I'm thinking this one was my fault.
I had watched parts of a couple of the long extra-inning games involving contending teams Philadelphia and Houston last week, games that went fourteen and fifteen innings, and it occurred to me that once you get past the 10th, 11th, 12th inning of a game like that, it has a tendency to get REALLY long. My theory is that players get tired, and so it becomes much harder for guys who have been in the whole game to get hits and score runs off pitchers who are relatively fresh.
I put this to Mike before the game and he agreed and added that he thought that managers tend to strategize more in the "early" extra innings but not later on, to which I responded, "And then they run out of players!"
That DID happen to the Cubs late in last night's -- actually, I shouldn't say "last night", should I? It was a DAY game that ended under the lights -- a ridiculous 11-9 Cub loss to the Rockies.
Mike emailed me last night to say, "Just so you know it wasn't all in vain":
Well, at least there was that, on a day that had two nasty little rainstorms blow through the area -- one you saw, just as we were absolutely sure that Matt Murton was going to drive Aramis Ramirez home with the winning run in the bottom of the 11th, and one you didn't unless you were under it; that one hit the ballpark about an hour and a half before game time, and surprised a lot of people because noontime had passed yesterday in Chicago under bright sunshine.
In addition to the records mentioned above, the following numbers tell the story of last night's (there I go again; it FELT like a night game) game:
Fifty players used (26 by the Cubs, 24 by the Rockies).
Five hundred and twenty-four pitches thrown (238 by Rockies pitchers, 286 by Cubs pitchers; I haven't seen numbers on this, but I would imagine there weren't ten games all year that Cub pitchers threw fewer pitches than the opposition).
One hundred and twenty-nine batters trudged to the plate (64 Rockies and 65 Cubs, the last of whom, Carlos Zambrano, nearly extended the game when Brad Hawpe slipped on the wet grass in right field trying to surround his fly ball, finally catching it to end the four hour and fifty-three minute marathon) - and had Z wound up tying the game, the only players the Cubs would have had left were Carlos Marmol, and two starters -- Rich Hill and Sean Marshall. In fact, Marshall was warming up in the bottom of the 14th.
If you just looked at the score of this game between these two teams, you'd have been forgiven if you thought it had been played in Denver. The Rockies blew an 8-0 lead despite hitting three home runs in the first two innings, and then hitting another home run in the 8th that provided the margin by which the game was sent into the throes of the night.
That one, by Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta (only his second of the year -- the Cubs seem to be really good at this this season, giving up HR to players who just don't hit many; same with Jamey Carroll's first-inning blast, only his fifth), landed in our section and bounced into the hands of one of Phil's friends.
We begged him to wait till I could get the throwback ball out of my backpack, but he wouldn't, and threw it back on the field. He could have had the satisfaction of "throwing it back", and still kept the ball. During the rain delay, he left.
By the end, it was just me, Mike, Jeff and Jeff's friend Mark, in from California for the final weekend and also to go to tonight's Bears game. In the 12th (13th? They all blended into one) he went over to the other side of the park and bought out the last few hot dogs from the one remaining open concession stand so we could all have something to eat. Even Phil started heading down the stairs once the Rockies took the lead in the top of the 14th; Howard, who had had to leave for a party earlier in the day, called about 8:00 to say he could probably come back if the game was still going on by 11:00.
Well, if it's going to be long, it might as well be historic -- even though we all were about ready to hang Clint Hurdle (in effigy or no) for actually using a LOOGY in the thirteenth inning. Mike Venafro came in and threw five pitches and retired Juan Pierre, at which time Hurdle replaced him with Ramon Ramirez.
I mean, WHAT??? You've used your ninth pitcher of the night (sorry, DAY) and you're going to replace him? What if the game DOES go 16, 18, 20 innings?
I guess I should thank him, in a way. That move allowed the records noted above to be established.
The crowd was announced as a near-sellout of 39,483; it appeared that there might have been 25,000 or so in the ballpark at the crowd's peak, but by extra-inning time, and certainly by the end of the rain delay, it had dwindled to perhaps 1,500 to 2,000 -- too bad, because it would have been nice to have a larger gathering to see the return, in a pinch-hitting role, of Derrek Lee, the last position player on the bench. He did get one of the loudest ovations I have heard from a crowd that small, acknowledging Lee's class in dealing with the disease his daughter is suffering from, and had any poetry been involved in yesterday's affair, he'd have hit a game-winning home run... instead, having not played in two weeks and likely quite rusty, he flied out to right field. He might play today.
Record watch: Juan Pierre's seven at-bats yesterday gave him a season total of 695. If he gets five at-bats (not just plate appearances, but at-bats) today, he will become only the fourth player in history to have 700 (701, Juan Samuel, 1984; 704, Ichiro Suzuki, 2004; and 705, Willie Wilson, 1980). In fact, Samuel's 701 AB in 1984 is the National League record, so six Pierre AB today (which would mean either a huge Cubs scoring outburst or another extra-inning game, nothankyou!) would tie that record. Also, if Bob Howry appears today -- and that's unlikely unless there are extra innings -- that would tie the Cubs' club record for appearances.
Wet. Long. Ultimately meaningless. One more game, then we can reset to 0-0 and begin to fix this mess. Expect an announcement on Monday that the Cubs and Dusty Baker are having a "mutual parting of the ways".
I'll have a game thread up in a couple of hours.