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Welcome everyone to the play-by-play commentary of the Cubs home opener against the Montreal Expos. Bonjour to all the Expos fans. It's flat out brutal out, more suitable for the Iditarod than baseball with the wind blowing in from left-center and the wind-chill at 24 degrees.
The grounds crew has parked the Zamboni and the puck drop is just minutes away.
There's a slight delay as the Cubs honor Sammy Sosa and Ernie Banks.
Matt Clement takes the mound for the Cubs and gets Endy Chavez to bounce out to Mark Grudzielanek at second. Jose Vidro pops out to Corey Patterson in center and that brings up the always dangerous Vladimir Guerrero, who can hit any pitch in any part of the zone. He chases a slider away and goes down swinging. Good start for Clement, who had to leave his last start with a back injury.
Zach Day, probably the easiest name I'll have to type all day, faces the toughest, Grudzielanek and Grudzielanek lines one to left field. Thank god for cut and paste. Alex Gonzalez works the count full before drawing a walk. There is snow on the ivy vines in the left-field corner. Here's Sosa. He lines a one-hopper right at shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who starts the double play. Bad break for the Cubs there. That ball was hit hard. Good break here. The first pitch to Moises Alou gets away from catcher Brian Schneider and Grudzielanek sprints home from third. Most of the Cubs are wearing mittens and Balaclavas. Moises is going bare-handed. Tough guy. Let's hope he doesn't get jammed. He checks his swing with three balls and draws a walk. Hee Seop Choi smokes the first pitch to left field. Patterson grounds weakly to third to end the inning.
Cubs 1, Expos 0
Former White Sox Jeff Liefer leads off the second. Clement walks Liefer and Orlando Cabrera then hits into a double play. Brad Wilkerson grounds out to second. Clement threw maybe five pitches that inning.
Mark Bellhorn fans to start the inning. It looks like National League pitchers have figured him out. Don't expect a repeat of last season. Damiam Miller grounds out, bringing up Clement, who, if he's smart and values his hands, won't try to make contact in this weather. He swings and grounds out to first.
Catcher Brian Schneider rolls out to the right side of the infield. Third baseman Jamey Carroll draws a walk, Day and Chavez follow with ground outs and Clement has another easy inning.
Mark G. leads off the Cubs' half of the third and grounds one to hole between short and third. Cabrera's throw draws Liefer off the bag and the G. Man slides underneath. Throwing error on Cabrera and the Cubs again have their lead-off hitter on. Alex Gonazles lines a double to left, his eighth of the year already. Sosa comes up with men on second and third and no one out. Sosa grounds to third, but knocks in the G. Man. Dodgers fans would have you think Grudzielanek was a complete stiff. But he's looked great so far. Then again, the Cubs could've gotten a bag of balls and some used catchers equipment for Todd Hundley and it would've looked good. Another wild pitch and Gonzalez takes third. Alou's fly ball to right is deep enough to drive Gonzalez in. Day plunks Choi above the right elbow. Patterson chops one right at Liefer at first.
Cubs 3, Expos 0
Vidro works the count full before either setting or tying the record for shortest ground ball in history. It went about two inches in front of the plate before Miller pounced on it and threw to first. Guerrero pops the first pitch to Bellhorn and things are moving along nicely here. Until now. Clement walks Liefer again but then comes back and fans Cabrera with a slider away.
WGN can ace the shots of icicles and snow piles; they're downright depressing. Bellhorn starts things off with a walk. Bellhorn takes off on a hit and run, but Miller fouls the pitch off. Miller then hits into a double play and Clement grounds out to Liefer. So much for the lead-off walk.
There's a guy in the crowd with a dead skunk on his head. Have another. Wilkerson bounces one under Choi's glove. Grudzielanek makes a sliding stop on the outfield grass and throws to Clement covering the bag, but it's too late. Clement limps back to the mound. He might have jarred his back there. Choi bobbles Schneider's grounder but recovers and gets Wilkerson at second. Clement still is limping. One out and a guy on first. Now Cubs trainer Dave Tumbas is preparing the tape in the dugout. It looks like Clement might have twisted his ankle. Carroll grounds sharply to Gonzalez at short, who starts the 6-4-3 double play.
Reader Janice Ramey asks for me to send out a happy 40th anniversary wish to her parents Phyllis and Freeman Ramey, both Cubs fans. I'm not exactly Harry Caray, but happy 40th kids. May there be many more.
