See, Now That's Just Downright Pleasant ...

See, this is just good fortune: I am honored with the opportunity to take a brief hiatus from my nest at Deadspin and I end up being able to write about one of the best games of the year.

We can't get carried away, of course: Everything looked beautiful after the sweep of the Dodgers last month, and then we ran into --grrrr -- the Cubs and in a week we'd forgotten not only that we'd played the Dodgers, but that there was in fact a city called Los Angeles. This is just one game, one series, and a 2 ½ game lead for a team that would bat Timo Perez fifth (I'd rather see Timon and/or Pumba) is hardly cause for overconfidence. If I've learned anything from watching this team this year, it's that everything I think is proven wrong in about 24 hours. I've also learned that my fiancée thinks So Taguchi is "hot." So Taguchi is perhaps "cute" or even "spritely;" he is not hot. I'm much uglier than I realized, I think.

Anyway, what was so nice about this game, and why it's the one we'll remember if the Cards do end up slouching toward the NL Central title, is that it actually seemed like a real game. As bad as the Cardinals have played recently, and as much as they've lost, even the games they've won have felt sloppy. In a league that everyone's making fun of, even the victories don't have much prestige or panache. They're just a lucky break, a flip of a both-sides-ugly coin that happened to go our way.

This one was different. It was, somewhat inexplicably, well pitched; that was Jeff Weaver and Kyle Lohse, right? (Actually, now that I look at it, those two have been among the best starters for their respective teams over the last two weeks ... and that's just terrifying.) Both teams played great defense: Pujols' play in the seventh, like most of anything he does anymore, simultaneously thrilled me and made my teeth gnash with worry that he'd hurt himself, and Ryan Freel, well, one of these days he's going to leap all spread out like that and land in a gopher hole, and THEN won't he be sorry. (Ryan Freel drives me crazy; he's all those scrappy Cardinals heroes of the last few years, Bo Hart, Joe McEwing, except he's actually good. If the Reds somehow win the World Series this year, he's gonna be Pete Rose in that town, watch.)

This game felt like it was played by two teams who were talented, desperate to win and playing the right way to that end. It was tight, taut and compact: Every pitch mattered, tense to the end. And we're talking about a game pitched by Jeff Weaver.

So yeah: 2 ½ games, done with Cincinnati. And a walkoff single. Tough to argue. But I'm not going to go overboard here. A loss tomorrow -- though with Marquis taking the hill, THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE -- and a Reds win, and we're right back here again. I trust nothing anymore. But I'll be able to sleep tonight without sodium pentothal, and for now, that'll suffice.

Some more notes, while I have the floor:

• A confession: When I am truly oversteamed with work, I occasionally rest my weary souls with a game of computer Strat-O-Matic. It's true. You can call me a nerd. I probably deserve it.

But if you're a dork like me, and you've actually played last year's version of the game, you've noticed a quirk in the game: Chris Duncan is unbelievably awesome against lefthanded pitchers. I'm in September of a full run of last season, and Duncan is hitting like. 545 with 35 homers against lefthanded pitchers. Against righthanders? Like, .113. I found a loophole, obviously, but watching Duncan this series made me feel like I was playing Strat-O-Matic again. (Charisma quotient is 12! Woo!) I'm still not that convinced he's gonna hit like this, like, ever again, but man, I'll take any good news I can get this year. I also love when he comes barreling down on the second basemen when trying to break up one of the increasingly high number of Pujols double-play balls. I don't know how second basemen even slightly hang in; I started peeing myself just watching it. Still, something about Duncan confuses me; I think sometime he's gonna hit the ball and, when he goes into that crumple he goes into when he makes contact, just collapse into a puddle of goo, like that guy in RoboCop after he falls in the toxic waste.

But for now? He's dreamy.

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• Words can't express how sad I was not to see Timo Perez in the lineup today. No, really. Honestly, Cardinals fans ... do you know how much New Yorkers out here are making fun of us for having Timo Perez on our team? They chose SHINJO over him! ...

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• Since I haven't had a chance to comment on this at Deadspin yet ... LaRussa knew how fat Belliard was, didn't he? I know media guides are notoriously slow to note weight fluctuations, but someone over there has the MLB Extra Innings, right? My favorite part of today's game was when Belliard took off stealing in the fourth, and Al Hrabosky yelled "What a jump!" And then Belliard was thrown out easily. Someday he's gonna get thrown out on a single to left. Let's hope it's for somebody else's team.

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• OK, so I'm a little confused about Jim Edmonds' injury. Are they really claiming that he's having post-concussion syndrome from the White Sox series months ago? (Because if so, I think that series gave me a concussion too.) When he was interviewed, he said he "just needed some food." Eh? Was that a Barry Weinberg prescription? Will they send him to Dr. James Andrews for that? You gotta FEED a concussion.

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• I was absolutely convinced Adam Dunn was going to hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning. In fact, it seems like a basic, obvious fact. I still can't believe he didn't hit one. Did he?

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• True story: While seeing the Cardinals play in San Francisco this year, my dad went out drinking with Joel Goldberg and said he's an extremely nice guy and can handle his booze. Which is all my dad really asks of anyone.

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I'd like to thank lboros for letting me play around here. It was my pleasure. Hope I didn't mess up too badly. GO. BIRDS.

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