(Cubs’ Lou Piniella exchanges words with noted Sox fan Rob Drake)

Maybe the Cubs, owner of the best record in baseball, needed a lesson in humility. After fielding a team without Soriano, Zambrano, Marmol, Johnson, and today without Piniella — over bullshit calls in front of him and then the behind-his-back ejection of Piniella by Rob Drake — and with AAA Iowa corn-cob middle-reliever Jose Ascanio, the Sox and Rob Drake had a great weekend. My reluctant congratulations to Rob Warmoski and the minor league umpiring staff filling in at the Cell this weekend. The 2008 Cubs join the ’68 convention’s protesters, Dr. Martin Luther King, and desegregation fans everywhere in underestimating South Side wrath. Cubs second string starter Sean Marshall loaded the bases early and often today, and with said bags all tagged, it was a “check” swing on an 0-2 count by Joe Crede that brought Piniella out in the 2nd. Not only did instant replay prove Crede’s full swinging strike, but ESPN’s Joe Morgan seconded Piniella’s opinion. 1st Base umpire Chad Fairchild warned Piniella to go back, which he did, when Rob Drake threw Piniella out while Pinieilla was returning to the dugout.

Chicago White Sox's Carlos Quentin is greeted in the dugout ...

(Rob Drake lookalike and long ball artiste Carlos Quentin of the Sox)

While the Cubs had a legit robbery call to make, 911 takes forever on the South Side, so what’s the point? By the time Ronny Cedeno was robbed by 1B umpire Chad Fairchild who called him out, they still wouldn’t have shown up. The Cubs had their own self-evident problems early on — like lead-off man Kosuke Fukodome uncharacteristically swinging on a first pitch to fly out in the 1st. DH Geovony Soto also blew a scoring spot the same way, and it went on all afternoon. Sean Marshall did OK allowing 3 runs off 5 hits in 7 innings, but he had nowhere near the run production behind him on which equally OK Cub starters have coasted. Credit is also due the White Sox pitching staff, as evidenced by Aramis Ramirez’ donut-hole production this evening. ESPN compared the multiple HRs Ramirez hit at Wrigley with the Sox pitching him outside last weekend, vs completely shutting him down tonight by adjusting their pitches inward — glad someone went to school on last weekend’s sweep.

(Joe Crede and Patrick Swayze, separated at birth?)

Jim Thome’s “check” swing aside, Thome, Dye, and Crede got it done in a big way, and they’re great to watch offensively. Thome’s 8th inning line drive HR was a beaut, and I am more than happy to leave him to the Twins and Tigers for the rest of the season. And while I do think Piniella is right to say the Sox will win their division, no doubt factoring in the return of Paul Konerko in the very near future, the Tigers will be the surprise of the second half. Mark Buehrle, what can you say, he made one of the few truly impressive returns for a pitcher this season. Final tally amounts to 5-1, White Sox.

For the record: REO Speedwagon’s entry in the “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” contest blows.