This one had a chance. Really, it did. As I said to Mike after the 9th inning, today's game had already leaped into the top rank of all Cubs home openers after Kosuke Fukudome's dramatic, frenetic, amazing three-run homer that had Wrigley rocking tied the game.
But in the end, the thing that was supposed to be one of the most solid aspects of the 2008 Cubs -- its bullpen -- failed. Kerry Wood had good velocity today -- hitting 96 on the ballpark speed gun several times -- but bad command, hitting Rickie Weeks with his first pitch.
That was his undoing, as with two out, Corey Hart hit a two-run triple. We all thought the game was done, until Dome's incredible shot. Dome was, obviously, the Cub star of the game, singling, doubling, walking and hitting the HR.
The Cubs lost to the Brewers 4-3 in 10 innings today in a game delayed twice by rain, 40 minutes at the start and 50 minutes in the bottom of the third. It rained most of the time play was taking place, too; heavily before the delay in the third, less so after the second delay, although it didn't stop for good until the 8th inning.
So one dome team -- the Brewers -- plays in Chicago and wins. Another -- the Blue Jays -- were to play in New York and got rained out. When will the schedulers learn? Today, I heard that there are rumblings that MLB brass is threatening to fine players who complain about the weather. Shades of Bowie Kuhn sitting coatless at the World Series back in the 70's, pretending it wasn't cold.
It wasn't too cold today -- game time temperature was 44, but once the first rain blasted through, the wind shifted to the southwest and the temperature jumped into the not-uncomfortable mid-50's, though the gusts made it hard to hold on to the umbrellas we all had raised most of the time. Howard arrived promptly with the Jimmy John's sandwiches not long after the gates opened, but he spent much of his time during the first delay downstairs, while I watched the KC/Detroit game on the plasma screen across the street at one of the rooftop clubs.
Who says you can't entertain yourself during a rain delay?
During the pregame delay several Cubs walked across the field to hit in the batting cages beneath the bleachers. Guess who got the largest ovation? Mark DeRosa.
DeRo hit two fly balls that nearly caught enough of a wind gust to make the bleachers during the game; both wound up caught by Tony Gwynn Jr., unfortunately.
The usual lineup-along-the-baselines Opening Day ritual for both teams was dispensed with in order to speed along some of the other pregame activities, including a moment of silence for the NIU shootings, a nice touch, and the Cubs will fly a NIU flag on top of the upper deck all season. When the Cubs took the field, Dome ran to his RF position to a rousing ovation, and dozens of signs, including a huge section-long banner reading "FUKUDOME". He took off his cap and gave what in Japanese culture would be seen as a formal bow, very slight.
It was a much more excited and lively crowd that greeted him after the HR. He did do a curtain call out of the dugout, but also doffed his cap to the remaining crowd in RF.
For eight innings it was a pitchers' duel, starters Ben Sheets and Carlos Zambrano nearly matching each other pitch for pitch into the 7th. Sheets was yanked after giving up the single to Dome, and Salomon Torres hit DeRosa and walked Geovany Soto (good sign today: the Cubs drew four walks). While Soto was at bat, Dome got hung up in between 2nd and 3rd and had nowhere to go; DeRo took second, but Jason Kendall ran all the way out to near the SS position to tag Dome out.
That seemed to take a lot out of the Cubs; in the previous inning Z had left the game with forearm cramping. This has happened to him before, and having thrown 89 pitches, Lou took him out, likely as a precaution in the wet, sticky-cold conditions (my gloves finally got so wet I gave up and just put them away). I'm sure he'll be fine for his next start.
Carlos Marmol relieved and threw one pitch to finish the 7th, breezed through the 8th, and then, unfortunately, Wood and Bob Howry simply didn't do their jobs. But is this a disaster? (A certain local newspaper columnist will probably say so.) No, it's not. It's one game. Closers fail (and this isn't a blown save, since it wasn't a save situation). It's just as likely that Wood will throw great in his next six outings. I can quibble (and Phil was haranguing me in the bleachers all inning about this) about the choice of Howry to throw the 10th. Phil said Michael Wuertz might have been a better pick, and I think I agree.
Oh, and it didn't help that the first two spots in the batting order went 0-for-10, either.
One comment about the crowd, and I realize it was Opening Day and the weather was terrible -- but security in the bleachers was nearly nonexistent. I didn't see a single security person upstairs until after the rain delay; the new no-smoking-anywhere-in-Wrigley (mandated by the new state law) was being widely flouted by people smoking right in front of the many new no-smoking signs, and until several security supervisors came by, people were refusing to sit down in front of us during game action. It wasn't rowdy -- except down the LF line in the box seats late in the game where there was a disturbance -- but if this isn't addressed, it could get that way. Hopefully, this can and will be addressed soon.
It's late and I'm cold and tired and wet, but tomorrow I'll have some more things from the opener to post. Many of you liked the scorecard scans I posted last September and I'll scan mine and post it. Also, we at SBN are doing some test mobile audio posts. I recorded what I call some "Sounds of the Game" today on my phone and I'll put them together in a "mobile post" tomorrow afternoon.
Finally, it was nice to meet BCB's newest most prolific poster, Keystone80435, who stopped by and said hi. Thanks for the fries, incidentally. Several other BCB readers who didn't identify themselves, just said they read and like the site, stopped by to say hello -- thanks to all of you.
And despite the loss (hey, it's only 1 game of 162. Not worried), it was nice to feel home today. Home at Wrigley. Home to baseball. Now let's go get those Brewers on Wednesday.