And just what did we learn today from today's 6-4 Cub win over the Diamondbacks, their second come-from-behind win in a row, completing a sweep over a team that came into Chicago with the best record in baseball?
First, mea culpa to everyone I was talking to in the game thread saying "CALL THIS GAME NOW!" I figured there was no way they'd play this afternoon, given the horrendous weather all morning -- pouring rain, strong winds, feeling like it was 2003 again; so I stayed home during the morning hours (had lunch, did the Sunday Tribune crossword, kept track of weather radars) instead of going to claim my bleacher seat. Watching the webcams (thanks, ballhawk!) we saw that the seats were claimed by about 12:30, so when I arrived Mike, Phil & I sat with, appropriately, I thought, on Mother's Day, some longtime bleacher season ticket holders who are moms, Judy & Colleen, in their seats in right-center field next to the concession stand. Judy's daughter is in her 20's and married, but Colleen had her three young kids in tow. They spent most of their time slopping hot dogs, cokes and cotton candy all over the place, calling each other "idiot", and racing in and out so many times it made my head spin. (The oldest, to her credit, at least attempted to keep score.) Mike said it was "almost as good entertaiment as what was on the field, and free!"
Well, at least before the Cubs mounted their two comebacks, it might have been the best entertainment of the day (No, I'm not including the idiot who ran onto the field, jumping out of the bleachers -- the last guy who tried that broke both his ankles -- who was tackled by security and the off-duty cops who patrol for those sorts of things). But the Cubs, who had given the lead to Arizona in the first inning after two were out and no one on base (I hate those!), took it back with some small ball in the second -- a walk, a single, a sacrifice by Sean Gallagher, and a wild pitch.
The long-ball gave them the lead in the third, in the form of Derrek Lee's opposite-field HR, his tenth.
The lead was coughed up in the fifth, with yet another lesson learned: here was a textbook example of how certain statistics mean absolutely nothing, in this case pitcher ERA's. Sean Gallagher, who I thought threw pretty well before running out of gas in the 5th, gave up hits to three of the first four batters he faced in that inning (after allowing only two hits and two walks through four), and then intentionally walked Chris Young to load the bases while Chad Fox finished his warmup tosses.
Fox shouldn't have bothered. He walked the first two hitters he faced, Conor Jackson and Justin Upton, forcing in two runs. After that Fox settled down and retired the next two hitters, and threw a scoreless sixth, even while issuing another walk.
Thus Fox's ERA goes down, and Gallagher's goes up through no fault of his own. Fox, I think, really doesn't belong on this roster. He's a feel-good story, but that's about it. And I was beginning to be of the mind that Lou didn't know what he was doing, NOT using Fox in a five-run blowout in the 9th inning yesterday, then using him in a key situation today.
Which leads to another lesson learned, and this one was taught both to me and D'backs manager Bob Melvin. After Reed Johnson tied the game with his first Cub HR (hit into the teeth of a 25-MPH wind blowing in from LF), Lou brought in Carlos Marmol yet again (I thought he could have stuck with Michael Wuertz in the 8th; Wuertz threw exactly four pitches in dispatching the D'backs in the 7th) -- I swear, Marmol's arm is going to fall off if Lou keeps this up -- Marmol took care of Arizona easily, and the Cubs came up in the last of the 8th down by two runs.
After Aramis Ramirez singled... well, something happened, and I'm not sure what. Did someone miss a sign? Or did someone not give a sign? Aramis took off for second base and surprised everyone in the ballpark, most of all Arizona catcher Miguel Montero, who nearly flung the ball into the center field ivy; Ramirez was safe for only his 12th career SB, his first since 2006 (and only his fourth since becoming a Cub nearly five years ago).
That's when the fun began. Kosuke Fukudome laid down a perfect bunt that hugged the wet grass down the 3B line (hey! a use for rainy days after all!), which put Ramirez on third with nobody out. After Geovany Soto's "swinging bunt" advanced Dome to second, Lou schooled all of us. Daryle Ward had been on deck to pinch-hit for Marmol, the seemingly "obvious" PH move, but instead, Lou sent up Alfonso Soriano (who got a huge ovation; I suppose, for yesterday's 4-for-5).
Bob Melvin ordered Soriano intentionally walked to load the bases. Then, Ward batted for Felix Pie. Melvin either forgot to have a lefthander up or doesn't trust his bullpen lefties, because Ward slammed Tony Pena's second pitch in the gap right in front of my Sunday perch, winning the game. Sometimes Lou appears to be not-so-slick because, well, some of his postgame comments may not seem as articulate or funny or pithy as some other managers. But oh, he's smart, thinking two steps ahead of the other guy. Bob Melvin and the rest of us: lesson learned.
Kerry Wood hit another batter (didn't he do this a lot as a starter, too?), but got out of the inning with a slick DP turned by Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot and Derrek Lee.
Learned my lessons today: never question Chicago weather, because there was no typhoon today; after it stopped raining it wasn't too cold, though quite windy. And never question Lou Piniella. He's the right guy for this job.
Finally, maybe a lesson learned for some of you who questioned me when I picked the Diamondbacks to finish fourth in the NL West. Yes, they're a good team with good young talent. But they sure didn't impress me this weekend. Savor this sweep; the Cubs just gave notice that they will need to be reckoned with as this season continues what is beginning as a fascinating one.