MILWAUKEE -- Just a little over a year ago, Reed Johnson made a diving, cap-bending, jaw-dropping catch in Washington. Ultimately, that didn't wind up being anything but highlight-reel fodder, since the Cubs lost that game.
But last night, Johnson literally stole a grand slam from Prince Fielder in the fifth inning by reaching over the wall into the Cubs' bullpen to snag Fielder's long drive. That saved three runs -- it wound up being a sacrifice fly -- and that was the difference in the Cubs' 8-5 win over the Brewers.
Johnson wouldn't have even been in the game had it not been for an injury to Milton Bradley, who pulled up with a groin injury at third base while running an inning earlier. Sitting in the loge level behind third base with some of our regular bleacher group, we all wondered whether Lou would move Kosuke Fukudome to RF and put Johnson, who had gone in to run for Bradley, in CF. Good thing he did what he did, because Fukudome probably doesn't make that catch. It appears that Fukudome's going to be a center fielder this year and that Johnson will play wherever he's needed.
Last night, man, did we need that catch. While the Cubs could have swept the series with a few breaks, they also had some other good play and breaks that won them the two games they did, and any time you can go on the road and win four of six, you'll certainly take it.
The rest of the game was a walk-fest; the Cubs drew ten of them and now have 29 walks in six games, averaging almost five per game. Four of those walks in the fourth inning scored runs -- that's the second time in the first week of the 2009 season that a team issued four bases-loaded walks in a single inning (the Braves did it vs. the Phillies in a 12-11 loss last Wednesday) and the Cubs were happy to take it, because apart from Alfonso Soriano hitting his second leadoff homer of 2009, the offense consisted of a pair of doubles by Ryan Theriot and Koyie Hill (whose name appears as "KOYLE HILL" on the Brewers scorecard), and singles by Fukudome and Theriot.
The catch bailed out Ryan Dempster, who said that he'd buy Johnson a "burger" on the way home (strange; Paul Sullivan in the Tribune said "burger" -- I'm guessing an editor had his way with that -- while the Sun-Times and cubs.com had no problem identifying Dempster's real quote as "Culver's"). Dempster had control problems himself, and didn't have his best stuff, but managed to slog through six innings, allowing four runs and striking out six. Corey Hart hit his second homer of the series, a solo job.
Another solo shot -- a long one into some OF seats that have TV monitors and easy chairs that the Brewers auction off every day -- was hit off Kevin Gregg in the 9th after he had retired the first two batters easily on ground balls; Rickie Weeks took him deep, and then after a Craig Counsell double and Ryan Braun walk, Fielder came up representing the tying run. Gregg, pitching in front of a small remnant of the original 40,168, by then mostly Cubs fans, struck him out. Is something wrong with Gregg? From Bruce Miles:
Cubs manager Lou Piniella is going to change how he uses Kevin Gregg. No, Carlos Marmol is not the closer despite finishing Saturday night's game and earning a save.
"Gregg is our closer; I said that last night," Piniella said Sunday. "Look, I found out an interesting piece of information on Gregg that I didn't know about. And that's that once I get him up and don't use him, his knee tightens up on him. So I can't get him up (when the Cubs are) down by 1 run and then all of a sudden I lose him for later on or he's not as effective later on.
"What you'll see, probably, from Gregg also, I won't use him at all in the eighth inning because he sits here. And then he goes out there and his knee's a little tighter in the ninth. I wasn't aware of that. It was communicated to me by the trainer and by Gregg yesterday."
So, apparently, the knee injury that bothered Gregg much of last year is still an issue? Did the Cubs know this when they traded for him? Is this another player the Cubs are going to have to baby?
Meanwhile, today's forecast doesn't look very good, although it gives a glimmer of hope:
Today: Rain, mainly before 1pm. High near 43. Breezy, with a east wind between 20 and 25 mph, with gusts as high as 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.
If the rain is really going to ease up after 1 pm, maybe they can get the game in. On the other hand, with the injury to Bradley, perhaps it's better, with the team getting in very late last night, to just call it off and play tomorrow. We'll know in a few hours.