I was on a boat last night anchored off the shore Lake Michigan listening to the Allman Brothers Band at Charter One Pavillion. It was a grand time on a beautiful late summer night. The beer was cold, the lake colder.
But I had a feeling like I should be somewhere else. Like when Obi Wan Kenobi feels a great disturbance in the force, except it was just the opposite.
As we sailed south from Belmont Harbor toward the Planetarium, I looked back and could see the bright nimbus over the north side from the lights at Wrigley, calling out to this sailor like the Sirens wail. Not really, but it was a pretty cool sight on a humid night. Little did I know the excitement taking place under that glow.
Not until I got home and turned on the really late SportsCenter did I see
's grand slam. Someone had offered me tickets to the game. It was a tough choice but I chose the boat and "In the Memory of Elizabeth Reed." I don't regret it but it would've been nice to witness that moment at Wrigley in what has become a season of moments.
If you haven't heard,
like Eight Belles sometime next week. ChicagoSports.com will be deader than Mark Prior's career, but we're not going far, just to ChicagoTribune.com/sports and this feature, for one, will be the same. We hope it won't make a difference to you, dear reader, who is the reason we choose sunshine each morning over lying in bed all day with the blinds shut and seasons 1-3 of the "A-Team" on DVD. Well, that and a paycheck.
Today we've got Rich Harden for
and Joe Blanton for the
. It's all right here for you in the
They ought to get Wayne Messmer a new microphone because the one he's got now doesn't work. But he's sure singing away, oblivious to the sound glitch. Maybe it was just Comcast didn't have the sound. Anyway, we'll be off shortly. I probably should put the comment board up. Sorry about that. I'm off to a great start!
It's 80 degrees out with a 9 mph swirling wind, out of the north right now. In other words, it's damn nice out. Jimmy Rollins taps the first pitch right back to Harden, who steps on first himself. Shane Victorino pops out to Ryan Theriot in shallow center. Harden plunks Chase Utley right in the upper backside. That brings up Ryan Howard with a guy on and he works the count full. Harden just misses off the inside corner and walks Howard.
Full count to Pat Burrell, too. Runners on the move and and he pokes a single through the hole on the left side to score Utley.
First and second for Jayson Werth. Harden fans Werth with a changeup. He got two quick outs and then struggled a bit there.
Phillies 1, Cubs 0
To clarify: I had committed to the concert before the tickets became available. To make matters worse, I haven't been to a single Cubs game this season. Probably should get on that. And everyone ripping on me for it, including Gregg Allman, well, I agree with you. Sometimes in life you reach a fork in the road. Sometimes you pick the wrong road and end up tied to the whipping post. Big, ol' Joe Blanton gets two quick strikes on Alfonso Soriano before walking him. Theriot flies out to center. With Derrek Lee up, Soriano takes off for second and the pitch goes off the catcher's glove and to the backstop. Needless to say, Soriano was safe at second. Lee drives it deep to right but Werth runs it down on the track. Soriano tags and takes third. On another day, that ball might've gotten out. Aramis Ramirez gets a big hand as he walks to the plate. Ramirez bounces back to the pitcher to end the first.
Phillies 1, Cubs 0
The comments section is in fine form today, I must say. And, no, Little Martha, Melissa, Liz Reed and Jessica were not on the boat. Sadly. Comcast just showed how the instant replay system would work at Wrigley and it's a real meeting of the old and new. The monitor is in this wood paneled broom closet that doubles for the umpires' room. There's a little wooden box with a brass latch on the wall that you would think contain a bunch of fake passports and a few grand in cash but inside that is a flat screen monitor. Greg Dobbs flies out to right. Harden walks the catcher Ruiz. Blanton bunts him along to second with a sacrifice. Harden walks Rollins. Is this the first time we've seen Harden struggle in his nine starts with the Cubs? Victorino takes a called third strike.
To those wondering about Harden's control -- or lack there of --he's pretty wild. He's thrown 48 pitches already, only 27 strikes, and it's not like he's just missing the plate. Emonds rolls out to Utley. DeRosa pops one down the right-field line. Werth gives chase but gets a little gun shy near the brick wall and misses it. Blanton then throws one up and kinda in and DeRosa hits the dirt. Blanton then freezes DeRosa with a nasty slider for a called third strike. Set him up with the ol' fastball near the noggin and then got him on a slider away. Fukudome flies out to left and the Cubs go down in order in the second.
