MILWAUKEE -- 20,093 Cubs fans and 20,093 Brewers fans (yes, they seemed almost exactly split today among the 40,186 in attendance at Miller Park), all of whom read this BCB thread the other day, spent the day in peaceful coexistence, watching the Cubs beat the Brewers 6-2, winning a series for the first time since they took two of three from the White Sox May 18-20.
Seriously, I saw absolutely no incidents between Cubs and Brewers fans today -- even though WTMJ, the biggest radio station in Milwaukee, was handing out T-shirts that read "THE WINDY CITY BLOWS" -- even though I'll bet some of you will post stories of trouble, I saw none.
I didn't see jacob, either, even though he emailed me and said he'd stop by my seat in the loge level. I did see Bruce Miles, who stopped by to say hi.
And I witnessed a solid performance by the Cubs, particuarly by Felix Pie, who had a single, double, and the biggest hit of the game, a three-run homer (his second, both on the road) in the second inning that gave the Cubs a comfortable cushion that allowed Carlos Zambrano to relax and throw one of the best starts he's had all year (77 strikes in 117 pitches in 6.2 IP -- he ran out of gas before he was able to complete the 7th). Z also had two hits and an RBI; this raised his batting average to .296 and lowered his ERA to 5.38. His sixth win leads the entire staff -- that's yet another reason that individual pitcher wins don't mean that much, since he's now on pace to have another sixteen- or seventeen-win season.
The Brewer fans booed him loudly -- not really booing any other Cub -- probably remembering the comments Z made about the Brewers' lineup not being as good as the Reds back in April. But Z seemed almost eerily calm today, channeling his energy instead into his hitting and pitching, the way we remember him doing so over the last several years. If this really is the "new" Z, then by all means, let's keep him. I know many of us will go back and forth on this subject until the trading deadline -- and really, if the Cubs do fall out of contention by then, and it doesn't seem as if they'll sign Z, then by all means trade him.
But I think this team can still contend. And if Z pitches like this, then he's got to stay.
The only runs Z gave up were on a mammoth two-run HR by Prince Fielder that hit the beer sign above the hitters' background in CF. It was announced at 420 feet, but that had to be at least a 450-foot HR, given that it hit a sign that was at least thirty feet over the fence. There's no shame in giving up a HR to Fielder, who tied Alex Rodriguez for the major league lead with that blow, his 21st, and who very well might be a front-runner for MVP honors in the National League at this stage of the season.
The day began sunny, with Miller Park's roof open and bright sunshine on most of the field and on my seat behind the on-deck circle in the loge level, but clouds soon came in and cooled things off -- it was only in the upper 60's -- and only a few minutes after the last out, it started raining lightly. They must have known this in the stadium operations department, because they tried to close the roof. It was almost comical -- first the right-field side closed, slowly, but never made it to the center. Then the left-field side crept along the top of the outfield railing on which the wheels run, but instead of fanning out and covering the left-field half, meeting the right-field half in the middle, the panels creaked to a halt, almost running into each other, and the result was a gap of about 1/4 of the area that's meant to be covered. Fortunately, the game ended before rain -- or roof leaks, which have also been a problem at times at Miller Park -- caused any delays.
The Brewers are supposedly the class of the Comedy Central. Yet, the Cubs won four of the six games played there this year (they won't return in 2007, unless -- and I'm not predicting anything here, just saying -- the clubs would meet in the NLCS). That's got to mean something, and I do think it's very, very odd that the Cubs have a better record on the road (14-15) than at home (11-17). Incidentally, before you rail against Wrigley Field again, it's not the specific ballpark that's the issue, it's the failure to build a team that is suited to the specific ballpark.
Notes: Sean Gallagher was recalled and given uniform #36, a number he's always wanted but was never able to get:
"There was always one guy -- Paul Schappert had my number," Gallagher said. "I told him, 'Hey, you can keep it. One day I'll have it.' I've got my day."
It was a nice trip up to Miller Park -- I always enjoy it there. And it really has become a good rivalry, now with a little bit of history between the two clubs. The ten-game stretch that began last Friday is now 3-3. The Cubs really do have to win at least 3 of 4 in Atlanta, no easy task, to make a statement that they really do intend to contend. Onward.