Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
This was quite a treat after the Tour came to an end…I watched and scored this game from a DVD of the original broadcast (Comcast) recorded for me by Mark. A memorable game, if not for a few other reasons than mostly for the fact that it was my first trip ever to Wrigley, to celebrate my 40th birthday.
I remember how bloody cold it was as my sister, then-fiancee Mark (soon-to-be brother-in-law), his daughter, my wife and both kids got on the train and headed for Wrigley…with our parkas and scarves.
We settled in to our bleacher seats, watched BP with many ‘regulars,’ and eventually watched a truly exciting game – Lou Piniella’s first win at Wrigley as Cubs manager. It was an astonishing small-ball explosion that really ignited the baseball fire in me, Cubbie-style.
At the time, the visiting Reds were first place in the NL Central, and the Cubs were dead last. Even though it was very, very early in the season, the Cubs were already enjoying quite a skid. Funny when you consider that by the end of the season, the NL Central was THEIRS and this was the lineup that got things started, even with both Aramis Ramirez and newcomer Mark DeRosa absent from the game due to minor injuries.
Watching the telecast of the game, I kept looking for us freezing in left field – some close calls came our way as we could read the brand name on left fielder Cliff Floyd’s sunglasses and my sister’s friend Mike hurled insults at Adam Dunn. Indeed, this was the game where my oldest daughter got her very own ‘lucky Cubs baseball’ when Cliff Floyd tossed a ball her way in between innings. I missed the act itself as I was visiting the restroom…I’ll never forget making my way back to our seats to see her holding up that unforgettable souvenir, beaming as if it was the most excellent prize ever.
REDS 0 6 1
CUBS 7 9 0
Rich Hill got the W, and pitched 7 uneven yet effective innings. That being said, it really was an unusual pitching matchup. Bronson Arroyo pitched 6.2 otherwise effective innings – a wild pitch and 2 Sacrifice plays in the Cubs’ 5th inning was where the game started to get out of hand. Until that point, Arroyo seemed to be the winner of the standoff by only a very slight edge; Hill had walked 4 and struck out 4 by then, 1 GIDP. Arroyo had walked one, struck out 4, but worked 2 GIDP. Both had only allowed 2 hits apiece. So, a difference of a DP and a few BB - other than that, scoreless...until the 5th.
Not sure where the wave came from, but it was as impressive today as it was when I was there 2 years ago. Michael Barrett and Cliff Floyd both reach on back-to-back singles to left-center; the Ronny Cedeno’s RBI SAC Fly followed immediately by Cezar Izturis with an RBI SAC Bunt. 2 runs on the board, just like that.
Arroyo finishes the 5th by getting Hill to ground out, but it’s too late by then…in the next frame, he walks one, allows 2 more hits, and is only spared a run threat when he catches Alfonso Soriano stealing 3rd (PO 1-6). In the 7th, he falls apart…Edwin Encarnacion’s error allows Cliff Floyd to reach first leading off, and the hinges really start to fly off. Yet ANOTHER sacrifice play by Cedeno (a bunt this time around) advances Floyd, Daryle Ward is intentionally walked, and the Cubs follow with Soriano (base hit), and Ryan Theriot (RBI single). Arroyo is then yanked by then-manager Jerry Narron (on his own way out, eventually) in favor of Jon Coutlangus, who walks Jacque Jones to load the bases. Coutlangus out, Victor Santos in…and his first batter faced is Derrek Lee, who unleashes a 3 RBI double after a 2-0 pitch. That's the only scoring in the entire game, the Reds are shut-out and the Cubs put up 7 in two seperate innings by squeezing and cheesing the ball outright.
Again, I am still stunned by the small-ball prowess this team had at that time…4 sacrifice plays total, all skillfully executed. What happened to this edge of the Cubs?!? A few innings like these two this season would really have made a difference now and then. It’s OK – I had a marvelous experience that day (and the DVD to back it up), my daughter still has the ball...
...and the Cubs STILL have a chance this year!!