For Cubs fans only

When the Cubbies make the playoffs, you have to deal with my endless ramblings on baseball. That happens,'s happened only three times in my life until now. 1984, 1989, 1998.
I was still battling the flu bug all day. The past two days I've lost about ten pounds in snot. It's disgusting but true. I've had these occasional dizzy spells, but the most noticeable symptom right now is my leaky nose. Arriving home just as the first inning was starting, I immediately downed a tablespoon of Vicks 44D. Wow! That stuff must be 100 proof. I kept the bottle close as I knew I might need to take a few shots during the game to calm my nerves.
Dan came by with pizza, a gracious supporter of the Cubs now that his Reds were home for the playoffs. And then the first pitch was tossed and the game was on. A recap of this Cubs' fans thoughts during one tense evening...

  • Inning one. Kenny Lofton was a steal for the Cubs. A true leadoff guy. Sure, it would be nice to have Patterson healthy to patrol centerfield, but then who would lead off for the Cubbies? Lofton is a vet and doesn't seem to be fazed by the playoff atmosphere.

  • Inning two. Wood swipes a Castilla groundball behind his back and makes it look casual. I know right away I'll be able to watch this highlight for the rest of my life and it will never get old.

  • Top of the third: Wood hits a single. I actually feel more confident when Wood or Prior are at bat than when Alex Gonzalez, Troy O'Leary, Paul Bako, Tony Womack, Doug Glanville are standing at the plate. The Cubs have some terrible hitters on their roster--it's a miracle they made the playoffs. Anyway, why are pitchers such terrible hitters anyway? Aren't they the best athletes on their high school teams? I think I'd look better at the plate than most pitchers. Sosa strikes out. He looks terrible right now, swinging at everything and trying to pull every pitch. Sosa's the type of hitter that just doesn't inspire any fear in the playoffs the way someone like Bonds does because he's still got some fundamental holes in his swing. Will he just try to hit to right for once?

  • Bottom of the third: how did Giles turn around an inside Wood fastball? And Giles is 5' 8"? That's like my height! Ridiculous.

  • Fourth: Cubs blow a bases loaded no out situation because Gonzalez and Bako strike out (what a surprise) and Wood pops out. Moments like this can instantly sap any Cubs fan of all hope because of the weight of history, polluting our memories. But at least the Cubs hitters look to be patient, and the ump has a tight, tight strike zone tonight. If we can just get Ortiz out and get to the Braves middle relievers...

  • Top of fifth: Sosa tries to pull yet another pitch away and rolls over it and into an inning-ending double play. Sammy, Sammy. Please go to right field. Please.

  • Fifth inning. Kerry Wood doesn't seem to have the big overhand curve going today. It's almost all fastballs and sliders. Maybe he couldn't get it going in the bullpen during warmups. Too bad. Wood once struck out Chipper Jones on two curves that Jones said "even God couldn't hit." Wood threw a few curves, but they seemed to hang up and roll instead of snapping down like the knee-buckling snapdragon that turns batters to stone. He hangs one to Fick who crushes it, but way foul. Okay, Kerry, stick with the slider and heat.

  • They're showing shots of Kerry Wood's wife every inning now. Wow, she's quite attractive. Go Kerry.

  • Top of the sixth: Cubbies load the bases. Baker decides he doesn't want Gonzalez striking out yet again to kill this potential rally. Sends free-swinging Simon to the plate. Seems like a good idea. Ortiz has to throw strikes with the bases jammed, and Simon swings at everything, even teenager girls dressed up as sausages. Simon swings the bat like he's trying to swat a bee that's attacking him. Whiff. If the Cubs blow this rally again, I may kill myself. And then Bako, he of the .229 batting average, hits a slow grounder to first. I immediately think double play. And then Fick boots it!! Thank you Robert Fick! Bako is so slow he still gets nailed at first, but the Cubbies have tied it. And now Wood is up, and I feel better than when Bako was up. And Kerry crushes it into left center! Dan and I are screaming our lungs off; I think it has to be out of the stadium! But it bounces just short of the wall. Still, it plates two, and sore throat and all, I'm howling with joy. Cox bring in Ray King to face Lofton. When did Ray King gain all that weight? Sheesh. Lofton hits a short flare to center. Of course Andruw Jones, the human web gem and best center fielder I've ever seen, will nab it. But what's this?! He lets it drop! Wood scores and Cubs are up 4-1! Jones has definitely lost a step in center this year. Jones of two years ago definitely catches that one. Atlanta's defense is handing us some gifts.

