If last night's 6-4 Cubs win over the Brewers had been a postseason game, it would have become legendary.
The game had so many memorable elements -- three lead changes, power galore from the Brewers, clutch pitching from Cub relievers, and a suddenly-hot Alfonso Soriano helping lead the charge with a double, homer and stolen base.
Let's get this quibble out of the way right now, then -- Soriano almost embarrassed himself in the first inning when he went into a home run trot on his deep fly ball to left, only to see it come up just short of "over the wall" and had to hustle into second base, just safe. Fortunately, he scored moments later on Derrek Lee's single.
Another moment that might have been seen as a momentum-turner had the Cubs not come back and won was 3B coach Mike Quade's ill-advised decision to send D-Lee home from second on Mark DeRosa's single in the sixth with the Cubs up 2-0 and only one out. Lee, still apparently slowed from having fouled a ball off his knee a couple of innings earlier, was thrown out easily. I started to have a "Wavin' Wendell" flashback. And when J. J. Hardy and Ryan Braun homered in the last of the sixth off Ted Lilly (just about the only things Lilly did wrong last night) to tie the game, all of us had visions of the power-laden Brewers running away with the game.
But darned if it didn't happen. The Cubs got a break in the 7th when Rickie Weeks threw away a DP relay throw (on yet another Lee grounder that could have been an inning-ending DP); credit to Reed Johnson for an excellent slide that broke up the DP. An earned run scored on the FC, and another one on the error, giving the Cubs the lead back.
Which was promptly coughed up by Bob Howry, allowing a pinch-HR to Russell Branyan.
OK, so I'm not going to yell "DFA Howry!!" here. But I seriously wonder why Lou keeps putting him in these situations, when he hasn't proven he can handle lower-pressure affairs like the game in Arizona last week, and especially considering Howry's flat fastball (CSN's pitch speed meter had that one at 90 MPH) is like raw meat to a hungry power hitter like Branyan. Once again, Scott Eyre sat gathering mold in the bullpen last night. It appears Eyre's on the trading block, possibly to the Rays, Red Sox or Tigers.
You could, I am sure, feel the tension through your TV, if you were watching -- I did -- as Chad Gaudin struck out the side in the 8th inning, and then as the Cubs put together their winning rally, helped out by two key walks to Soriano and the Wonder Hamster, and then D-Lee's double slicing down the RF line, to cheers just as loud from the large Cub fan contingent at Miller Park last night -- they set a record with their 8th consecutive sellout, and of course expect to sell out the rest of the series.
Carlos Marmol looked fine last night in closing, even when he had apparently struck Gabe Kapler out to end the game, only to be forced to throw one more pitch when the umpires ruled that Geovany Soto didn't catch a pitch swung at by Kapler. That was the ruling, right? Why couldn't Soto have just tagged Kapler out? Doug Eddings, the umpire who A. J. Pierzynski snookered in the 2005 ALCS, was the 3B umpire last night. With a chance for redemption, he did nothing. Anyway, all ended well when Kapler flied to left.
Whew! What a night, and that's just the first of four, with playoff intensity, and the Cubs made a huge statement by defeating CC Sabathia. If Carlos Zambrano -- who has pitched very well in his career in Milwaukee -- can win tonight, the pitching matchups tilt into the Cubs' favor starting on Wednesday night -- I can't wait to get up there!
Final note: thanks to BCB reader Hammer, who noticed something that nobody else did -- not the rest of us, nor the players, nor the official scorer -- the umpires called a balk on Ted Lilly when Lilly had apparently picked Rickie Weeks off second base in the third inning, clearly visible when he replayed the play. The official scorer credited Weeks with a stolen base. In the end, it didn't matter, because Lilly got Hardy and Braun to end the inning with no runs scoring.