Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs hits a walk-off two-run homer against the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Cubs defeated the San Diego Padres 8-6. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
If you had put that in a list of 10 choices of how Wednesday's Cubs/Padres game would end, I'd have ranked that 10th.
And yet, after three hours and 30 minutes of less-than-stellar baseball, that's exactly what happened, and the Cubs had their first sweep and three-game winning streak of the season with an unlikely 8-6 win over the Padres, further proof that the Cubs at last found a team that's worse off than they are.
And if you think it was exciting for fans, here's how exciting it was for Barney:
#Cubs Darwin Barney on HR: "That was 1st walkoff HR I've ever had at any level. I didn't even see it go out."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 30, 2012
If you were looking for good baseball on this coolish, mostly cloudy afternoon that felt more like September than May, you didn't find much of it before the Cubs rallied from behind in the eighth and ninth innings. Just how bad was it before then?
338 pitches thrown. (The Cubs, surprisingly enough, don't rank near the top of the NL in pitches -- they were eighth coming into Wednesday. The Padres ranked third in most pitches thrown.) 13 walks and what seemed like an interminable number of 3-2 counts. Three more Padres home runs. The Padres hit 30.8 percent of their entire season's worth of home run output in this series -- eight of 26.
But hey! The Cubs won, and there was some good stuff, too. Follow me past the jump for the good stuff.
The best thing that happened -- apart from the walkoff -- to the Cubs Wednesday afternoon was the outstanding double play turned by Barney, Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair, all three making good plays, in the top of the ninth inning. If not for that, Carlos Quentin's double off James Russell would have scored the lead run for the Padres, there still would have been nobody out and who knows what would have subsequently happened?
Instead, there were two out and just one runner on and Russell struck out Chase Headley to keep the game tied.
The second best thing was the play that tied the game in the bottom of the eighth. Tony Campana pinch-ran for pinch-hitter Reed Johnson, who singled. Campana stole second and drew a throw and then stole third uncontested, all after the first two hitters in the inning made outs. After David DeJesus walked, Castro hit a slow roller to third base and did the thing that every single base coach and manager says you shouldn't do -- slid headfirst into first base.
He might have been out if he'd done that. That was one of the few times when the headfirst slide actually made sense. Castro was safe and Campana scored the tying run, setting up the bottom-of-the-ninth heroics.
Before that, Ryan Dempster struggled, giving up all three homers, two to Quentin and another to Chris Denorfia, and got hit hard in general, even when recording outs. He also issued four walks and threw 98 pitches before Dale Sveum had pity on him and lifted him. The Cubs were treating Anthony Bass just as rudely; Bass also walked four, and when he issued two straight walks with the bases loaded in the fifth, making the score 6-4, Bud Black took him out in favor of Miles Mikolas, who promptly walked in another run.
The Cubs drew four walks in one inning. Can't remember the last time that happened.
Also give some credit to the Cubs' bullpen today: Casey Coleman, Carlos Marmol, Randy Wells and Russell, who threw 4⅔ innings and allowed just three hits and no runs, and "only" two walks. Yes, even Marmol, who was a little wild with a pair of walks -- he got booed after the second one -- but got out of the inning with a routine fly ball and a strikeout.
The announced "crowd" of 38,516 wasn't even close to that many. There were wide swaths of empty seats in both the upper deck and lower deck, though the bleachers were about 90 percent full. It wasn't great baseball, but it was entertaining and the ending was great. We probably won't have too many of these this year, so let's enjoy it while we can, especially since there are more than 48 hours until the next game, Friday night in San Francisco.