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I'll Take The Aramis Ramirez Special, Please: Cubs 7, Cardinals 5

Dave said it best as we were celebrating the Cubs' 7-5, extra-inning, come-from-behind, walkoff win over the Cardinals:

"We might wait all year and never see two better games than these."

He was, of course, referring to both yesterday's big win, and today's -- and we're only 11 games into the season. This series already has more intensity than perhaps any regular-season series since the Cub/Cardinal 5-game series in September 2003. Aramis is doing this almost as a matter of routine: since that blast that beat the Brewers on June 29, 2007, and the one that beat the White Sox last June, A-Ram also hit the eighth inning grand slam that defeated the Phillies last August.

And that was after he had looked pretty bad the rest of the day, going 0-for-5 in regulation, grounding out three times and striking out once. But that's been the signature of the Cubs since early last year -- no single person can carry the team. There were other heroes today, who allowed the Cubs to overcome a 4-1 deficit and get the game to extras: Ryan Theriot, whose leadoff triple in the fifth led to a three-run rally, capped by Derrek Lee's double (even though he got thrown out in an ill-considered attempt to take third). Kevin Gregg, putting out a Carlos Marmol fire with two strong innings (after Marmol had gotten Neal Cotts off the hook -- and Cotts has to be on a real short leash after walking the only two batters he faced).

Kudos to Angel Guzman, who got two big outs after a leadoff walk in the 11th, and as a result registers his first major league victory after beginning his career 0-9.

No kudos to Joey Gathright, who could have won the game simply by having a better at-bat and drawing a walk with the bases loaded in the 10th (granted, the HR walkoff win was more exciting). Seriously, what elements does Gathright bring to this team other than speed and a little bit of defense? Once Reed Johnson came into the game, Mike Fontenot had pinch-hit and Milton Bradley had been used up, that left the bench extremely thin. Frankly, I might have rather sent Carlos Zambrano up to bat than Gathright.

The tension had all of us up and down all afternoon, all of us in the bleachers and the rest of the season-to-date's largest paid crowd, 40,878, as virtually every inning put both pitching staffs in trouble; as tough a time as the Cubs' bullpen is having, St. Louis' is having the same sorts of trouble. Today, both pens worked their way out of many jams after the starters struggled. Ryan Dempster blew through the first two innings and then issued four walks in the third, which led to the first three Cardinal runs, and then he gave up a long homer to Khalil Greene, which made it 4-1. Dempster, as he did last Sunday in Milwaukee, gritted it through six innings -- necessary to try to save the bullpen, especially with Marmol having now made seven appearances in 11 games and probably not available tomorrow. Gregg probably isn't available tomorrow, either, after throwing two innings today.

Nothing like putting the pressure on Ted Lilly tomorrow night, right? That is, if the weather cooperates, and right now, it looks pretty sketchy:

Sunday: Periods of rain, mainly after 1pm. Temperature falling to around 44 by 1pm. Northeast wind between 10 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Sunday Night: Periods of rain, mainly before 1am. Low around 41. North northeast wind around 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

And if you're thinking they could make the game up on Monday, an off day for both teams, the forecast isn't much better:

Monday: Showers likely. Cloudy, with a high near 48. Breezy, with a north northwest wind between 15 and 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
So, we'll wait and see. As will Bradley, who is appealing the two-game suspension he received for Thursday's incident. This really is ridiculous; read MLB's official press release:
During this incident, Bradley aggressively argued balls and strikes and made contact with Umpire Larry Vanover. Bradley's suspension is scheduled to begin during this afternoon's game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Bradley has elected to appeal the suspension, and the discipline issued to him will be held in abeyance until the appeal process is completed.

While the "aggressive" argument clearly happened, if "contact" was made, it was a brief brush of helmet bill vs. cap bill. They can't really be serious about this, can they? Bradley's being singled out here, I'm afraid, because of his previous reputation, and that's not fair. Umpires have got to become less confrontational. They are not the show, and I think many of them don't remember an instruction that goes to each of them under MLB Rule 9:

You are the only official representative of baseball on the ball field. It is often a trying position which requires the exercise of much patience and good judgment, but do not forget that the first essential in working out of a bad situation is to keep your own temper and self control.

Larry Vanover disregarded this instruction by filing a report calling for a suspension. "Contact"? Yeah, maybe a brief touch of a cap bill. If you're that sensitive, maybe you shouldn't be a major league umpire, Larry. The suspension will likely be reduced to one game after Bob Watson hears the appeal, but it really should be eliminated.

Meanwhile, the Cubs will savor two huge wins over a very good Cardinals team the last two days; they'll have at least till tomorrow night and maybe all the way till Tuesday, depending on the weather. That will give the ballclub and management time to figure out how to address the already-overused bullpen.