Corey Patterson led off the game by bunting for a hit.
OK, this is rare enough, but he did it on the first pitch.
The second pitch of the game hit Neifi!
Derrek Lee hit the third pitch for a lazy flyout, and then Jeromy Burnitz walked on four pitches (one of three free passes he had today -- when was the last time you saw a Cub walk three times in a game?).
So seven pitches into the game, Jose Contreras had the bases loaded and one out, and a couple of blinks later, Aramis Ramirez hit his fifth career grand slam and that, as it turned out, would be all the Cubs would need in a convincing 6-2 win over the White Sox, evening the series (and breaking a personal seven-game road losing streak!), and truly, the Cubs looked like a team possessed today -- totally different than yesterday's dispirited group.
Sure, it only took a couple more at-bats till Corey went back to his hackalicious ways, and he wound up 1-for-5 -- but didn't strike out today, at least. Sox pitchers struck out eight Cubs, but it didn't matter, because they scored another run in the third on a forceout with Jerry Hairston on third base, and yet another when the wonderful Derrek Lee doubled and scored on a Todd Walker single.
Let me backtrack a moment and talk about Hairston. He was also on third in the second inning, having doubled and advanced on a groundout to second by Henry Blanco. When Patterson also grounded to the right side, a ball that Tadahito Iguchi had to scramble for and wound up with his back to Hairston -- well, young Jer stayed right there at third base.
I shook my head at that one, because in the second inning of a 4-0 game (the first time the Cubs have had a four-run lead since the 14-0 pasting of the Marlins eleven days ago), you want more runs. I think Chris Speier tried to make up for this gaffe when Aramis, on second base after being hit by a pitch (no, I'm certain Contreras wasn't throwing at him, he was just wild, as he then wild-pitched him to second), tried to score on a medium-deep single to right, and was thrown out by Jermaine Dye with time for A. J. Pierzynski to have a frappucino while he was waiting for Aramis to arrive for the tag.
Today was steamy, but not as steamy as yesterday -- 89 degrees at gametime, and from time to time there was a little breeze off the lake and the sun ducked behind clouds on occasion, making the temperature not as oppressive. I was in the perch I've been able to occupy for several seasons of Cub/Sox games at the Cell, first row of the LF bleachers, and I made my annual meeting with Nick the Sox Fan, along with Jesus, who sit together there for many Sox home games. This year, Nick brought a young lady of his acquaintance -- who hadn't been to a Cub/Sox game yet, and she spent much of the game trying to stay cool.
I also spotted a guy sitting behind me wearing both a Sox visor and a Cubs believe bracelet -- I think he was a Cub fan, from the conversation with his buddies I overheard.
Meanwhile, Nick and I spent much of the game discussing strategy (he couldn't believe Hairston stuck on third in that situation either), our respective teams, and the state of baseball today. Nick said he was especially impressed by the Sox' comeback win last Saturday against the Dodgers, where Pierzynski hit a foul popup with the score tied in the bottom of the 9th, slammed his bat down in frustration only to see Hee Seop Choi just miss catching it -- and hit the next pitch out of the park for a walkoff two-run homer.
I shook my head. When things are going your way, they're going your way.
Greg Maddux threw a very, very nice game today. With the walks and the grand slam, the first two innings went at the speed of glaciers -- taking nearly an hour. But Maddux made only two mistakes -- the back-to-back solo homers by Dye and Carl Everett that were the only White Sox runs of the day. Otherwise he gave up three identical down-the-LF-line doubles, and nothing else. One of the doubles was Paul Konerko's, and the other two went to that pest Scott Podsednik. Hey -- maybe this is a way to stop him from stealing second; just give it to him in the first place.
Of the 27 outs recorded by Cub pitchers today, only three reached the outfield -- there were eight strikeouts and sixteen groud outs, and Roberto Novoa, who was recalled today to replace Todd Wellemeyer, threw two really efficient innings -- two strikeouts, a fly ball, three groundouts, and only 20 pitches. I had sort of hoped Dusty would leave him in for a three-inning save, since the 9th was not a save situation, but you know Dusty -- Ryan Dempster had to come in. Yes, I know Dempster hadn't thrown since Tuesday -- but what if you need him tomorrow?
I suppose it'll be fine -- Dempster dispatched the Sox in the 9th anyway 1-2-3, using only thirteen pitches.
So, the ship has been righted, for now, at least. The only bad thing about Corey's leadoff bunt is that this will encourage Dusty to lead him off yet again tomorrow. If Corey uses today as a learning experience -- and yes, I know supposedly-contending teams shouldn't have to do that -- maybe it'll be worth one more day. I ran into Paul Sullivan of the Tribune on the concourse before the game, and we discussed Corey's plight for a few minutes. The bottom line agreed on is that Corey has to be traded for his own good, as well as the team's.
And, it's official. Mark Prior will be activated from the DL and start tomorrow's game, exactly thirty days after the frightening injury to his elbow (despite dire predictions he'd miss the rest of the season). A roster move has not yet been announced, but reading the link above, it won't be Sergio Mitre or Jerome Williams -- Williams is apparently going to stay in the rotation and Mitre is headed to the bullpen (and so is Glendon Rusch). It sounds more and more like Joe Borowski might be designated for assignment, or possibly even Mike Remlinger.
Sign seen: a 10ish-year-old girl dressed in Cub clothes holding up a sign reading: "Sorry! My Dad Made Me Wear This T-Shirt!"
And finally... and maybe this is TMI, but it's too good to pass up... in the men's rooms at the Cell, above the urinals, are posted various ads. Heaven forbid you should use that time without being sold something. Anyway, among the ads for various real estate entities, cable TV shows and motorcycles, I wound up standing in front of an ad for...
a criminal defense attorney.
I'm nearly speechless. This is weird on so many levels. I didn't know whether to laugh or just shake my head at life in the 21st Century.