The Cubs seem to bring rain wherever they go these days, and those are literal, not figurative, storm clouds hanging over them.
Of their 73 games so far this year, 10 have been delayed by rain -- and that doesn't include their three postponements, two of which will be made up next week at Wrigley Field. I can't remember a half-season where there had been this much inclement weather following the Cubs around.
Tuesday night at the Cell, Mark Buehrle and Matt Garza were headed toward a sub-two hour game, throwing strikes (51 of 70 pitches for Buehrle, 51 of 72 for Garza); when the windy, lightning-filled storm hit in the top of the sixth, game time was at only an hour and 24 minutes. (For reference, Buehrle threw a complete-game victory over the Mariners in one hour, 39 minutes on April 16, 2005 at the Cell, probably the shortest game by time played in Chicago in the last 35 years.)
The rain delay was longer than that -- an hour, 45 minutes -- and when it was over, maybe half of the crowd of 35,155 remained. That is, incidentally, the smallest crowd in the 80 Cubs/White Sox regular season games since interleague play began in 1997, nearly 5,000 short of capacity. It may wind up smaller than that tonight if bad weather threatens again, which it might.
Paul Konerko homered for the White Sox. You know, I could put that sentence in a template and put it in just about every recap I write about these games -- the Sox first baseman has started 58 games against the Cubs in his career and hit 18 home runs, off pitchers from Todd Van Poppel to Andrew Cashner. He'll get his 2000th hit later this year and last night's second-inning HR, which was absolutely crushed and gave the Sox a 1-0 lead, was his 386th. He's having a MVP-caliber season at age 35 and if he can even come close to this production over the remaining life of his contract, you might begin to hear Hall of Fame whispers around him.
Enough praise for a White Sox player. The Sox added a run in the third, but the Cubs crawled back into the game with a Carlos Pena blast in the fifth, his 13th of the season.
You may not realize how impressive that is. It was the ninth HR Buehrle had allowed this year -- but before that home run, Pena was 3-for-51 against lefthanded pitching, with just one home run.
The Cubs got runners on first and third in the sixth and Jeff Baker had just been called out on strikes when the wind whipped up and the rain started; the gusts made it difficult for the grounds crew to get the tarp down. That made for about 15-20 minutes extra delay when it finally stopped raining; there were huge puddles on the infield dirt when the tarp came off and it took a while for them to lay down enough Turface to continue.
Aramis Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly off Sox reliever Jesse Crain. The Sox got the run back off Jeff Samardzija with a pair of hits and a Brent Morel sac fly. The rest of the game was fairly anticlimactic, although it was somewhat surprising to see John Grabow actually getting out of a jam caused by Rodrigo Lopez in the bottom of the eighth.
Sox closer Sergio Santos, who started this year with 20 straight scoreless innings before the Dodgers pounded him on May 20 for four runs, also had a couple of bad meltdowns against the Athletics and Mariners. Last night he was pretty much unhittable, striking out three of the four batters he faced to end it. The Cubs dropped to 9-11 in one-run games, which is still better than last year, when they started 15-30 in such games.
The crowd was about as subdued Tuesday night as it was on Monday. There was some heckling back and forth between Sox and Cubs fans, but mostly good-natured, and it seems that's going to be the case for most if not all the games between the two clubs this year, with both teams apparently going nowhere. One thing heard loudly last night -- Sox fans booing Adam Dunn, who struck out twice more and has five K's overall in the series. Imagine what it would be like on the North Side if the Cubs had signed him.
There's one other thing that stood out for me last night, as I had pretty good seats only about 10 rows off the field in section 152 down the left field line. Alfonso Soriano really can't run at all any more. He basically jogged -- and that's being generous -- after line drives that got past him down the line. Some Sox fans were ragging on him for "loafing", but it wasn't loafing. He just has no legs left, at least that's the way it looked to me. Unfortunately, we are likely stuck with him for three more seasons.
The two teams will go for the series win tonight. Let's hope Doug Davis has another outing like last Friday's in him.