On my ride into work this morning, I saw a car on Ohio Street with the license plate CUBSOX. I was on a bike and tried to catch up to it at a light and conduct my first ever interview of a guy sitting in a convertible at a red light. With that license plate, I wanted to know who the guy was rooting for today, the first game of the Cubs-Sox series. Alas the light changed, he sped off and I was deprived of an actual story to share with everyone. Instead a cabbie honked at me.
Talking to the rare person who likes both teams would have been a nice way to kick off what always sinks into an annual civic hatefest. I've got to be honest; I do not like interleague play or the city series. It just brings out the worst in fans of both teams. So much so that I get an uneasy feeling in my stomcah, like when you witness a street fight or mistakenly turn on ESPN when "Around the Horn" is on. But I know a lot of people like this series and enjoy watching people pummel each other.
Wouldn't it be more fun if this was a cordial affair? If, say, Sox fans gave up their seats to Cubs fans on the Red Line. Or, perhaps, Cubs fans would share an extra blue poncho they had stashed in their Old Navy cargo shorts for a rain-drenched Sox fan? Maybe Sox fans could keep cellphone-using Cubs fans in the adjacent seat apprised of the score. Or Cubs fans could pass a collection cup around for bail for the Sox fan who garroted their friend with his own flip-flops.
One thing Cubs and Sox fans can agree on is that the Rays are good and the Pirates are bad.
The White Sox just scored 37 runs in a three-game sweep of the Pirates. The Cubs, meanwhile, were swept in Tampa-St. Pete, played a night game before a day game and landed at O'Hare at 1:15 a.m. Boo-hoo.
Greetings Chicago baseball fans, from North and South, hot and not-so-hot, fat and skinny, you're all welcome here, no matter your team, shape or facial structure. Do what you gotta do to keep the boss at bay and follow along. For everyone stuck at the office or are just too cheap to buy a TV and are sitting in some public library somewhere, we're here for you on this warm but gray and potentially rainy Friday in Chicago.
Swinging of bats and possible fists to follow.
1:12 p.m. Weather update: It's really coming down now at Wrigley. Len Kasper on Comcast says they're hoping for a 1:40 start time. Hawk and DJ are on WGN today and they're got a wet tarp behind them. Hawk says he's "Amped up" about this series.
I see the board is off to a rip-roaring start. And no offense to loyal reader Joseph J. Finn, but isn't the Sox fan argument about the conditions of the barthrooms at Wrigley is right down there with Cubs fans argument about attendance? Pardon the pun, but who gives a crap?
1:23 weather update: The grounds crew is about to remove the tarp and Len says this game will start at 1:50, so hang tight everyone. There goes the tarp. Love it when someone gets trapped underneath. And the refresh link at the top of the page should work now. Sorry about that. Thanks for pointing that out.
Also someone on the board points out that because of this series there will be no drinking on Metra trains after 7 p.m. tonight, so drink up. My boss, who commutes on the Metra, confirms he heard this announcement today. I love that you can drink on that train in the first place.
1:49 p.m. weather update: Wayne Messmer is singing away, the sun is shining, we're close to baseball, everything is right in the world.
OK, so Ozzie and Lou have handed in their lineup cards, shook hands with each other and probably exchanged a few profanity-peppered pleasantries. The Cubs take the field, Ted Lilly takes a few warmup tosses and Orlando Cabrera digs in for the Sox. It's 73 degrees under sunny skies with a slight wind blowing out to left and we're off after a 31 minute rain delay. Cabrera fouls off the first pitch then takes a ball to even the count. Cabrera fouls off a couple more pitches before flying out to Kosuke Fukudome, who's playing center today. A.J. Pierzynski hears some boos as he steps in. In the midst of a 13-game hitting streak, he bloops one to shortstop for the second out. Carlos Quentin drives one deep to right-center where Mark DeRosa makes a running catch at the edge of the warning track to end the top of the first.
I flip over to WGN for Hawk and DJ as the Cubs bat and am greeted by that "There's one thing, we're nudists" commercial. John Danks is ready to go. Fukudome is ready. We're ready. Foul ball. Fukudome takes a strike and quickly is behind 0-2. He squibs a swinging bunt towards third. Danks fields it and fires an ill-advised throw to first. Nick Swisher makes a nice play to keep that ball from going to the bullpen. Fukudome reaches on the infield single. Ryan Theriot singles to right-center; Fukudome takes third. Derrek Lee, with runners on the corners and no one out, takes a 1-2 pitch that looks like a strike but is called a ball. "That's a good pitch," quoth the Hawk. On a full count, Lee hits it hard but into a 6-4-3 double play that drives home Fukudome with the game's first run. Danks fans Aramis Ramirez to end the first.
