[Hearing of a North Side work stoppage, Rev Jackson rushed to inspect
labor conditions at Wrigley Field last night “ his prayers came too late

After Tuesday’s opening night 5-0 win over the Reds, Baseball Tonight’s hosts blathered “The Cubs are going to the playoffs!” I saw this Wednesday morning, thinking that’s probably right “ to which the Cubs then slapped me sober with yesterday’s 2-1 loss to the Reds. All it will take to put the Cubs in the White Sox shoes is a good week from Milwaukee and a bad week for us. While I don’t expect Cub fans to lose all their teeth overnight, that’s how close we are to joining our South Side friends who suffer a daily standings thriller via the Twins. Word also comes to this desk, via CSTB’s Peerless Leader, that Evanston’s #1 White Sox fan, actor John Cusack, has come under fire for his recent fact-challenged piece of Cub fan writing on The Huffington Post. Apparently, sometimes you do have to be one to play one. I cut Buck Weaver’s cinematic interpreter some slack, tho. The Cubs and Sox were generally so bad in Cusack’s youth that blocked memories and an escapist career where you can be anyone, not just a Chicago baseball fan, are understandable.

Unbelievably, Cusack’s memories of Cub games are a little blurry]

As to yesterday’s unscheduled vacation day for the Cubs, Theodore Roosevelt Lilly no-hit the Reds into the 6th inning, which the Cubs took to mean they didn’t have to hit, either. Clearly one of his best efforts ever, Lilly’s sole support was a manufactured run off the combined efforts of an Aramis Ramirez single, some Reds defensive mismanagement, and Mark DeRosa batting in his 72nd RBI of the year. At least Ron Santo, whose picks for Cub player of the game are usually an emotionally wrought struggle, got off easy for once. He gave it to De Rosa, rather than Lilly for his perfect six innings. The Sun-Times‘ Gordon Wittenmeyer offers Cub fans the appropriate tough love, here:

But on a night Cubs starter Ted Lilly (12-7) might have had his best stuff of the season and allowed only two hits, it was a reminder of how even a blind squirrel can steal a nut once in a while from the big dog.

And why it makes little sense to get too excited about six-game leads with six weeks to play.

”We don’t want to lose, but by losing a tough game today, sometimes that’s good because mentally it makes you stronger,” said left fielder Alfonso Soriano, whose late arrival on a pop to left gave Edwin Encarnacion a leadoff double that led to the winning run in the seventh.

”We’ve got a lot of games left. We are comfortable in first place with the best record in the National League. And sometimes it’s very important to lose those games because sometimes we need a little bit of motivation. Games like that I think wake everybody up.”

Important to lose? Well, you get the idea.

Piniella’s eye-rolling over big leads in August is well earned, having played a big role in the New York Yankees’ famous charge from 14 games back in 1978 to catch Boston and having managed Seattle’s surge from 13 back to overtake the Angels for a division title in 1995.

”We play well enough, things will take care of themselves,” he said. ”We’ve got 37 games to go, and we’ve just got to keep playing games and winning series.”

Make it 36. And that would-be seven-game lead? Make it five.

That’s how quickly things can change in a day, much less six weeks.