Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs and teammate Alfonso Soriano celebrate after Soriano hit a game-winning RBI single scoring Starlin Castro against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Brewers 12-11. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
If you're younger than about 45, you don't remember some of the crazy games that were played at Wrigley Field in the mid-1970s, with the wind blowing out and some awful pitching staffs both on the Cubs and their opponents. Ten-run games seemed almost commonplace for both sides. From 1970 to 1980 the Cubs played 16 games where both teams scored in double figures. (In a very Cub-like way, they went 4-12 in those games.)
That's what Thursday's wacky 12-11 Cubs win over the Brewers felt like: back to the future, sort of, only back to 1975 instead of 1955. (And no flux capacitors needed.) The small crowd -- 28,859 announced, maybe 21,000 in the house, smallest announced crowd of 2012 -- felt very 70s-ish, too.
This game seemed longer than Alex Hinshaw's Cubs career. (Come to think of it, it almost was.)
How much more weird could it have been? The Cubs drew 11 walks. Since 1918, there have been just 17 other nine-inning games in Cubs history where they have had more than 11 walks in a game. The last time it happened before today was September 19, 2010, a 13-3 win over the Marlins in Florida; the last time at Wrigley Field was September 15, 2009, a 13-7 win over... the Brewers. So this was sort-of September baseball, a couple days early.
I don't really even know how to start this recap, so how about at the end: Francisco Rodriguez came in to close for the Brewers, and after he struck out pinch-hitter Joe Mather, the Cubs did the following: double, walk, single, double, single by Alfonso Soriano scoring the winning run. How many times this year have the Cubs gotten five consecutive hitters on base? (Answer: I have no idea, but likely not very many.)
The game came to a screeching halt in the top of the first inning; it seemed as if every batter took 10 minutes to complete his at-bat. Two innings took an hour; five took two hours. By the time the top of the sixth had been completed, the Brewers had hit a pair of home runs, both absolutely launched. Jonathan Lucroy's third-inning grand slam hit Waveland, where it was aimed right at the glove of one of the ballhawks -- who missed it. Ryan Braun's homer in the fourth hit the top of the TV camera hut in center field.
Maybe it's for the best that Brooks Raley is being shut down for the season after a combined 155 innings between Double-A, Triple-A and the major leagues. He leaves with a couple of good MLB outings and some others, like today, that were awful. His 8.14 Cubs ERA won't look good, but he could be in the mix to be in the rotation in 2013. There were some positive signs from his time with the Cubs.
Now, he needs to be optioned tomorrow and a position player (maybe Adrian Cardenas) recalled, because the Cubs right now have just four bench players, which resulted in Travis Wood having to be used as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. Wood's not a bad hitter, but if the game had gone into extra innings, other pitchers would have had to bat. Once the weekend is over and the minor-league season ends, the Cubs can recall other players and won't have this issue. They don't need another starting pitcher till Tuesday, when (presumably) Chris Rusin will take Raley's rotation spot.
I'm sure I'm going to miss some of the Cubs' offensive heroes after they went down 9-3, but let me give it a shot: Brett Jackson doubled in the tying runs in a six-run sixth; Jackson went 2-for-3, both doubles, and walked twice. He's cutting way down on the K's and walking more and now has 10 extra-base hits in 75 at-bats -- an impressive ratio. He also plays plus defense in center field. Looks like we've got a keeper there.
David DeJesus had three hits and a pair of walks; Starlin Castro tripled, later walked and scored and had a key single in the ninth-inning rally. Luis Valbuena, who according to Dale Sveum will get more playing time in September, had three hits and a walk. Even Josh Vitters, now benched most of the time for Valbuena, pinch-hit and walked (that was a really nice at-bat).
After Raley left the game... well, let's just say the relief pitching wasn't stellar today. Michael Bowden was touched for a couple runs, Blake Parker gave up one and Shawn Camp allowed a towering home run to Cody Ransom that looked like it had iced the game for the Brewers at 11-9.
But Carlos Marmol had one of his best innings of the year, needing just eight pitches to dispatch the Brewers in the top of the ninth, setting up the bottom-of-the-ninth rally. Give a lot of credit to Soriano, who was supposed to have the day off; he walked twice and drove in the game-winner, his 79th RBI of the season. That's an astonishingly good total for a team that has as much trouble scoring runs as the Cubs do. Soriano's top RBI total as a Cub is 88, set in 2010; he'll almost certainly surpass that and has an outside shot at his first 100-RBI season since 2005 if he has a hot September.
Wacky. Wild. Warm & pleasant, a sunny, windy day where, for most of the game, our group had section 301 in the LF corner to ourselves; it filled in with a couple dozen folks later on, but this announced crowd brings the season total to 2,366,615, an average of 36,409. While this weekend's dates with the Giants -- hey, a playoff contender comes to town! -- will probably draw more, I expect more small crowds like this for the next homestand that starts on September 14.
Correction and clarification on the game recap from Wednesday night: I've been informed that Bob Rosenberg is not a "retired sportswriter"; he has been scoring Cubs and White Sox (as well as Chicago Bulls) games for more than two decades, though, and has much experience. My point, however, stands; I believe the scorer should be a MLB employee with no connection to the city where the game is taking place, just as the umpires are. That would remove any possibility of hometown favors, which do appear to happen from time to time.
As the Giants come to town, two notes: Saturday's game has been moved from its original time of 3:05 CT to 12:05 CT and will be televised on WGN. And around the time that game will likely end, remnants from Hurricane Isaac should be approaching Chicago; there's a fair chance that Sunday's game could be rained out. With no possible makeup dates for such a game, if it meant anything in the playoff race for the Giants, the Cubs could be looking at having to play a makeup game at Wrigley Field on October 4.
I think that's it from this crazy day. We haven't had many -- or, really, any -- wins quite like this one to celebrate this year -- so celebrate!