We all learned a valuable lesson yesterday. Mainly that anything can happen.
The sleeping Cubs came out of their late summer hibernation for a day. Gone were the errors, the base-running mistakes. No more swinging at first-pitch balls and loafing down the line. Derrek Lee broke of a mini-slump, Corey Patterson started resembling Lou Brock again, if only for a day, and Greg Maddux pitched like it was 1993.
We can only wait to see what today brings. And whatever it is, we'll be here with an account of it--weather permitting.
Carlos Zambrano and Jason Marquis butt heads in Game 2 of this four-game series with the Cardinals on an afternoon filled with dark clouds, humidity and never-ending hope by Cubs fans that their team will get this thing turned around.
And we're off on floppy hat day at Wrigley Field. Zambrano gets two quick strikes on David Eckstein before evening the count 2-2. Eckstein fights off a few pitches and flies out to Patterson in shallow center. A 10-pitch at-bat for the little pest. Zambrano strikes out Abraham O. Nunez, but it took him eight pitches to do it. Already with the pitch count. Albert Pujols pops out on the second pitch he sees and we go to commercial, probably that Michael Strahan stinky armpits deodorant spot they keep playing over and over and over again.
To the people on the message board whining about Maddux, he pitched a nice game yesterday. He gave up a two-run shot to Pujols, which is to be expected, gave up two runs on four scratch hits in one inning and made a number of quality pitches to get out of a few innings. I'm not being a homer, just saying what happened. Did you even watch the game? You need to get real. Matt Lawton grounds out to Pujols, who flips to Maquis covering first. Walker flies out. And about Baker leaving Maddux in the game, so his $9 million option will kick in: He's 30-something innings short with 10 starts left. Going an extra inning yesterday hardly factors into it. Lee strikes out to end a very impatient first for Cubs hitters.
Zambrano fans Jim Edmonds, bringing up the rookie John Rodriguez, who singles to left. Mark Grudzielanek moves him over with a slow roller to the right side. Zambrano whirls and picks Rodriguez off second. We'll be back just as soon as Fred Venturini returns with my coffee. Hustle up.
Aramis Ramirez flies out and WGN was barely back in time to catch it. Jeromy Burnitz hits it toward first where Pujols fall on top of it, flops over and throws to Marquis covering first. Michael Barrett pokes a breaking ball the other way into the corner for a double. Fred, all three, please. Thanks. Neifi Perez pulls a single to right and Barrett comes all the way in from second and scores with a head-first slide ahead of So Taguchi's throw. Wow, a lot people working blue on the message board today. We may need a Satellite Radio version of From the Cubicle. Patterson, battling at the plate, sends one deep down the right-field line but it hooks foul. He grounds out to second to end the inning.
Cubs 1, Cardinals 0
Taguchi bangs one off the left-field wall. Lawton plays the carom well and holds Taguchi to a single. Mike Mahoney bunts, Zambrano fields and gets Taguchi at second, but the throw to first is late. Marquis, who can hit, slices a double the other way that kicks off the line near the Cubs' bullpen. Mahoney lumbers into third. Eckstein chops one right at a drawn-in Ramirez and the Cubs get Mahoney caught in a rundown between third and home. Barrett didn't panic, Mahoney is out and Marquis takes third. Eckstein had to hold at first. Nunez pops out to Patterson and Zambrano gets out of the mini-jam without giving up a run.
I hate how they make those Walgreens guest bat boys and girls stand there and wave like Stepford zombies for 30 seconds. Zambrano strikes out to start the top of the third and hits Mahoney in the head with the bat on his backswing. That has to hurt. Lawton singles up the midde past a diving Eckstein. Marquis may have hurt something pitching to Todd Walker. Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan sprints out there to check on things. Nothing doing. Marquis then walks Walker, bringing up Lee with two on and one out. Lee bounces into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Pujols flies out to Burnitz on the first pitch of the fourth. Edmonds hits it back up the middle and, as usual, Zambrano takes a stab at it with his bare hand. Perez ranges behind second, makes the play and the throw to get Edmonds. Nice play there. Rodriguez singles to left. Zambrano fans Grudzielanek and reader Tom Schleeter points out that Neifi Perez is wearing sunglasses with two different colored lenses--one red and one blue. Anyone else notice this and know why?
Ramirez pops out to Eckstein in shallow left. One out. Burnitz grounds out to Pujols and Tom Schleeter writes back to set the record straight: "OK, after pausing and reviewing (God bless, TiVo), it confirms that I'm an idiot and it must have been a reflection. The lenses are both blue." Thanks, Tom. Back to the game and Barrett doubles again, this time down the left-field line. Perez and his fancy sunglasses fly out to Edmonds and strand Barrett at second.
Taguchi swings at strike three, the ball pops out of Barret's glove and Barrett tags Taguchi, who thought he foul tipped it. At any rate, it's an out. Mahoney flies out to Lawton and that, according to the rule book, also is an out. Marquis gets another hit after slapping a ball out of the dirt and past Zambrano. Eckstein rips it at Ramirez, who knocks it down and has time to make an on-the-money throw.
Patterson drags a bunt down the first-base line but it's a wee bit hard and Pujols fields it and tags him out. Zambrano, not about to let Marquis get all the hits, bounces one into center for a single. Lawton grounds one past a diving Grudzielanek for a one-out hit. Walker works the count full as Rahula calls from the front door saying he forgot his security badge and needs someone to let him in. Walker bounces into a double play and I guess I have to get up and open the door for him.