Cubs 1, Sox 0
Jermaine Dye tees off on a Lilly meatball and sends it deep and over left-field bleahers to tie the game. Swisher flies out to DeRosa in shallow right. July 19 at U.S. Cellular is Mullet Night. Love it. Joe Crede swings and misses at a curve and it's 0-2. Crede fouls one to third-base coach Jeff Cox, who then flips the ball to a guy in the first row who's wearing a Sox hat. But it turns out it's one of those half Sox, half Cubs hats. He turns it to the Cubs side after getting the ball. Shady. Oooh, Cox almost made a great play on another foul ball. WGN shows the replay and we miss Crede striking out. The Cuban Missile (great nickname) Alexei Ramirez doubles to the left-field corner. And back to Mullet Night, at least the Sox embrace it. When are the Cubs going to hold a Meat-head Night? Lilly strikes out Brian Anderson with a high fastball.
We're all tied up at 1-1
So I'm sitting here wondering where the game is. Turns out I'm watching TBS. Yeah, no baseball there. Geovany Soto singles to start the top of the second. DeRosa squibs one up the middle. Ramirez fields it and makes a cutesy flip that surprises Cabrera a bit, but he's able to turn the double play. The red-headed Matt Murton, a divisive figure in Cubdom, singles to center. Cedeno lines one to left but Quentin makes a nice sliding catch to end the inning.
Cubs 1, Sox 1 ... Sox 1, Cubs 1
Lilly strikes out his counterpart, Danks. Cabrera singles up the middle. The lovable A.J. Pierzynski pokes a two-run homer to right-center to give the Sox a 3-1 lead. Somewhere in San Diego Michael Barrett is looking for something to punch. Lilly falls behind Quentin 3-0 before tossing a strike right down the middle. Quentin walks to bring up Dye, who hit a grand slam yesterday and solo home run today. Dye flies out to right. Lilly walks Swisher and here's Larry Rothschild trotting out to the mound. Crede
d, a rather clutch dude who's wearing sunglasses at the plate, hits with two on and two outs. Lilly keeps going to that big curveball and keeps missing with it. Lilly jams Crede and he pops out to short. And, yes, Creded, is the past tense of Crede.
Sox 3, Cubs 1
Lilly strikes out chasing a pitch, oh, about five feet outside. Fukudome chases one out of the zone, too, for the second out. Crede, as he often does, makes a diving stop, gets up and throws out Theriot for the third out on a close play at first.
Sox 3, Cubs 1
How much does Alexei Ramirez weigh? He's listed at 175, bu no way he's over 160. He strikes out. Get him something to eat on the bench. Anderson grounds out to Theriot. Danks flies out to Murton and Lilly sets the bottom of the Sox lineup down in order.
Lee drives it deep to the corner in right, but Dye drifts over and makes a two-handed catch on the track in the well. Ramirez bounces out to short. Soto takes a called third strike and Danks has set down seven straight Cubs as this game hits a bit of a middle-inning lull.
Sox 3, Cubs 1
Cabrera strikes out and Bob Brenly says he met some Cubs fans who named their baby Brenly. Wow. I wonder if Hawk ever gets that. Pierzynski flies out to center. Quentin drives one deep to center. Fukudome drifts back to the wall and then turns around to play it off the wall. It just misses the basket for a double. Dye hits it hard but right at Theriot on one bounce for the final out.
Danks strikes out DeRosa on a straight change and he's really cruising. Danks, not DeRosa. DeRosa's walking back to the dugout. Murton is Creded on an easier play than the Theriot ball in the third but still pretty good on a short-hop hit right at him. Two outs for Cedeno. Swisher robs Cedeno of a hit with a diving stop. Cedeno dives into first just as Danks gets over there to cover. Matt Sinatro doesn't like the call. Here comes Lou. Close play but replays show Danks just beat Cedeno to the bag. And to all the little leaguers stuck at the office on bring your child to work day or just getting an early jump on a career, please run through first base on a play like that. Don't slide head first. It just slows you down. Onward.
