Chicago Cubs pitcher Mitch Williams winds up to pitch. (Credit: Stephen Dunn/Allsport)
1989 was a season we all remember fondly... well, that is, until the Cubs headed to San Francisco with the NLCS tied at one game each.
This game was against the hated Mets; the NL East standings of the contenders before this game began were:
Cubs 77-60 StL 75-61 Mon 73-64 NYM 72-64
It was nervous time. And this game didn't help.
Ever since the Cubs took over first place by themselves on August 7, it's been nervous time. Even though the lead expanded to 4.5 games 10 days later, it's been slowly eroding away.
Tonight's 3-2 loss to the Mets didn't help those matters, or for that matter, the sanity of any Cubs fan, including me. The loss, combined with the Expos' 6-2 win over St. Louis, moved Montreal to within three games and the Mets to 3.5. Fortunately (I guess that's the right word), if the Expos had to win, at least they beat the second-place Cardinals, so St. Louis remained 1.5 games behind, and the Cubs stuck it out for another day in first place. That result, despite the Cubs losing, reduced the Cubs' magic number to 24.
See, this is what scares me. 20 years ago, right about this time of year, the magic number dropped to 22 and all of us thought, "What could go wrong?" A lot, as it turned out. (Please, history, don't repeat yourself this year.)
Oh, you want to know about this game. Jeff Pico didn't pitch well, but he didn't pitch too badly, either. He gave the Mets a single run in the first and the fourth and then was yanked for pinch-hitter Mitch Webster after throwing just 64 pitches. Webster grounded out with two runners on to end the inning. (Pico could have done that.)
Paul Kilgus, who has been up and down this year, had one of his better outings, throwing three scoreless innings with three strikeouts. This allowed the Cubs to get back in the game, although not with anything resembling high-powered offense. Andre Dawson, who at last appears to be coming out of his season-long slump (hitting .309/.371/.605 with six HR and 22 RBI in his last 23 games), drove in the first run with a grounder to deep short, and the Cubs tied the game in the top of the ninth off Sid Fernandez with a Luis Salazar sac fly.
That lasted all of four batters. Mitch Williams, who had thrown a 1-2-3 eighth, stayed in for the ninth and retired the first hitter, but then gave up a double to Tim Teufel. Williams managed to get the second out, but then Juan Samuel scored pinch runner Lou Thornton with a single to right.
The Cubs head to Philadelphia tomorrow. That should be a good thing, as the Phillies are awful this year. Greg Maddux goes for the Cubs. That should result in a win, and the Cubs will be one game closer to the NLCS.
Right? Right? Someone convince me.