It's been more than six years since the Cubs have walked as many times -- 12 -- as they did last night. That game, a 15-2 win over the Mets on March 31, 2003 in New York, featured a career day (two HR, seven RBI) from a man who appeared as a pinch-hitter for the Brewers on Tuesday night -- Corey Patterson.
Tuesday night's game was that kind of game. The Cubs beat the Brewers 13-7, scoring almost as many runs as the Bears had points (15) on Sunday, and it got closer when a former football player, Jeff Samardzija, given up two consolation runs to Milwaukee in the ninth inning.
More on walks: only six games since 1954 have featured more walks by a Cubs team, and only one of those -- a 20-9 win over the Giants on August 13, 1959 -- had even one HBP. Last night's game featured three. Two of them came in the Cubs' five-run sixth inning, and the second of those, to Aramis Ramirez, "drove" in a run. (Milton Bradley also got a RBI on a HBP, in the seventh.) The Cubs scored eight runs in their last three innings on only four hits and the 13-run outburst, the second-biggest of 2009, was accomplished with only one home run. The roundtripper came off the bat of Geovany Soto, who, perhaps better late than never, is beginning to hit like the Rookie of the Year we saw in 2008. Geo has started only seven games in September, but is hitting .360/.452/.800 in those games, with two homers and 12 RBI.
Even more on walks: the Cubs had two different players, Ryan Theriot and Derrek Lee, who walked four times. That's nowhere near a record, but Theriot, after striking out and singling in his first two times up, walked four consecutive times (off four different pitchers), and Lee was two-for-two (a single and a double) in his non-base-on-balls plate appearances. The Cubs overall sent 50 batters to the plate, but had only 34 official at-bats (the other 16: the 12 walks, the three HBP, and a deep fly ball to CF by Carlos Zambrano that went for a sacrifice fly).
Speaking of Z, Paul Sullivan's game story criticizes him for alleged antics during the Brewers' five-run fifth inning, after which Carlos was pulled (having thrown 103 pitches):
But Zambrano's histrionics overshadowed everything. During the five-run fifth, he showed up outfielder Bobby Scales by making faces and waving his hands when Scales didn't throw home on Ryan Braun's run-scoring single. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild came out to calm down Zambrano, but the pitcher made no eye contact during the visit.
I dunno. I didn't see it that way, although I also wondered why Scales made no attempt to throw to the plate on Braun's hit. It was a horrendous inning -- all the Brewers' action came after two were out and no one on base, and Z threw 39 pitches -- but the last two runs weren't really Z's fault. Ryan Theriot fumbled what should have been an inning-ending ground ball by Casey McGehee (after Z had intentionally walked Prince Fielder to load the bases), and Mike Cameron drove in the final pair of runs after that. Theriot's blunder was originally ruled an error, but later changed to a hit by the official scorer. It should have remained an error; a major league shortstop should make that play.
I doth, as the saying goes, protest too much. Z was dominant for the first four innings, allowing only a triple in the RF gap to Brewers rookie Alcides Escobar and hitting 95+ on the Wrigley Field boards showing pitch speed several times. It could have, and probably should have, been an easy six-inning quality start and win for Z. Instead, the win went to Aaron Heilman, who had an efficient scoreless sixth inning. Since August 12, in his last nine appearances Heilman has thrown 12 innings with nine strikeouts and a 1.50 ERA and more importantly, has issued only one walk during those nine outings. In fact, before Samardzija came in during garbage time, the bullpen did an excellent job of keeping the Brewers down while the Cubs were piling up walks and runs -- three hitless innings with only one walk from Heilman, Kevin Gregg and Esmailin Caridad.
An announced crowd of 38,986 included maybe 8,000 no-shows, as the ballpark filled up late despite a windier and slightly cooler night than Monday. Those who did come were treated to an enjoyable, if rather lengthy (three hours, 20 minutes) victory, the Cubs' 10th in 14 games in September. Do not give up, my friends. The Rockies lost again last night and the Cubs crept to within 5.5 games of the wild-card lead. It's still a longshot -- but possible. Keep the faith and go Cubs.