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Don't Rusch Me

OK, I figured I'd get the pun out of the way first off, considering neither Howard nor Jon was at the game and no one can smack me with a clipboard here.

Glendon Rusch was absolutely dominant. My friend Dave, who has seen a lot of pitching in his day as a semipro coach and now team owner of the Rockford Riverhawks, said it was perhaps the most dominant performance of the season. Rusch looked almost effortless as he threw 7.2 innings, striking out nine and allowing only six hits -- it almost seemed like the double to Pujols was a present to Rusch, because it allowed him to get a standing ovation as he left the field (including applause from Dave, who is very hard to please) -- and the Cubs beat the Cardinals in a breeze, 7-1.

The day, in fact, started very breezy, so much so that I completely gave up the idea of reading the Tribune I had brought. I settled for the Sun-Times, which today had a very funny comic strip involving Sammy Sosa (if you click that link after May 22, you'll have to click "5/22" on the calendar at the lower left of the page).

We were watching some approaching rain, but most of it fizzled out before it got to the ballpark. At no time was the game delayed; there were two little 15-minute sprinkles and by the 7th inning the sun came out, and it was yet another warm day, 78 degrees at game time. It's been so wet that a female mallard (thanks to Mike for identifying its sex by the markings) who apparently lives in the center field juniper bushes, spent about half the game sitting in CF right behind Jim Edmonds. The grass was so wet that Todd Hollandsworth nearly slipped and fell running in to make a routine catch in the sixth.

It was so wet, apparently, that the guy who had the 88-year-old grandmother who talked to us yesterday decided to stay home. We never saw him.

Meanwhile, Jeff had shown up having not slept at all because Jon's dog doesn't like thunderstorms (which blew through the area overnight again) and spent the night huddled up with Jeff, because Jon is out of town. He was grateful that the game went so quickly, so he could go home and get some sleep before tomorrow's night game.

It was really over in the first inning, when five of the first six Cubs reached base, crowned by Derrek Lee's stuck-in-the-ivy double. Woody Williams has never pitched well against the Cubs, and today was no exception. He somehow managed to get into the sixth, allowing all seven runs. Mike and I agreed after the first that four runs wouldn't win the game, but we were wrong today; Rusch's performance made sure of that, and the Cubs did do what they haven't been doing -- had multiple rallies in one game.

I was a bit puzzled when, with a big lead, Dusty didn't let Kyle Farnsworth bat in the 8th, considering he'd thrown one pitch (at 100 MPH) for the last out. Instead, Damian Jackson pinch-hit and LaTroy Hawkins, who threw yesterday, came in again. Dave explained that sometimes pitchers ask for this extra work, and in that case, it worked out OK since Hawkins threw only 13 pitches, and with the night game tomorrow and a day off Monday, both of them should be able to go Sunday night if needed.

Hollandsworth's homer in the third landed about 30 feet from us -- right in the next section over, right in Cheryl's seat, just after she had left to get something to drink. She was pretty pissed when she found out about this when she returned. Instead, a bunch of college-age men formed a scrum behind us to grab at the ball. That's the closest HR to our section in about two years, and none of us could remember a game in which the Cubs beat the Cardinals this easily, for about that long, either. Naturally, I had to look this up -- it was the 7-0 combined shutout that Mark Prior and Kyle Farnsworth threw last Labor Day, the first of the amazing five-game September series at Wrigley Field.

Since there were only four of us today, we gave up the second bench to a nice young family, who apparently were at their first Cub game ever (Metra train schedule in the dad's back pocket -- dead giveaway) -- and wildly cheered virtually every catch made by the Cubs. I guess we have just learned to pace ourselves better.

Fun comment of the day: In the second, the Cardinals scored their only run when Edgar Renteria's popup landed among Hollandsworth, Corey Patterson and Todd Walker, none of whom could make the catch. It was at that point that Dave, who pretty much can't stand anything Patterson does, said, "Why is he playing so deep? Look at how Jim Edmonds plays CF, always middle to shallow, and goes back on the ball."

Two innings later, my friend Ron came over to visit from LF and told us that after this run had scored, Moises Alou had walked over to the warning track (apparently, Alou trusts the LF group because they're about the only ones not giving him grief over the... well, you know what) and said to them, emphatically, about Patterson, "He's playing too deep!"

Guess that's what you do when you have a manager for a father!