Tonight's game seemed as if it were taking place somewhere out in the outer reaches of the galaxy, in another plane of existence, witnessed by 28,392 fellow Earth travelers, a bit larger than last night's gathering.
How else could you explain a game in which BOTH teams got their first two runners on base in the first inning, both eventually got the bases loaded via intentional walks (how many times do you see one team, much less both, issue an intentional pass in the first inning?), and yet neither team managed to score?
How else could you explain a game in which Ryan Dempster looked like he couldn't find the strike zone with an entire fleet of Vogon spaceships, yet he wound up pitching into the seventh inning, with a not-unreasonable pitch count (107), despite issuing five walks? His only mistake was the seventh-inning homer to Brady Clark.
How else could you explain a game in which Corey Patterson drew his third base on balls of the season? (At his current blistering pace, Patterson will draw 19 walks and strike out 125 times in 2005. This is, to put it mildly, poor.)
How else could you explain a game in which the Cubs' first run scored because Bill Hall and Geoff Jenkins decided to let an easy popup drop between them, and the Brewers' first run scored on a wild pitch?
How else could you explain a game when we all groaned because Jose Macias was once again sent up to pinch-hit, something he's really not very good at, and predictably struck out again. Where are our real pinch-hitters?
Neifi! was 0-for-4, dropping his once spectacular average to .333 (and plate umpire Bob Davidson called some questionable strikes on Neifi! in his final at-bat in the 8th), but he played terrific defense, starting a nifty double play and ending a couple of innings with purposeful stabs of sharp ground balls.
Neifi's getting recognized, too, and not just by all of us giving him our All-Star votes. USA Today Sports Weekly, each week, polls various writers for its team and player "power rankings", and Derrek Lee was selected as NL MVP to date (nine first-place votes; no one else had more than one). But Neifi! got six points, good enough for eighteenth on the NL list.
Roberto Novoa, who's kind of like a nicer Kyle Farnsworth, pitched like Dr. Tightpants tonight. He issued a bases-loaded walk to Damian Miller in the bottom of the 9th, and the Cubs lost to the Brewers 4-3, stretching their season-long losing streak to four, and even worse, falling behind the Brewers in the NL Central standings.
Let's see if we can find some stuff to be happy about, shall we?
One of the best things about tonight's game was that Aramis Ramirez finally appears to have found his hitting stroke; he smacked a hard single and an even harder double and scored twice, and if this is indeed the Aramis we know from the last year-and-a-half, that can be nothing but good news for the offense.
Dempster threw well, though those walks are worrisome as always, and after Clark's homer, Will Ohman came in and shut the door after a harmless single. And Mike Wuertz helped quell an 8th-inning uprising with a 93-MPH (that's what Bob Brenly said; the CSN scorebox said 91 MPH) fastball strikeout of Junior Spivey with two runners on.
D-Lee's eighth-inning single stretched out his hitting streak to fifteen games; he then stole second, his team-leading fifth of the season (that's right, speedster Patterson has stolen exactly one base. Guess why? Partly because he's had only three walks. Meanwhile, Lee has already walked seventeen times, nearly as many as speedster Corey is on pace to free-pass all season. Just so you know.)
Just keep remembering the all-encompassing mantra from the Hitchhiker's Guide...