Sox 3, Cubs 1
And as it so often happens, a player who makes a great defensive play in the field leads off the next inning and doubles to the left field corner blah, blah, blah ... well that just happened. Swisher on second with Crede at the plate. Someone on the board asks about the crowd. It's pretty quiet. Wait, I had the TV on mute. So I turn it up and it's still pretty quiet. Lotta reading going on apparently. Crede strikes out on a foul tip. Len Kasper says Alexei Ramirez has been compared to Alfonso Soriano because of his build. I'd say Manute Bol is more like it. Ramirez pops out to Soto in foul ground near the Sox's dugout. Lilly gets ahead of Anderson 0-2 and that gets the crowd into it. But just a bit. There seems to be a nervous quiet vibe in Wrigley Field. Either that or everyone's passed out drunk already. Lilly gets Anderson swinging and will lead off the bottom of the sixth.
Lilly skies one to right. Dye fights the sun and wins, gloving the first out. Danks has thrown 80 pitches for those of you into that sort of thing. Fukudome pokes a single the other way over the head of a leaping Crede. They have first-base coach Matt Sinatro miked up and, with not much to do, he's just just over there whistling. He has some company now with Fukudome on first, albeit some company that doesn't speak Sinatro. Theriot grounds to Crede, who starts the Sox's third double play of the day. End of inning. You do not want to hit it to that guy.
Sox 3, Cubs 1
Juan Uribe hits for Danks and singles to center. Danks gone is good news for the Cubs because they couldn't touch that guy. Octavio Dotel up in the Sox pen; Bob Howry up for the Cubs. Cabrera rips one down the left-field line and just misses a two-run homer by inches. He then takes a back-door slider for strike three. Pierzynski pops out to short. Quentin draws a four-pitch walk. That's it for Lilly. Enter Howry. ... And we're back. Where were we? Right, Dye bats with runners on first and second and two outs. Dye lines out right at Murton. For the love of mini corndogs Kenny Chesney? I do not like country music. I do not like this guy. Be gone. Anyway, he sings TMOTTBG as the female bumpkins in the crowd swoon.
Dotel joins the party and Lee hits his first pitch to the right-field bleachers. The Cubs are down a goal, 3-2. Ramirez cranks one to left, the Cubs go back to back and we're all tied up. Soto strikes out on a pitch in the dirt. So anyway Kenny Chesney sounds like a nice enough guy. DeRosa lines out to Dye in right. Murton singles. Guillen walks about to talk to Dotel. Lefty Matt Thornton is ready in the pen and he'll stay there with the righty Cedeno up. Cedeno strikes out to end the seventh.
Sox 3, Cubs 3 ... Cubs 3, Sox 3
Howry remains to pitch the eighth as Swisher leads off and singles to right. Crede gets a taste of his own medicine as he grounds to Ramirez, who starts a slow-developing but ultimately successful 5-4-3 double play. Ramirez grounds out to second.
Lefty Matt Thornton will pitch to Henry Blanco, who hits in the pitcher's spot. Blanco jumps on the first pitch but hits it right to Quentin in left. I failed to mention that Micah Hoffpauir was announced to hit for Howry but Guillen brought in the lefty Thornton, so Piniella pulled The Hoff in favor of Blanco. At least this is according to MLB.com. I missed it on TV because I was too busy reading TMZ.com. Fukudome strikes out. Theriot singles to keep the inning alive and bring Lee to the dish. Well, now I pronounce the eighth inning dead as Lee flies out to center. That's rather morbid. Sorry.
Sox 3, Cubs 3 ... Cubs 3, Sox 3
Kerry Wood will do some toeing of the slab of his own and will face Anderson to start the ninth. Anderson hits it over Fukudome's head for a leadoff double. Jim Thome hits for the pitcher and pops out to short on the first pitch. I interrupt this very important baseball game for this bit of breaking news: Six-foot alligator pulled out of the Chicago river, or, further evidence that the animals are taking over and we're all doomed. Full count to Cabrera and he flies out to right. Anderson cannot advance. Pierzynski checks his swing on on a 2-2 pitch. Soto appeals down to third and AJP is called out. He then slams his batting helmet down. We go to the bottom of the ninth all leveled.
Meanwhile in Austria, the Turks and Croats are locked in an epic extra-time battle, with the Turks taking the lead in the 124th minute only to watch the Croats answer two minutes later. Crickets ... Moving right along, Ramirez, Soto and DeRosa due up for the Cubs. Scott Linebrink will pitch for the Sox. But not for long: Ramirez launches the game-winning homer into the junipers.
Final: Cubs 4, Sox 3
The Cubs take first game, scoring on a double play and three solo home runs. Once Danks was out of there, they were able to get to the Sox's pen. Sox fans are going to questions Ozzie taking out Danks after throwing only 85 pitches. More fun tomorrow, everyone. We're here all weekend for you. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the weekend.