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Christopher Heimerman: Christmas in July with I-94 rivalry
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Displaced holidays just keep showing up in July.

First, Christmas was moved up a few pop-culture calendar pages in order to encourage midsummer cheer and stuff the marketplace's proverbial stockings.

For baseball fans, the month of October feels like that same sacred holiday, and the fanatic whose team muscles its way into the postseason gets to open gifts for at least a week while the less-than-fortunate go begging.

Well, this late-July week at Miller Park is not unlike Hanukkah for kosher club men like Ryan Braun and Gabe Kapler of the Brewers.

Beginning with the Cubs' thrilling, 6-4 victory Monday night and not wrapping up until the Cubs take I-94 back to the north side of Chicago on Thursday night, fireworks will fly like decorative paper.

That's because the rivals' four-game series couldn't have arrived at a more intriguing time. Entering Monday, the Cubs were nursing a one-game lead in the Central Division, and the clubs still boast the best two records in the National League.

Appropriately, the first of four bloodbaths did anything but disappoint. Accompanied by a capacity crowd that called and answered with cheers of "Let's go Brewers" and "Let's go Cubbies," the week-opening epic left the front edge of all seats, whether at Miller Park, one's home or the local tavern, downright sweaty.

The defensive replacement Kapler, after being ruled alive after a tipped potential third strike on a Carlos Marmol slider with two out in the ninth, made good on his bonus breaths as he came up 10 feet short of tying the game with a promising shot to left.

The Brewer faithful stood as one until Kapler's shot found Alfonso Soriano's mitt. But then, the crowd was rushed to its feet several times during the game, as if instinctively responding despite not knowing quite what to do with the ample energy filling the air.

With their recently-acquired ace on the mound, the bear-like CC Sabathia, the Crew spent the first five innings of Monday's tilt in hibernation. That is, until a flurry of defensive gems in the top of the sixth disrupted their slumber.

With the Cubs threatening to add to their 2-0 lead, Brewers centerfielder Mike Cameron gunned down a laboring Derrek Lee at the plate as he tried to score from second on a Mark DeRosa single. Then, first baseman Prince Fielder scrambled to come up with a smash off the bat of Ryan Theriot, only to recover and flip to Sabathia, who beat "The Riot" to the bag by an eyelash or two.

J.J. Hardy and Braun rode the momentum in the bottom half with back-to-back bombs. Fielder scored the go-ahead run on Corey Hart's double. But then Rickie Weeks committed a two-run error that would prove a harbinger of sorts for the Brewer faithful who, for once, seemed to outnumber the Cubs faithful.

Even a game-tying shot by Paul Bunyan impersonator Russell Branyan couldn't hold the Cubs down. Debatably the least intimidating closer in the bigs, Salomon Torres couldn't put Cubs batters away and walked two of them before Lee slapped the game-winning double down the right-field line.

The opener seemed to stir several of the Cubs' key players back to prominence. After tying Sunday's tilt with the Marlins on a three-run bomb, Soriano showed he's ready to once again be the Chicago turnkey as he nearly clubbed two bombs in as many at-bats to start Monday's action.

Aside from a momentary hiccup in walking light-hitting Jason Kendall in the ninth, the Cubs' makeshift closer Marmol was filthy, dirty and nasty in closing out the game. His role as Kerry Wood's setup man has been challenged during catastrophic, recent struggles.

But Monday, as if ignited by the palpable electricity at Miller Park, Marmol, and the Cubs, came to life.