This game had a little bit of everything we've seen this season:
- A rain delay -- man, have we had a lot of rain this year.
- The Cubs digging themselves a huge hole early, and also...
- ... the offense looking impotent for the first few innings. But:
- The Cubs' bullpen turned in a good performance; a bit shaky at times, but ultimately five one-hit, no-run innings, and...
- Cleveland's bullpen is as bad as advertised, blowing yet another game for their best starter, Cliff Lee.
- And just to add a little intrigue, all three ex-Cubs on the Cleveland roster, Mark DeRosa, Kerry Wood and Luis Vizcaino, played pivotal roles in the game.
And yet, it wasn't any of those things that finally won the game for the Cubs. It was Alfonso Soriano taking off for second base, somewhat ill-advisedly, we thought, but stealing his first base since June 5, and that set up Ryan Theriot's bouncer that took a weird bounce over Victor Martinez's glove into right field. Soriano raced around third and scored easily; it's the Cubs' third straight walkoff win, 8-7 over the Indians in ten innings -- just before another severe thunderstorm hit the north side of Chicago. (Thanks to BCB reader Clutch16 for posting the two extra overflow threads for this extra-long game.)
And in case you thought Derrek Lee's game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth came close to us in the left field corner, that's about the closest we've ever gotten to a ball since we moved to that section in 2006. Jessica got her hand on it, but didn't want to fight the three twentysomething men who were diving all over themselves to get the ball. (We spotted one of them later taking a picture of the ball with his cellphone camera and sending it to several friends.)
Where do I begin? How about with Rich Harden's lack of command? He had a quiet first inning, then gave up a triple (which probably should have been an error to Reed Johnson, who had the ball in his glove), a walk, and a three-run homer to Luis Valbuena (who?). Another three-run homer followed a pair of walks in the second, this one by Martinez. The Tribe sent it out to 7-0 with another run in the fourth, and Harden was done an inning later, having slogged through 87 pitches in five innings.
Somewhere in the early innings -- the exact play, I can't remember -- former Cub Mark DeRosa chased a foul ball down the line and banged his knee into the bricks just beyond where the last padding is on the wall. He appeared seriously hurt at first but got up and stayed in the game, leaving on a double switch in the ninth. DeRosa was given a standing ovation on his first appearance in the batter's box in the first inning, and after that, was treated pretty much like any other opponent. This, I think, is fitting -- the ovation was an acknowledgement of his contributions here. For the day he was 1-for-3 with a strikeout and two walks.When Harden left the game, my friend Phil said to me, "They're going to come back today like they did in that Colorado game you missed last year." And darned if he wasn't right. Before you give Phil too much credit, he also said that Jake Fox was going to hit three home runs today. Not so, Phil -- Fox went 0-for-4 with a walk, but handled three chances in the field flawlessly. I'd give Fox more starts at 3B vs. lefthanded pitching.
Meanwhile, the Cubs were mounting that comeback, starting with Johnson's solo homer, one of three Cubs dingers, continuing with D-Lee's first homer of the game, and then the big four-run rally off three Cleveland relievers in the eighth that made the score 7-6. And then...
... came Kerry Wood, the third of the returned ex-Cubs. Wood had blown only two saves before today, but his bigger problem this year has been an inability to retire hitters outside of Cleveland. Coming in, he had a 7.27 ERA on the road, and Lee's blast into our section tied the game, setting up Theriot's heroics...
... but only after Kevin Gregg gave us some excitement in the top of the tenth. It wasn't all his fault; Lee dropped a windblown foul popup, and Soriano charged ahead on a sinking line drive that he had in his glove and then dropped, so Gregg had to get five outs, essentially, in the inning, and he made it even more exciting when he hit Ben Francisco to load the bases. And then Kosuke Fukudome, who had come in on a double switch, nearly overran pinch-hitter Ryan Garko's line drive, but caught it with his glove high over his head.
I think I got everything, but maybe I haven't captured the way in which this Cubs team seems, at last, to have begun to carve out an identity for itself. Maybe it's appropriate, in some strange way, that this happened when two players so identified as Cubs in the last two playoff seasons came in wearing visiting uniforms. Today, perhaps, we move on... and continue winning.