Phillies 1, Cubs 0
Harden fans Utley to start the third. Howard pops up a full-count pitch and Edmonds takes it in shallow center. Harden quickly gets ahead of Burrell 0-2 and then fans him on the next pitch. Harden settles down and has no problem with the heart of the Phillies' order in the third.
Henry Blanco finally gets an opportunity to hit and pops out to short. Harden grounds back through the box and Blanton employs a hacky sack move to knock it down with his right foot. He picks it up throws out his counterpart. Soriano strikes out swinging and Blanton continues to have his way with the Cubs.
Phillies 1, Cubs 0
Harden returns to the first- and second-inning Harden and walks Werth on fourth pitches to start the inning. Dobbs pops it up to shallow right. Edmonds, DeRosa and Fukudome converge and Fukudome takes it and then fires to first to try and double up Werth. Lee makes a nice play to keep the ball from getting by him. One out and a runner on first for Ruiz. Ruiz hits a slow roller to Ramirez. He fields it, throws to second for the out and DeRosa nearly has his legs taken off by Werth's hard but clean slide. DeRosa didn't even get the throw off. Blanton pops out to third.
Nothing doing for the Cubs so far. They don't even have a hit. Still don't. Theriot takes a called third strike down in the zone and barks at home-plate ump Bill Welke. Lee bounces out to second on the first pitch. Ramirez hits a two-out single to center for the Cubs' first hit of this lovely Friday afternoon before the Labor Day weekend. Edmonds works the count full and that gets Ramirez moving on the pitch. But Edmonds pops out, Ramirez will stop running eventually and we move on.
Phillies 1, Cubs 0
Rollins rolls out to Lee. Harden fans Victorino with a low changeup. Utley dumps a broken-bat single into center.
Howard singles right past Lee and into right field. Utley holds at third. Fukudome fires it back it in and it hits Howard near first base. Lee gets tangled with Howard a bit, allowing the throw to get away and Utley comes home.
Lou Piniella comes out to argue, I guess, that Howard got in the way of the throw on purpose, which replays show he didn't. Fukudome is charged with a tough error on the play. Burrell lines out to third but the Phillies get one more on an odd play.
Phillies 2, Cubs 0
Len Kasper reports there are rumors circulating that the Phillies are trying to get Matt Stairs, who was designated for assignment by Toronto. Look out NL East! DeRosa draws a leadoff walk. Chad Gaudin gets up in the Cubs pen and is nearly drilled by a line drive foul ball by Fukudome. Harden may be done after throwing 100 pitches. That's been his magic number. DeRosa runs on the pitch; Fukudome strikes out but DeRosa is safe at second. Blanco beats out a chopper to third with his blazing speed; DeRosa takes third. Daryle Ward will bat for Harden.
Ward hits into what should be a routine 6-4-3 double play but Rollins relay throw from second sails way over Howard's head and that scores DeRosa.
Soriano pops out to Utley on the grass in right to end the fifth.
Phillies 2, Cubs 1
Gaudin's in there. Werth takes a called third strike to end a nine-pitch a-bat to start the inning. Dobbs singles to center. Ruiz bounces into a 6-4-3, inning-ending double play.
Theriot draws a leadoff walk. Lee takes three straight balls from Blanton with Ramirez looming on deck. Ball four; a four-pitch walk. Ramirez steps to the plate as Wrigley, which had been asleep, starts to buzz. The Phillies' pen stirs to work. A strike that wasn't a strike followed by three straight balls and it's 3-1. Ramirez flies out to center, too shallow for the runners to tag. Edmonds squibs one to third for the second out but both runners move up. We've got about our fourth conference on the mound between Ruiz, Blanton and various members of the Phillies infield. A wild pitch in the dirt bounces towards the Phillies dugout and where is Theriot? What the? He's dancing around on the line and never came home. The tying run was on a platter there. Paging Mike Quade. If Theriot can't see the play, isn't it your job to? DeRosa walks to load the bases and that's it for Blanton. Double switch time: Chris Coste comes on to catch and will lead off the seventh. Former Piniella favorite Scott Eyre to pitch to Fukudome. Speaking of Piniella, he leaves the lefty Fukudome in for the lefty-lefty matchup. Len or Bob, can't remember which, said Fukudome's average is 10 points higher against lefties, which is why Piniella didn't hit for him.
