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"Nothing This Team Does Surprises Me Any More": Cubs 3, Cardinals 2

That's in quotes because it's not my line, it's Mike's -- that's what he said just after Henry Blanco lined a single just over Cesar Izturis' head with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the 11th inning, giving the Cubs an excruciatingly exciting 3-2 win over the Cardinals, their third in a row, and seventieth of this incredible season.

Check out the sidebar box showing the team starts through 116 games. The 70 wins is now more than all but ten other Cub teams -- six of those pennant winners. We are witness to things that generations of Cubs fans have grown up not seeing.

Did you ever think you'd see Jim Edmonds get a curtain call after hitting a home run in blue pinstripes? That's what Edmonds got after his second homer of the day tied the game in the bottom of the seventh inning. Edmonds is now hitting .284 in 169 Cub at-bats, with 14 HR and 38 RBI. That'd project to a 42 HR, 114 RBI full season -- something Edmonds did for the 2004 NL Champion Cardinals, but he hasn't come close to that since. He also made an outstanding diving catch in center field.

In fact, defense won this game for the Cubs. After the game was tied up by a Joe Mather (who?) HR in the 3rd, the Cardinals got Cesar Izturis to third after Edmonds made a bad throw following Izturis doubling. But the Cubs sniffed out a possible suicide squeeze with pitcher Braden Looper batting, and Looper couldn't make contact and Izturis was tagged out. On the postgame news conference, Lilly said they had talked about it and if he saw Izturis coming he was going to try to throw the pitch high; instead it was low and inside, but got the job done.

Further good defense helped out the Cubs in the sixth; after St. Louis took the lead on two singles and a groundout, walks filled the bases and Troy Glaus flied to Alfonso Soriano in left -- and Soriano fired a perfect strike to Geovany Soto, who tagged Mather out. It still seems as if Soriano just slings the ball, without getting any real firepower behind the throws, but they are nearly always right on target. Last year he had 19 OF assists; that's his sixth of 2008.

And then, with two out in the tenth inning, Jeff Samardzija caught Albert Pujols napping off first base and threw him out at second. Nice heads-up play, and Samardzija threw two good innings today, dropping his ERA to 1.59. The only thing that I will criticize about the Shark is that he occasionally seems to lose focus -- today, walking the nearly-unwalkable Izturis on four pitches. But I nitpick -- he's been a great addition to the pen. Even Bob Howry threw well today -- after Jessica left our section, unable to watch, she came back and reported there were a ton of people in the back of the bleachers also afraid to see what Howry Hath Wrought. Today, he was good -- getting the hot-hitting Ryan Ludwick on a groundout and then striking out Glaus and Yadier Molina.

And then the winning rally started on something that's been a great weapon for the Cubs this year, a walk, to Derrek Lee. After Aramis Ramirez singled him to third, the obligatory intentional walk was issued to Kosuke Fukudome (who I worry about -- he just doesn't look very good at the plate any more), setting up Blanco's heroics.

It's a team effort -- new heroes every day. Lilly threw very well. Carlos Marmol did his job, getting the Cubs out of a jam in the 8th, and they beat their biggest rival on an absolutely gorgeous, blue-sky, 75-degree, low humidity afternoon, with about 20% or so of the crowd wearing Cardinal red (and some wearing Red Sox red -- as there are some Boston fans in town this weekend for their series on the South Side). I ran into two Cardinal fans in the 7-11 getting my Super Big Gulp -- they asked me "is this the year?" After the obligatory, "Hope so!" they responded, "If we can't win, we hope you guys do." Civilized -- that's why I like this rivalry so much. Mutual respect, and tightly played games like today's. Now go get 'em again tomorrow. And go Nats.