It was, apparently, "Backwards Day" at Wrigley Field on Monday evening.
"Rodrigo Halladay" defeated "Roy Lopez", or something like that; the Cubs beat the Phillies 6-1.
How else can you explain a game like that? Roy Halladay, who had shut down essentially this same Cubs team a month ago in Philadelphia, gave up a first-inning home run to Aramis Ramirez and had to leave the game in the fifth inning due to the heat -- the first time in 63 road starts that he had not gone at least six innings.
Meanwhile, Rodrigo Lopez threw the same soft-tossing, offspeed slop that he had baffled the White Sox with a couple of weeks ago and left the game with two out in the seventh inning to a standing ovation. Raise your hand if you knew, before the season started, that Rodrigo Lopez would get a standing ovation at Wrigley Field this year for anything. On top of that, he got a hit, his first as a Cub, scored a run, and executed two perfect sacrifice bunts.
Oh, and Koyie Hill stole a base. This is a rare enough event -- only the third of his career -- that it merits mentioning the other two times: September 15, 2010, at St. Louis off Chris Carpenter and Yadier Molina, and August 16, 2004, when he was with the Diamondbacks, off Sean Burnett and Jason Kendall of the Pirates.
The steamy heat that forced Halladay out of the game didn't seem to affect anyone else; Carlos Pena hit his 20th home run (and 250th of his career), a monster shot that nearly hit the TV camera hut in left-center field. That blast, off reliever David Herndon, completed the scoring. In the interim, the Cubs drew three walks -- that's usually the work of an entire series, not just one game -- and everyone reached base at least once except Alfonso Soriano, who went 0-for-4 and misplayed a foul popup into an error (fortunately, the hitter, Ryan Howard, hit a lazy fly to center field and was out anyway). Soriano hit 10 home runs in 25 April games. Since then he has hit four home runs in 54 games.
The only other real story from Monday night's game was Carlos Marmol's first appearance since Friday, in a non-save situation. This was a good, low-leverage situation for him to see if he can get back on track. And for two batters, it appeared to work; a strikeout and an easy ground ball put him one batter away from a 1-2-3 inning. Not satisfied, Marmol walked the next two hitters before striking out John Mayberry Jr. to end the game. He threw just 15 strikes in 29 pitches. Clearly, more work has to be done to "fix" Marmol.
Announced attendance: 38,183. In the house: probably about 30,000 again. The bleachers were more populated than they were on Sunday, but still had large areas of empty seats.
My friend Mike said to me as the game was ending, half-jokingly, "This will be the Cubs' three-game winning streak -- they'll sweep this series." As unlikely as that sounds, with the pitching matchups the next couple of days... it's possible. That would be the most bizarre twist in a season that can only be described as "weird".