Mike said to me, late in today's exciting, come-from-behind, 6-3 Cub win over the White Sox, that often, in the eleven (!) seasons of interleague play, this series has sent one or the other of the teams on the road to something better, from the 1998 Cubs to the 2000 White Sox and beyond.
If that's the case, we might look back on this game and say, "That was the one that sent the 2007 Cubs on their way."
Yeah, I know. Drinking that damn Kool-Aid again. But you know me.
Yesterday, many of you were ready to jump off the ledge and blow up this team. But Dave said to me that one of the problems with the Cubs is that they're operating in panic mode, changing here, changing there, reacting to every little misstep with a roster move. There was another one today, though this one makes some sense -- Carlos Marmol was recalled from Iowa and Mike Fontenot returned there.
The bullpen didn't need the help today, as both Bob Howry and Ryan Dempster were lights-out, throwing 1-2-3 innings and striking out two batters each, Dempster getting pinch-hitter Ryan Sweeney with a flourish, a called third strike to end the game.
That's what a manager has to do -- not knee-jerk get rid of a closer after he has one bad game (and Dempster has, for the most part, been pretty good this year), but send him right back out there in a save situation. And Dempster paid his manager back for his confidence.
Meanwhile, many of the Sox fans in attendance were railing against Ozzie Guillen, who (reportedly; I didn't hear this myself) was railing on the air this morning on the Mike North show about North's criticism of his (Guillen's) lineup selection: "Who are YOU to criticize ME," Guillen allegedly said.
Pardon me for stifling a snicker. I don't really like sports talk radio, but that happens to be Mike North's job -- talking about and critiquing sports. Ozzie's job is winning ballgames, and today, Ozzie just about singlehandedly cost the Sox the game by leaving Mark Buehrle in at least one batter too long in the Cubs' three-run seventh.
This, of course, was fine with all of us Cubs fans -- the seventh started with "an innocent little walk" (Oh, THANK YOU, Dusty Baker, for that immortal phrase!) after two were out and no one was on base, to pinch-hitter Henry Blanco (who, with Derrek Lee still unavailable, was the only right-handed bat on the bench today). We were all stunned when Buehrle was left in to pitch to Ryan Theriot, with Mike MacDougal warmed up and ready in the Sox bullpen. Theriot singled, and then MacDougal came in.
There was a reason MacDougal came into the game with a 5.40 ERA. He's bad. He gave up a bases-clearing triple to Angel Pagan, who has played extremely well since his recall (and Piniella, in his postgame press conference, said he might have to consider putting Pagan out there every day, and at least while Pagan is hot, that's not a terrible idea. Incidentally, Lou also said that Derrek Lee will probably NOT play tomorrow.), and then wild-pitched Pagan home, and then gave up two more hits in the seventh and two in the eighth before Guillen yanked him out of there in favor of Boone Logan, who allowed two run-scoring fielder's choices... after the fourth Sox error of the game, a dropped throw by 3B Pablo Ozuna (who was only playing because Joe Crede got hit in the face during BP), made Matt Murton safe at third base.
A game like this was badly needed after yesterday's debacle, and it's especially sweet given the manner in which it was won, the Cubs trailing 3-1 going into the last of the seventh. Ted Lilly threw a very nice game; allowing six hits and three runs in seven innings is going to get you wins most of the time, and the Cubs' three-run rally did, in fact, give Lilly, the pitcher of record, the victory, his fourth of the season.
The Sox fans in attendance, perhaps 25-30% of the total crowd of 40,874, were loud at first, cheering especially when Jermaine Dye's home run made it 2-1 in the third inning. But they got progressively quieter as time went by, and though I did see a lot of Sox jerseys (the Konerko model seems the most popular), including quite a few Sox/Cubs couples (what's up with that?), the Cub fans were much louder in the seventh and eighth innings. Incidentally, it was reported on a White Sox board (and I apologize, I cannot find the link now) this morning that the capacity of Wrigley Field is 38,376. That is incorrect -- and in fact, I'm not sure when that figure was ever correct. With the bleacher expansion and other additions in recent years (the dugout and bullpen boxes), the official seating capacity of Wrigley Field is 41,118, and occasionally you will see attendance figures above that (41,388 on Opening Day this year, for example), with standing room tickets sold. I would, in fact, expect tomorrow's crowd to be the largest of the season to date (and maybe the largest of the year, period), with the gorgeous weather forecast.
A good start in the intercity battle has been a good sign, in many past years. May it again be so.