It sure didn't seem so for most of last night's goofy 4-3 Cubs win over the Reds, a ten-inning monstrosity in which:
- the Cubs left fifteen men on base;
- the Reds left ten men on base;
- the wind was blowing out at a gale's pace, with one of the two starting pitchers being an extreme fly-ball pitcher, but only two home runs were hit;
- speaking of hit, Wily Mo Pena got hit by a Z pitch, and Jeromy Burnitz then got hit by Eric Milton; I didn't think either was intentional, but both benches got warned;
- Jerry Hairston drew as many walks in one game (four) as Corey Patterson has drawn in the one month since he was recalled from Iowa;
- Derrek Lee hit the broadcasters' favorite recent freak-show stat with his 100th RBI -- this made him the first Cub ever with 40 doubles, 40 HR, 100 runs and 100 RBI in a season.
What was more important to me about Lee's hit is that it was his ninetieth extra-base hit; only two Cubs (Hack Wilson and Sammy Sosa) have had more in a season, and though it'll take a couple of big games, he still does have a shot at getting 100 "long hits" (as the record books term them), and if he does so he'd become only the second National Leaguer since Stan Musial in 1948 (Sosa, 2001) to accomplish this feat.
Don't get me wrong here -- last night's three hour and thirty-five minute monstrosity was highly entertaining. I suppose, however, that depends on your idea of what "entertainment" is.
Lee homered (solo) in the first and Edwin Encarnacion did him one better (man on) in the second, putting the Reds ahead. The Cubs took the lead in the last of the second, with an opposite-field triple by Matt Murton, scoring Jeromy Burnitz, and a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Neifi!
Let me say that again. An opposite-field triple? (Murton has had three hits in the last two games to the opposite field.) A squeeze? (That's only the second time this season.)
Felipe Lopez homered in the third to tie the game, and that was it for the scoring till extra innings.
Lopez' home run must have surprised the Reds fan (he claimed he was the only one in the bleachers, but I saw someone wearing a Griffey t-shirt -- Mike said it must have been a Mariners Griffey shirt, but no, it was definitely a black Reds shirt -- non sequitur, right? -- with red lettering), because for the two innings before that, he was yakking on his cellphone to friends of his telling everyone that Encarnacion's homer had been hit by Lopez.
I gave this Reds fan and his buddy BCB cards, and they said they'd check this site out, so welcome! They said they were going to leave after Fergie Jenkins sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" (quite well, I might add), and they did, only to return in the ninth, when the Cubs nearly gave the game away by screwing up a simple rundown play.
This involved a rookie outfielder named Chris Denorfia (who some RF bleacher denizens tried to heckle, unsuccessfully, by calling him "D'Onofrio"), who, after being on second with two out, went too far around third on a grounder to deep short. Neifi threw home trying to get him, and Michael Barrett chased him back to third, but Nomar either missed tagging him or was too late tagging him (it wasn't clear from where we were).
Dave's son Jake, who joined us last night, and who spent a lot of his summer coaching for the Rockford Riverhawks, said that they wouldn't have botched that play that badly in the Frontier League.
Jerry Narron then did something amazing -- he pinch-hit for Wily Mo Pena, who had hit two homers the day before, with Javier Valentin, who tortures the Cubs with key hits.
Valentin hit the ball into the LF corner, but Murton put it away to end the Reds ninth.
The Cub offense was just as impotent -- they loaded the bases in the ninth on a single, a sacrifice, and two walks, but could not score.
So on to extra innings we went, and by then there couldn't have been more than 7 or 8 thousand remaining of the 37,625 announced (it appeared to be about 28,000 in the house on what was probably the last 90-degree day of the year -- there was a threat of rain earlier in the evening, but all the storms passed well to the north of the city into Wisconsin).
The Cubs bullpen did a pretty good job, actually, despite being in constant trouble -- four innings, four hits, two walks and six strikeouts (the staff had fifteeen K's, including the nine by Z in his sloppy six inning, 115-pitch outing). Michael Wuertz set the Reds down in order in the top of the tenth, setting up a remarkable sequence in the bottom of the inning.
Murton singled -- his third hit of the night. Neifi laid down another bunt, and the Cubs caught a break when Ray Olmedo, who had pinch-hit and was left in the game for defense, dropped the ball. With two on, and the Reds having no lefthanded pitchers left in the bullpen, and the pitcher's spot due up, it was an obvious time to call on the only left-handed hitter left on the bench, Corey Patterson.
Corey didn't leave his seat. Instead, Dusty sent up Ryan Theriot to make his major league debut.
Theriot (pronounced "Terry-O") did what Corey's done a lot of this year -- struck out (though looking, instead of Corey's traditional swing-at-a-high-fastball), but he had a very good at-bat, working the count to 3-2 after fouling off a couple of bunt attempts; give the kid credit, considering he'd never played a game above Double-A, and was facing a pitcher with over 14 years and 600 games of major league experience.
Hairston drew his fourth walk of the game (I hope Corey was at least watching, rather than looking dejectedly at the ground -- I'm guessing he'll be anchored to that seat the rest of the year), and Todd Walker ended it by smacking a fly ball well over the heads of the pulled-in outfielders; it landed on the warning track. It was their first walk-off win since July 25 against the Giants.
Ugly? Yup. Good baseball? Nope. Entertaining? Sure. The Cubs pulled back to within a game of .500, maintained a six-game deficit in the pipedream (for them) of a wild-card race, and they ought to have pretty good motivation to beat the Cardinals beginning Thursday.
Why is that? Because the Cardinals reduced their magic number to clinch the NL Central to two with their win over the Pirates, and Houston's loss to the Marlins. So St. Louis will have a chance to celebrate a division title at Wrigley Field.
If the Cubs have ANY professional pride, they'll do their best to make the Cardinals "back in" to the division crown by letting the Astros lose. The Cubs are 8-4 against the Cardinals so far this year (3-1 at Wrigley Field), and have played some of their best ball vs. St. Louis.
Before that, remains the task of getting to .500 tonight against the Reds.
Finally, walking down Sheffield toward the bleacher entrance, I noticed some yellow squares with numbers on them, painted at regular intervals behind the RF wall on the sidewalk. These appear to be places where supports for the new outside bleacher wall (about eight feet behind the existing wall) will go. Looking down at them from my seat, the same numbers are painted on the street. They appear to be heights in feet; heights to or from what, is the question.
I'll pass along any more information or photos when I can.