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Morning Juice: Are the Cubs beginning to show their cracks?

Big League Stew

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This and every weekday a.m., let's rise and shine together to enjoy the latest and strangest Cubbie Occurrences in Major League Baseball. Today's Roll Call starts at Wrigley Field, where the home team still knows how to lose spectacularly. Geoff Blum hit an 11th-inning home run against Kerry Wood to give the Houston Astros a victory, but it was the postgame revelations about Carlos Zambrano that had folks buzzing.

Game of the Day: Astros 9, Cubs 7 (11 inn.)

That's why they play 162: Just as the Cubs seemed to have clear sailing to yet another division title (the redundancy of their success is so boring), we have a couple of blips on the radar of love. Carlos Zambrano, whose start had been pushed back two days because of arm fatigue, left Tuesday's game after five innings. Lou Piniella announced afterward that Z told pitching coach Larry Rothschild "he wasn't feeling good. It has to be in his arm. I just don't know. We'll let you know tomorrow when we find out." Zambrano's velocity has been down, and he's coming off a bad August — typical for him — but turning the page to September didn't work this time.

Harden not-so-fast: Zambrano being iffy comes after the Cubs announced that Rich Harden would go about two weeks between starts, even though nothing is wrong with his arm. Sure, OK... What?

These go to 11: The 'Stros blew a 7-2 lead, with the Cubs coming all the way back on Jim Edmonds' homer in the seventh. Blum, who won a marathon World Series Game 3 for the White Sox in '05, and also beat the Cubs with a 14th-inning blast in '07, shortened this game by three innings. Thanks, man.

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Feelin' Rundown (the rest of Tuesday's fun):

Phillies 4, Nationals 0: Cole Hamels is Mr. Freeze to the Nationals' "Batman and Robin." Stopped them and their seven-game winning streak cold. I am ze guvunuh of Kulifornia! The game's biggest non-run came in the third when Chase Utley barreled over Jesus Flores at the plate on an attempted steal of home. Denied! However, because it's the Nationals, for whom no good deed goes unpunished, the catcher had to be carted away on a stretcher. Manny Acta says X-rays were negative and it looks like an ankle sprain, but today's MRI will show more. The AP story made it seem like maybe Utley was a little too violent in finishing the play, but Utley says his mama didn't raise him that way. Charlie Manuel, too, took umbrage at the implication saying, "It's not old school, it's good school." That's my Hoss.

Mets 6, Brewers 5 (10 inn.): Seven shutout innings for Mets relievers. No errors in 35 of 40 games for the Mets. Wins in 16-of-21 games for the Mets. That's good NL ball right there for the Mets.

Red Sox 14, Orioles 2: The Pedroia Legend grows. Diminutive Dustin bats cleanup and had five RBIs, helping to ensure that the Fenway Faithful will keep screaming "MVP, MVP!" until the electorate gives them what they want. If this were 100 years ago with no TV, Pedroia in sportswriters accounts would become an Eddie Gaedel-sized hero who single-handedly carried the Bostons to the postseason on one leg, uphill both ways, in snow.

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Yankees 7, Rays 2: At least two things are eluding Mike Mussina (17-7). A 20-win season — sometime, anytime — in his career, and a World Series ring with the Yankees. You'd have thought he'd have at least one of both by now. The 20 victories are in sight. He would have to be released by the Yanks and sign with the Rays to have a chance for the other this season. I say, let's do this.

Rockies 6, Giants 5 (12 inn.): This is what I want. I want the Snakes and the Dodgers and the Rockies to all come together in a harmonic convergence of bad — a black hole of awful baseball, if you will — creating a horrifying vortex from which no one can escape. Inferior humans! Exterminate, Exterminate!

Cardinals 8, D-backs 2: Adam Wainwright defiant, to the last: "There's no sports writer, no fan that's telling me we're out of this thing. Until the last game of the season I'm battling like we're going to be ready for the playoffs." You tell 'em... us, Adam.

Dodgers 8, Padres 4: If the Dodgers are 15-16 since adding Manny, who is batting .414 with 29 RBI post-Boston, what does that tell you about the rest of the Dodgers?

Indians 9, White Sox 3: Victor Martinez breaks a 57-game, 203 at-bat homerless streak, one of the more curious droughts I've ever seen. He's been hurt, some of the time, but that doesn't explain zero homers. Let's get Woody Bernstein down here to start digging.

Blue Jays 7, Twins 5: The Twinkies and White Sox are both going through a hit-the-snooze-button part of their seasons. The good news for the Twins is that the rest of the Sox's schedule is a lot harder than the rest of their schedule.

Angels 5, Tigers 4: K-Rod-'n'-Thiggy-o-Meter: 54. Three saves to tie. ... Help is on the way for the Tigers. Leyland reports that Dontrelle and Freddy Garcia both pitched well in a simulated game. There's a joke in there about deck chairs and an overpriced sinking ship. How does it go, again?

Rangers 6, Mariners 4: Brandon McCarthy picks up his first win in 13 months. If he keeps this pace, his next win comes in... say it with me, Rangers fans... October 2009! (I guess that could mean Arizona Fall League.)

Royals 5, Athletics 2: Daric Barton misses a cycle by a double. Good. Seemed like they were starting to give those things away.

Braves 16, Marlins 14: The Fish use their vaunted running game to turn a 10-3 deficit into a three-point lead, which was their biggest turnaround of the season until their defensive line wilted in the fourth quarter as usual.

Pirates 3, Reds 2: Back-to-back jacks for Brandon Moss and Andy LaRoche. See, the Jason Bay trade's working out just fine. No problems with this organization whatsoever. Next!

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Photo of the Day: Water is wet, A's lose

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Athletics outfielders Aaron Cunningham (left) and Rajai Davis find the new location of the fountains at Kauffman Stadium really irritating.

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Fantasy Freaks

Pedroia (MVP) 3-5, HR, 5 RBI

Papi (Pedroias) 3-3, 2 R, 4 RBI

Hamels (Phils) 7 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 6 K, Win

Kelly Johnson (Braves) 4-5, 2 R, 4 RBI

Armando Amezaga (Fish) 2-6, R, 5 RBI

Rickie Weeks (Cru) 4-6, 2 R, HR

Billy Butler (KC) 3-4, HR, 4 RBI

Zack Greinke (KC) 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, BB, 8 K, Win

Andre Ethier (Dodgers) 3-4, 4 R, HR

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Fantasy Flakes

Radhames Liz (O's) 3 1/3 IP, 9 H, 9 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, Loss

Anibal Sanchez (Fish) 3 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, BB, 4 K

Carlos Zambrano (Cub) 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, Mysterious Arm Ailment

Tim Lincecum (Frye, Frye, Frye?) 5 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

Cha Seung Baek (Podz) 3 2/3 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, Loss

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Words of Mouth

"I'm sure both sides are better for the separation. I mean, he seems happy here. I don't know what he was like when he was over there because I wasn't there. They're playing well since he left and it's a lot calmer over there." — Joe Torre, on Manny.
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