Kerry Wood, aka Carnac the Armdeficient, stood in the clubhouse, watching Aramis Ramirez face major league saves leader Francisco Cordero with the Cubs one out from falling 8 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the National League Central.
"Woody said, 'Rami's gonna leave those guys standing on the field,' " said Michael Wuertz, who had joined his rehabbing teammate in the clubhouse after throwing two scoreless innings of relief. "And that's exactly what he did. Unbelievable."
Nah. Once, maybe, would be unbelievable. Twice, coincidence. Three is a trend.
Three times in their current seven-game winning streak, the Cubs have won in their last at-bat. The last two of those have been come-from-behind, walk-off jobs.
Friday's, against first-place Milwaukee, was on Ramirez's no-doubt line drive to left-center, dead into the wind, off a hanging slider from Cordero. The two-run homer capped a three-run rally to a 6-5 win before what was left of the largest crowd of the season -- 41,909 -- at Wrigley Field.
"That's what they pay me for -- to drive in runs and perform in the clutch," Ramirez said.
And what they pay Lou Piniella for is to guide his impressionable players. So perhaps he might want to direct toward them the advice he doled out liberally in his postgame news conference.
"Let's just play them one at a time and not get too excited," he said.
"Let's not get crazy," he said. "There's a long season ahead of us."
"Again, I don't want anybody getting crazy," he added, at the conclusion of his remarks.
Too late. The Cubs engaged in an orgiastic scrum of blush-inducing proportions, as far as Mark DeRosa was concerned.
"This place is electric," he said of Wrigley. "When things are going good, there's no better place to be.
"If you look at the tape, you'll see a lot of guys acting like fools. Hopefully, Milwaukee doesn't take it for more than what it was -- a bunch of guys being happy."
OK, that's all the celebration was. But what, exactly, was the win?
Granted, we'll probably not know the definitive answer until, oh, Septemberish. But, at the moment, it is fairly easy to see the win becoming regarded as the first bit of pressure applied to a young Brewers team that had been previously running away with the NL Central without having been tested.
Suddenly, Saturday looms very large. The Brewers broke on top with a five-run first Friday, then stalled, their bullpen ace taking the loss. Should the Cubs compound that by beating the ace of the Milwaukee rotation, Ben Sheets, on a rare Brewers national TV broadcast this afternoon -- well, it would at least be interesting to see how the Brewers, one out from an 8∏-game lead Friday, would feel about a 5∏-game lead Saturday.
Thanks to Ramirez, we already know how the Cubs feel about returning to .500 for the first time since May 10, and after slipping as many as nine below.
"Right now, we're playing .500 ball, and that was the goal," Ramirez said. "Now we've got to go from there and try and catch Milwaukee."
There are plenty of reasons to think they won't, not the least of which is the Brewers are a very talented bunch. Plus, there are still some ugly defensive lapses, and the bullpen -- admittedly spectacular in allowing three hits over six innings Friday -- remains by turns inexperienced, inconsistent and infirm.
But this club is suddenly playing with the same sort of looseness and confidence that the Brewers have claimed all season long to have.
"When you win games, everything changes," Ramirez said. "We start having fun, we start relaxing.
"You can see that on the field. Even though we fell behind 5-0 in the first inning, we never gave up. The bullpen did a great job and gave us a chance to come back, and we did."
Keep coming, fellas. It's about to get interesting.
Phil Arvia can be reached at
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