Just before Alfonso Soriano came to bat with the Cubs trailing 5-2 and runners on first and third with two out in the sixth, BCB reader Bartlett Bob, sitting with us today, said, "I'm ready to catch his home run." To which Mike responded: "He'll get on and then you can catch Theriot's grand slam."
That remark resulted in general laughter, which became roaring good times after Soriano drew a walk and Theriot slammed a Burke Badenhop (who really ought to change his name to "Boris" and marry someone named Natasha someday) pitch into the left-field bleachers for his first career grand slam.
Oh, go ahead and laugh, because that's far funnier than what was going to be the lead to this recap around the fourth inning, when a young couple arrived with their six-month-old baby, who, attending his first Cubs game, promptly puked on his dad's jacket -- we figured that was a commentary on the Cubs' play thus far. The grand slam and surrounding fun is a far better way to begin the weekend, wouldn't you agree?
Back to Theriot's heroics; that ball was a legitimate home run, smashed several rows into the left-field seats, with no wind help. It was his eighth career homer and with one swing, he set a personal best with four RBI in one game. It gave the Cubs a 6-5 lead and completely turned this series around. The Cubs added two more runs, one of which became necessary when Kevin Gregg gave the Marlins a tally in the ninth, but after that Gregg nailed down the Cubs' 8-6 win over Florida this afternoon, a sorely-needed victory, credited to David Patton for his first major league win. Lou said several times during his postgame remarks that he hopes the team will build on this over the rest of the weekend. Sometimes big turnaround wins like this can send a team on to a long winning streak -- we had hoped that would happen after Aramis Ramirez' walkoff against the Cardinals a couple of weeks ago, but that didn't occur. Maybe now, with the calendar turning to May and players slowly healing and coming out of slumps, this year's edition can begin to play as we hoped they would.
Rich Harden had two bad games today. In the first two innings, he couldn't get the Marlins to stop hitting the ball, allowing five hits and three runs, and striking out no one. Finally, he got his strikeout pitch working in the third and fourth, but after striking out Alfredo Amezaga and retiring Marlins starting pitcher Graham Taylor on a sacrifice in the fourth, he almost literally couldn't find the plate, walking three straight hitters and hitting Jorge Cantu. The last walk and the HBP forced in runs and led to Jeff Samardzija's arrival; he faced one batter and then was removed for Carlos Zambrano, who apparently has a new career as a pinch-hitter. Z hit the ball deep into CF during his AB for an out, advancing Geovany Soto to third, but Soto was stranded.
Soto, for his part, had a good day at the plate, having several deep-count at-bats and winding up with two singles and a walk. Derrek Lee also had a pair of singles and scored two runs, and the Cubs, even with the ten hits, five walks and eight runs they did pile up, could have had more. Marlins 3B Emilio Bonifacio, who was acquired in an offseason deal that sent Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham to the Nationals, showed why Florida has made him their leadoff hitter and regular third baseman. He made two outstanding catches on line drives by Aaron Miles, both of which could have scored runs. Right after Bonifacio's second highlight-reel snag, Marlins CF Cameron Maybin also made an excellent diving catch on a Mike Fontenot line drive. It became a sac fly and scored a run, but both of those balls were smoked and the Cubs could have had an even bigger inning than they did.
We'll take it. Despite issuing five walks, Cubs relievers held the Marlins to no runs and no hits between the 4th and 8th (the total of nine walks by Cubs pitchers is unsettling -- that's got to stop). Carlos Marmol was shaky again, walking the first two hitters he faced before Larry Rothschild came out and talked to him, after which he struck out the side. Asked about this in his postgame press conference, Lou said that they're going to have Marmol throw some breaking balls in the dirt while warming up because they feel he's throwing "over" the ball and getting his pitches up, and they want him to get "under" the ball instead.
Finally, a big razzberry to weather forecasters today, whose forecasts almost universally said simply, "Cloudy". Well, yes, it was cloudy, but a moderate rainshower that was forecast by no one came through just before game time and lasted about three innings before moving on through. It was just about that time that Cubs bats started to come alive and pitchers started to pitch the way they're capable of. That's a good sign. Let's keep it going tomorrow.