It's a good thing last night's 9-8 Cubs win over the Marlins ended when it did -- otherwise we might have been treated to the sight of Cubs starting pitchers playing the outfield, and Kosuke Fukudome playing shortstop for the first time since high school, and...
Shudder. Let's not think about those possibilities. The Cubs blew a 6-0 lead after two innings, and an 8-5 lead with two out and nobody on and two strikes on pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino, who homered -- he had been a .154 hitter as a PH before last night. Even then the Cubs still led by two, but two batters later, Emilio Bonifacio, who was only in the game because Hanley Ramirez got hit on the knee by a Carlos Zambrano pitch and left in the third inning, skied a two-run triple over the head of Kosuke Fukudome to tie it. It was Kevin Gregg's first blown save since June 23 at Detroit; he had reeled off 10 consecutive saves since then.
Thank you, Derrek Lee, for winning this game with a HR that went nearly as far as Jake Fox's on Friday, and thank you, Aaron Heilman, for coming into a save situation in the last of the tenth and not allowing a baserunner. Heilman picked up his first save as a Cub and only the 10th of his career.
In games like this, teams often run out of players. The Cubs, who are currently carrying eight relief pitchers -- since they won't need to recall Tom Gorzelanny to start until Tuesday -- were actually better set for pitching had the game gone longer, than they were for position players. Sean Marshall, who could have thrown several innings, and Jeff Stevens were left in the bullpen -- but, along with Rich Harden, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells, those were the only Cubs who did not appear in last night's game. The sight of Alfonso Soriano at third base -- he actually made eight starts and ten appearances there nine years ago with the Yankees -- was a little frightening, but Jeremy Hermida, a lefthanded hitter, cooperated by striking out; then Soriano and Jeff Baker flip-flopped again, and Ryan Theriot squeezed Cody Ross' popup to end it.
Entertaining? Sure, but it probably took a couple of years off Lou Piniella's life, not to mention delaying a scheduled postgame concert by the Village People, probably one of the reasons for the Marlins' third-largest home crowd of the year, 35,811 (the only two larger Marlins home attendance figures were for games vs. the Mets and Yankees) By the time the game ended most of those remaining were Cubs fans, or at least that's what it sounded like when D-Lee's HR landed in the seats above the out-of-town scoreboard, which, unlike Friday night, was actually functioning Saturday.
The four hour, 11 minute game featured 426 pitches by 13 pitchers; 16 walks; 24 strikeouts; and several injuries that, from a Cub standpoint, we hope are minor. Z left the game after three innings with a stiff back; he says he'll get treatment and be ready for his next start:
What caused the back problems?
"Sometimes I sleep on the wrong side of the bed, or maybe the bed is too soft at the hotel," Zambrano said. "Anything can do it. Sometimes [Derrek Lee] feels things in his neck. We're big men. We suffer from neck and back injuries. We just have to take care of things in the trainer's room and get ready for the next start.
"It's nothing to worry about," Zambrano said. "Let's treat it and take care of it."
Both Ramirezes -- Hanley and Aramis -- were hit by pitches. Hanley left the game with a knee contusion and A-Ram, though at first staying in the game, left after advancing to second base. Looking at what A-Ram was doing when he left, it didn't appear related to the HBP -- he appeared to either have something in his eye or was having problems dealing with the heat and humidity in addition to whatever pain he had from the pitch -- which was a breaking ball, which ought to stop any talk about Leo Nunez hitting Aramis intentionally. Plus, you don't put the winning run on base like that in extra innings in a tie game. Let us hope these two teams, who don't seem to like each other much, don't get into the retaliation game today.
All the teams ahead of the Cubs -- and I say "all" because the Cubs also have sneaked into the wild-card race, only one game behind the Rockies and Giants -- also won last night, so the standings remain the same with the Cubs also just half a game out of first place. Welcome to an August pennant race. Let's win this series today. (Good thing the game isn't till 5 pm EDT. These guys must be exhausted!)