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An odd thing happened Wednesday when Jeff Fassero tried to put away pinch-hitter Ryan Ludwick in the 10th inning.
Fassero's 1-2 forkball slipped out of his hand and soared to the backstop, allowing the go-ahead run to score in the Rangers' 7-4 victory over the Cubs.
Fassero's explanation for the wild pitch? It wasn't the heat, it was the humidity.
"I didn't have my hands dried off too well when I threw that one," he said. "As soon as I started to release the ball, it went sliding out.
"It hasn't been overly humid here this year. That one caught me by surprise."
The humid conditions also had an effect on Wrigley Field's 35,581 paying customers. The fans, more hot and bothered than usual, unloaded on manager Don Baylor when he walked to the mound to remove Fassero.
"It's a team frustration," Baylor said. "Certain situations will turn out right and others won't."
Fassero pitched a scoreless ninth but couldn't shut down the Rangers in the 10th.
The 39-year-old lefty walked leadoff hitter Herbert Perry on a 3-2 pitch. Kevin Mench, after failing to lay down a sacrifice bunt, singled on a check swing.
Gabe Kapler advanced the runners with a bunt and the Cubs intentionally walked Michael Young. That loaded the bases for Ludwick.
Baylor stuck with Fassero and liked his chances. Ludwick entered the game 1-for-9 against lefties compared with a .314 mark against right-handers.
"With his control, I thought Jeff could get a ground-ball double play," Baylor said.
Fassero might have done that if he hadn't sent the 1-2 pitch into orbit. The ball bounced off the wall and rolled to the Cubs' dugout.
"You're never ready for one up there," catcher Joe Girardi said. "But it slipped out of his hand. It's not going to happen often but the way things have gone for us, it happened today."
Ludwick then ripped a two-run single to center that gave the Rangers a three-run lead.
"What's frustrating is when you're getting ground balls but they're not getting to guys," Fassero said. "I don't know if it would be better to go out there and get blasted instead of seeing the balls go through the holes."
Fassero wouldn't have had to work the 10th if the Cubs had come through earlier.
Sammy Sosa put the Cubs on the board with his 26th home run, an opposite-field shot on a 2-1 pitch from right-hander Dave Burba that was at least 6 inches off the plate.
Girardi and the suddenly rejuvenated Delino DeShields drove in the team's second and third runs with doubles. But the Cubs scored only once more over the next eight innings.
Their best chance came with the game tied in the ninth and runners at the corners. But all Fred McGriff could do with a 2-0 pitch from Hideki Irabu was ground it to second base.
That put an end to any hope the 29-40 Cubs were on a roll.