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Clearly, Lee's back … back …
Cubs manager Lou Piniella played a game of rope-a-dope Saturday morning, declaring that Derrek Lee would not play until at least Tuesday night in San Diego.
"We're not going to take any chances and jeopardize this young man," Piniella said during his pregame media briefing. He was referring to the neck spasms that have sidelined Lee the last five games.
But with the bases loaded and the Cubs nursing a one-run lead in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the City Series, Piniella called on Lee to pinch-hit for Jacque Jones, and a stunned crowd of 41,101 rose in unison.
After missing badly with what he called "a pathetic swing" on a curveball from Boone Logan, Lee drove Logan's 3-1 pitch into the first row of the right-field bleachers for a grand slam, and the Cubs made it two in a row over the White Sox with an 11-6 victory.
It took a little bit of lobbying from Lee, but Piniella eventually gave in to his slugger's request.
"At first he told me no," Lee said. "Then he thought about it."
Piniella insisted he had not ruled Lee out before the game as a pinch-hitting possibility, though the videotaped evidence suggested otherwise.
"We were talking about starting-wise," Piniella said. "I said he was available to pinch-hit, and I wasn't lying. I checked with the trainer and he said he's fine. He was hitting balls in the net for a good portion of the game. And he came out and he says, 'I'm ready to go.'
"When you have a guy like that, you'd be foolish not to utilize him if he's available. That's exactly what we did, and he delivered—big-time."
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was caught completely off guard, believing Lee was too sore to pinch-hit.
"I thought the last guy to come off the bench was him," Guillen said. "I know Derrek Lee very well. It's a hard situation for him not to come out. I know they were talking about it. I thought they'd save him for [Sunday].
"They put him in the right spot in the right place. Boone got behind and Lee hit the home run. That was the home run of the game. They hit well and pitched well. Their bullpen struggled, but they've been pretty good the last couple of days.
"Any time you lose against anyone it's a tough loss, not just because it's the Cubs or rivalry. Every game you lose is tough."
The Cubs now have a chance at their first sweep of the Sox since 1998, with Carlos Zambrano facing Nick Masset on Sunday afternoon.
With the wind blowing out toward left field at 14 m.p.h., the conditions were ripe for a slugfest. The two teams combined for 17 home runs onto Waveland Avenue in pregame batting practice, in addition to four shots onto Sheffield Avenue.
They continued trading big blows once the game started, with Michael Barrett and starter Jason Marquis homering off Javier Vazquez to give the Cubs a 5-3 lead in the fifth, and Joe Crede coming back with a two-run, line drive blast off Marquis to tie the game in the sixth.
Paul Konerko's solo shot off Bob Howry put the Sox on top 6-5 in the eighth, but the Cubs responded with their third six-run inning in the last eight games.
Ryan Theriot began the rally with a triple off ex-Cub David Aardsma and scored the tying run on a first-pitch, RBI single by Alfonso Soriano, who came to the plate hitting .130 (3-for-23) in the No. 3 hole during Lee's absence. Wasting no time, Aramis Ramirez followed with a first-pitch triple down the right-field line, scoring Soriano from first as the crowd erupted.
"Any time you give up the lead, especially in the eighth inning, against any team, you feel like you let everyone down," Aardsma said. "You let the team down. You let the manager down. But it's your former team, and you want to get after it. You want to show them what you've got. It definitely hurts."
After an intentional walk to Daryle Ward, Barrett reached on a liner off Aardsma, loading the bases. Logan came in, setting the stage for Lee's big moment.
Lee received a standing ovation when he was announced. He pumped his right fist as he rounded first and got a curtain call afterward in one of the more dramatic moments in the 10-year history of the City Series.
"I noticed it, but I didn't take time to take it in," Lee said. "Someone asked, 'Could you tell how loud it was?' I really couldn't. I was just worried about my at-bat."
Lee's dramatic moment was one that will linger."That's amazing," Theriot said. "To sit on the bench for five days and not be able to move your head … I had to hit off Logan there at the end, and his breaking ball was lights out. To see him sit on three of them like he'd been playing every day is pretty amazing."
While the Cubs celebrated and fans sang their theme song on the way out, Guillen lamented that the Sox have blown late-inning leads in both losses. He joked that the Sox may just have to skip playing the eighth inning.
"I want to talk to (Commissioner) Bud Selig [to see] if we can stay in the dugout for one inning, then come out in the ninth," he said. "Every game we got trouble in those innings the last couple of days. But we are where we are because of the bullpen. Those guys came out before that and did a good job."