Two thousand and nine games, and I've seen exactly one no-hitter in person, and that was twenty-one years ago at the old Comiskey Park -- Jack Morris no-hitting the White Sox, and it was an ugly one; Morris walked six, including walking the bases loaded once and getting out of it on a 1-2-3 DP and a strikeout.
So as the innings and outs went by this afternoon, Jerry Hairston's first-inning, leadoff infield dribbler down the third base line that Dodger third baseman Mike Edwards couldn't quite handle, loomed larger and larger.
And as Neifi Perez popped up to end the 7-0 Dodger win over the Cubs, I was cursing. The Cub season is over, they are playing out the string, and on a beautiful, 72-degree late-August day, what would be better than to see some baseball history?
It was not to be. Hairston's infield single wasn't just the only hit, it was the only thing the Cubs got that was even close to a hit. He was quickly erased on a double play and the Cubs managed only two other baserunners -- a fourth-inning walk to Michael Barrett, and a seventh-inning walk drawn by Jeromy Burnitz. Everything else was routine -- there wasn't even something that might have been a gapper, or a diving stop in the infield, nothing.
Curiously, it was Glendon Rusch that I thought might have no-hitter stuff after his quick first inning, with two strikeouts including a sweet-looking breaking pitch that froze Jeff Kent.
That wasn't to be either -- Rusch must have gone into the clubhouse after the first and left his game there, because he got pounded for seven hits and seven runs before Dusty mercifully went and got him with nobody out in the third. Actually, only five of the runs scored while Rusch was in the game -- Mike Wuertz came in and gave up a bad-hop triple down the line to Jose Cruz Jr., just over Derrek Lee's glove, for the last two runs.
And therein lay another potential historic possibility -- Cruz singled, tripled and doubled in the first five innings, so he had the chance to hit for the cycle, a feat nearly as rare as a no-hitter. I've seen a couple of cycles; the last one at Wrigley Field by a visiting player was by Willie McGee in a losing cause in the Sandberg game, also twenty-one years ago.
It wasn't to be either -- Cruz walked in the eighth, and was on deck in the top of the ninth when Mike Edwards made the last Dodger out of the game.
Seriously, I was disappointed. Baseball history means a lot to me; sure, Cub wins do, but as we all know, Cub wins right now are pretty meaningless, so history would be just about as good. It has been more than forty years since the Cubs were no-hit at Wrigley Field, a ten-inning CG no-hitter by Jim Maloney of the Reds on August 19, 1965 -- the last extra-inning CG no-hitter thrown in ML history, incidentally.
So, Jeff, Brian and I wound up being pretty bored with it all; no suspense at all, since Hairston's single hit led off the game. We learned from someone who stopped by our bench that Jermaine Van Buren, who made his major league debut today (wearing Mike Remlinger's old #37, and he threw pretty well, allowing a hit and a walk and striking out two in two scoreless innings), has already been nicknamed "The Prez". Van Buren has a live arm and a good fastball and will absolutely, positively be in the 2006 bullpen mix.
The park started to empty out as early as the fifth inning -- a couple in front of us wearing "Rolling Stones Tour 2005 Boston" shirts, who told us a bit about the Fenway show (the stage apparently included $5,000 skybox seats), left then, and two women a row in front of that pulled out upper deck seats and headed over to the other side of the park to check out the view over there.
Neifi was started today, as I noted in the game thread, because he had homered three times in eight career AB's vs. Derek Lowe. That was irrelevant today -- neither he nor anyone else could touch Lowe. Both Lee and Burnitz fouled balls off their feet and, due to the blowout status of the game, were both removed for replacements -- neither injury appears serious, and with tomorrow's day off, I'm sure they'll be OK for Friday.
I was a bit annoyed at Wayne Messmer, who's got a great voice but isn't a very good PA announcer, because when the Cubs made several switches in the ninth inning, he only announced the field positions for Jose Macias (RF), Ronny Cedeno (SS), Neifi (switching to 3B), and Will Ohman (P) -- never mentioning their batting order positions. Paul Friedman, who is the PA announcer for night games, never fails to do this. Since neither Cedeno nor the pitcher's spot came up, I had to wait till I saw the boxscore to learn the proper batting order.
Yeah, I know. You're saying, "poor baby." But this strikes me as just part of the overall malaise that appears to be beginning to infect the entire Cubs organization. Why, for example, do they now need three PA announcers? Friedman's the best, and ought to get the fulltime gig, if he wants it. Mike Terson, who is the Chicago Wolves' PA announcer, got his job because Messmer is a Wolves exec, and though maybe Terson's good for minor league hockey, his high-pitched nasal tone is absolutely terrible for baseball.
The Cubs have to do something about this, too, in addition to addressing the player personnel problems in the off-season.
Brian offered to buy Jeff & me Frosty Malts today. I have been off those for three years, because of their high sugar content (43 grams of sugar -- yikes!), but figured maybe eating one would change the Cubs' karma. Nope. That'll be the last one of those for a while.
Finally, my comment today about Corey Patterson (who had another worthless day -- a strikeout, a failed bunt that was popped up and caught by Lowe, and a first-pitch groundout in the eighth), is that the crowd seemed so disgusted with him that no one even booed him.
I'd have to say indifference is worse than hatred, wouldn't you? He's gotten to the point where no one even cares how bad he is.
So, the Cubs lose their third series in a row, finishing a poor 3-6 on the homestand, and are now 33-36 at home. This is yet another thing that must be addressed -- this team is simply not built well for Wrigley Field, which is not a hitter's park for much of the year (wind blowing in yet again today).
So, beginning Friday, it's time to play Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno. Every single day. Enjoy the off day; we'll have a bit of fun here tomorrow. We all need it.