  • Seventh inning: Wood is wild tonight, but as is his pattern, he can be wildly effective. If you don't know where his pitch will be, it's tough to hit it because all his pitches are nasty. He'll either strike you out or walk you, and tonight he's doing a lot of each.

  • Eighth inning: Wood has runners on 1st and 2nd, and Sheffield is up. Sheff is scary. It doesn't matter who's pitching. Until their fastball is in the catcher's mitt, Sheff can turn it around instantly with one snap of his wrists. Sheff walks and the bases are jammed. The winning run is coming to the plate in the form of Chipper Jones. You have to turn him around to the right side with the lefty. Yep, that's what Baker's doing. Gutsy effort, Kerry.

  • Chipper was out!! The first base ump misses the call and calls him safe on what would have been an inning-ending double play ball. Ah my Cubs fatalism, honed over years of tragedy, rises up in my throat. And Baker is bringing in Farnsworth, the biggest head case ever. Can things get any worse? Farnsworth looks like he's hyperventilating, and he immediately walks the first batter he faces, Andruw Jones. Bases are jammed. Bring in Borowski, Dusty! Oh no, Borowski just started warming up! Where's Dave Veres? I have no confidence in Farnsworth in tight situations. The only time I want to see him is when there's no one on base. But then he induces a hard-hit grounder but one that's hit right at Martinez who's in at short now. Martinez nearly tosses the ball past Grudzielanek, but maybe it is the Cubs year. Inning over, 4-2 lead.

  • Top of the ninth. Sosa gets thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. The commentators say it's a great play by Sammy. I say it's idiotic running on Sheff, an accurate thrower from the outfield. Undisciplined risk-taking is just stupid. Well, at least Sosa went to right.

  • Bottom of the ninth. JBorowski. I love JB. Gutsy Polish retread from the Mexican league, good control, throws strikes, gutsy. He usually makes it exciting, but he makes opponents hit the ball to beat him. Best reliever in the Cubs bullpen. And though he does bring the tying run to the plate, he proceeds to strike Furcal out with a fastball down the middle. Why Furcal takes it I have no idea. I don't care. I'm screaming, crying tears of joy. The first Cubs playoff win since 1989, when I was 15 years old.

I feel amazingly well. Maybe it's because I've downed the entire bottle of Vicks 44D over the past two hours. Is that bad?
Braves and Yankee fans may laugh at how excited Cubs fans get over every win, but the fact that the Braves don't even sell out their playoff baseball games anymore tells me they don't deserve to go the World Series. The Cubs will never not sell out Wrigley for a playoff game, even if they made the playoffs 12 years straight.
I switch immediately to Baseball Tonight to catch highlights. I can't imagine tiring of seeing the Cubs highlights from this game anytime soon.

  • Johan Santana is a lot of fun to watch. He has filthy stuff, and he could very well dominate the Yankees in his next start. Still, leaving a game because of leg cramps? I've never heard of a pitcher getting knocked out by leg cramps.

  • Pat Gillick is out as Mariners GM. Good. He should be embarrassed for doing nothing the last two years to improve what was clearly a team that needed stretch run help to go anywhere.

  • Steve Kline of the Cardinals says he hopes Mark Prior "takes a line drive on the head and we never have to see him again". The Cubs Cardinals rivalry is as hot as it's ever been. I can tell because I feel a visceral hatred for the Cardinals, for that most overrated of hothead managers, Tony Larussa, for Matt Morris and his ridiculous little goatee, and now for Steve Kline, some ridiculous left-handed specialized relief pitching nobody. I hope he has to come to bat against one of the Cubs pitchers next year, especially Prior. Or maybe Farnsworth. Plunk that little punk in his ass with a 98 mph fastball and see how tough he talks. And if he charges the mound, give him a good little smackdown like Nolan Ryan on Robin Ventura.

Tomorrow, the best pitcher I've ever seen, Pedro, goes to the mound, against another stud, Tim Hudson. Isn't playoff baseball awesome?
Living on the West Coast is brutal at these times. I'll have to miss the Cubs game while I'm off in Tacoma for business. Go Tivo. Go Cubs!