Nunez flies out to Patterson in center. Zambrano may have the ol' forearm cramp again. The trainer comes out to check matters. We're back. Pujols doubles down the left-field line and that gets Roberto Novoa up in the pen. Zambrano issues his first walk, to Edmonds. Perez comes over to chat with Zambrano, who may have been spending too much time online again, perhaps, readings old From the Cubicles. I highly doubt it. Rodriguez swings at a ball way out of the zone for strike three. Grudzielanek hits the first pitch he sees deep to right-center but Patterson catches up to it on the track.
Not sure what the near future holds for Zambrano but Novoa has trotted back to the dugout, whatever that means. Lee doubles down the left-field line and the ball nearly knocks over a cup of Gatorade that Novoa left on the bullpen mound. The guy should probably pick up after himself. I'm thinking you've got to leave Zambrano in. Massage that cramp out, have him eat a banana or something. Ramirez walks and the Cubs have two on and no one out. The struggling Burnitz shows bunt. That's one way to avoid hitting into a double play, but maybe not. He pulls the bat back but then bunts the next pitch in the air foul. Burnitz sends it deep the other way, all the way to the track and Lee and Ramirez both tag. I thought that may have had a chance to be one of those cheap Wrigley homers that just keeps drifting and drifting and lands in the basket. Barrett bounces it to third, Nunez throws home and Lee, going on contact, is out by plenty. Perez walks and the bases are loaded for Patterson, who lines the first pitch, but right at Rodriguez in left. I thought that was going to fall.
Novoa comes on to pitch the seventh and quickly gets Taguchi to pop out to Walker. Now Kerry Wood is up in the pen. Mahoney, whom Steve Guttenberg played in the 40 "Police Academy" movies, drives one to right, right at Burnitz. Marquis hits for himself and grounds out to Lee. Dan Hampton sings TMOTTBG.
For those of you too tired on this Friday to scroll up the page, the score is Cubs 1, Cardinals 0
The immortal Jose Macias will hit in the pitcher's spot and he's out before Danimal can even get the first word out of his mouth. Ground out to Grudzielanek on the first pitch. As Hampton mixes up his cliches ("That's the $64 million question, Len"), Lawton flies out to left. Walker singles to right. Lee rips it off the top of the wall in left, sending Bittersweet Ivy flying, and Walker comes all the way around from first to score. Ramirez rips it to left, Lee comes home and slides safely as Rodriguez's throw is off the mark. Diaz, however, guns down Ramirez trying for a double. Ramirez knew he was going to be out, so he tried calling time as he slid into second, like he was safe by 10 feet. Nice move, but it didn't work.
Cubs 3, Cardinals 0
On to pitch comes the $8.5 million set-up man, Kerry Wood. Eckstein flies out to Burnitz. Nunez strikes out, the ball gets away from Barrett but he throws out Nunez at first. Wood is bringing the heat in the 97-98 mph range. Pujols lines a single to center. Wood just misses striking out Edmonds on a 99-mph inside fastball and then walks him. Wood strikes out Rodriguez on a slider.
I guess Einar Diaz came in at some point to catch, and maybe hit, for Mahoney and he threw out Ramirez to end the seventh. Sorry about that. Randy Flores comes on to pitch and gets Burnitz to fly out but then gives up a homer to Barrett that bangs off the big chain-link fence behind the family section in left field. Perez singles. Julian Tavares is up in the pen and Nomar is in the ondeck circle. But first Flores will pitch to Patterson, who strikes out. Exit Flores; enter Tavares and Nomar. Tavares plunks Nomar right in the butt. Nomar glares at the pitcher. Tony LaRussa fetches him. Nice day's work: come in and plunk a guy. Now pitching for the Cardinals, "Every Day" Ray King, who gets Lawton to ground out on one pitch. Another nice day. We move to the ninth.
Cubs 4, Cardinals 0
I guess Ryan Dempster will pitch the ninth. Wouldn't want to leave Wood in there and hurt Dempster's feelings, just like Dusty didn't want to hurt Dave Veres' and Mark Guthrie's feelings in the 2003 playoffs. OK, sorry about that rant. Dempster pitches to Grudzielanek. Dempster fans the G-Man. Taguchi flies out to center on one pitch. Diaz dumps a double over Ramirez's head. Someone named Skip Schumaker will hit for the Cardinals. I'm pretty sure this is their clubhouse attendant. Schumaker lofts a lazy fly ball to right, Burnitz falls over and the ball falls in front of him. Diaz scores. Yes, that just happened. Eckstein singles to left and Schumaker takes third. With Pujols lurking on deck, Nunez hits a high-chopper that a charging Perez gloves and then fires to first to just get the runner. Very close but effective. Game over.
Final: Cubs 4, Cardinals 1
Burnitz makes it mildly interesting in the ninth but the Cubs hang in there to take the first two from the Cardinals. Thanks for reading, writing in, posting on the message board, ranting, raving and everything else. Have a great weekend.
P.S.: I'll be at tomorrow's epic pitching matchup between Chris Carpenter and Jerome Williams, so if you see a guy in a striped shirt, stop by and say hi.