... just about everything else you could think of that could happen during a baseball game, did happen during this afternoon's 1-0 Cub loss to the Padres, far more excitement than 99% of all 1-0 games.
Where do I begin? How about at the end, when a sudden downpour (with the sun still shining) hit in the 9th inning, right about the time when Russell Branyan's solo HR off Carlos Zambrano accounted for the only run of the game. (The rainstorm was so localized that it didn't rain at my house, which is only about 1 1/2 miles south of Wrigley Field.)
And yes, those of us in the LF bleachers (which included about a dozen BCB'ers, including: indytaz, roach, jessica, sparkles721, wheatfield mike, Jesse Guam, and gauchodirk, and assorted friends accompanying them) all thought Z had Branyan struck out not once, but twice, on two-strike pitches, before the HR.
It's a shame, because Z took a no-hitter into the 8th inning, losing it on a one-out comebacker by Marcus Giles that he couldn't quite handle; Terrmel Sledge hit into an inning-ending double play, keeping the game scoreless. That is, to my recollection (and someone tell me if it's different), the longest a no-hitter has gone at Wrigley Field in ten years (since Alex Fernandez of the Marlins took one into the 9th inning on April 10, 1997, another 1-0 Cub loss).
And that would have been enough excitement, really -- but the biggest story of the day was, of course, the bench-clearing brawl incited by the Padres' Chris Young, who threw a 1-2 pitch up and in to Derrek Lee (at first, we thought it had hit him in the head; apparently, it hit him in the upper left arm). Lee walked slowly out toward Young, the two had words, and Lee swung the first punch.
Now, all of us know that Derrek Lee is one of the nicest guys in baseball, always calm and collected. I cannot imagine what Young must have said to enrage him enough to swing a punch at him, knowing full well that such an act would likely result in a suspension (we're guessing ten games, reduced to seven on appeal). Young was also ejected, after at first it appeared he would be allowed to stay in the game (he threw a few warmup pitches); we figured he was probably tossed for his own safety, if not for the wild punches he threw. Neither Young nor Lee connected on their swings, and like most baseball fights, no one was seriously hurt (although I bet Lou Piniella will be pretty sore tomorrow, after being knocked on his butt -- remember, the guy's almost 64 years old!).
Supposedly, Alfonso Soriano's actions after he homered yesterday angered the Padres, particularly starter Jake Peavy:
"I didn't appreciate that," Peavy said. "Just play the game. They pay him $136 million to hit home runs. They don't pay him to be a circus act on the field. If I think a player shows me up like that, I like the next guy to take one in the stinking ribs. That way, his teammate will let him know about it, (and he'll) tell him 'Hey, you'd better run the bases.'
"Respect the game. That's the way it used to be. When you were growing up, did you see anybody act like that? Now it's accepted."
Well, I dunno. Whether he did this or not, is hitting Derrek Lee an appropriate response? Peavy was in the middle of this brawl too -- not a place, really, for a guy who wasn't even in the game. I hope Peavy also draws a suspension for his actions. Cubs hitting coach Gerald Perry was also in the middle of the action, and he too was ejected.
I give great credit to 3B coach Mike Quade, who did an excellent job of holding Carlos Zambrano back and out of the scrum. Knowing Z, he wanted to get right in there and back up his teammate who had been hit -- but under the circumstances, why get him tossed as well? Not only did Quade calm Z down, whatever he said must have made Z concentrate even further, because he really threw lights-out the entire game.
Dave said that the Cubs' defensive changes were going to hurt them -- and I might agree, considering that the two players (Mark DeRosa, going from 3B to 1B, and Ryan Theriot, going from SS to 3B) who switched positions, both made errors at their new slots. Instead of having Cesar Izturis run for Lee, Lou could have used Angel Pagan, and had Cliff Floyd switch to 1B and Pagan move to RF. Granted, Floyd hasn't played 1B in ten years -- although according to wheatfield mike, he did so in spring training (the week before I arrived there) -- but for a few innings, he probably could have handled it.
Daryle Ward is coming off the DL just in time, then (likely on Tuesday at Texas), because he'll be needed when Lee serves his suspension. If I had to guess, he'll get notice in the next couple of days, appeal, and try perhaps to time the seven games so that they coincide with the Washington/Pittsburgh road trip at the beginning of July -- you know, this is how things go today; players try to time suspensions so they do the least damage to their teams.
The Cubs couldn't do anything with Young's replacement, Justin Hampson, although Ryan Theriot got to 3B with one out in the fifth by doubling and stealing third. He was thrown out trying to score on a medium-deep fly ball to right hit by Z; it took a perfect throw by Terrmel Sledge to get him, and Sledge made one. It was a worthwhile risk in a 0-0 game in the 5th inning. Unfortunately, the Cubs had no further baserunners after that -- Hampson, Heath Bell (who was throwing 97 MPH heat) and Trevor Hoffman (career save #501) retired the last twelve Cub hitters.
Personally, I'd have sent up Pagan in the 9th with two out and no one on, rather than Jacque Jones -- who really doesn't hit well when he's coming off the bench, or these days, when starting, either -- to try to get someone on base for Floyd. But Lou didn't.
What more can you say? This game really did have just about everything. The Cubs got a terrific pitching performance out of Z, and unfortunately, he got outpitched by four Padres. Go out and get them tomorrow and you've won another series. That's all we can ask for.
Silly number note: when Jose Cruz came in to the game in the 7th, the three outfielders (positions numbered 7, 8 and 9 in your scorecard) were wearing uniform numbers 7 (Hiram Bocachica), 8 (Sledge) and 9 (Cruz). Only Cruz's position matched his uniform number of the three, though.
BCB's intrepid photographer David took some photos of the assembled BCB group -- but I have not yet received the photos, so I'll post tomorrow. Nice to see and meet all of you, and without question, you all got your money's worth today!