Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux, at Wrigley Field this afternoon for the retirement of their uniform #31, appeared in a combined 703 games in a Cubs uniform.
I think I'm pretty safe in saying that neither one of them ever had an afternoon quite like Carlos Zambrano had today. In the top of the fifth, with one out and runners on first and third, Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco laid down a safety squeeze bunt... but Geovany Soto, instead of going home with it or trying to tag out Jeremy Hermida, calmly threw to Derrek Lee for the out at first. Hermida scored to tie the game at 2-2. Z looked at Geo, patted him on the butt, and struck out Emilio Bonifacio to end the inning.
It appears that Nolasco's bunt put an idea in Z's head, because on a 1-1 pitch, he laid down a sweetly-placed bunt that slowly trickled down the third base line. Bonifacio picked it up and Z, running hard, beat it out, to crowd cheers -- only to then walk around gingerly at first base. Turns out he strained a hamstring, and who knows what that'll mean for his next start. Z plays the game with passion and maybe this was an "I'll show you guys what a bunt ought to look like!" moment, but he really needs to exercise more caution, because what happens if this moment puts him on the shelf for two weeks or longer? After a couple of first-inning hits gave the Marlins a 1-0 lead, Z was mowing 'em down pretty good until Nolasco's bunt.
Lou came out and stalked around the field for a while, getting into discussions with a couple of the umpires -- it appeared he actually sent Mark O'Neal back into the dugout -- before taking Z out of the game. Z walked very gingerly back into the dugout and Rich Harden ran for him, after a delay of a couple of minutes.
Fortunately, that was the start of the decisive rally -- one out later, after another nicely placed bunt by Ryan Theriot and a line drive to right by Kosuke Fukudome that was dropped by Ross Gload, Derrek Lee decided to play one-up of his own, hitting a grand slam ("Take that, Theriot!") which gave the Cubs enough runs to overcome some sloppy bullpen work and beat the Marlins 6-4, winning their third in a row and winning the series over a pesty Florida team that has been slumping since an 11-1 start, but still has some very good hitters. Lee's slam was hit with authority, like his homer yesterday, and he seems to be having better at-bats and hitting the ball better (well, except for the eighth-inning strikeout at the hands of Kiko Calero). D-Lee also seems to like number retirement games -- on August 28, 2005, when Ryne Sandberg's number 23 was retired, Lee hit a pair of homers and scored four runs.
Angel Guzman gave up a run, in part because of a sloppy play by Lee on a ground ball (which Guzman then dropped), and Carlos Marmol allowed John Baker a homer that made it 6-4. He then walked Hanley Ramirez.
Maybe what the Cubs need to do with Marmol is tell him, when he comes into a game, that he's already faced two hitters, since it seems to take him that long to settle down and get to business. After the walk, he dispatched the rest of that inning easily, and Kevin Gregg finished up without incident for his third save.
Nice moment: Mike Fontenot hitting the ball a long, long way for his fifth homer of the season. That's now second on the team behind Alfonso Soriano. Not-so-nice moment: boos raining down on Milton Bradley after he went 0-for-4 and also was struck out by Calero. Bradley hasn't had enough consistent playing time to get into any sort of rhythm. Here's hoping he will, over the next couple of weeks, and start to hit as he did last year in Texas. Moment that drove us nuts: why on Earth did Fredi Gonzalez pull Calero with two out in the 8th? Sure, he was making his third appearance in the series -- a sure sign of overuse; Calero is leading the NL with 15 appearances -- but he had dominated, striking out four of the five hitters he faced. So, you're thinking, a lefty was coming in to face Fontenot? No, it was righthander Matt Lindstrom, who Fontenot greeted with a single. Sometimes managers can do a better job sitting on their hands than making meaningless bullpen moves.
Given the type of weather we sometimes have in Chicago in early May, the Cubs really lucked out by getting a gorgeous, 65-degree, sunny day for the #31 retirement ceremony. The obligatory speeches were made and then one flag for each pitcher was hoisted up the foul pole flagpoles -- Fergie on the LF side, Greg on the RF side. To which Howard said: "The rooftop owners just called and said they're not paying today, because the new flags are blocking their view."
We can afford such humor with the team now on a winning streak and looking a lot more like last year's model. Onward to the abbreviated two-game series vs. the Giants starting tomorrow night.