Friday, June 24, 2011

6/24/11 Chicago Cubs 6, Kansas City Royals 4

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO
Game 1 of 3

What a pair!!

The most anticipated series of the season (at least for me, as both a Cubs fan and a Royals fan) begins in Kauffman. Lucky me, I’m in Chicago for the weekend.

This was the Cubs first series vs. the Royals since 2002, their first series in KC since 2000. Since 1997 the Cubs lead the series 9-6.

I call it the “Yin-Yang” series…not in a sense of ‘good and evil,’ or ‘light and dark,’ but as in ‘THIS and THAT.’ Those who know me well, know that my baseball journey started in my childhood with the Royals. I remember Kauffman in the early 70s, when it was “Royals Stadium.” Those days are forever burned into my brain, even as my life changed and I moved away from the area and, eventually, away from Baseball. My return to Kauffman in 2009 was a profound emotional experience, at a minimum. Along with Wrigley, Kauffman is the heart of the baseball experience.

Of course, the two places are much different…and in a somewhat obtuse ‘yin-yang’ sorta way. Wrigley is an elder stadium with class and minimal upgrades. Kauffman is an elder stadium with class and maximum upgrades. Both places represent to me a dual spectrum of baseball experience that serve as the pinnacle of pride, location, and fan activity that are examples to the modern-day baseball fan that you can have it both ways.

Of course, ‘modern-age’ upgrades to Wrigley (including a jumbotron) would serve as nothing less than blasphemy. In the same breath, I believe that the upgrades to Kauffman have enhanced its majesty with nothing less than utmost respect for the tradition that has stood, and still stands proudly, within those walls. By comparison, a visit to Great American Ball Park feels empty…a great place, with plenty of visual stimuli and between-innings shenanigans, but I don’t feel the presence of Crosley Field, Riverfront Stadium at all. More importantly, I know that Pete Rose and Johnny Bench never played there, I know that Tom Browning never pitched a no-hitter there. All I can think of is Sean Casey, Barry Larkin, Ken Griffey, Jr, and *cough* Adam Dunn…and that’s just not the same.

Wrigley, naturally, is much different in that respect. A few years shy of Wrigley history is Kauffman, but no emptiness. It may have been astro-turf at the time, but look over to third base…the greatest baseball player of all time, George Brett, played right over there. Dick Howser paced in that dugout. Bo Jackson roamed in that outfield. Bobby Floyd played there, even if only for a short time. And the water spectacular is still there, as are the posts, the wicked angle cantilever roofing, and the “Crown Vision” jumbotron (albeit updated tremendously). It was made for baseball at a time when stadiums were made for other unholy sports. Most of them are long gone, Kauffman isn’t and that is just awesome. The 6th oldest baseball stadium in the U.S. Kauffman and the Royals are important to me, just as Wrigley and the Cubs are important to me. Is one more important than the other? Sure, just a little bit. But that doesn’t matter. The jewels of my baseball universe head to head…that’s the best thing I could ask for. But I didn’t have to ask, so that’s even better.

And, don’t let anyone else fool ya…the greatest treat of all for a true baseball fan is to enjoy a game while rooting for both sides.

This first game of the contest was, indeed a treat. Dempster and Chen both pitched well, and both teams enjoyed sparks of offense that culminated in a 4-4 tie at the top of the 9th.

As a Cubs fan, here’s where the fingers of fate start wrapping around your throat. Timely hitting has never been the forte of this team, and Aaron Crow is a pretty darn good pitcher. Lo and behold, after striking out Soriano to lead off, Tony Campana gets on base with a bunt single (scouting report: he’s kind of FAST), then “the kid” DJ LeMahieu reaches on a single.

Leave it to Chris Getz to bobble what should have been a routine double-play ball to end the 9th off the bat of Kosuke Fukudome, scoring Campana (he is FAST, ordinarily the bases would have been loaded). Starlin Castro is next, and takes a 1-2 pitch for a chopper ground ball to score LeMahieu. The Cubs have a rally; a 6-4 lead with 1 on, 1 out and…Aramis Ramirez at bat.

Ah, there’s that double-play ball…a little too late for Crow to stave off the damage, but in time to end the inning.

The bottom of the ninth…where Joakim Soria has been unpredictable this year, Carlos Marmol has been Carlos Marmol all year. Striking out the first 2 batters, Billy Butler belts a scorching double to right field…Jarrod Dyson comes in as a pinch runner, and Alex Gordon is next. Time for the tums? Not today…I’m thinking about EXTRA INNINGS!!!

Not a chance…Gordo grounds out to Castro and the game is over. Cubs WIN.

Thanks to timely hitting!!

In the top of the 1st inning, Starlin Castro gets his 100th hit of the season, and during the next at bat, gets caught stealing for the first time.

In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Chris Getz reaches base on a single, and is then thrown out 2-6-5-6 after attempting to steal second during the next at bat by Melky Cabrera. Getz flies through second, scurries back to second when the put out occurs. Can it be a SB and a caught stealing in the same play?

Not this time, and here’s why: The ruling was that Getz never safely made it to second base, so no SB was officially credited.

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