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All's Well That Ends Well
by Derek Smart
My evening was looking less than stellar: I was exhausted from a longer than usual day, our daughter was in a state of high dudgeon whose main symptom was a refusal to go to sleep, and the Cubs were unable to do anything offensively against Roger Clemens.
Sergio Mitre was having a fine outing giving up a mere two runs over his seven innings of work, but with the team's inability to get anything going against The Rocket, and their even more frustrating work in the two innings after he left with a groin strain (when Chad Qualls got the first two outs of the seventh on two pitches, my television nearly met its maker), things were looking bleak.
That was before the wild and crazy eighth that saw Brad Lidge do nearly all the damage himself, walking and dirtballing his way to a blown save and a loss in front of a now orgasmic crowd at Wrigley. Sometimes bad things happen to good relievers, and last night the Cubs were beneficiaries of the Lidge largesse. They had a lot of help, but congratulations to the Cubs on not giving up when the NL equivalent of Darth Vader took the bump. Some quick thoughts in their usual form:
Neifi! has apparently perfected his bunting. Of course, what he's honed to an art is the bunt that's just good enough to allow the opposing pitcher to make a great looking play, but not so good that he'll actually reach base. For the second night in a row Neifi! got one down that nearly got by the Astro's hurler, but with some effort and a little dirt on the uniform, still resulted in an out. A little to the right, Neifi!, just a little to the right.
It's always the way: say something nice about a guy, especially about a particular aspect of his game, then off he goes contradicting you at his earliest convenience. Such was the case with yesterday's lauding of Jason Dubois' defensive efforts, which he promptly thanked me for by thoroughly muffing a ball in the fourth.
I'll cut him some slack, since he's been very good of late, and having to determine the exact location of the wall when the ball is hit around the general vicinity of the bend that creates The Well is tough for anyone. However, it's still a play he should have made had he not succumbed to a degree of tentativeness, and one that could have cost the game if it weren't for the team's late inning heroics (of which, Dubois was certainly a part). Let's all hope he's learned from his adventure so I needn't mention this again.
I've been searching for a way to describe the swing of Jeromy Burnitz for a while now, and for some reason his two-run single in the eighth last night made it all clear to me. Think back to movie westerns of the fifties, or better yet, to the introductory sequence of an old television show:
A cowboy riding toward unknown innocents in need; a shot rings out; our hero's spine arches to avoid a bullet that already hit it's mark, his head thrown back in agony; toppled from his horse, he lies still and left for dead; then comes help from an unexpected source, a man who nurses him to health to fight injustice another day.
And so, with swinging bat and arched back, saved from certain career death by Jim Hendry, Jeromy Burnitz fights on for justice in the NL Central, our very own hero, our very own cowboy, our very own Lone Ranger.
Finally, the Cubs needed to make a move to create room for Sergio Mitre, and so they demoted...Ben Grieve? This left the Cubs carrying 147 pitchers on their roster, and with Corey Patterson's apparent inability to swing the bat due to a sore left wrist, left the bench even shorter than usual last night.
I understand the team is having trouble deciding which pitcher should head back to Iowa or to the "DL", but this is ridiculous, especially since Todd Walker is likely to return to the club any day now, and the inability to make a call put the team at a distinct tactical disadvantage last night. Add in that Grieve can't return for (I believe, but correct me if I'm wrong) ten days, and the move looks even sillier.
It's The Professor versus Brandon Backe tonight, and an opportunity for the Cubs to reach a couple of milestones, specifically, getting back to .500, their first series sweep, and their first four game winning streak. All three sound delicious, so I hope the kitchen's open late.