Theoretically, some Cubs player could even purchase one of the lucky 250 raffle tickets and get into a lottery for a chance to push the button that implodes the stadium come November. But Tuesday night was one of those rare occasions when the Cubs seemingly could do no wrong at Busch.
If there was any Cubs player the entire team could pull behind, it was Rusch.
"G-Unit is probably one of the most popular guys on this team," manager Dusty Baker said. "The guys like playing behind him. He got roughed up there for a bit and regrouped, made some subtle changes and today he pitched a great game."
Derrek Lee's 40th home run on his 30th birthday--the third straight year he's homered on his birthday--and a solo shot by Corey Patterson helped give Rusch a comfortable cushion to work with.
The left-hander pitched effortlessly against the top-scoring team in the National League, retiring the first 18 men he faced until David Eckstein singled up the middle on an 0-2 pitch leading off the seventh.
"Glendon works so quick, I didn't realize he had a no-hitter until the sixth inning, or maybe even the seventh," Lee said. "I looked up and I was like, `Wow, he has a no-hitter.' Then I started rooting for him.
"I saw Eckstein coming to the plate and I'm like, `If anyone is going to break it up, it's him.' He was able to get that base hit, but Glendon pitched a big game for us, and it was a huge win for us."
No Cubs pitcher has thrown a no-hitter since Sept. 7, 1972, at Wrigley Field, when Milt Pappas came within one strike of a perfect game. In the end, Rusch wound up allowing two runs on four hits in 7 2/3 innings, improving to 6-8 in a 109-pitch outing.
Rusch was a most unlikely candidate to be flirting with a no-hitter, especially against the team with the major's best record. He entered the game with a seven-game losing streak dating back to June 2, and was 0-4 in the month of August with a 10.34 earned-run average.
"It's been frustrating since I've been back in the rotation," Rusch said. "I haven't performed well. It doesn't bother anybody more than me. Nice to get back on track today."
Rusch's no-hit bid gained steam in the fifth inning when two fine defensive plays kept it alive. Nomar Garciaparra made a backhanded stab of a Mark Grudzielanek shot, and Lee followed with a diving grab of a So Taguchi liner.
But Eckstein's single in the seventh ended Rusch's magic, and after Abraham Nunez reached on a two-out infield hit off Rusch's calf in the eighth, Hector Luna followed with a run-scoring double to ruin the shutout.
Rusch was yanked after John Gall's RBI single made it 5-2. Cardinals starter Matt Morris (14-7) was knocked out in the fifth inning after giving up four runs on nine hits and one walk. Despite entering 2005 with an 11-3 record against the Cubs, Morris is 0-3 with an 8.62 ERA against them this season.
Greg Maddux takes the mound Wednesday against Mark Mulder as the Cubs bid adieu to the ballpark that nightmares are made of.