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At last, life at Comiskey
The sounds of old Comiskey Park were resurrected Tuesday night at the ballpark across the street from where the proud, old stadium once stood.
Often criticized as a sterile, lifeless park, new Comiskey came alive on cue before the largest regular-season crowd in its seven-year history, as the White Sox beat the Cubs 5-3 on a chilly South Side evening.
A standing-room-only crowd of 44,249 rocked the joint from beginning to end, and the Sox evened the three-game series against their new North Side rivals, with the rubber game set for Wednesday night.
It wasn't anything like a playoff game, with two sub-.500 teams, but you couldn't convince anyone afterward that a postseason feeling wasn't in the air. Chris Snopek, who had a homer and two RBIs, spoke of the "amazing pressure" the players felt with every pitch.
"It's just (because of) the Cubs, the intercity battle, the fans on each side giving it added pressure," Snopek said. "You try to play it off and act like it's a normal game, but that's hard to do."
"It was loud," winning pitcher Doug Drabek said. "Whether they were booing you or cheering for you, it was always at the same time. You had that noise going, and that's how it always is in the playoffs."
Dave Martinez also homered for the Sox, who turned in several defensive gems, helping them snap the Cubs' modest three-game winning streak, still tied for their longest of the season.
The Sox remained five games behind Cleveland in the American League Central, while the Cubs stayed 5 1/2 behind Pittsburgh in the National League Central.
The Sox led 5-2 in the ninth when Roberto Hernandez gave up a leadoff double to Sammy Sosa and a walk to Dave Clark. But after Ryne Sandberg grounded out and Kevin Orie's groundout brought in Sosa, Hernandez retired Scott Servais for his 14th save.
On Monday, the Cubs turned in their best defensive effort of the season, but on Tuesday it was the Sox's turn to flash some leather. Martinez made a running catch on the warning track in right to deny Sosa of extra bases in the sixth, and Albert Belle--yes, that Albert Belle--made a spinning, over-the-head, one-handed grab of an Orie shot in the seventh.
"(Monday) they played good defense and they cut off the runs," Ozzie Guillen said. Today, we played good defense."
Drabek (6-4), who ran his career record against the Cubs to 17-11, held them to two runs on six hits in six innings before Matt Karchner pitched two scoreless innings.
"That was vintage Drabek," Cubs manager Jim Riggleman said. "He was on the ropes a couple of times but always made the necessary pitch."
Cubs rookie Jeremi Gonzalez (2-2) was shaky early, giving the Sox first blood. Gonzalez allowed a leadoff single to Ray Durham in the first, followed by a one-out homer by Martinez, his seventh of the year, and the Sox led 2-0.
The Sox added another run in the third on back-to-back singles by Lyle Mouton and Jorge Fabregas and a sacrifice fly by Mario Valdez. It would have been much worse if not for a fine, running catch by Brian McRae in deep center on a Snopek drive.
Gonzalez got into trouble again in the third when he walked the first two hitters, but he escaped the threat when he induced Belle to ground into a double play and Harold Baines to fly out.
The Cubs got on the board in the third, loading the bases on singles by Mark Grace and Sosa and Clark's infield hit off Drabek's glove. Sandberg singled home a pair of runs to cut the gap to 3-2, but Guillen turned an Orie grounder into an inning-ending double play.
Snopek's sacrifice fly in the fourth made it a two-run game again, and the Cubs stranded runners on the corners in the sixth when Sandberg struck out.
The Cubs battled back, but the raucous Sox crowd got the last laugh.
"It's kind of a shame we have to (have a Cubs-Sox game to) get this kind of crowd," Hernandez said. "Hopefully we can get better and have it like this all the time."