A 3-1 pitch to Fukudome is low. Ball four. Fukudome doesn't know it and holds up four fingers to the ump as if to ask, "Ball four?" Yeah, ball four. Beat it! The tying run scores.
What's up with Fukudome and Theriot? Funny but I don't recall seeing them on that boat drinking Heineken keg cans with me into the wee hours. Blanco takes a called third strike and leaves the bases loaded, but former Cubs reliever Eyre walks in the tying run.
Cubs 2, Phillies 2
They just showed a replay of Jeff Samardzija chugging in from the bullpen like he was running a post route and Piniella popped out of the dugout and told him to get back. I guess he was too early and Piniella wanted to announce the double switch. At any rate, Samardzija is the new pitcher and Reed Johnson replaces Fukudome in right. Conte singles. Rollins rolls to Lee, who throws to second for one but the return throw to first is late. Samardzija walks Victorino and here's Larry Rothschild to pay the pitcher a visit. Two on and one out for Utley. Utley grounds to DeRosa who starts the double play but Utley just beats it out at first. First and third and two outs for Howard. Howard grounds to Lee, who boots it and has to crawl after the rolling ball. He reaches it and throws to Samardzija covering first. He's out and livid. Big bumpkin Charlie Manuel ambles out to argue ... and we got right to the Sarge singing TMOTTBG. No idea if Manuel is throwing a fit while this is going on.
Replays show Howard was safe. So I guess while the Sarge was singing Manuel was arguing. The Phillies third base coach got run. Manuel did not and of course Comcast showed none of this. How about a split screen? That would've been tremendous TV. Clay Condrey is the new Philadelphia pitcher. Reed Johnson flies out to right.
Soriano pokes a solo shot to left to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead.
Theriot grounds out to first. Lee bounces out but the Cubs take the lead. A slim lead but a lead.
Cubs 3, Phillies 2
Samardzija remains to pitch the eighth. Kerry Wood is not available after pitching four straight days. Burrell rips a single past Ramirez and into left. So Taguchi will run for Burrell. Werth walks. Carlos Marmol getting warm quickly. Dobbs flies out to left. Lou strolls out to the mound. Marmol in; Samardzija out. Ronny Cedeno replaces Theriot on the double switch. Pedro Feliz will hit for Condrey on the other side. Marmol strikes out Feliz on a slider in the dirt. Marmol quickly gets ahead of Coste 0-2 before striking him out. Coste missed so badly on that that he launched his bat into the crowd. Marmol escapes that mess and it's his game the rest of the way.
George Will in the house and he's got a Cubs logo on his cellphone. Rudy the righty Seanez, who is probably older than Will, is the latest Phillies pitcher and he walks Ramirez to start the bottom of the eighth. Edmonds singles past a diving Utley. Ramirez stops at second. DeRosa gets the bunt down towards third and advances both runners. Cedeno fouls off a number of pitches and hangs in there 0-2. Seanez misses three times and the count's full. Cedeno just gets a piece of a low slider to stay alive. This one he misses for strike three. Blanco grounds out on the first pitch to end the eighth. The Cubs fail to get some insurance runs across and Marmol will face Rollins, Victorino and Utley in the ninth.
Cubs 3, Phillies 2
Ball one to Rollins. Marmol comes back with two strikes before Rollins taps it right back to him for the first out. Marmol gets ahead of Victorino 0-2. Victorino pops it up down the right-field line where Lee makes an over-the-shoulder, two-handed catch in the middle of the Phillies' pen. Not many first basemen in baseball make that play. Marmol nearly hits Utley in the feet with a sharp, biting slider. Marmol falls behind 3-0 before dropping two strikes in. Marmol climbs all the way back and fans Utley on that signature disappearing slider. Game over.
Final: Cubs 3, Phillies 2
The Cubs win a close one. The bullpen picks up Harden who struggled, but still gave up only the two runs. Soriano breaks the tie, Marmol was money and we head to the weekend. Enjoy it everyone.