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What This Team Needs Is A Road Trip: Cubs 0, Astros 4

Thursday has dawned gloomy, windy and rainy in Chicago, matching the moods of all of us, I suspect, after the Cubs' fifth straight loss, 4-0 to the Astros, completing a Houston sweep, the first time the Cubs have been swept at home since the Marlins did it at the end of May, 2007 -- just before The Lou Tirade that galvanized that team to start winning. It was also cool and windy after it had been 94 degrees on Tuesday, reminding all of us that fall is coming. Fall baseball in Chicago. Right?

Yes, I'm grasping at straws here. Aren't you?

The Cubs made Randy Wolf look like a 2001-vintage Randy Johnson last night; Wolf threw his first CG shutout since 2004 and the closest the Cubs came to scoring was having Ronny Cedeno gunned down at the plate in the fifth inning after an Alfonso Soriano single.

Ryan Dempster threw well enough; his biggest mistake was hit by Ty Wigginton for a two-run homer, making the score 3-0 in the fifth, but by then the Astros had the only run they would need. Dempster gave up eight hits and three runs in his seven innings and good teams should win 99% of all games where your starting pitcher throws that well. Count this in the other 1%. And how would Dempster get the Cubs out of this?

Dempster has a remedy in mind.

"We've just got to come to the field and have a good day off [Thursday]," he said, "maybe go get some Einstein's Bagels in the morning, go for a nice run, then have a nice plane flight, go have a nice dinner and go to Cincinnati refreshed and put this behind us and just play well."

Einstein's. Well, whatever works. Last night was the first complete game thrown against the Cubs since June 6 in Los Angeles, when the Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda, a pitcher whose season numbers aren't that much different from Randy Wolf's, shut out the Cubs and struck out eleven. After that game the Cubs won six of their next eight, which is just about exactly what they need right now.

It was a goofy night all around. A fight broke out in our aisle in the bleachers in the first inning over... nothing. No one could figure out how it started or who started it, but there was quite a bit of shouting, several beers spilled, but in the end, no one got hurt or ejected, and a lot of those involved wound up leaving early when the play on the field started clunking along.

Speaking of which, can the Cubs do better for a righthanded bat off the bench than Casey McGehee? I suppose he's here as kind of a "lovely parting gift", because he's almost 26 years old and has a career minor league OPS of .741, but he has seemed overmatched in his two major league AB, and when he batted for Dempster in the seventh inning with a runner on and the score still 3-0, a hit might have galvanized a comeback -- but he hit into a double play (this, after striking out in his ML debut the night before).

Just received an email from fellow bleacher regular Tim, who says:
This morning WXRT DJ Lin Brehmer called for the IMMEDIATE stop of that insipid Bon Jovi song they keep playing during pitching changes at Wrigley Field! For the love of God, make it stop! Never thought I'd miss YMCA...

Lin Brehmer is a fellow Colgate graduate -- two years ahead of me, I knew him while I was in school there and I'm with him. The Cubs have 16 of their final 22 games on the road, so clearly, the winning of this division is going to have to be done there. Those of you heading to Cincinnati -- be numerous, be loud, bring us some wins. As I noted yesterday, the Cubs have won 13 of their last 14 road games while struggling lately at home. More numbers: they've started 0-4 in September, but also started poorly in May (1-4); that became a good month at 18-11. I said I'd start posting the magic number when it dropped to 20 -- it's now 19, but I feel that the Cubs ought to at least make it drop by one by winning a game before I put it up there. So -- I hope you can all wait till Friday to see it. Also, BCB reader FragginJudge, visiting from Puerto Rico, sat with us -- it was nice to meet you, but that's a long way to come and not to see even one win (he saw the entire Houston series).

Finally, yesterday BCB reader JohnM posted about the playoff email ticket lottery; this will, I suspect, actually give you a better shot at tickets, as if you get chosen in the lottery, you'll almost certainly get tickets, rather than sitting for hours in the VWR and getting nothing. Most teams are going to this sort of system; sign up here.

And keep the faith. The Cubs are still a good team, and they are still in the driver's seat. They have kept at least a 3.5 game lead since July 30. Yes, we are a little worried about Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden. So, Sean Marshall, who joins the rotation on Sunday, will have to step up. I have confidence in him, and in the rest of this team. Take a deep breath and enjoy the off day -- the Cubs' first since August 18. The best is yet to come.