PITTSBURGH -- Here's how bad it is for Pirates fans. The announced paid crowd of 17,862 was larger than Monday's, likely attracted by the giveaway of a bobblehead of golf legend Arnold Palmer, a Pittsburgh-area native who was being honored on his 80th birthday. Sitting in a premium seat near the Pirates' dugout, Palmer was serenaded by the entire crowd with "Happy Birthday" in between innings. The PA announcer asked everyone to stand and sing. There were two men sitting behind me, Pirates fans. One of them said to his buddy, "That's the only time we'll be up all night." To which his friend responded, "Yeah, that and going to the bathroom."
Gallows humor. I suppose that's what sustains those who keep coming to Pirates games.
Many of the crowd left early with their bobbleheads secure in hand, especially after the first eight Cubs all hit safely, and seven of them scored. The eight consecutive hits leading off a game tied a major league record, accomplished only five times previously. Another Cubs team is responsible for one of those other five, coincidentally against the Pirates, at Wrigley Field on April 21, 1973. The Cubs scored six in the first that day, but had to hang on for a 10-9 victory.
Not so today -- the seven-run outburst in the first inning, which was delayed ten minutes for the lengthy ceremony honoring Palmer, would have been enough. Ryan Dempster held the Pirates to two runs while he was still in the game; he ran out of gas in the seventh and ex-Pirate Tom Gorzelanny and Angel Guzman allowed a pair of runs to score, charged to Dempster, so Dempster wound up with all four runs accountable to his record. Dempster, although asked to sacrifice in the first inning when another hit would have established a record, did contribute offensively with a RBI single in the top of the 7th.
In fairness to Zach Duke, several of the eight hits to start the game were of the seeing-eye single variety, just out of reach of Pirates infielders. After Duke finally finished the first inning, he got all the outs in the second and third on ground balls. When the Pirates began to nibble away at the lead with single runs in the second and third, I began to worry that this big first inning might be wasted.
Micah Hoffpauir put an end to those worries with a booming home run. Hoffpauir came in when Milton Bradley tweaked a hamstring in his second first-inning AB, when he flied to left to end the inning. According to Twittermyer, Bradley is supposed to get Wednesday off anyway.
Which leads me to wonder who's going to be playing in the Cubs' outfield tomorrow. Sam Fuld apparently can only play defense -- the hand he banged up making that catch in LA a couple of weeks ago is still bothering his hitting. Like the rest of you, I was puzzled as to why Jake Fox wasn't starting in LF today with the lefthander Duke going. There's absolutely no reason why Fox shouldn't be out there Wednesday afternoon against his old Iowa teammate Kevin Hart.
The Cubs are now 25-6 against the Pirates since September 8, 2007; this would be a real nice time to post a sweep. Wins, after all, are wins. Nice to meet Curtis and Dave, two BCB members attending Tuesday's game; Dave drove all the way from Columbus, Ohio and back just to see the Cubs win (and had to drive back right after the game, as he said, "to let the dog out"). Let's finish this season strong, regardless of whether it results in a postseason berth or not.