A Going-Away Present: Cubs 9, Marlins 2

The Cubs beat the Marlins 9-2 this afternoon, winning the series (their sixth straight series win), the season series from the Marlins 4-3, and said goodbye to south Florida for 2008 (Note to Mets and Phillies: please keep the Marlins in third place!) -- and good riddance.

I mean, seriously: a rain delay when it's not raining? And yes, I well remember the non-rain delay on August 23, 1999 at Wrigley Field, when at game time, 7:05, it wasn't raining but the field stayed covered until it DID start raining at 9:15, at which time they called the game. That game, which had a sellout crowd, had to be made up as a conventional single-admission doubleheader two days later, costing the Cubs about $1 million in ticket sales (based on 1999 prices) and likely costing Ed Lynch his job. Today, they delayed the start about 20 minutes, keeping the field covered, because they thought a storm might drift over the park. It never did.

This game didn't start out propitiously for the Cubs -- they kept leaving runners on base, shades of last night, five left on in the first three innings. And let me say right now: I like Ryan Theriot's attitude and hustle. But seriously, he has to stop stealing bases, or trying to, because his 58% success rate (18 SB, 13 CS) is horrid. And what was he thinking, trying to steal third with nobody out in a scoreless game in the third inning? Even Bob Brenly, who nearly always praises Theriot, ripped him for doing that. While Theriot is having a nice year via BA and OBA, what little power he showed last year (30 doubles) is gone (only 16 so far this year). A few days off wouldn't hurt.

Meanwhile, Ryan Dempster was throwing a nice game; his first mistake wasn't really his, it was Alfonso Soriano's, for not playing Cody Ross' high drive off the wall correctly. Thinking he could catch the ball, instead it took a Fenway-like bounce away from him for a triple. If Ross is held at second, maybe he doesn't score, because the next two hitters made outs (a shoestring catch by Kosuke Fukudome helped), and maybe the Cubs then give Hanley Ramirez an intentional walk and get out of the inning. In any case, it was just one run, and Dempster gave up another one on a walk and a double in the sixth, but then got out of the inning with only one more run scoring. In the interim, Soriano had played the next ball hit off the goofy scoreboard in Miami well, and it looked like he had thrown Ramirez out at second base, but it appeared the umpire was out of position to see Mike Fontenot tag him on the leg before it reached the base. No harm, because no runs scored in that inning.

And then the Cubs exploded in the seventh, and once again, everyone contributed; the Marlins' Renyel Pinto, so good early in the year, had an 18.00 ERA in five August appearances coming into this game with six walks in three innings, and after Mike Fontenot and Reed Johnson had started the inning with hits, for some reason, Fredi Gonzalez left Pinto in to throw to four straight right-handed hitters, with predictable results: he walked Mark DeRosa, then Soriano doubled in the tying runs (past a sliding Luis Gonzalez, who might have been able to make that play five years ago, but not at two weeks shy of age 41), one out later -- for some inexplicable reason -- Gonzalez ordered Derrek Lee walked intentionally to pitch to Aramis Ramirez with the bases loaded.

Now, we all love D-Lee, but seriously, who would YOU rather face with the bases loaded? In his career, prior to today, Lee is .214/.254/.491 with 8 HR with the bases loaded; A-Ram is .337/.336/.625 with 7 HR (that's not a misprint of the OBA there -- he's got 14 bases-loaded sac flies, and 7 bases-loaded walks). Anyway, we're all glad the Marlins chose to face Ramirez, who smacked a double down the line just out of reach of third baseman Jorge Cantu, breaking the tie to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead. Ramirez, incidentally, now seems fine after that minor shakeup Thursday night in Atlanta.

The best part of watching that was seeing the close-up replay of the dugout with all the Cubs watching intently, then exploding into cheers, led by Johnson and Henry Blanco (who eventually got into the game, and singled and scored, raising his career-best BA to .292), when the ball skipped into left field. It's cool to know that they're rooting that hard for their teammates.

And then, after a sac fly by Dome, two more walks (one intentional, one drawn by ONEDEC!), Johnson (who finished 4-for-5 today and is now batting .314), batting for the second time in the inning, drove a ball to the wall in left-center, clearing the bases and finishing the 8-run inning, the 22nd time the Cubs have scored five or more runs in an inning, far and away the most in the NL (the Phillies with 17 are 2nd).

Dempster got a deserved win, his 14th (one short of his career best), with the offensive outburst and Neal Cotts, Jeff Samardzija and Carlos Marmol finished up without incident, throwing three innings of one-hit relief.

So the Cubs are back to .500 on the road at 31-31, and finish up a 5-1 road trip, their best multicity trip of the year (I say "multicity" because the four-game sweep at Milwaukee, a single-city trip, was also outstanding). Goodbye to Miami and that silly mosquito mascot. We await the result of today's Brewers-Dodgers game, at this writing led by the Dodgers 3-0 in the second after two first-inning homers, to see if the Cubs will go into the off-day up by 4.5 or 5.5 games.

Great series, great trip. Enjoy the off-day tomorrow.

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