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Afternoon Delight: Starlin Castro's Big Day Leads Cubs To 6-5 Win

There were enough heroes and villains in today's 6-5 Cubs win over the Cardinals to last a week, so let's start with the heroics. (And a note that today's win brought the Cubs, finally, back to .500 at home at 26-26.)

Starlin Castro was 3-for-4, with a single, double and what we hope was the first of many Wrigley Field home runs; he scored twice and drove in a pair and raised his average to .308. He's 17-for-41 (.415) in his last ten games and was today's hero. Give a secondary hero nod to Tyler Colvin, too -- he led off the game with a homer for the second day in a row; his 15 HR put him in possible conversation about breaking Billy Williams' Cubs rookie HR record (25 in 1961).

On the villainous side, James Russell, brought into the game specifically to pitch to Aaron Miles and Jon Jay, gave up singles to both of them, putting the Cubs in a seventh-inning jam. (Incidentally, that has to be a different "Aaron Miles" than the one who took up space on the Cubs' roster last year.)

But Andrew Cashner came in and got out of the inning with only one run scoring, helped out when Geovany Soto threw Jay out trying to steal. But before that, in a matchup of strength against strength, Cashner threw four straight 100+ MPH fastballs to Albert Pujols (one registering 101 on the Wrigley Field board, which is usually pretty accurate), and got Pujols to fly out deep to Marlon Byrd. It scored a run, and Cashner gave up one more in the eighth -- unearned, because of an error by villain Ryan Theriot, who booted what looked like a routine double-play ball. Earlier, Theriot had been TOOTBLAN again, blunting a possible sixth-inning rally.

But Theriot made up for his gaffe by helping to turn an inning-ending double play in that eighth inning, and that set the stage for Carlos Marmol to face Albert Pujols with two out, both registered on strikeouts.

Marmol tiptoed around Pujols and walked him. It seemed as if Marmol was trying to rely too much on his slider when it wasn't working, which often gets him into trouble. However, it's always a good idea to not let the other guy's best player beat you. With Pujols on first, Marmol got Matt Holliday to pop up to... Theriot, who squeezed it and the Cubs had their second straight win over the Cardinals.

Which makes tomorrow's game a real turning point. Win it, you've got a sweep over the first place club in your division and stand eight games out... which is justcloseenough that I'd imagine that would slow Jim Hendry down in any trades he may be considering.

Lose tomorrow, slip back to ten games behind, and maybe the trade express picks up speed. Chris Carpenter is always tough and has already defeated the Cubs once this year, but Ryan Dempster has been consistent most of this year and except for the debacle in Los Angeles just before the All-Star break, the Cubs have saved some of their better games for ESPN's Sunday night affair -- and you will be pleased to know that you will not be subjected to Jon Miller and Joe Morgan tomorrow night, since both will be in Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame inductions. Miller is receiving the Frick award this year and Morgan will join other living Hall of Famers at the ceremony. Announcers for tomorrow's game will be Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine.

Given the 5-10 inches of rain that fell in various parts of the Chicago area overnight and into this morning, it's surprising they got this one in at all. It finally stopped raining just about the time the gates opened at 10 am and the field drained quite well -- you'd never have known it rained, there didn't seem to be any places where water was standing and players would slip. The toll was taken on other Cubs employees -- many vendors and security people never made it in due to flooded expressways. By the time a couple of innings went by, the sun came out and it got hot and sticky again.

Tomorrow night's game will be played in more temperate conditions as a cold front is supposed to go through the area tonight, lowering temperatures and humidities. Let's sweep these guys. This season still has a thread -- slim, to be sure, but a thread nevertheless -- of hope.