It was a wild and wacky windup to the weekend, a nearly literal Cubs vs. White Sox, Round 3.
The KO went to the Sox by a final score of 6-0, although the majority of body blows came from Carlos Zambrano.
Not only did Zambrano lose his cool -- hitting two Sox batters and nearly creating a bench-clearing brawl -- but he put his Cubs behind in the all-time series 36-35.
Zambrano's only good deed was keeping the 39,745 fans at U.S. Cellular Field as highly charged as he was all afternoon, making this a reprise of the 2006 series that produced a fistfight between catchers and Zambrano pointing at his head in apparent warning after a home run.
And he could have one more chance to create chaos Sept. 3, when the June 16 rainout at Wrigley Field is tentatively scheduled to be made up.
But it will be impossible for one game to top this intracity, interleague three-gamer, with the first two decided by one run and the finale turning into the best-of-three falls.
"The last two games feel like we played five or six games," said Sox pitcher Scott Linebrink, who pitched two perfect innings in relief of John Danks.
The last game by itself -- maybe the sixth inning by itself -- had enough drama for five or six games.
That two-run inning, which gave the Sox a 5-0 lead, included a steal of home, a missed popup on an infield fly that resulted in a run, and a hit batter that led to the Cubs' Ryan Freel taking one in the shoulder for Zambrano.
Dewayne Wise was the punching bag for Zambrano after Chris Getz scored from third on what was supposed to be a suicide squeeze but turned into a stolen base when Zambrano fired the pitch to the backstop.
Zambrano's next pitch drilled Wise in the right hip, and Sox players jumped to the top step of the dugout ready for a 2006-style brawl.
"I don't want to get into what he said," Wise said of Zambrano's mutterings as he went to first base. "But the benches didn't clear, I got to first base and that's it."
Did Wise know what was coming after the steal?
"Yes. I figured he'd probably hit me there," he replied. "That's Zambrano being Zambrano. With his history, I figured he'd hit me.
"I just told him that wasn't right and moved on from there. We won the ballgame. That's the most important thing."
Wise ended up scoring, as did Scott Podsednik after Zambrano drilled him in the right thigh in the third, apparently on purpose. Alexei Ramirez made Zambrano pay by homering for a 2-0 lead.
Wise scored on a play that is about as rare as it gets: Running home from third base on a bases-loaded, infield-fly-rule popup. Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot couldn't corral it and was charged with an error, even though batter Jermaine Dye was ruled out.
By then Zambrano was safely in the dugout, having left to loud boos.
"It wasn't one of his stellar games," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said, "and it wasn't one of our better games."
"You have to give credit to Danks," Zambrano said. "Sometimes the other pitcher comes with their best stuff, and there's nothing you can do about it."
After Danks drilled Freel in the seventh, both benches were issued a warning from the umpiring crew, which never let the game get out of control.
Danks allowed four hits in seven innings and lowered his earned-run average in three starts against the Cubs to 0.90.
"That's the way you want to pitch every game," he said, "throw strikes and make them hit ground balls. Guys were making plays all over the field for me."
And in the end, everyone survived to fight another day.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times