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The batting practice times were scrawled on the clubhouse bulletin board before Saturday's game against Oakland, informing the Cubs of their chances in the cage:
"Lineup10:15. Lemons 10:45. Extras11:15."
Technically speaking, the Lemons and the extras are one in the same.
But in a season in which bench players and regulars are interchangeable, the Lemons have taken on a life of their own.
Todd Hollandsworth and Todd Walker, both regulars of late before the returns of Sammy Sosa and Mark Grudzielanek this weekend, came off the bench Saturday to ignite a wild, ninth-inning rally that launched the Cubs to a 4-3 comeback victory over the Athletics. It was their first triumph over the A's since a 3-1 victory in Game 3 of the 1929 World Series.
Both provided pinch-hit singles off reliever Chad Bradford before Michael Barrett's two-run double into the right-field corner sent a crowd of 40,022 into delirium and started a celebration at home plate.
"When two guys come off the bench like that, it sort of gets everyone's adrenaline going even more," Barrett said. "It seems like when someone comes up and gets a clutch hit, we sort of swarm around that and feed off that. Especially [Hollandsworth] and [Walker]."
On an unseasonably cool June afternoon with Mark Prior off his "A" game and A's left-hander Mark Mulder slicing and dicing the Cubs' lineup, Oakland appeared poised to close out a one-run victory for the second straight day.
"As you watched the whole game, it looked like we were going to lose," Walker said. "You go through the whole game, three hours or so, and it didn't look very good. To win it all within five minutesthat's huge."
The comeback started when Mulder was removed with a 3-2 lead after eight innings and 123 pitches. Bradford, the side-arming right-hander and temporary closer with Arthur Rhodes on personal leave, gave up a one-out infield hit to Hollandsworth. Walker followed with a sharp single to right.
Barrett threatened a bunt on the first pitch to him. Though he tried to pull back, it was ruled strike one. With a 1-and-1 count, Barrett ripped one down the right-field line to the wall, scoring Hollandsworth and Walker. The relay was on target to nail Walker, but it was too late as Walker made a headfirst slide with his arms aloft like an airplane making a crash landing.
"That was the 'safe' pose," Walker said. "Then I was looking around to see if that was the case. Personally, I was physically exhausted. I had a bad night last night, sick (with a stomach ailment). After I went from first to home after sitting for eight innings, I wasn't getting up until someone picked me up."
Manager Dusty Baker called it the Cubs' "biggest win of the year
until the next one." Barrett compared it to the thrill of his first big-league hit and Hollandsworth said it was "an unbelievable feeling."
Hollandsworth and Walker both received big ovations when they stepped up to hit. The sacrifices they have made, eschewing personal stats for the sake of the team, evidently are appreciated. In a Yogi Berra-esque statement, Baker said, "Our bench guys aren't bench guys. They're regulars not playing."
That's basically the definition of a Lemona "bench guy who's not a bench guy."
"Dusty and I spoke before the game," Walker said. "I told him I just want to be a part of this, whatever that means for me. Whoever we put out there, if that gives us the best chance to win, then I'm all for it. It's not about me anymore. It's about this team, and it's about winning. I'm at the age now where I want to win a World Series."