Really, it shouldn't have even gotten as far as the top of the ninth.
The Cubs had numerous chances to put today's 6-5 loss to the White Sox away and failed almost every time. Ten men left on base; RISP left on base in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 9th innings and the worst part about the above is that the Cubs had runners in scoring position with less than two out in every single one of them, and a runner on third with less than two out in four of the five innings (the only exception, the first, where the RISP was left stranded on second).
Do this and that's a recipe for losing, and that's exactly what happened. This game could have and should have been put away in the first inning, when the first four Cubs reached base and two runs scored before the first out was recorded. Javier Vazquez looked shaky and another hit or two might have had him out of the game. Instead, he struck out Jim Edmonds and Geovany (the scoreboard at the Cell had it wrong, "GEOVANNY", in the lineup introductions) Soto, and the Cubs had to settle for a 2-0 lead, which they promptly coughed up in the bottom of the inning, with a two-run HR from Jermaine Dye and then -- what else -- a two-out run-scoring double from Joe Crede.
After letting the Sox extend the lead to 4-2, the Cubs took it back in the fourth at 5-4, with three hits sandwiched around a walk to Kosuke (the Sox PA announcer, Gene Honda, has gotten this wrong -- I wonder if deliberately -- for two days, saying "Ko-SUE-kay") Fukudome, who was, thankfully, back in right field today and looked fine. But then, they allowed the Sox right back into the game in the last of the fourth; Alexei Ramirez homered to make it 5-5.
Sean Gallagher managed, somehow, to complete six innings, though I wonder what the 121-pitch outing, the longest of his major league career, will do to his next start, and wonder what the scouts who must have been here looking at him must think of Lou letting him go that long. Granted, the bullpen has gotten toward overwork of late, but still. Both starting pitchers labored -- Vazquez reached 105 pitches before completing the fifth inning, and the game dragged toward two hours in that inning as angry storm clouds started to build over the South Side, an announcement was made that severe weather was in the area and we should be prepared to "take cover", and torrential rains and some hail hit parts of the North Side.
Wanting to not get soaked, I left my seat and stood under the upper-deck overhang for a couple of innings, until blue sky appeared to the west. Literally at the second I returned to my seat it started drizzling, did so for about five minutes, then stopped and the sun returned. The seat I had -- in the third-to-last row of the LF bleachers -- is a story in itself. The ticket I bought was for section 108, row 9. Finding that seat, I discovered it was directly behind the RF foul pole -- but not marked "limited view" on the ticket. Give the Sox customer relations people credit -- they managed to find a single unused seat in the LF bleachers, which I happily exchanged. Before the game I stopped by the first row near the Cub dugout, where my friend and BCB reader dfrancon was sitting, and there may be photos coming my way later tonight. Meanwhile, most of the Sox fans were in a jovial, not nasty, mood today -- right in front of me, a marriage proposal from a Cubs fan was made to a female Sox fan, who gave a teary-eyed acceptance (I dunno -- I wonder about those mixed marriages), and her name -- unless the scoreboard operator was making it up -- was Helen Keller.
I've digressed, and maybe you'd rather read about that than the leadoff HR that Carlos Quentin hit off Carlos Marmol, which was the game-winner. Marmol looked shaken after that, going back to his wild ways of the last couple of weeks, walking Dye, but then got out of it with no further damage, but the Cubs could do nothing against the suddenly-solid Sox bullpen. Biggest credit, really, goes to Matt Thornton, who came in with D-Lee on first and one out and struck out four of the five batters he faced.
And when Lee -- who went 5-for-5 today and got stranded all five times -- led off the 9th with a double that didn't miss being a game-tying HR by too much, hope sprung up in the Cubs fans I was standing near (I left my seat again, to stand near one of the exits, because if you don't do that, getting out of the Cell when there's a sellout is like the Dan Ryan at rush hour), but Bobby Jenks got three straight ground balls, and even though the first one, a comebacker, advanced Lee to third where a simple fly ball would have scored him, it didn't happen.
Frankly -- and this may be a controversial viewpoint -- this team really misses Alfonso Soriano, infuriating as he is at times. Including the game in which he got HPB and got the broken hand bone, the Cubs are 8-8 since his injury. You know as well as I do that Soriano can carry a team for weeks at a time when he's on -- he did it in September 2007 and again just last month. We need him. We need tomorrow night's game, and the pitching matchup isn't favorable. But isn't that sometimes when "the book" comes through the least? At least we know it'll be a faster game than the first two; Mark Buehrle is probably the fastest-working pitcher in baseball. With the lefty Buerhle going, we'll likely see Matt Murton in LF tomorrow night.
Finally, this is the last time I keep score with a neon-green pencil with smiley faces on it (I tried it to change the Cubs' luck. NO such luck.)
Go get 'em tomorrow. I don't want to trade sweeps with the Sox.