On an unseasonably warm May day that fueled both the Cubs and White Sox offenses, as well as many in the bleachers, I was about to write -- after the Cubs blew their second lead of the day, making for some ugly scenes (I heard that there were multiple ejections for various offenses in the bleachers today) -- that the Cubs had gone back to same old, same old, when the unlikeliest of pinch hitters, Derrek Lee (none of us expected that -- both Mike & I figured Angel Pagan would bat for Jacque Jones), did the unlikeliest of things, swat a pinch-hit grand slam to the opposite field (thank you, wind blowing out, and thank you also for Michael Barrett's earlier HR), and the Cubs had their second come-from-behind win in a row, 11-6 over the White Sox, deflating the many loud Sox fans who had made the trek north.
Whew! Is that enough of a run-on paragraph for a day like this?
This was another game that proved out Mike's saying, "If anyone ever tells you they know everything about this game, laugh in their face!" Lee looked so bad on the first pitch he was thrown that we were afraid he'd hurt his neck again. But according to Lou Piniella in his postgame news conference, Lee had been hitting in the cages most of the afternoon and pronounced himself ready to go, and he sure was.
It was the Cubs' first pinch-hit grand slam since Michael Barrett hit one in Pittsburgh on May 28, 2004. Ironically enough, the Cubs lost that game when today's starting White Sox left fielder, Rob Mackowiak, had the game of his life.
I cannot locate exact records on pinch-hit grand slams, but I believe the last one hit by a Cub at Wrigley Field was nearly twenty years ago, on July 8, 1987, by Jim Sundberg. Yes, you can click on that link. The Cubs won that game.
Today was reminiscent of one of those late '70s games when everyone and his brother (no, not the Reuschel brothers) hit home runs and the score was something like 18-12. I said to Mike, "Good thing the Cubs bat last today," and that nearly turned out to be necessary. The lead changed hands four times, with the Cubs jumping out 2-0 early (after nearly giving up runs in the first two innings with some erratic defense by Daryle Ward, who redeemed himself later on by doubling, walking once and scoring two runs), then Jason Marquis giving up several solid hits in the fourth to trail 3-2. Marquis, an excellent hitter, decided to get it back himself; after Barrett's HR tied it and Mark DeRosa drew "an innocent little walk", Marquis hit a no-doubt-about-it HR to left-center, his first as a Cub, the third of his career and first in almost two years, since June 4, 2005 against the Astros in Houston.
Not to be outdone, Marquis coughed it back up in the sixth, giving up a two-run job to Joe Crede, back in the lineup after, frighteningly, being hit in the face during BP yesterday. Given the fact that the wind was blowing out, six innings with five earned runs wasn't too bad for Marquis.
5-5 is how it entered the 8th, and then Bob Howry promptly gave it back to the Sox by allowing a home run to Paul Konerko that landed about four rows directly in front of us, right into a beer cup, splashing beer everywhere. A Cub fan picked it up and flung it back on the field, to the jeers of Sox fans seated nearby (and I spotted quite a number of Sox/Cub male/female couples today. What's up with that?? Seems unnatural somehow).
For that performance, Howry got the win, his first of the year -- so you see how meaningless a "win" can be for an individual pitcher -- when ex-Cub David Aardsma, who's been quite good for the Sox so far this year, gave up five runs in one-third of an inning, raising his ERA from 1.54 to 3.63. Again, this is misleading, as three of those runs scored when Boone Logan allowed the granny to D-Lee. Ozzie Guillen clearly put Logan into the game because Jacque Jones was due up; but even more clearly, Lou wasn't going to let Jones hit. I assumed Pagan was going to be the hitter, which still would have been a more favorable matchup. When Lee came out of the dugout you could feel the buzz, the energy in the stands, and perhaps Derrek even fed a bit off of that, after that first uncomfortable pitch.
Ryan Dempster had been warming up to throw the last of the 9th when the Cubs took the lead on two triples, one by Ryan Theriot (man, does he know how to ignite innings!), one by Aramis Ramirez, sandwiching a game-tying RBI single by Alfonso Soriano (one more and he cracks double digits! See, we can laugh about this today!) -- but after Lee's blast, he sat down and Carlos Marmol warmed up and threw an uneventful last of the 9th, fittingly retiring A. J. Pierzynski to end it; I say "fittingly" because, as Mike reminded me, this game was almost a mirror image of the July 1 game last year where A. J. homered with two strikes and two out in the 9th.
That game helped deepen the Cubs' depths of 2006, and gave the White Sox something to build on, though they fell short of the postseason.
A game like this -- two games like the last two days, in fact -- CAN help propel a team to higher heights, give them confidence that they can come back even after giving up leads. The Cubs came back in the 8th inning two days in a row, and doing that after the disaster in New York on Thursday is a sign of resilience. WILL this lead to better things? We do not yet know. But it's surely not a bad thing at all.
Jeff and Dave announced that they did not want to sit in the LF corner with us because "it's too cold" and "it's too shady". Well, as we all agreed, PBLBLBLLLPTTT! to them, because it was 77 degrees at game time, warm and windy, and the sun is now high enough in the sky that even with a late-day start like this one (and there won't be another such game time at Wrigley Field until July 15), the sun clears the upper deck light standards completely on its trek toward sunset.
You guys are forgiven. C'mon back.
Let's change that post title by one letter tomorrow.