Can you feel it?
Dave and I were discussing for a good deal of the game, how the energy level at Wrigley Field hasn't really been the same since the 2003 playoffs, save for a few bursts in 2004. But he said he felt a bit of it last night (he was sitting behind the home dugout), and again this afternoon, late in the day, as the Cubs pulled out an improbable 5-4 win over the Mariners, winning the series against a surprisingly good team from Seattle (I saw them play in spring training and had no idea they'd be this good), their third one-run victory this week (now 6-13 in one-run games, not good, but way better than 3-13).
And the winning runs were driven in by one of our favorite whipping boys, Cesar Izturis, who had an excellent at-bat and took a Brandon Morrow pitch over the head of the pulled-in infield (Dave and I weren't sure why they were doing that, either), putting the Cubs in the lead, and Bob Howry, suddenly efficient, got four outs (including the last out of the 8th) on only 14 pitches (10 strikes), a good thing since Ryan Dempster had been told he was not going to pitch today under any circumstances. With the small pitch count Howry could even go again tomorrow.
All this on a day when it appeared that the Cubs were going to pound Jeff Weaver back to Seattle in the first inning; of the seven batters, only Derrek Lee (who popped up) didn't hit the ball hard -- the Cubs had four hits and two other hard-hit outs and scored three runs. But then Weaver settled down, and despite giving up six more hits over the next five innings, wound up with a "quality start", and was in position to win, because Jason Marquis, who had thrown five superb innings, blew up in the sixth.
I'm not sure what happened with the pitch that hit Weaver with one out, but it clearly rattled Marquis, who then walked Ichiro (the PA guys at Wrigley Field, both Paul Friedman and Wayne Messmer, couldn't figure out whether to call him "Ichiro Suzuki" or just "Ichiro" -- it wasn't consistent for any of the three days). Jose Lopez then hit a ball that could have been an inning-ending DP -- but it went right under Mark DeRosa's glove for an error, scoring Weaver.
DeRosa's been so good at 3B subbing for Aramis Ramirez that I just... don't... want... to... blame him for this one. Errors happen. It's easy to say this now, because the Cubs won the game, but at the time, it didn't feel very good. After that Marquis walked Jose Guillen to load the bases, and he was clearly completely rattled.
Then, Dave and I got into a discussion about whether he should have been left in to face Raul Ibanez. The alternative was to put lefty Clay Rapada, who was ready, in to face the LH-hitting Ibanez, one of the best RBI men in the AL the last few years (123 RBI last year, and 41 in 57 games before today this year). It's a tough call -- do you want a kid facing his first major league hitter to be in the game in such a situation?
Probably not, which is why I was surprised Will Ohman, the other lefty available (it appears Lou Piniella has lost a lot of confidence in Scott Eyre), wasn't up. In any case, Lou left Marquis in one batter too long, and predictably, Ibanez doubled into the left-center gap, clearing the bases.
You wouldn't have thought the Cubs had much of a chance against Seattle's hard-throwing bullpen, and Brandon Morrow has been excellent so far this year. Today, he had no control, walking the first two men he faced on nine pitches. Give Koyie Hill credit, too -- after fouling his first bunt attempt way up onto the screen, he laid down a perfect sacrifice right in front of the plate, with the only play being at 1B, setting up Izturis' heroics.
Cosmic things are happening: that was the first sacrifice bunt of Koyie Hill's major league career, granted, comprising only 58 games, but still, he got it down in a game situation.
The Cubs remain five games behind the Brewers, who beat the Tigers 6-5 this afternoon, and will be the only NL series again this weekend, as interleague play continues, and the Brewers have a tough series to play against the suddenly-hot Twins at Minnesota.
Today, I had in our section Mark, now out of school, Jenna (who you know from her auctions), and her cousin. While we were waiting in line to get in, I looked up and a couple of Cubs players were standing there, in uniform. One of them was Scott Eyre, who happens to be one of Jenna's favorite players. He seemed like a nice guy -- we resisted the urge to say anything bad -- and signed a couple of things for her.
Onward. Should be a good weekend series against another good team. The Cubs seem to be playing up to the level of their competition right now, winning 8 of their last 12, and winning two of three from SD would go a long way toward righting the ship, sailing back into interleague play next week. Energy. Can you feel it?