Ricky Gutierrez didn't earn any raves for his first career curtain call, which followed his first career grand slam in the Cubs' 5-1 victory over the White Sox.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give him a low score," said teammate and close friend Eric Young. "He has to turn around, do the salute and take his time going back [to the dugout] so he can give the fans a little more time to clap."
But Young saluted Gutierrez for his restraint earlier in the game. After Chris Singleton slid into third base with his spikes high in the fourth inning, Gutierrez considered retaliating. But then he thought better of it.
"He got an 11 on that one," Young said. "A lot of times when players get emotionally involved in the game, they can't restrain themselves in a situation like that. Ricky is the ultimate professional. He did the right thing because we definitely needed him."
In a series renowned for producing heroeswhere have you gone, Mike Caruso?Gutierrez emerged from Thursday's Cubs-Sox tussle deserving a medal. Or at least an aspirin.
It had been a rough afternoon for Gutierrez, who had stumbled to his knees as he rounded first on a seventh-inning double.
Three innings earlier Gutierrez was covering third base when Singleton tried to take two bases on a grounder to third. Matt Stairs' throw reached Gutierrez in plenty of time, but Singleton wasn't ready to concede the out.
Several Cubs took offense to Singleton's slide, believing it was in retaliation for Young's third-inning slide into second on an attempted steal.
Young, who ran on a pitchout, knocked the ball from shortstop Royce Clayton's glove, leaving him with bruises on his arms.
"That's the way I play," Young said. "Royce has played against me for a lot of years, and he knows I come in hard. I wasn't trying to hurt him. His wrists just happened to be right there at the bag."
The Cubs believed Singleton's slide was malicious.
"When you're going to make the third out at third and you come in with your cleats up high, sure, you take offense," Cubs manager Don Baylor said.
Stairs had some words for Singleton as they walked off the field. Young protested the play to second-base umpire and crew chief Dana DeMuth.
"That was an intense moment because I will protect my teammates," Young said. "We didn't think that was cool right there."
Singleton said he was just being aggressive: "The ball is right there, so you have to slide hard."
Gutierrez, stunned, considered charging at Singleton.
"Yeah, it went through my mind," he said. "But something inside me said, 'It's not worth it. The team needs you on the field. Don't get into a scuffle and get thrown out of the game.'"
Gutierrez got his revenge in the eighth. Sox reliever Jon Garland issued a leadoff walk to Gary Matthews Jr., who then beat Garland's throw to second on a bunt by Robert Machado.
Corey Patterson advanced both runners on a bunt, and right-hander Bob Howry walked Young intentionally to load the bases. It seemed like a wise move, considering Gutierrez's career numbers with the bases loadeda .237 average with no homers in 76 at-bats. But that was about to change.
Gutierrez lofted Howry's first-pitch fastball toward left field. Would it be enough to clear the bases?
"The wind was blowing in today for the first part of the game," Baylor said, "but it came back to be our friend. If that wind didn't go out, I didn't think Ricky's was going out."