With a terrible gust of wind, baseballs soared majestically into the angry and lowering April sky, hit with tremendous muscled power by base ballists wearing gray, red and black uniforms, and the local home nine could not produce enough in response, and therefore, more than thirty thousand of the local faithful returned to their homes unhappy, as the Cincinnatis, known colloquially as the "Reds" or "Redlegs", defeated the Cubs of Chicago, nine to two, this afternoon at the venerable palace of baseball, Wrigley Field.
No, this idea came because Howard sent me this email this morning:
I will be attending Tuesday's athletic contest along with a business associate.
Unless I hear differently from you, I will pick up a sandwich for you.
And I read that and saw "athletic contest" and thought, Whaaaa? Has Howard suddenly gone back to the 19th Century? "Business associate"?
OK, all in good fun, we laughed at that, and today, it was just Howard, Dave & me, and once the game started we stopped laughing, because the Reds were the only ones paying attention to the wind blowing out.
Oh, sure, Michael Barrett hit his third homer of the season -- but that was in the ninth inning, and the Cubs were down 9-1 at the time. Bronson Arroyo -- power hitter extraordinaire -- and two relievers kept the ball down, and the Cubs hit into sixteen ground ball outs.
Meanwhile, the Reds hit six balls out, and only Adam Dunn's wouldn't have made it on a normal day. Several of them -- including Arroyo's second of the season, in consecutive at-bats no less, off Glendon Rusch again -- were bombs onto Waveland Avenue. Ken Griffey Jr.'s homer landed very close to where our old bench used to be. A couple of Reds fans wearing Cincinnati road jerseys were sitting there.
Note to Cubs: Next time the Reds are the opponent, do not allow Rusch to pitch. He's rapidly putting himself back into the bullpen, anyway, having now allowed six homers in nine innings so far this year.
The game was still manageable until Will Ohman came in, faced five batters and retired nobody -- two singles, a walk and an Edwin Encarnacion grand slam.
We agreed, that's about enough of players named Encarnacion. The other one was more Cub-friendly.
Ohman's ERA jumped from 0.00 to 27.00.
Meanwhile, the Reds' first reliever, Chris Hammond, came in with an ERA of 189.00. No, that wasn't a misprint on the scorecard -- that's seven earned runs allowed in one-third of an inning.
By pitching two-thirds of an inning and allowing another run, he dropped his ERA to 72.00.
Love these early-season ERA's!
Seriously, what can you do about a game like this? In a way, it's better than a tough 1-0 loss, or blowing a ninth-inning lead. It only counts as one loss, and it's go-get-em tomorrow.
One thing we know: Glendon Rusch isn't going to be able to do this too much longer and keep his rotation slot. He's been better out of the bullpen, long relief, and spot starting. Jerome Williams threw two more credible innings today, and will start Saturday against the Pirates. If he does well, it might not be a bad idea to demote Rusch. The question then becomes, who replaces him -- because the Cubs are still waiting on Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Wade Miller, and probably will be doing so for at least another month.
Or, maybe it's just the Reds. Rusch's next start should be Sunday in Pittsburgh. After that, we'll know more.
Announced attendance was 36,708 -- actual in the house seemed like it was about 7 or 8 thousand below that, and the upper deck had an odd configuration of fans. The upper boxes between the bases were full; then there were a couple of mostly empty sections, and the corners were then again full.
The reason for that is that this year, there are now two pricing tiers in the upper deck -- for infield and outfield seats, and this is true at all pricing levels. Today, being a "value date", the difference is only $1 ($17 vs. $18). But, on the "prime" dates, the difference for upper boxes is $6 ($40, compared to $46).
Just in case you're thinking about buying some of those tickets.
More bad news today: Jacque Jones left the game holding his leg, and has a hamstring problem. He is, as are we all, day-to-day. I also learned that Aramis Ramirez didn't just leave the game in the 9th because he had batted and the Cubs were down by 8 -- he also has some sort of unspecified leg problem which is "not expected to be serious". We hope that is the truth.
If Jones has to miss some time, at least the Cubs have someone who appears to be able to hit, and run a little -- Angel Pagan -- to take his place. A year ago, the next RF option was Jose Macias. I'm sure you can see the difference.
We noticed that the cover of the scorecard was different for this series than for the opening series -- showing the scoreboard that memorable April day in 2004 when Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou hit back-to-back HR in the last of the ninth for an 11-10 win.
Wow. Sosa and Alou. Long gone.
Anyway, onward; tomorrow may be just as windy, after a few storms go through overnight. Greg Maddux, who's scheduled, is at least a pitcher who knows how to keep the ball down. He'd better.