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The comeback

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The White Sox had "The Catch" earlier this summer to save Mark Buehrle's perfect game, and now they have "The Comeback," a sweet 4-2 victory in Minnesota. This Sox team has already done something last year's version couldn't do--win in the Horror Dome in September. And, improbable as it seems, they can now say they beat the Twins the last time the two teams ever met on the Horror Dome--it's history after this season.

The Sox scored all 4 runs in the top of the 9th, which they entered down 2-0 and facing Joe Nathan. What could be better than that? All 4 runs were scored with 2 outs? What could be better than that? All 4 runs came after Nathan the Sox were down to their very last strike with Gordon Beckham at the plate. Beckham homered, then Paul Konerko homered, and the hits and walks kept coming as "Joe Cool" completely lost composure.

The division is still there for the taking, despite what you may have heard about white flag trades.

Got Wood, got win

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I was supposed to go to Friday's Cubs game, but the rain-delayed start, threatening weather and a need to get home early and get downtown for dinner plans kept me home. Poor decision, as the weather improved greatly and the game cruised through the first 7-1/2 innings. I would have missed the rest, but it might have been worth the trip to see some of the Indians fans, who according to my brother were acting like it was again Ten-Cent Beer Night in Cleveland, rather than a muggy dau in Chicago.

The Cubs completed their second straight amazing comeback win Friday when Ryan Theriot drove home Alfonso Soriano on a groundball with eyes that scooted past the Cleveland Indians 1st baseman. Another Cubbie moment to make the final score 8-7 on a day when the Cubs were down 7-0 halfway through. Minutes after the finish, another wave of storms swept through, so it was a case of great timing by the Cubs.

But, the biggest moment may have been Derrek Lee's game-tying bottom-9th homer off of former Cubs favorite Kerry Wood. I wish it would have happened to someone else, but I wouldn't trade the outcome for anything. Woody has not had a great year at all with his new team, though he has been better the last month or so. The problem may be that the Indian's never get him a lead, so he doesn't get much work--he was best last year after he came back from minor pains and got consistent work for the Cubs during the second-half. Sorry, Woody, but the Cubs need the wins.

In the 8th inning, it didn't look like we would get Wood at all, as the Indians were ahead 7-2, but their terrible bullpen gave up 4 more runs that inning. An error helped, but the Cubs looked like a new team stringing together singles and aggressive base-running that inning--all with 2 outs. Andres Blanco had a big 2-run, bases-loaded single to start the rally, while another run scored on a hard-hit grounder that was called an error and left Koyie Hill safe at 1st. Soriano, suddenly hitting again, drove in the last run of the inning with a single.

D-Lee had 2 homers on the day, the other in the 6th against the tough Cliff Lee. reed Johnson also homered earlier off of Lee.

Friday was also the homecoming for Mark DeRosa, the guy from last year who I think the Cubs miss the most. He got a nice standing ovation, and was 1-3 with an RBI and 2 walks. When Lou Piniella said the other day in the paper that the Cubs clubhouse is pretty quiet this year, that confirmed it for me: The Cubs made the wrong decision when they decided that a left-handed bat was worth more than DeRo's personality in the clubhouse. What they did in trading him of course makes perfect baseball sense--but, for all the stats and tendencies and percentages we all collect, there is so much about baseball that doesn't fit neatly into a spread sheet, or even an old baseball mentality that says the more lefties the better. Of course, if Milton Bradley and Aaron Miles, the switch-hitters that effectively replaced DeRo, guide the Cubs to the World Series, all will be forgiven.

Woody's replacement, Kevin Gregg, got the win yesterday, though most days I would still rather have Wood.

We are having technical difficulties

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I tried to post after yesterday's amazing comeback, extra-inning victory by the Cubs, and last evening's complete breakdown by the Sox, but kept getting errors when I tried to save. Just as well, because I might have been over-reacting to both events at the time.

The Cubs 7-6 win happened after the Cubs had been four runs down in the mottom of the 9th with two out. I was literally in the act of changing the channel as A-Ram took his first swing and saw the ball trip through Ryan Braun's legs before it the channel actually flipped over. I turned back to the game, of course, and had almost no chance to think about the possibilities before Geo tied the game 6-6 on a three-run no-doubter HR. At that point, I refused to entertain the idea the Cubs would lose this one, even after Woody had put two men on in scoring position with no out in the 11th. D-Lee came through in the 12th, and like that the magic number when from stuck at 4 on down to 2.

