Unfortunately for The Emancipator, U.S. Cellular Field was about as friendly as Ford’s Theatre. And the role of John Wilkes Booth was played by, er, pretty much everyone wearing a Chicago jersey. Hell, I’m certain even the batboys gave Matt the browneye as he exited the field after giving up eight earned runs over 3 and one-third innings. Even more alarming was Arroyo coming in at garbage time in the eighth and giving up two hits, walking two, and surrendering a line shot home run to A. J. Pierzynski.

The offense didn’t fare much better against Contreras, who was magically transformed from the shlump we used to kick around regularly to the iron man who paddled from Cuba with a piano tied to his back. Or something like that. Damon, Edgah, Papi and Manny went a combined 3-for-12, and when that happens, it’s safe to say ain’t much gonna happen.

It was just a total, unexpurgated ass-whipping from start to finish. End of story. Look, we all know our offense is an undeniably powerful beast [imagine, if you will, Tim Russert as an inanimate team batting average instead of a human being and you’ll get the idea]. But, man, we couldn’t get a damn thing going last night. And it’s even worse when you consider the little-known “Tim Spooneybarger” rule of baseball, which dictates that the team with the player with the coolest name typically wins the World Series [hey, there’s a reason we kept Leskanic around last October]. Chicago’s got the richly dubbed Scott Podsednik. We’re countering with the uniquely christened Jon Papelbon. Podsednik. Papelbon. Podsednik. Papelbon. Podsednik. Papelbon. I dunno, I’ve said both names aloud for the past three hours, and I think Chicago’s got the edge.

In years past, this is when I’d be cutting my Ovaltine with arsenic. But after 2004… I gotta believe that the lads aren’t going down without a fight. Not with HG Wells on the hill today. For one thing, the guy’s always been nails in the playoffs. Think of Game 4 of the 2003 ALCS at Fenway. Also, you don’t mess with the guy’s cake. And as his contractual payoff gets fatter the further we progress in the playoffs, you can be damn sure he’ll do everything short of applying a fine bernaise sauce to his nuts to keep Chicago off their game. Because, really, that would do it, wouldn’t it? For me, certainly, it would.

Onward and upward. See you at 7:05.