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Watching the play-offs

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Well, even though the Cubs and White Sox didn't come close this year, we still have a postseason worth watching, and some former Chicago players are making contributions.

It was nice to see Jose Contreras, key member of the 2005 World Champion White Sox, come out for the Phillies last night and hold down the fort to get the win. And it was just plain sad to see star-crossed Dusty Baker watching his own team become suddenly error-prone and give up a 4-0 lead with just a handful of outs left. It wasn't quite deja vu, but close enough.

In San Francisco, look who's overcome his penchant for late-inning implosions--the Farns. Kyle Farnsworth, now with Atlanta, got the win last night by pitching 1.2 not-perfect-but-good-enough innings. I was certain after the Giants blew the lead that the reliable Farns would provide them with a storybook comeback in the 11th inning, but he did the job for the Braves, who really had few options but to leave him in the game. Derrek Lee was 2-for-5 with two key runs scored.

And, of course, both Sox fans and Cubs fans are watching the Twins-Yankees series with interest. So far, Sox fans are getting exactly what they had hoped, with the Twins down to their last chance and unable to spook the Yankees the way the do the Sox. With every Yankees victory, however, Cubs fans may be forced to wait a little longer to find out who will be the next manager. Joe Girardi's postseason poise is something to make Cubs fans salivate, but I think the further the Yankess go, the less likely he'll figure in GM Jim Hendry's decision.

Finally, who isn't rooting for Kerry Wood? He has pitched a scoreless 1.2 innings this week as the Yankees set-up man. From heroic rookie pitcher to injured mess and 2003 NLCS Game 7 loser to even more injured mess to effective, but unwanted Cubs closer to Cleveland and finally to the Yankees, who seem to have figured him out. Here's hoping that one last Cubbie occurrence isn't lying in wait for the former Cub.

Former Sox Nick Swisher also plays for the Yankess, but let's not even go there...

 

 


A new beginning

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Who had a good feeling about last night's Cubs/Reds pitching match-up? That's right, you heard it here first that Marquis would have a strong outing and lead the Cubs out of their 6-game losing streak. OK, maybe Soriano's 3-HR performance had something to do with it, too. Marquis kept the game in hand despite an bases-loaded walk on a questionalble call that looked like it would get him tossed early.

The Cubs offense--AlSo, DeRo, D-Lee and the rest--scored in every inning after the 2nd, but in the end, the bullpen did a lot to make this one a more painful experience for some fans than the 14-9 final would indicate. Mrs. SBW and I were heading back from dinner and listening to the radio when the Cubs were ahead 11-1, and I made fun of Ronny for feeling nervous about the 10-run lead. Then, the Reds scored 4 runs in the 8th, and by the time D-Lee was up in the 9th with the bases loaded, the Mrs. was screaming at the radio demanding more runs. Again, I had to laugh with the Cubs still up 11-5 at the time, but Lee and then Mighty Mite together drove in 3 runs to make it 14-5, I felt good with Wuertz on the mound to start the 9th, giving Marmol a rest with a 9-run lead, but Wuertz loaded the bases and Marmol came in looking like someone woken up in the middle of the night. He promptly gave up a grand slam to Jolbert Cabrera (Who?), but then came to his senses.

Hopefully, the Cubs are back to their winning ways, though their tough road to October gets tougher later this week.

I hate giving the White Sox second billing today because their 7-6 15-inning victory was a hugely significant game (while we were in the car with the Reds scoring runs late against the Cubs, I was switching from 720 AM to 670 AM frequently to track both games.)

Not long after we got home and the Cubs had sealed their victory, Thome obliterated an 0-1 pitch for career HR No. 537 and a White Sox winner, a turn of events which I called from my own couch just before it happened (my dog is a witness). I couldn't tell whether Thome's smash landed on the right field consourse or not, but yes, it went that far. Jenks had given the Angels a 6-5 lead in the 9th after the Sox had tied the score in the 7th an a 2-run HR by Dirty 30. But, the Sox tied it off K-Rod in the bottom of the 9th, thereby keeping Thiggy's 57-save record safe a little longer (K-Rod has 54 saves and certainly will break the record, though he has been off lately.)

The Sox blew a great chance to win the the 10th, wasting a man on 3rd with no outs situation. A.J. again showed poor base-running choices in getting caught off 3rd base for the second out of the inning (Doug Eddings wasn't around to save him this time.) A.J. wasn't replaced with a pinch-runner presumably because Ozzie used both Wise and Owens as PRs in the 9th (Owens getting himself thrown out at 2nd after doing a delayed tag-up from 1st base on the sac fly that scored the tying run.)

Despite the base-running gaffes, the bullpen was in lock-down mode. Even Jenks pitch a strong 10th after his bad 9th. But, Matt Thornton was more impressive, pitching 2-2/3 scoreless innings and Ehren Wasserman got the Sox out of a 14th inning jam--and got the win--by de-clawing the aging but still dangerous Vlad Guerrero.

The Piranhas lost, so the Sox are 2-1/2 games up in 1st place. They have already won the series against the postseason-ready Angels, and go for the sweep today. Both of our teams suddenly look fresh with new beginnings.

In the Red

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The Sox were off and preparing for battle with the young, studly Rays, but the Cubs played Thursday afternoon, and were under pressure to win a series against the Reds. Dusty's Crusties pulled out a 2-1 squeaker Wednesday night that started as Lilly's best game of the season, but turned into an offensive lapse reminiscent of last weekend's 2-1 loss in Miami. You kept expecting the Cubs bats to show, but they just didn't.

Thursday was time for redemption and the hope Zammy (sorry, I can't bring myself to use Dusty's "Big Z") would find the correct arm slot and would not get too steamed about the numerous things that seem to set him off. The Venezuelan Babe Ruth homored, of course, and the Cubs needed it, as they edged out a 3-2 win. Zammy was solid--good enough, as they say, though it still seems like something's missing when he ends up with 4 Ks and 4 BBs in 7 IP. Today's problem, according to the post game reports, was a bad molar (Would anyone be surprised if he was grinding his teeth out there?)

Marmol came in with the score 3-1 and gave up a HR, but still registered the all-important "hold" to keep his league-lead for that ridiculous stat. That made Zammy's HR, the last run the Cubs scored, the difference. I'm telling you, No. 38's is the first lefty bat I'm turning to in a pinch during the play-offs--well, unless he's the starter that game...

I lied about elaborating on my Wrigley/Cell likes/dislikes in the particular post--I had some actual work to do today, so I'm saving that one for the weekend. Stay tuned...

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