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All Is (Almost) Forgiven

It has been nearly twenty-five years -- since this Pirates/Reds game on July 8, 1982 -- that a team has given up six runs in the top of the ninth inning and still come back and won in the bottom of the 9th.

But that's exactly what happened last night in the Cubs' improbable, impossible comeback 10-9 win over the Rockies, which prompted Mike to say the phrase that you see above, the title of today's recap.

Almost forgiven, because in the thrill and excitement of the amazing victory, there is still the sobering reminder in the light of day this morning that the bullpen nearly had its most spectacular breakdown in a season of spectacular blowups, saved only by:

  • An error by Rockies 2B Kaz Matsui, his first miscue of the season, on a routine ground ball that should have ended the game, and
  • A two-run single by Alfonso Soriano, who, just after having been named NL Player of the Week for his .480, 3 HR, 27 TB performance of last week, had been 0-for-5 and looked bad doing it before coming up in the 9th, to win the game.
Only about half the crowd stuck around for the miracle finish, and we all stayed long enough for Soriano to make a curtain call after the entire team had run out of the dugout to, as is now traditional, slap him on top of his head (have you ever noticed how many players who hit walkoff HR fling their helmets away before they cross the plate? They're just trying to not get their heads hurt!), and the loud boos that had followed Scott Eyre's and Bob Howry's horrid ninth inning turned into cheers that we haven't heard at Wrigley Field, perhaps, since the 2003 season.

This team still needs bullpen help. Bad. Howry looked so good over the weekend, but got hit hard, including a three-run HR to Troy Tulowitzki that climaxed Colorado's six-consecutive-hit rally and gave them the lead. After that, some idiot ran out on the field right at Howry, prompting this exchange:

"He said, 'What are you doing?'" a calm Howry said later. "I said, 'I'm trying to get a win, what do you think?'"

Calm, sure, afterwards -- as we were all sitting in the bleachers stunned and depressed, I tried to lighten up the atmosphere by saying, "That must have been Jason Marquis -- pissed that he lost a win!"

No one laughed, not then, anyway, but afterwards it was a lot funnier.

Have I mentioned that this team still needs bullpen help? I spotted Jacque Jones standing by himself in the outfield during BP -- while the club was still hitting, he suddenly ran into the dugout, and I thought maybe he'd been traded right then. But he appeared as a pinch-runner in the 9th, and wound up scoring the tying run on Soriano's hit. Still, he'd seem to be the most likely player to be cut off the roster by tonight -- he's done nothing but pinch-run, twice, since June 20 -- and Lou Piniella says that has to be addressed today:

"We're teetering," Piniella said. "When you play in the American League, you don't need to pinch-hit for your pitcher. But Dempster is still not available, and we're really operating with 10 pitchers. I would think by [today] we'll have someone."
All of this happened on a night where the game slogged on seemingly forever on a night that started muggy, then turned pleasantly cool as the wind shifted and blew first off the lake, then slightly out toward left field from the southeast -- there were a total of thirty-one hits and eight walks, and the Rockies' defense, supposedly one of their strongest suits, deserted them. Five different times they failed to convert a double play on ground balls that seemed like easy DP -- including in the 9th, when Rob Bowen, surely the slowest man on the Cub roster, beat out a DP relay (props to Felix Pie, running at first base, for doing a good job of breaking it up), keeping the winning rally going. Aramis Ramirez also beat a DP rally earlier in the game and seemed to show no ill effects at all from the knee injury that sidelined him for two weeks; he also made a couple of slick plays in the field, including a spectacular spear of a Matsui line drive in the 7th.

There were other heroes: Mike Fontenot, who I keep saying "really isn't this good" (but who knows? Maybe he is), had five hits, his best day as a major leaguer, raising his BA to .397 in a not-so-small-sample-size-anymore 65 at-bats; Mark DeRosa was 3-for-5 but more importantly, had two RBI on groundouts; Angel Pagan, looking better and better as the fourth outfielder, smashed a three-run HR in the first inning; and Jason Marquis threw a decent enough game -- had he been able to retire PH Ryan Spilborghs, who hit a two-run single off him with two out in the sixth, he'd have had a six-inning, one-run appearance.

I wore my Marquis jersey to the game -- first time I'd done so when he was actually pitching. I think I may do this again, given that what appeared to be a lazy 8-3 victory, turned into the most incredible win of the season. This is, I think, what makes baseball so great, the game we all love -- the Rockies, down by five, didn't quit; a team in a sport with a clock, down by a similar margin so late, has no chance of winning, but in baseball, as long as you keep hitting, or as long as the other team gives you a chance by making mistakes, as long as you haven't made that third out, you can still win. Both teams in last night's game lived by this -- and fortunately, the Cubs batted last.

It's easy to say that winning a game like this can spur you on to bigger and better things. Will it do so? Tune in tonight to find out.

Finally, nice to meet a couple of BCB readers who stopped by: Damen Jackson and teacher tom, and one other guy whose name -- sorry! -- I didn't quite catch. Good to meet all of you -- and I bet you're glad you were there last night, a game I know I'll always remember.