Piniella joked with reporters afterward about tying one on after the game, and from the looks of today's peformance, which I unfortunately witnessed live, everyone tied one on last night. Zambrano, in his first appareance since his no-hitter, was awful, the worst he could possibly be, and I'm not just talking about his pitching. He was charged with eight runs in less than two inning, and looked the polar opposite of the guy who no-hit Houston less than a week ago. But, the worst part was that as Piniella came to remove him, he stormed off the mound before his glacially slow manager made it all the way out to the mound. Piniella looked absolutely livid and pointed Z back to the mound. It looked like Z Big Cry Baby had a few more words for Piniella before departing and ripping at the buttons on his jersey.

Reportedly, Zambrano's grandmother just passed away, and no one can blame him for feeling bad about that, but at this time of all times, the Cubs needed him to handle that pain, and his apparent disappointment in himself, like a grown man. The Cubs will clinch the division, hopefully this weekend, but this is the last kind of distraction anyone needs. How could this guy go from unhittable and gracious on Sunday night to awful and immature on Friday afternoon? Grow up now, Z, because the postseason is not for big babies.

The Cubs went on to lose 12-6. Most of the starters played like they were hung over (though I'm sure they are all too professional to let that happen), but the scrubs (Casey McGeehee?) tried to make a game of it. Tune in tomorrow to find out if the Cubs are ready to win this thing.

The White Sox rolled over and played dead last night, and just when you thought the Piranhas would help out again as they started a series vs. the Amazin' Rays, they actually won and cut the Sox lead to 1-1/2 games.

Vazquez was not as bad last night as Zammy was today, but he was not good, and left in the 4th inning down 4-1. The bullpen let that lead build to 7-1, and the cause not helped by a key error by the Missile, who is great and everything, but really needs to concentrate a bit better sometimes. The bullpen overall was better than Vazquez, but is really starting raise concerns.

Meanwhile, Paulie took most of the season to start hitting, but now he's the only one. He had a run-scoring double and homer last night. The Sox have failed to fully take advantage of a recent tailspin by the Piranhas (I know, the metaphor doesn't work), and had better be ready to play some very important games next week in Minnesota.

No-no means YES! YES!

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We've all seen the footage from Milt Pappas' no-hitter for the Cubs in 1972--will Big Z's highlights now replace the shoestring catch, Milt's anger at his perfect game being ruined by a walk with just one out remaining, and the images of early '70s fly-away hair and tight uniforms. I have always adored Jack Brickhouse and prefer his call of practically anything to most Cubs announcers since, but have come to really enjoy Len Kasper's enthusiasm and and even-handed exchanges with Bob Brenly.

Kasper's call of the final out of Zammy's no-hitter was just about perfect, though his "Oh, baby!" tagline was mocked by ESPN today and my get a little tiresome sooner rather than later. In any case, he reminded us that the Pappas no-hitter was 36 years (and 12 days) ago. It was the last during a four-year period that was especially fertile for Cubs no-nos--they had four no-hitters in the span of four season from 1968 to 1972, two of them by Ken Holtzman (Why do we never get to see that footage? Was it on TV, or no?) It was also the second of 1972, after Burt Hooton's on April 16. Those 1972 no-hitter were the best that a good, but not-good-enough Cubs team had to offer on the way to second place behind the Pirates.

The 5-0 no-hitter victory also was marked but timely two-out hitting by the Cubs, with 4 of their runs scoring in that manner. now, let's hope Big Z's big moment is just one more fine moment building toward the best possible moment.

The White Sox had their own amazing (good and bad) moments last night, predictably lost in the background of Zambrano's performance. They swept the Tigers 4-2 and 11-7 to stay 1-1/2 games up in first place after a loss by the Piranhas. The amazingly bad moment was when the Tigers tied the score in the 8th inning of the second game, 7-7, on a grand slam by Marcus Thames. It was the culmination of a 7-run implosion by the bullpen after Danks left in the 7th with the Sox up 7-0. The amazingly good moment was just an inning later, when DeWayne Wise (!) sent the Sox ahead 11-7 with his own grand slam. A surprising hero gave the Sox a great end to a horrible, rainy weekend in Chicago that didn't give the Sox very good conditions to work in, or a very large live crowd to support them

Playing timid against big bats

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I think Orlando Cabrera sometimes makes more mistakes in the field than his reputation suggests, and he has not delivered entirely on his promise as a hitter this year either, but one thing that's indisputable is his intensity. Earlier this week, he said the White Sox need to move up to a new level of intensity for the play-off push, and though the team has been tough and resilient this year, I couldn't have agreed more. Unfortunately, the Sox showed absolutely zero of that intensity when the started off a key series in Boston last night being shut out 8-0.

O.C. needs to take some of his own advice after going 0 for 4, but so does the rest of the line-up. Only JeDye and the Missile seemed to get the message, coming up with the Sox only two hits in this one. Javier Vazquez, who has alternated good and bad outings his whole career, was true to form, letting runs in early after being tough against the Rays last weekend.

