Having just swallowed my 4th hot dog at the 4th Annual Church Cookout (held indoors this year cuz the temp feels like 400 degrees), I glance at my watch and notice that the Cubs-Cardinals game started four minutes ago. So I politely excuse myself from the four remaining people who have their eye on a plate of four brownies baked by none other than Mrs. Foreman, a local celebrity of sorts who has won four national bake-offs.

As I sprint home four blocks away I canít help but notice that I dropped mustard all over my 444 Jeans. Oh wow, I think. Itíll take four washings just to get out the stains. As I skip up the four steps to my front porch all thatís goin thru my mind is ìI sure hope ESPN doesnít black out this game as they have the last four times the Cubs played.”

I turn on the game just in time to see ace Mark Prior give up his 4th extra base hit in the bottom of the 1st inning. At least this was only a double. Color analyst Joe Morgan, with his IQ of four, mentions the three home runs I have mercifully missed. Oh golly, I moan to myself. This is going to be four hours of sheer torture.

During the commercial I flip around and see that The 4400 is coming on soon. Hmmm, tough choice. I grab a tape, program the ole VCR and get back to the game.

Actually the game turns out to be pretty good, not at all the massacre I originally feared. Prior settles down and gives up just one more hit (on a play where he doesnít hustle to cover first).

Blanco

Meanwhile the Cubs chip away, thanks in large part to a 4-hit breakout performance by Henry Blanco. The team scores their 4th run to take a slim lead in the 8th, thanks in part to D-Lee walking on 4 pitches (In fact, Lee collects 4 bases on balls during the contest) and a clutch 2-run blast from Aramis Ramirez.

The Cubs send 4 men to the plate in the 9th but do not score.

Bottom of the 9th. Dusty calls upon his 4th reliever of the night. Ryan Dempster. Solid to the core for the bulk of his outings as the teamís closer, I wonder to myself if this is the game when he will hiccup. Here, in Busch Stadium against these hated Cardinals. One good sign is that in 63 innings this season Ryan has only given up 4 homers, second best ratio on the staff (Novoa leads).

Hiccup. After 2 are out and down to their last strike, after a 1-2 count, pinch hitter Seabol walks on a slider. Eckstein and company tie the game on a series of small ball plays that drives an opposing manager crazy. In my gut I concede that this is what the Cubs must do in the next nine weeks if they want to be taken seriously as a bonafide contender for post-season.

Top of the 10th. Reyes pitching. Todd Walker doubles to right. Finally! The series has not been kind to the Cubs second baseman til now. Lee is intentionally walked. Burnitz sacrifices, a play as rare as the headline ìMan Bites Dog.î La Russa countermoves by walking Aramis intentionally. Michael Barrett pinch-hits for Dempster. Barrett strikes out.

Neifi GS

Up to the plate strolls Neifi, hitless in his four previous plate appearences. Neifi, who has endured the slings and arrows of Cub fans for four months, slams the first pitch, embedding it into a chain link fence over the right field wall. Walker scores, Lee scores, Ramirez scores. Neifi scores. A 4-run swing, unknotting a 4-4 tie to give the Cubs a 4 run victory.

Kinda reminds me of Reggie Jackson in the late 70ís. And what was his number? Oh yeah, 44.

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Regular writer for View From The Bleachers in 2005-06; Turns 50 this summer; Met Ernie, Billy and others back in 70-72; AKA VFTB Chaplain; Pastor in Pennsylvania when not obsessing over the Cubs; Wishes no harm to any opposing player; Married 26 years to a wonderful woman. Favorite player is Ryan Theriot