As Cubs manager Dusty Baker sat in the sun-soaked visiting dugout at U.S. Cellular Field Sunday morning, someone asked how his team would react to a season-worst four-game losing streak.
"We've got to ride it out," he said, working his ever-present toothpick.
Interesting analogy, Skip. The Cubs and White Sox came at each other Sunday like a couple of red line trains clattering along on the same tracks.
This was a collision between two teams crawling toward .500the Cubs from just above, the White Sox from just below. The Cubs and Sox entered Sunday's game with a combined record of 80-79.
Mediocrity, thy name is Chicago. Our baseball glass is half-full and half-empty.
The Cubs went south in more ways than one this weekend. When their bus left for U.S. Cellular Field Friday morning, the Cubs were tied for first place. They awoke Sunday morning in third, behind St. Louis and Houston.
The Sox, meanwhile, were trying to avoid the bends as they climbed toward the top of the sludge pool known as the American League Central. Sunday morning found them in third place, chasing Kansas City and Minnesota.
No wonder both sides kept an eye on the big out-of-town scoreboard in right field as their final meeting of the season played out. Final regular-season meeting, we mean.
The weekend's marquee mound matchup sends the White Sox's Esteban Loaiza, 11-2 with a 1.99 earned-run average, against the Cubs' Kerry Wood, 7-5 with a 2.94 ERA.
Both pitchers issue walks in the first frame, following a trend set Saturday, when the two sides walked 16 men and six of them came around to score. But Loaiza and Wood escape trouble by coaxing double-play grounders.
Cubs 0, White Sox 0
Sammy Sosa would love nothing better than to answer the jeering multitudes with a blast into the seats. But he pops weakly to his opposite number, Magglio Ordonez, and the Cubs strand Eric Karros after he doubles with two out.
In the bottom half, Wood walks Ordonez to open the inning. You'd think that by now the Cubs would know to keep Ordonez off the bases. On Saturday, Ordonez created the winning run by taking second on a deep fly to Sosa, then racing around on D'Angelo Jimenez's bouncer up the middle.
After taking third on Carlos Lee's single, Ordonez tags up on Jose Valentin's medium-deep fly to left, beating left fielder Tom Goodwin's throw by yards.
There's more bad news for the Cubs on the big scoreboard in right field. The Cardinals have leaped out to a 4-1 lead over Kansas City down in Missouri.
White Sox 1, Cubs 0