Yes, I did.
But in fact, I almost forgot, and I had just said to Howard after the first pitch to Corey Patterson in the bottom of the ninth...
"Oh, I forgot! COREY, YOU SUCK!"
BOOM! Walkoff homer.
That was the end of a strange, coolish but not cold day on which the sun peeked out several times to loud cheers, which started out with all of us scratching our heads wondering how the Cubs could possibly lose two of three at home to a team with a pitching staff as bad as the Reds', to celebrating a come-from-behind 8-7 win over Cincinnati, ending this rain-abbreviated homestand with a 3-2 record... and oddly, even though it doesn't feel like the Cubs have been gaining any ground, they have won eight of their last thirteen.
It doesn't help when the team you are chasing, the Cardinals, has now won eleven of their last twelve. Dave said today he thinks St. Louis is going to run away and hide and the best the Cubs can hope for is a wild card berth, but can you really say that after twenty-one games -- one-eighth of the season -- have been played?
In the same breath he asked me: "Which top four starters would you rather have -- the four you have, or Willis, Clement, Lieber and Garland?"
Of course, the latter four, all ex-Cubs, are off to great starts (though Clement got shelled last night), but I think that the Cubs' starting rotation is the strength of this team, and eventually, I told Dave, you'll go through two or three rotation turns with everyone pitching well, and that's when the Cubs will make their move.
Maybe I should take that back. We still need a bullpen. Someone who must have read yesterday's game post showed up in the bleachers today with a sign that said "HELP WANTED: RELIEF PITCHERS".
I talked to Dave today about Al Levine, who I've mentioned here before, and he says Levine would love to play for the Cubs, and Levine's agent even contacted the Cubs and was told that Jim Hendry isn't interested.
Why? According to Dave, Hendry is a "gun guy". This has nothing to do with pistols, but the fact that Hendry is hooked on guys who can throw 95+ -- this, regardless of whether they can actually get people out. This, I think, shows clearly why the Cubs' bullpen is filled with people who throw hard, but keep walking way too many hitters.
Throw strikes, darnitall!
Today was a bit of an exception to recent times as far as the bullpen was concerned. Today's lousy pitching came from Ryan Dempster, who walked five in his five and a third innings, and had to slog on because the bullpen was totally overused last night -- so much so that Jon Leicester, who rarely threw anyway, was sent back to Iowa before the game. Why? Mainly, I suspect, so they'd have a fresh body in Roberto Novoa, who did come in and pitch an inning and wound up with a 9.00 ERA for the day after allowing a long double off the wall to Austin Kearns, and then an RBI single to pinch-hitter Jacob Cruz, who came into the game with one RBI on the season...
But that was long after Dempster just missed on a full-count pitch to Kearns in the second, walking him (the fourth of the day already at that point), and then Felipe Lopez, who plays once a week and had TWO RBI on the season before today, hit a grand slam.
Ouch. Six to one. But the Cubs came back. Or perhaps I should say Derrek Lee came back. Lee had two singles and two homers today, drove in six runs (at this writing, he is leading the majors in RBI with 27) -- selfishly, I hoped Corey would get on in the ninth and Lee would hit another one so I'd tie my personal high seeing a player hit three homers and drive in eight.
I'm going to digress for a minute to tell you the story of who that was. Not a big-name power hitter, oh, no.
On April 17, 1974, one of those windy, warm spring days that we used to get buckets of in the 1970's but haven't seen very many of in recent years, the Cubs beat the Pirates 18-9, and it wasn't that close -- the Bucs had to score five in the ninth to make it that close -- and George Mitterwald hit three homers and drove in eight runs.
It was also that day that Pirates pitcher Steve Blass, one-time All-Star and World Series hero who had forgotten how to throw strikes, made his final major league appearance, and it was brutal -- seven walks, two homers and eight runs in five innings. I still remember the guy sitting behind me that day screaming at Blass, and how terrible he was, not even realizing that someday Blass's psychological troubles throwing strikes would become the name of a "baseball disease" -- Steve Blass Disease, which has claimed quite a few pitching careers.
Anyway, the story isn't about Blass, but about Mitterwald. Apparently he'd been told the day before this game that he wasn't going to play, and so he had... well, let's just say he'd gone out and had a REAL good time the night before.
Upon arriving at the ballpark he was told that someone else was hurt and he'd have to catch that day -- which he did, and that 3-HR, 8-RBI day was accomplished, most likely, by Mitterwald swinging at the middle of the three baseballs he was seeing coming in from Pirate pitchers.
OK, end digression. Today was fun, actually. Seeing the Cubs NOT give up after being down 6-1 -- just as yesterday they came back from a 5-1 deficit -- shows me something about this team, even though the bullpen failed last night, today they did their jobs, and LaTroy Hawkins came in and did the job that he was originally signed to do -- retire hitters in a NON-save situation. Hawkins came into the game in the top of the ninth when it was tied -- and give Cub fans credit, there weren't very many boos when he was announced -- and dispatched Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns and Grand Slam Lopez 1-2-3, the last out on a sweet-looking slider for a called strikeout.
Neifi!, who had two more hits today, tried to push a bunt over Joe Randa's head but didn't get it quite far enough, and that set up Corey's heroics.
Today was my son Mark's first game of the year, and I suppose now that he's seen a victory, I'll have to bring him back more often -- that's never a problem for him. He and his friend Jake stuffed their faces with hotdogs, tried in vain to get Jeromy Burnitz to throw them one of the warmup baseballs, and kept rooting for certain players on their fantasy teams (note to Mark: bad form to do this when they are playing against the Cubs!).
Someone more stat-minded than me has noted that the Cubs are now 3-0 in games that I have designated as "must-win". I think I'd better save this and use it sparingly. While the Cubs haven't won more than two in a row yet this year, they have lost more than two in a row only once, and again, are 8-5 since the loss in the first game of the doubleheader on April 13.
Other stuff: Nomar had successful groin surgery today in Philadelphia; this is the same doctor who's doing the hernia surgery on Magglio Ordonez. Nomar will start rehab in a couple of weeks. And Joe Borowski threw a simulated game today, and could be sent on a rehab assignment soon.
Maybe that will give us the bullpen help we've been looking for. That same link, incidentally, says:
Faith healing is apparently still working!
Another note, for history buffs:
I got into a big debate at work the other day on the use of the word "an" in front of "historic". Apparently the Associated Press stylebook says you're supposed to use "a" in front of "historic" or similar words, but I always used it the other way, and this page says either is correct.
OK, grammar lesson over. Enjoy tomorrow's off day.