Before I get to the details of today's game, let me tell you about this movie.
I had several friends of mine, who had seen it, tell me, "That's Al!"
Having seen it, I can tell you... yes, it's me.
The movie is based on Nick Hornby's memoir of his days growing up in England, rooting for Arsenal, a soccer (UK: football) club who in his childhood days (Hornby's in his late 40's, about my age) was about where the Red Sox used to be before last year, or where the Cubs are now -- lovable losers. Now, of course, Arsenal is one of the powers of British soccer, so such a book written today would be very different in tone.
The book was made into a film in Britain in 1997, and was adapted to baseball by the Farrelly brothers, who are responsible for such juvenile stuff as "Dumb and Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary" -- as well as a sweet little film that appeared juvenile on its face, but had a message to it as well, "Shallow Hal".
The film chronicles the 2004 season, and how Ben, the schoolteacher played by Fallon, and his buddies divvy up tickets, how they have a little family at Fenway (sound familiar?), and how they live and die with the Red Sox. All the while Ben is wooing Barrymore's Lindsey, a high-powered executive with a high-tech company (they "Meet Cute", as Roger Ebert would say, when Lindsey invites some of Ben's ninth-grade math students to her office).
I'm sure you've heard about the ending to this film, which was re-written and re-shot to include the Red Sox' championship -- and it's clear to me, having seen the film and how it was set up, that the Farrellys actually expected the Red Sox to fail again, as they had for 86 years. The ending, which had some controversy to it as Fallon and Barrymore were actually allowed on the field in St. Louis when the Red Sox won the World Series, seems contrived... but only a bit. It's a sweet love story, and everyone wins.
AYRating for the movie: 3 1/2 stars
AYRating for the ballgame: Um, well, not as many.
Z just cannot seem to stop giving up home runs to the Pirates. Rob Mackowiak, who has made an entire career out of hitting Cub pitching, hit another one -- this time, after having changed his #59 uniform number of the last couple of years, to #3. Oddly, Mackowiak came into the game with only a .215 lifetime average against the Cubs -- but that included, as you surely remember but wish you didn't, two amazingly damaging home runs last May at PNC Park.
Even worse, David Ross, a catcher who came into this season with a .213 lifetime average, also homered off Z.
Dusty trotted out one of his spring training lineups, with Jerry Hairston playing center field (thanks, Jerry, for misplaying yet another ball in the 8th, something he did with disturbing regularity during spring training) and leading off -- hey, at least we had a leadoff man who drew a walk today -- and Neifi! batting second.
Darned if Neifi! didn't hit a home run. I don't know what it is about this guy. He's not a very good hitter. Yet, since he has been a Cub, about a month and a half, he's now 31-for-82 (.378) with 3 HR and 9 RBI. Yeah, I know, small sample size. No, I don't really want him playing every day either. But ever since he replaced Todd Walker in the starting lineup after Walker's injury, he's been hitting, just as he did filling in for Nomar last September.
It's beyond logical explanation.
Jason Dubois also homered tonight, a shot that went "DOINK!" off the RF foul pole. Will this get him playing time tomorrow? Nope, not with a right-hander, Kip Wells, going. There's another lefty going on Sunday, Mark Redman, so that ought to get Jason the start. Eventually, he'll hit enough homers that even Dusty will have to notice.
The bullpen, which had been outstanding all week, failed in the 8th -- after Mike Remlinger gave up a single to that pest Mackowiak and a double to Daryle Ward, Chad Fox came in and gave up an RBI double to Bobby Hill (shudder!) and then there was the ball hit by Chris Duffy, the misjudged ball by Hairston, for another run -- Duffy's first major league hit, incidentally.
Nomar and Aramis did nothing again tonight. If it were me, I'd shake the lineup around a bit -- maybe bat Derrek Lee or Michael Barrett in the two spot, maybe even try Nomar at leadoff -- but you think Dusty will?
As many of you know, I'm a Baker fan. I think he's the best man we've had as a manager in my lifetime.
But at some point, he's got to admit that he's wrong about some things, because this team cannot afford to lose another game in this series, against a clearly inferior team.