Grudzielanek grounds out, but Gonzalez follows with a liner to left. Off to quite the hot start. Days walks Sosa on four pitches. Whoever the Expos pitching coach is, he's taking a slow stroll out to the mound to kill time for the equally unknown Montreal pitcher warming up in the bullpen. Alou turns on an inside fastball and rips it down the line, scoring Gonzalez. Sosa goes to third. Here comes Frank Robinson and that's it for Zach Day. Robinson pulls a double switch, the specifics of which I'll get after the commercial break. I know Fernando Tatis is involved. OK, Dan Smith is the new pitcher and throws his first effort into the dirt. But the runners don't advance. Tatis takes over a third and will lead off the sixth. Choi grounds one to Liefer at first and, with the infield in, Sosa takes off on contact and is cut down easily at the plate. Smith beats Schneider five-hole and Alou scores. That's Montreal's third wild pitch of the game. After spraying foul balls over the joint, Patterson chases a ball well in the dirt for strike three.
Cubs 5, Expos 0
The aforementioned Tatis leads off and sits down after waving at a hard Clement slider. Great pitch against right-handed batters. Centerfielder Endy Chavez, who's about as skinny as the bat he's holding, draws a walk. Vidro then hits into the Expos' third double play of the day.
Bellhorn leads off the Cubs' sixth by looking at a third strike. Miller then goes down swinging, chasing a nasty sinker. A disinterested Clement never takes the bat off his shoulder and strikes out looking.
Guerrero picks one off his shoe tops and lines in into the left-field bleachers. Au revoir, baseball. Liefer lines out to shortstop Alex Gonzalez. And in a scene straight out of the '85 NFC title game, here comes the snow. Where's Wilbur Marshall? Grudzielanek makes a nice play on a hard hit ball by Cabrera and then Clement gets Wilkerson swinging to end it.
Cubs 5, Expos 1
Time to stretch.
Gonzalez gets another hit, a single to left, and Sosa will bat with one on. Sosa pokes one through the right-side of the infield and Gonzalez takes third. Alou grounds to third, Tatis flips to Vidro, who double clutches and Alou is safe at first. Gonzalez scores.
Sad news: Ed McCaskey has passed away.
Scott Stewart, no relation to Stuart Scott, comes on to pitch for les Expos and will face Patterson with men on first and second and two outs. Patterson chases a pitch way out of the zone and Stewart escapes further trouble.
Cubs 6, Expos 1
I have no idea what's going on because co-workers are asking who Ed McCaskey was. Ed McCaskey was George Halas' son in law. He was married to Virginia McCaskey.
In the game, there's a guy on first and Clement is being lifted to a nice hand.
John from Kentucky writes in to set me straight on the double switch. I confused Jose Vidro and Fernando Tatis. Vidro started at second and is still there. Tatis came in on the double switch, replacing Jamey Carroll at third. Thanks, John. Sorry for the confusion.
OK, Mark Guthrie is the new Cubs pitcher. He gets Wil Cordero, who's batting for Chavez, to bounce out. Men on second and third, two outs. Guthrie pitches to Vidro, who's still playing second. Got it? Vidro walks, loading the bases for the wrong guy, Vladimir Guerrero. Baker comes and gets Guthrie.
I have to clarify to Mike from Mexico and others that the co-workers who were wondering who Ed McCaskey is do not work in the sports department.
Joe Borowski is the new Cubs pitcher and Tom Goodwin replaces Corey Patterson in center. I got this double switch right. Borowski gets Guerrero to chase a slider away and the Cubs escape the jam.
Cordero stays in the game for Montreal and Wilkerson moves from left to center field. Luis Ayala is the new Montreal pitcher and he gets Bellhorn to ground out. Ayala then freezes Miller with a slider on the outside corner. Two quick outs. Tom Goodwin grounds to Vidro at second, who flips to Liefer, who drops the ball transferring it to his throwing hand. The ump calls him safe. Horrible call. Frank Robinson is out of the dugout. Anyway, Grudzielanek grounds out to end the inning and Frank Robinson still is letting the ump have it.
Jon from Kentucky writes in to tell me I spelled his name wrong. Sorry, Jon. I'm not having the best day here. I blame the weather--and the gin. Yes, I misspelled "Jon."
Geez, a few more pitching changes, please. Mike Remlinger, the Cubs closer of the day, strikes out Liefer looking. Cabrera singles and Remlinger is taking forever with Wilkerson, but finally gets him swinging. Two outs in the ninth and the 10 people still at Wrigley are on their feet. After a few more balls in the dirt from Remlinger, Schneider flies out to left and that's it. Hot chocolate for everyone.
Final: Cubs 6, Expos 1
Thanks to everyone who took the time to read today and those who wrote in. Take care. Stay warm.