I got schooled today.
Phil and I were doing our usual trashing of Jose Macias, when Dave asked me: "If it's the bottom of the ninth, game 7 of the World Series, tie game, bases loaded, and you have exactly two options to hit: Macias or Matt Murton, who do you pick?"
After being told that death was not an option, we both hemmed and hawed. At one point I said, "Murton might at least draw a walk..." and that's when Dave started laughing his head off.
How could we have possibly imagined that it would be Macias who would draw a key walk (only his third base on balls of the season in 92 at-bats) in an excruciatingly exciting bottom of the ninth today, and wind up diving past a desperate D'backs throw to score the winning run?
That's the latest impossible finish and latest Cub victory, 4-3 over Arizona this afternoon in a game they absolutely, positively, had to, had to, had to win.
Oh, and Henry Blanco hit a home run into the teeth of a 15-MPH wind blowing in over the left field wall -- after Macias had singled and advanced to second on a Chad Tracy error. Howard, who was late getting to the game, called and said there must have been something wrong with MLB's Gameday when this happened. I assured him that I had witnessed it with my own eyes.
It wouldn't have even come to that if Mark Prior hadn't been left in one batter too long; or maybe even one inning too long. He'd been very sharp through seven, allowing four hits and only one run, and we all wondered if he'd be sent out for the eighth -- there was no pinch-hitting availability, and no one loosening up in the bullpen (except Ryan Dempster, who always gets up and starts stretching in about the seventh -- today, I caught him signing a couple of autographs while he was doing that, a no-no, but he's the sort of guy who not only will do this, but can get away with it).
Prior's 119th and last pitch of the day, on 0-2 to Troy Glaus, was a "half-Hawkins", as he didn't waste it, and Glaus sent it into left field, scoring two runs and giving the D'backs the lead, sucking all the life out of the crowd and sending a lot of people home -- despite the lovely weather, at least 1/4 of the stands emptied out right then.
But Will Ohman stopped the Arizona rally and Roberto Novoa threw a scoreless ninth, setting up the Cub heroics, climaxed by Aramis Ramirez, who was held out of the starting lineup again due to his balky right quad muscle -- this is something that's likely going to bother him the rest of the year, so we may see more of Macias at third, unless Jim Hendry decides to jettison the 12th pitcher and bring Scott McClain to Chicago. Both Ramirez and Michael Barrett, hitting for Blanco (and can you believe, we actually were sitting there wondering whether it was worth hitting for Blanco, considering he was 2-for-2 with an intentional walk, of all things), delivered singles that just went past D'backs infielders, scoring runners that had reached base via walks -- with everyone remaining in the ballpark standing and cheering even before the hit, and then erupting loudly as the Cubs danced around Aramis in the middle of the diamond.
So much for booing, eh?
Yeah, I know, I know. That wasn't your typical Cubs rally. This isn't your typical Cubs team. Today, they produced a win while the 3-4-5 hitters went 1-for-10. Derrek Lee, for his part, looks tired -- he struck out twice and hit into a double play, and he really could use a day off to recharge. The best day to do this would probably be Sunday; with the Monday off day and not playing again till Tuesday night in Philadelphia, that'd give him almost three full days off.
Meanwhile, we spotted Nomar Garciaparra leaving the batting cage beneath the RF bleachers with Todd Walker, about halfway through BP. He did so very quietly -- hardly anyone noticed, otherwise I'm sure he'd have gotten some applause. He walked around the back of the cage behind home plate and gave a big hug to one of the Diamondbacks -- we couldn't see who. He's likely headed to AA West Tennessee for a few more rehab games, and Kerry Wood may join him there. If all goes well, it appears that their return target date, along with the Cub debut of Scott Williamson, might be next Friday in New York.
So even if Jim Hendry doesn't make a big splash deal -- which still could happen before Sunday -- the Cubs will get three significant additions to their roster in the next week, which will include both offensive and bullpen help. Wood is headed for the bullpen, by all accounts, and will use his rehab time to "get used" to bullpen duty.
My guess is that for Nomar's return, Ronny Cedeno will return to Iowa so he can play every day, then will come back in September. For Wood, it'll be Sergio Mitre (unless Mitre is traded -- a possibility), and for Williamson, Novoa, though apart from the rough time he had in Cincinnati, where he fell apart after he balked in a run, he's thrown quite well lately.
Dave also mentioned to me that Corey Patterson didn't play last night -- and there wouldn't be any point to doing that unless it were a prelude to dealing him. We shall see.
So while we all sit and ruminate over trade rumors, I'll leave you with this story. About five minutes before the gates opened, I was waiting in line when a boy, maybe 11 or 12 years old, came up to me and said, "Are you Mark Yellon's dad?" I said yes, and wondered, "Geez! My kid's getting famous now!" Turns out the kid's brother is on Mark's team.
Which is where I'm headed now -- to see the Cardinals try to even up their park district World Series against the Red Sox. I'll report later this evening.
One win at a time. I often say, whenever a team wins like this, that it can give a boost for a long winning streak. So often, things don't work out that way. This time, the ballclub sorely needs it. Keep the faith. Good things are starting to happen.