The title here was Jeff's idea. But that's what today was... a fast-moving game punctuated by three solo homers, and the Cubs had two of them, and Z made it hold up for a 2-1 win over the Phillies, at last snapping the losing streak at seven, and snapping another streak too -- the one of weird weather and other happenings at Wrigley Field on Mother's Day.
In fact, before today the Cubs were 2-14 in their last sixteen home games on Mother's Day. Perhaps the front office can put in a request to not be scheduled at home on this day in future years.
The Cubs again had only five hits, which usually doesn't bode well, but today Z took over and with the strength of will that he has shown us the last two years, threw a 136-pitch complete game, the first one for the ballclub this year.
Why is it that some pitchers break down when they throw this many pitches, while others (Bartolo Colon is an example of a similar pitcher, in temperament, pitching style and body style) simply go on and on?
It may be explained by the body type, by the motion, by the way Z's arm is constructed -- and I know there will be some who'll criticize Dusty for leaving him in to finish, but I have a feeling Z went to Baker after the 8th and told him he wanted to throw the 9th. I really don't have too much of a problem with this, not this early in the season, not with the bullpen woes we've had.
As I said yesterday, my son Mark joined me for his second game of the year... and his second win of the year. IF it can be arranged for his homework to be completed early tomorrow, I'm going to bring him again tomorrow night. We have to get our luck any way we can.
Naturally, any time he's at the ballpark, his eyes go like laser beams -- not to the action, but to the cotton candy vendor. So I put it to a vote in our section -- we had me, Brian, Brian's wife Kristy (in her first game of the year), Jeff, Phil, Mike and Dave Geiser, as to whether he should be allowed to eat a bag of spun sugar (No, he didn't get to vote for himself.)
The vote was 3-3. Phil wasn't paying attention; he was probably off concocting some deal where we'd get some bullpen help, but when I finally explained what was going on, he voted "yes", and so I told Mark he could have some the next time a vendor came by.
The game flew by -- no vendors. (The box scores say it was 2:00, but my stopwatch had it at 1:59, incidentally.) By the sixth inning I sent him to the concession stand to get his own.
The lead was 2-1 at that point, Neifi!, Aramis and Bobby Abreu of the Phillies having hit their solo homers, on a strange weather day. Yesterday was February, with howling winds off the lake; today was June, with game-time temperature announced at 74. The wind shifted early and was blowing from the east-northeast most of the afternoon, but for some reason the lake-cooling effect was turned off all day, and the wind didn't affect any of the homers either way.
Incidentally, and yes they do keep records of this sort of thing, the record for "Most Runs, All Scoring On Solo Home Runs, Both Clubs, Game", is five -- it's been done only three times in major league history, the last in an interleague game between Baltimore and Atlanta in 1998.
But the most interesting thing about the last couple of innings was the speculation about who would come into the game if Z got in trouble, if anyone. Hawkins and Will Ohman were warming up in the 8th -- and this is the right spot for both of them. That's where Hawkins belongs; he's a setup man. Z had an uneventful 8th, so they both sat down. We were all surprised when Ryan Dempster got up in the 9th, but apparently may be the closer, at least temporarily:
"We'll see how the day goes," Hendry said.
Look here! The front page of the Cubs website says Jon Leicester will start tomorrow against the Mets.
Z walked Abreu to lead off the 9th, and wild-pitched him to second. Still no movement from the bullpen. Then Abreu moved to third on a grounder to Derrek Lee, so the key out was the next one; and still no move to the pen.
This is something I applauded. The infield pulled in -- one of the few times that's actually an appropriate move -- and Ryan Howard, who had grounded to the right side three other times, did it again, and then Z struck out Jose Offerman to end it.
Actually, he probably struck out Offerman three times; it almost seemed, and Mike and I both agreed on this, that plate umpire Doug Eddings squeezed the strike zone in the 9th after being consistent with a somewhat-outside zone all day. Umpires do this from time to time -- why, I have no idea.
Today's crowd of 38,656 was the largest actually in the house yet this year; not too many no-shows, and unlike yesterday, everyone was actually into the game. This is something we all hope to see more of, as the Cubs try to dig themselves out of the hole they're in.
A few notes: Ben Grieve got his first start in LF today, and managed to cower the Phillies into giving him an intentional walk -- I wish it were that way, but they just wanted the righty-righty matchup with Jerry Hairston, and got him. Unfortunately, after the IBB Dusty insisted on running Todd Hollandsworth for him, and Mike and I also agreed that such a move could have cost the Cubs had the game gone into extra innings.
Luckily, it didn't.
Also today, the Cubs signed journeyman pitcher Darren Oliver to a Triple-A contract. Why? Because he's lefthanded, I suppose.
But today belongs to Neifi! and Z!
Get out there and send some more votes his way!