I told Mike, just as the rain delay was ending and they started play again, that it would all be worth it if the Cubs could pull an epic comeback and win this soggy game. He reminded me that the Cubs owe the White Sox an 8-run retort at some point, having blown an 8-run lead on June 28, 2002 at the Cell -- that was the day that I left the Cell (I don't think it was called that then, but that's an easy shorthand) wearing my Kerry Wood jersey, to yells of "Cubs suck!" from Sox fans. I turned around and said, "I can't argue with you today." Shut 'em right up.
Anyway, the comeback didn't happen, as you know -- the Cubs lost to the White Sox 10-6, still winning the series 2 games to 1, but this was a winnable game, and you can't totally blame Carlos Zambrano, who got to two out, no one on in the seventh, trailing only 3-2.
Back to that in a moment. It was soggier than usual for me, Mark (who, as an appropriately-behaved 11-year-old, loved getting soaked), Mike, Dave, Dave's daughter Lauren and her boyfriend and Phil (who pooped out when it was 10-2, before the rain), because I had decided to listen to the forecast, which called for just cloudy skies and "maybe a sprinkle", and did not bring my umbrella.
Thus when the downpour hit, complete with what appeared to be small hailstones, I was unprepared, attempting to huddle under Mike's tiny backup umbrella. I will say that the regulation Cubs jacket is quite handy -- it repels water quite well. Much better than my gloves, socks and jeans, anyway.
There have been plenty of days in May when it was 81 degrees, and plenty when it was 47. But I can't recall going to ballgames on consecutive days when the temperature dropped from one day to the next as it did today. Yesterday was summer; today, winter. A. J. Pierzynski's in-your-face-Neal-Cotts grand slam was hit into the teeth of the wind -- a real rocket into the RF basket. It would have been well up into the seats on any other day.
Before that, Z had gotten himself into trouble by hitting Juan Uribe after getting the first two men out easily in the seventh inning. At that time he was at only 98 pitches, fairly efficient for him, and had he retired pinch-hitter Jim Thome (Mike said it was as if Ozzie Guillen were saying, "I'll see your Derrek Lee [who had pinch-walked] and raise you a Thome!"), he'd have done a nice job, again without his best stuff. This article suggests some scouts think he's hurt, or maybe thinking too much about his contract. I doubt the latter is the case, although who knows for sure.
Anyway, Thome's at-bat, a walk on a very close 3-2 pitch, was the key one in the inning; Darin Erstad made it 4-2 with a bloop single that could have been caught, and then we were surprised that Z was allowed to face Tadahito Iguchi; at that point he was at about 110 pitches and done. Naturally, Iguchi walked, setting up Pierzynski's at-bat against Neal Cotts -- and we could have probably all predicted the result.
The Cubs decided to make it close against the suddenly-hittable David Aardsma (whose ERA went from 1.54 to 5.01 in two days) in the eighth; after a single and a walk, Aardsma struck out Alfonso Soriano, but then Aramis Ramirez smacked a home run ALSO into the wind; by then the dark clouds heralding the rain were starting to engulf the ballpark and the lights had been turned on. That made it 10-5, and after Mark DeRosa doubled, Jacque Jones singled him in to make it 10-6. By this time it was raining hard, and the umpires, bound and determined to play under absolutely the most miserable conditions possible (we all noted that in years gone by, they'd never have played once it started raining. In fact, in years gone by they might never have played at all today; often, back in the '60s and even into the early '70s, games were postponed due to cold and windy conditions. Of course, there weren't 41,164 tickets sold for games in those days), let it go until Pierzynski flied to Soriano for the first out in the 9th.
Scott Eyre, perhaps fighting to keep his job, loaded the bases in the 9th, but got out of it, at which time Ozzie, not wanting to fool around, brought in his closer (granted, it was either Bobby Jenks or lefty Boone Logan, and the Cubs' lineup at the time had only Jacque Jones and pinch-hitter Cliff Floyd from the left side), who finished it out rather uneventfully.
The announced 41,164 was the largest crowd of the series. It didn't seem that large, as the cold brought out two phenomena: one, a large number of empty seats due to no-shows, and two, a large number of people wearing shorts and T-shirts anyway. Most of those were gone by the third inning, and by the end of the game, after the 42-minute rain delay, there couldn't have been more than 5,000 people left, hoping for the rally that never came.
I'd take two of three in every series, of course, but psychologically, once you've won the first two there's pretty strong pressure to sweep, no matter who the opponent is. The next week is critical for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the Brewers are playing exactly the same road trip that we are, in reverse order; they'll play the Dodgers while the Cubs play San Diego, then the teams swap opponents for next weekend. That ought to tell us quite a bit about how our respective teams stack up against two of the better teams in the NL West.
Carlos Marmol threw another scoreless inning today; that's not what led to this diary mentioning that Lou might be considering moving Ryan Dempster into the rotation and installing Marmol as closer. That's a bad idea not only because Dempster has repeatedly failed at starting, but because Marmol doesn't have the consistency in throwing strikes that you need to be a good closer. Even today, in throwing a pretty good inning, he threw only nine strikes in nineteen pitches. You can see what might be coming if Marmol were the closer -- he's basically a younger, harder-throwing, Hispanic Dempster.
The Cubs also lost a chance to gain a game on the Brewers, who salvaged the last game of their series against the Twins. Instead of (perhaps) being four games behind, the Cubs enter the road trip six games back, still not an insurmountable deficit. They remained a half-game behind Houston, who were annihilated by the Rangers 14-1 -- I don't see the Astros going anywhere with that pitching staff.
Oh, and finally -- I did keep my scorecard dry, despite the downpour. The jacket helped, and oddly, the new, slightly more glossy paper they're using this year for the cards, which is a bit harder to erase mistakes on, also seems to shed water better. Go figure.