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Cubs Win Fourth Straight, Defeat Pirates Despite Awful Umpiring

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Let's get this out of the way right now.

Bob Davidson's ball and strike calls during Wednesday night's 1-0 Cubs win over the Pirates were horrendous. He missed calls from beginning to end; even Bob Brenly on the CSN broadcast was ripping Davidson, saying, "Why does this man still have a job?" (a reasonable question, given his incompetence) and, when the pitch tracker on the screen consistently showed Davidson's calls to be wrong, saying, "We can just turn that pitch trax off tonight." Granted that the pitch-tracker graphics on televised games aren't 100% accurate, but often on Wednesday night, Davidson's calls weren't even close.

Davidson even baited Tyler Colvin into an ejection, following him back to the dugout after calling him out on strikes on a pitch that appeared to be several inches inside -- something an umpire should never do -- and tossing him. I can't read lips, but you could clearly see Colvin pointing at himself and saying he was talking to himself, which I believe to be true. Then Davidson tossed Mike Quade as Quade was walking away from him.

It's time to rid the game of bad umpires like Davidson, Joe West and C.B. Bucknor. MLB talks all the time about the integrity of the game and the good work umpires are doing -- Davidson is just bad. I remember years ago, when for about half a season umpires were told to more strictly enforce the balk rule, Davidson was known as "Balkin' Bob" because of the dozens of balk calls he made before MLB finally had the umpires back off.

Now, let's talk about the good stuff. Matt Garza was outstanding again today, and that's a good thing; he had three consecutive bad starts on the road during July and came into the game with a 5.96 road ERA. So seeing him throw 7-plus shutout innings -- he left with a runner on and nobody out in the eighth -- away from Wrigley is a real good sign. He lowered his season ERA to 3.78 and posted his first victory since June 27.

Starlin Castro provided the only run of the game with his fourth home run of the season; it was a rocket that went more than 420 feet to nearly dead center field at PNC Park. I think eventually Castro will develop power that will get him to maybe 15 or so home runs a year.

Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol (22nd save) finished up, but not totally without incident; Davidson missed yet another call that would have struck out Derrek Lee, and Marmol wound up hitting Lee, but then the Pirates gave the Cubs an out on a sac bunt and Marmol struck out Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Doumit to end it, and the Cubs had their first four-game winning streak of 2011. It was the 44th 1-0 game in the major leagues this year; there were 61 such games a year ago, the most since 1976, and MLB may be headed for more 1-0 games than that this year, more proof of this perhaps becoming an era of pitcher dominance.

And if that's not rare enough for you, the Cubs have a chance for a four-game sweep in Pittsburgh Thursday night. In the entire history of the two franchises, the Cubs have swept a four-game series in Pittsburgh only twice: from June 26-28, 1950 and June 5-7, 1959 (both involved a doubleheader sweep on the last day to complete the four-game sweep). So, in this miserable year, the Cubs have a chance to do something they haven't in more than 50 years. Go figure.