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The Closer: Welcome To Carlos Lee's Roundup And Cardinal Barbeque

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Notes from a day of baseball:
1. Faster, Higher, Stronger. Hey, where the hell is Steve Bartman when you need him? As much as we hate to point this out, Carlos Lee's leaping catch at the wall in the 10th inning was pretty studly. The grab robbed Juan Encarnacion of a home run that would have won the game for the Cardinals on Thursday. Then, Lee clubbed a homer of his own to lead off the 11th, and it stood up for a 4-3 Brewers' win at a sold-out Busch Stadium. As if all of that weren't enough, Lee had also made a leaping catch on a Jim Edmonds' fly ball to strand the winning run at third to end the 10th. To Lee, who owns a cattle ranch in his native Panama, it's all just like rounding up strays.

2. Big Unit Going To The Shop For Repairs?. Whose body will break down first this season? Greg Maddux (40), Barry Bonds (41) or Randy Johnson (42)? Before Thursday we would have bet our vast Panamanian cattle holdings on Bonds, but Johnson is now in the mix. The Yankees did beat the Roylas, 9-3, but Big Bird went only five innings — 87 pitches — before throwing in the towel, saying that he felt tired and stiff. New York got home runs from the suspiciously large-headed trio of Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon to sweep the three-game series.


3. This Time, It's Personal. Cincinnati fans must have been nervous going into Thursday's game with the Cubs. The Reds' motto, after all, is The Power of Tradition, and tradition here is that Chicago always pummels Eric Milton. Last season the Cubs mugged Milton for seven homers; the most any opponent hit against him. And six of them were hit at Wrigley Field. But on Thursday it was Cincy that muscled up with three homers, including three-run shots by Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns, and Milton (2-0) went a strong 6 2/3 innings in an 8-3 win.

4. Chins Up, Boston Faithful. Oh, Red Sox fans. How long is your season gonna be? Boston lost its second straight, 8-6 to Toronto at Fenway. They should have played the past two as a doubleheader, so fans could transition right from booing David Wells to booing Matt Clement, who turned in four-plus innings, giving up six runs. Clement was roughed up for five hits in Toronto's six-run second inning, which included Vernon Wells' third career grand slam.

5. Top O' The World, Ma!. And now for your dining and dancing pleasure, please enjoy the 7-1 New York Mets. We hear that even Mr. Met got into the lineup and got a couple of hits on Thursday, as New York made a mockery of the whole budding rivalry thing with a 13-4 win over the Nationals. The Mets have won six straight and are the only team in either league with only one loss. OK, we're just going to say it (deep breath): The Mets are the best team in baseball. Whew. That felt odd.

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