It was a day of milestones and mile-high redemption.
Never before Sunday had Cubs ace Kerry Wood given up eight runs in a game. Never before Sunday had White Sox outfielder Carlos Lee driven in seven runs.
Lee's heroics prevented the Cubs from sweeping their first series of the season. And they allowed Lee to breathe a huge sigh of relief after his team's 10-7 victory before a crowd of 38,742 at Wrigley Field.
Lee believed his starting job was in jeopardy after his average dipped below .250 and his manager, Jerry Manuel, publicly criticized his defense.
"It made me feel like I was in a fight for my job," Lee said. "I wasn't helping the team. I knew I could do a lot better."
He couldn't have done much better Sunday.
After watching Wood walk the bases loaded in the third inning, Lee figured Wood would try to get ahead with a fastball. He did, but Lee hammered it onto Waveland Avenue for his fourth career grand slam.
Two innings later, with Wood having walked both Ray Durham and Tony Graffanino for the second straight time, Lee readied himself for a 3-2 pitch from reliever Carlos Zambrano.
"It was ball four, up around his neck, a 3-2 slider," marveled Cubs catcher Todd Hundley. "And he hits it. You have to tip your cap to him."
Lee's second blast gave the Sox a 9-6 lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
The victory allowed the Sox to take a 14-13 advantage over the Cubs since the advent of interleague play in 1997. The series now shifts to the South Side for three games beginning June 28.
The Cubs outhit their opponents 11-6 Sunday, but the Sox took advantage of Wood's wildness. The flame-throwing right-hander walked six men and all six scored.
"It was embarrassing," said Wood, who turned 25 on Sunday. "The guys picked me up and I consistently let them down. I let the fans down, I let the team down.
"It's hard to get on a winning streak when you do what I did today."
Wood finished the game using a different glove. He chucked his first one into the crowd after giving up four runs in the third.
Asked about Wood's emotion, Cubs manager Don Baylor said: "That's what you like about him. He was frustrated by not getting the job done."
Wood misfired on seven of his first eight pitches. He didn't record an out until his 20th pitch, and that came on a strikeout of Lee. But the Panamanian slugger made up for it in his next two trips to the plate.
"It's very frustrating," Wood said. "I don't have these problems in the bullpens and on side days.
"I know how I can throw the ball and I'm not doing it."
Sox starter Todd Ritchie was equally ineffective, giving up six runs in the first three innings. Hundley hit his third homer of the series and Alex Gonzalez went deep for the first time since May 30.
But Keith Foulke was nearly perfect in 22/3 innings of long relief. He improved to 1-4 as the Sox won for just the sixth time in their last 20 games.
The Cubs, meanwhile, took pride in winning the series and producing their best offensive stretch of the season. After having entered with baseball's worst team batting average (.234), they scored 22 runs over three games.
"This made us believe we can turn it around," Hundley said.
Baylor added a cautionary note:
"This series was easy to get up for because it's the White Sox. I don't want us to fall back to where we were."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times