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An Eventful Day

Wow, where do I start?

How about here: the umpires got it right, regardless of what Ozzie Guillen thought, in the bizarre play in the 8th inning in which, at first, it appeared the White Sox might pull off a wacky triple play, and instead the Cubs wound up with the bases loaded and nobody out.

If you didn't see it, here's what happened: Angel Pagan singled following a Felix Pie walk (and that's hard to do -- before today he'd walked only nine times in over 140 plate appearances), thus putting runners on first and second. Mark DeRosa then hit a ball off the wall in right field, which bounced right back to RF Rob Mackowiak, who fired it to second base, where Pagan was standing just after rounding the base, both runners having held up because they thought the ball might have been caught.

But -- White Sox 2B Tadahito Iguchi (or maybe it was SS Juan Uribe, I wasn't sure) obstructed Pagan, and after two phone calls from Howard, it was explained to me this way:

When a fielder obstructs the runner on whom the play is being made, the play is dead and all runners return to their bases. If the play had been occurring somewhere else on the field at the time of the obstruction, the play would have been live and the White Sox might have had the weirdest triple play in history. Mike & I discussed this after the game and we agreed, neither one of us, over the course of more than 2000 games seen in person apiece, had ever seen anything quite like this before. I don't think the umpires had, either, which is why there was the extensive delay while they figured it out, and then had to explain it in English, Spanish and Japanese to all the parties involved.

Anyway, the Cubs wound up with the bases loaded and nobody out, and I said to Nick and Jesus, the nice Sox fans I've sat near the past several years at the Cell, "The Cubs have blown situations like this within the last week!"

Well, they didn't. A run scored on a fly ball by Koyie Hill, and then Pagan, not satisfied with having had one reprieve, got himself caught in a rundown and this time, actually tagged out, resulting in a player (Hill) having a sacrifice fly, RBI, and no time at bat charged, while hitting into a double play.

All this is a roundabout way of celebrating the Cubs' 3-0 shutout of the White Sox, completing their first-ever sweep at the Cell, winning the season series 5-1, and evening the all-time series at 30 wins apiece. And -- read this carefully, now -- the Cubs finished interleague play this year with the best record of any NL team, 8-4. And with the Brewers' 4-3 loss to the Royals in 11 innings, the Cubs cut a game off Milwaukee's lead today.

I have been flamed here in the past for saying that doing well in Cub/Sox series, particularly sweeping (as the Cubs did at Wrigley Field in 1998) can send that team on to bigger and better things. So I am not going to say that. But I will say this: over the weekend the Cubs got outstanding pitching, both from starters and the bullpen; excellent fielding (including a shoestring catch today by Pagan in CF that Paul Konerko, who hit the ball, moaned about, but it was caught only about 30 feet from where I was sitting. He caught it.), and timely hitting from just about everyone in the lineup, particularly Alfonso Soriano, who homered for the third day in a row, and who also gunned down Luis Terrero trying to score (why do runners do this? Soriano is nearly lights-out throwing people out at the plate) in the fifth, the closest the White Sox came to scoring today.

Keep doing that, and good things WILL happen.

Sean Marshall threw the third straight excellent game by a Cub starter. I assume that he was yanked after only 81 pitches because of either one of these factors: he was on a pitch count, or he told Lou Piniella he was gassed (when the sun finally came out after three days of gloom, it did get pretty hot and sticky). I'm guessing the latter. Marshall had a nice Rich Hill-like curveball working today and threw strikes throughout (54 of 81 pitches), walking only one. The bullpen was quite efficient, although Bob Howry, gathering his second save in two days, made it interesting by bringing the tying run (Mackowiak) to the plate before striking him out to end the game.

And that wasn't all for "eventful". As noted in this BCB diary, former Cub reliever Rod "Shooter" Beck was found dead in his Arizona home today, aged 38. No cause of death has been determined, though it has been said that they don't think foul play is involved. Beck set his career high in saves, 51, for the 1998 Cubs that won the wild card, and he was a key cog in that team and always popular with Cub fans. My condolences to his family.

Remember last May, when the Cubs were 6-20? The White Sox fans can identify. They are 5-17 so far in June (and lost their last five games in May, so they are 5-22 in their last 27 games), and the Sox fans I talked to are resigned to "2009", as Nick put it. Most of them were pretty nice to Cub fans, at least one of whom brought a white "W" flag to the LF bleachers today (no brooms were in evidence, though). I like what the Sox have done to the Cell since I was last there a year ago -- they've replaced all the blue seats with green ones, making the place more "ballpark-like"; in fact, the look now makes the Cell have somewhat of the feel of the old Comiskey, though of course in quite a bit larger structure. I should mention that they haven't replaced all of their blue seats -- they've left two of them, one in left field, one in right, representing, respectively, Paul Konerko's and Scott Podsednik's HR in game 2 of the 2005 World Series, a nice touch.

Someday, I kept thinking, we'll have memories like that for ourselves. Keep hope alive.