The Piranhas gave the Sox some hope earlier this week when they had trouble out west. They beat Oakland late last night and appear to have found their pulse again. The Sox, meanwhile, flat-lined, and really need to come out of the gate aggressively the next 2 games in Boston. Not much is going to change for them in the coming weeks, but they will get Linebrink back. They just need to make sure they can stay in games and get him the ball when he returns.

The Cubs also didn't do much Friday, but got more out of less by winning 3-2. Harden was not great, in fact all over the place earlier on, but kept things close. The bats were silent against Harden's former A's mate Joe Blanton, with the first Cubs hit coming in the 4th. Later, the first Cubs run scored on what should have been a routine, inning-ending double play, by Jimmy Rollins air-mailed the throw to 1st base. That allowed DeRo to score from third. An inning later, in the 6th, the Cubs had no hits at all, but tied the game 2-2 on four walks sandwiched between outs. that shows how far plate patience can get you, and its something the Sox could have used more of later Friday evening.

The turning point for the game was a blown call at 1st base, when big Ryan Howard appeared to beat out a sharp grounder that banged of D-Lee, who had to chase it down and throw to Samardzija at 1st. Argue about it being a bang-bang play if you want, but in the replay, it is pretty clear Howard beat the throw. Too bad for the Phils the new replay policy only applies to HRs. Had Howard been safe, a runner on 3rd would have scored, but the out got Sammy 2.0 out of the inning.

The next inning, Soriano homered to put the Cubs up 3-2 and the bullpen shut 'em down from there. The Phils may say they were robbed of a win on a blown call, and that call certainly change the conditions of the game at that time, but when you send Rollins, the Flyin Hawaiian and Utley up to the plate in the 9th you've still got a heck of a chance to at least tie things up. They didn't. The Cubs are now 85-50.

Believe what you just saw

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I said in a previous post that a whole generation of Cubs fans are now growing up who know their team only as a frequent contender and a winner, one that is likely about to make the play-offs for the second year in a row, the third time in five years, the fourth time in 10 years. I envy them, because games like Thursday night's stunning 6-4 victory, for someone of my generation (I'm 40), are often simply too hard to believe. An hour after the game is over, you're struggling to sleep because your mind is spinning at what you just witnessed and what still may be to come in the near future. The reality of it is almost scary, in part because you feel you have been led down this road before, in part because you have never seen anything like it.

If the Cubs would have lost last night, no one would have been too concerned. They were going up against Cole Hamels, for cryin' out loud. If you see them winning a four-game series against the Phils, this is the one game they would probably lose. And Hamels was pretty fantastic, the Cubs only run against him in 7 IP coming on a two-strike triple by DeRosa after Fukie's infield hit. Dempster started for the Cubs, and was decent, but only barely staying ahead of the Phils until giving up 3 runs in the 6th to leave the Cubs behind 4-1.

But again, the Cubs pulled an 8th inning comeback out of their rally caps after Hamels exited. Mighty Mite hit a PH HR, and the Cubs loaded the bases for A-Ram who, before you even had a chance to consider the possibilities, clubbed a grand slam to left--positively disintegrating the ball and leaving no doubt from the moment of impact in anyone's mind, especially Phils CF Shane "The Flyin' Hawaiian" Victorino and A-Ram himself.

The thing that some of us might have thought impossible an inning before, so impossible that even when it happened, it still seemed impossible, actually happened. It happened to a team that through my years growing up and really through my whole life until now only seemed to have one misfortune heaped upon another, given a taste of dreamy victory one time after another only to have it snatched by fate. It was the kind of misfortune that eventually made me not want to be a Cubs fan anymore--I just couldn't handle the combination of disappointment and organizational ineptitude, a seeming aversion to even wanting to create a winning team at times. It was the kind of misfortune that makes one believe that some things just can't happen.

But it did happen last night, and more than anything I wanted to call my father and share the excitement with him, and talk to him--a true die-hard Cubs fan--about the possibilities of where this Cubs team will go. But, I couldn't. The 2007 season was his last. So, I was left myself to celebrate and ponder the possibilities, just as I was earlier this year when the Cubs mounted a 9-run comeback against the Rockies. That afternoon I was driving down Irving Park Road as the amazing comeback unfolded on the radio, wanting to call my dad and yell into the phone, but instead I just pounded the roof of my car with my fist, thinking, can he see this where he is? Can he enjoy it? Or was he a loyal Cubs fan through the years only to just barely miss the best part? I want to believe he was watching. I want to believe anyone who is no longer among the living and would have loved it is somehow enjoying it as much as we are now. I want to believe.

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