Marlon Byrd of the Chicago Cubs is hits a in the head by a pitch in the second inning against the Boston Red Sox on May 21, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
BOSTON -- The two things in the headline aren't related, but they're there because they are the two big stories from Saturday night's 9-3 Cubs win over the Red Sox, played in weather reminiscent of the misty, windy, cold conditions that have prevailed in Chicago (and Boston, for that matter) most of this spring.
In the top of the second inning, Marlon Byrd was hit by an Alfredo Aceves pitch in a manner reminiscent of the beaning Sammy Sosa took from Salomon Torres in Pittsburgh in 2003; the 2003 beaning shattered Sosa's helmet. Byrd's stayed intact, but only because the ball hit his face underneath and gave him a gash that required his immediate removal from the game. The way Byrd writhed around on the ground when he first went down was truly frightening. He did walk off under his own power, but has been in a Boston hospital overnight and is likely going to be out for a while. All I can add is that I hope he'll be all right. It was the second HBP of the game -- Kosuke Fukudome had been hit to lead it off -- and Carlos Zambrano hit Kevin Youkilis later on, but according to these tweets from Carrie Muskat, Z was "trying to make his pitch". Given the breezy and damp conditions, I believe him.
Now, this would normally be enough to make a game like this memorable. Oh, but we are just beginning.
The teams took the field wearing 1918 throwback uniforms; it seems odd that the Red Sox would have worn completely blank white uniforms and caps, but indeed, that's exactly what they looked like that year; numbers were added to the backs of both teams' shirts, since neither wore uniform numbers until the 1930s.
For two innings during the middle of the game, Fenway Park "reverted" to a replica of what it might have seemed like in 1918. The PA was turned off except for the organ and two men with megaphones announced the batters. Even from my seat in the left field pavilion (which would be roughly comparable to a front-row seat in the Wrigley upper deck in the left field corner), you could occasionally hear what was being said by them. No ball and strike counts were kept on the side scoreboards, but the lights indicating ball/strike/out on the Green Monster board did continue to indicate those numbers. Incidentally, I learned something about that manually operated board that I did not know before; although the score of the game at Fenway is updated from the inside, the out of town board is only changed between innings, when someone with a ladder comes out from the little door at the board's left and changes scores. Charming, in a way, although there is no other out-of-town board in Fenway at all.
And we still haven't gotten to the real interesting part of Saturday night's win.
The game slogged through the fog, the Red Sox taking a 2-1 lead on a David Ortiz two-run homer off Z in the fourth and extending it to 3-1 in the sixth before Z was lifted after having thrown 122 pitches. That is only the 17th time this year a starting pitcher has thrown that many or more pitches (most: 130 by Roy Halladay on April 24, but he threw a CG). Every one of those other 16 games had the pitcher involved go at least six innings; Z was pulled with two out in the sixth.
Part of that has to be the Red Sox. I have never in my life seen a team play as slowly as they do; we make fun of the nationally televised Red Sox/Yankees games for taking so long, but it's not the Yankees causing the problem. Red Sox pitchers. Are. The. Most. Deliberate. People. I. Have. Ever. Seen. They take their time at the plate, too.
So it was that more than three hours had gone by when the Cubs came up against reliever Matt Albers in the top of the eighth trailing 3-1. About 35 minutes and a pitching change later, the Cubs had their biggest and weirdest inning of the year; it contained five hits, two walks, three Boston errors and seven straight Cubs reaching base before Koyie Hill made the first out of the inning (a strikeout). It was so bizarre that the Red Sox actually had two chances to get out of it with fairly minimal damage, only to see normally sure-handed shortstop Jed Lowrie drop an easy popup, and then have a left fielder make an error on a play that started with a catch made in right field. It was so wacky that Alfonso Soriano made a serious baserunning mistake -- and not only did he score, but so did Jeff Baker, running behind him.
It was nice to be able to be the one laughing at the result of a poorly played inning, instead of being the fans of a team being laughed at. Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol (unnecessarily, I'd say, for Marmol) finished up the 9-3 win and, once again, for the tenth time this season, the Cubs go into the rubber match of a three-game series with a chance to win the series. In the previous nine tries, they have succeeded twice (in Arizona, and in Los Angeles).
It's not going to be any easier Sunday night, after the announcement that Matt Garza's turn in the rotation is going to be skipped because of elbow tightness. Garza says it's no big deal, although he'll be examined in Chicago on Monday, and he knows the reason:
"I'd say it's a weather issue," Garza said. "I'm just not used to pitching in the cold weather a lot. The best thing to do now is listen to them and do what's right.
"It hasn't gotten worse. It just hasn't gotten better."
Who will start on Sunday will depend on who is used out of the bullpen in Saturday's game. Cubs manager Mike Quade said it may be similar to a Spring Training game in which everyone chips in. The Cubs have Monday off.
Now, seriously, that's a really bad idea for two reasons. This isn't spring training, and why would you tell your opponent that you're basically blowing off a regular season game. Worse, after that article was written, the Cubs announced that James Russell will once again start. That's bad enough on its face -- he has an ERA of 10.05 as a starter, compared to 8.2 scoreless relief innings, proving that he has no business starting -- but beyond that, the Cubs did have another option. Randy Wells is scheduled to pitch tonight in Iowa. What would be the harm in flying him to Boston and limiting him to 75 pitches or so? It couldn't possibly be worse than sending Russell out there, especially after he threw 39 pitches on Friday night!
I just don't understand some of Mike Quade's decisions. At times, they seem completely divorced from reality (and winning baseball games).
Finally, thanks to BCBers Vermont Cubs Fan and CaughtInTheVines for organizing our meetup last night at Boston Beer Works across the street from Fenway Park. And thanks too to Tom Ricketts (and Cubs marketing exec Wally Hayward) for stopping by to share a couple of drinks with us. Just to complete yesterday's weird happenings, I was driving over to Fenway yesterday afternoon, stopped at a light in downtown Boston, when I hear my name called from the car next to me. It was Tom Ricketts, sitting in a taxi stopped next to my rental car.
A strange day and night, but ultimately enjoyable in every way. My thoughts are with Marlon Byrd; hope he's OK, and now, let's win this series tonight.