed with one out in the seventh, to a warm ovation. The final pitch count of 111 included 70 strikes, and no further walks after that second inning.

Meanwhile, the Cubs were putting together one of their most efficient offensive displays of the season. In all three of their scoring innings (2nd, 4th and 5th) they got the leadoff man on base and scored him -- and twice got the first TWO runners on and scored both of them. Even D-Lee's 22nd DP ball of the year had a positive aspect, as it came with nobody out and a runner on third, so it scored the fourth Cub run of the game. Geovany Soto drove in two runs and now has sixty RBI. The CF message board indicated that Soto's 17 HR are the most for a rookie catcher since Mike Piazza hit 35 in 1993.

We all cringed when Bob Howry came in to throw the 8th, and as he did on Thursday in Milwaukee, he was a bit shaky, allowing two hits; but he got out of it with a foul popup, and Carlos Marmol threw perhaps too many pitches (22) in a non-save situation, meaning if a closer is needed tomorrow, it'll probably be Jeff Samardzija.

There was a large bachelorette party seated in front of us. One of them had some sort of novelty "challenge" book, things that the bride-to-be is supposedly supposed to do during the party time. One of the "challenges" was to kiss a man with a mustache. No, it wasn't me! (I've got a goatee, not a mustache.) PHIL was the designated kissee; he was a good sport about the smooch, which was done to general laughter from section 301.

And we are all in that sort of mood. Happy, laughing, smiling. May it continue for three more months.

Finally, a bit more humor. Here is the top of the scorecard from the current series, which appears to indicate that the Cubs had played over 2300 games vs. the Pirates in the last 15 years:

Don't you mean <strong>1893?</strong>
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Wow. I know the Cubs had played the Pirates a lot earlier this year, but I didn't know it was that many times. (And no, the home record isn't 467-4; that's just where my scan cut off.) Enjoy the evening; go Braves, go Phillies.