Cubs Find Their Thrill... On Koyie Hill...

If you've walked around the streets near Wrigley Field the last year or so, ever since Michael Barrett slugged A. J. Pierzynski, you've seen the independent T-shirt vendors hawking the shirts that have a photo of that incident in a "newspaper headline" frame reading:

Who Says The Cubs Can't Hit?

Who says, indeed. The Cubs hit early and often today, and it was the guy who everyone wanted to DFA, Koyie Hill, who had a total of 19 RBI in 76 lifetime games before today, having what might be his career day in the Cubs' 12-1 blowout win over the Giants this afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Hill had two doubles and a career-high five RBI, and had a shot at driving in more runs when he came up with two runners on in the seventh; he struck out. But he's had his moment in the sun; if he never has another day like this, he'll be etched forever in Cub lore. Incidentally, in looking up his career record in the Cubs media guide during the game, I learned he has a daughter named Phoenix Rose. Where else can you learn this stuff?

Here's more: the last Cubs catcher to have five or more RBI in a game was Paul Bako on April 5, 2003, when he drove in six at Cincinnati. Scott Servais was the last Cub catcher to accomplish that feat at Wrigley Field, driving in five runs on May 19, 1997 -- against Dusty Baker's Giants.

It wasn't just Hill, either. On a day when Derrek Lee, nursing a minor injury suffered when he fouled a ball off his ankle last night, decided to drop his appeal and begin serving his suspension, since he was likely to be out 2-3 days anyway; and when Aramis Ramirez sat out (he's likely to do this most of the rest of the year, sit out day games after night games), the Cubs banged out 11 hits (no home runs, either), and drew ten walks, all but three of which scored.

This is what you can do when you work counts and just get on base. Good things follow.

It didn't start out that way. Matt Cain, whose 3-10 record belies his 3.53 ERA, kept the Cubs in check for the first three innings and the first two outs of the fourth, matching Carlos Zambrano, who ill-advisedly tried to snag Dave Roberts' leadoff comebacker with his pitching hand (Hint, Z: you need that hand to pitch with. That's why you're wearing a glove on the other one. Just sayin'.). Z's fine, but was removed after five innings -- probably due to this incident, the 9-0 lead, and the stifling, sticky weather conditions which also claimed Giants catcher Guillermo Rodriguez (dehydration was the claimed reason).

Anyway, the Cubs scored four runs after two were out and no one on base in the fourth, on singles by Cliff Floyd and Mark DeRosa, a walk to Mike Fontenot (who also singled and drove in a run with a sac fly), and a two-run single by Jacque Jones, who pumped his fist excitedly and clapped when he reached first base. Hill followed with his first double. Five more runs followed in the fifth, helped by four walks.

Walks. What a concept! Keep this in mind: ten walks is 2.5% of last season's entire total of 395.

After Z was removed, Sean Gallagher came in and finished -- getting a rare four-inning save. I can't remember the last time I saw such a thing, and it was a smart move, saving the rest of the bullpen for another day (and Gallagher's the likely one to be sent down when Ryan Dempster comes back this weekend). Gallagher threw a fairly economical 55 pitches in his four innings, finally running out of gas in the heat in the 9th, when he allowed the Giants' only run on three straight singles, before getting Bengie Molina (who had replaced Rodriguez) to hit into a double play and pinch hitter Rich Aurilia to pop up to end the game. Billy Petrick had briefly started to throw after the three singles, but I'm glad Lou left Gallagher in to finish.

Barry Bonds was not seen once the game started, at least not on the field. We joked that he might already be in Milwaukee, where the Giants go this weekend, or even back in San Francisco. He did hit in the batting cage during BP time -- neither team hit on the field after last night's long game. All kidding aside, Bonds, unless he's seriously hurt, will probably start tomorrow, even though lefthander Ted Lilly is scheduled to start.

Longtime friend from Pennsylvania, David Geiser (who posts here occasionally as dvdmgsr) sat with us -- and he's now allowed to come back, as the Cubs won for the first time since he's sat with us on the LF side (he was here during the Marlins series and also last night). And during the game I noticed a guy standing behind us watching who, I thought, was a dead ringer for Johnny Damon. In the last couple of innings he sat down in front of us and I asked him, and he said yes, he'd been told that before, and he'd even cut his hair and shaved a beard just about the same time that Damon did the same. Anyway, I gave him a BCB card, so "Johnny", if you're here, welcome! Also got a welcome from a member of the Cubs' security staff who told me he's a BCB reader.

We are everywhere, aren't we?

Also this afternoon, the Reds completed a sweep of the Braves in Atlanta, so the Cubs are tied for second place in the wild-card race with the Braves. If the Padres lose tonight, both teams will trail San Diego by only two games.

With storms having inundated many parts of the Chicago area over the last couple of days, the Cubs have been fortunate to get the first three games of this series in with only a couple of sprinkles during Monday night's contest. There is more rain in the forecast tomorrow, though most of it is expected to blow through in the morning. Let's get that out, and get the game in, and take 3 of 4 from the Giants. Incidentally, the club attendance record for a four-game series, set April 16-19, 2004 vs. the Reds, which is 159,461, is likely to fall tomorrow. The first three games have drawn 121,176, so any crowd of 38,286 or larger tomorrow (that's almost a lock) will break that mark.

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