For six innings, it looked like Ted Lilly was going to put himself in the record books. As it was, in the last 13 innings he has thrown at Miller Park, he has allowed three hits and two runs to two different teams.
Since Lilly, like all the starters since the division clinching, is on a pitch limit (and won't go until a week from tomorrow, if that game 4 in the NLDS is even necessary), he was yanked, to warm applause from the Cubs fans in the Miller Park crowd.
The rest of the game was ... um, rather shaky. You can't really blame Jason Marquis or Neal Cotts; in fact, Marquis might have saved the game by hitting Ryan Braun with a pitch (no, I don't think it was intentional) -- Braun came into this game 4-for-11 with a double and a homer vs. Jason and the HBP, which caused Braun to slam his bat down in frustration, kind of stopped the comeback of the Brewers. Instead, Cotts came in to face Prince Fielder.
Let me interrupt this recap to say what an absolute slob Fielder is. While he was holding a Cub runner on first in the late innings, the TV camera showed him with his back pocket turned inside out and his jersey untucked. Yuck.
OK, back to the recap. Cotts did his job, getting Fielder to pop up -- but ONEDEC! turned back into Ronny Freakin' Cedeno, dropping the popup, allowing a run to score and forcing Lou, who gave a little smirk after the HBP, to call on Michael Wuertz to get out of the inning. And fortunately, Cedeno sort of redeemed himself with a single in the Cubs' three-run ninth, and it was real nice to see Kosuke Fukudome hit a homer, his tenth, and the Cubs beat the Brewers 7-3; combined with the Mets' 2-0 shutout of the Marlins behind Johan Santana and the Phillies' 4-3 win over the Nationals, the Phillies clinched the NL East and the one remaining race in the NL is Brewers/Mets for the wild card, now in a dead tie, both teams 89-72 with one game left, tomorrow.
Nice homer today too for Daryle Ward, his fourth, and he drove in 17 runs this year with only 22 hits. He also walked sixteen times and is this team's best pinch-hitter.
I'll make no secret of who I want to win it: the Mets. I think the Cubs match up much better with the Mets than with the Dodgers, who they'd play if the Brewers win the wild card. It would, I suppose, be beneficial to the Cubs if the race ended in a tie after tomorrow and the Mets and Brewers would have to meet in a tiebreaker game Monday at Shea Stadium; maybe both teams would run through their entire bullpens and have to shift around rotations and not be totally prepared for the beginning of the Division Series on Wednesday -- the game time of which, we still do not know, and may not know until all the matchups are finalized.
That three extra days' wait will be good for the Cubs, because Mark DeRosa won't play tomorrow and wouldn't have been ready if the playoffs had started today. By next Wednesday, a week after he strained his calf, hopefully it'll be healed enough to play. That link also says that Geovany Soto would have played had today been a playoff game, so I'd expect to see him play tomorrow as a tuneup.
Let me take this opportunity to extol the virtues of Henry Blanco, the best backup catcher in the game. By making an out in what is likely to be his final regular season at bat, his average dropped below .300 -- but at .297, he hit 70 points over his lifetime average (.227) and had by far his best offensive season, having just turned 37 years old. Even if the Cubs have to pay him $3 million to return next year, it's worth it. Would you rather have Koyie Hill or Wellington Castillo backing up Geo next year?
I thought not.
You are, once again, witness to history. The Cubs' 97th win this afternoon makes this the winningest Cub team since the 1945 team won 98, and this group can match that today. It's the ninth-most wins in the 133 years of franchise history.All that resets to zero on Wednesday, and the important number is eleven. Eleven more wins in October, to victory and redemption.