What a wonderful day!
With temperatures at an early-June level in the mid-70's, a near-capacity crowd, and a light wind blowing from the southeast, conditions were excellent for baseball at Wrigley Field this afternoon.
And Randy Wells and the Cubs started out great -- Wells struck out the side in the first inning, and was cruising, until he walked Brewers pitcher Dave Bush with two out and a runner on first base in the fifth inning. As Lou said in his postgame remarks, "You have to make the pitcher put the ball in play." Or, strike him out: in 241 career PA before today, Bush had walked five times, and Wells had him down 0-2. You could see Randy lose his focus and his out pitch after that; Rickie Weeks' two-run double put the Brewers ahead 2-1, and even though the Cubs tied it up on Geovany Soto's homer in the last of the inning, the Cubs always seemed to be fighting from behind.
The Brewers eked out a pair of runs off Jeff Gray in the top of the eighth, just recalled from Iowa (with Esmailin Caridad placed on the DL with a mysterious "forearm strain" -- strained from too many walks, I guess), after Justin Berg and Jeff Russell did a good job of getting out of Wells' jam in the seventh. That brought our old buddy LaTroy Hawkins in with a 6-3 Brewers lead.
That set up one of the best Cub rallies I've seen since... well, 2008; I don't think they did anything like that all last year. Hawkins had been lights-out in his first four setup appearances this year, throwing 3.1 innings, giving up one hit and one intentional walk, striking out six of the 12 batters he had faced before today.
And he started out like he wanted to continue that, retiring the first two batters he faced easily. Kudos to Geo, who walked -- despite not contributing much with the bat this year, his two walks today give him five already -- and to Tyler Colvin, who also worked a walk, his third of the season after none all spring training. Ryan Theriot singled in two runs to make it 6-5 -- and then, in a key play, took second base uncontested, which put him in scoring position for Kosuke Fukudome's game-winning single that just got past a diving Weeks.
See? The Cubs can win without doing all longballs. That's a great rally -- five straight batters reach base, four of them score. Carlos Marmol was outstanding, ending the game the way Wells had begun it -- by striking out the side. Each time Marmol does this, I think his confidence will improve and he'll keep throwing strikes like he did today (nine of 15 pitches, hitting 98 on the pitch speed meter at one point).About the fly balls that weren't caught, leading to Milwaukee runs: as Lou said in his postgame remarks, sometimes balls are just perfectly placed, even if your outfielders get a good jump on them -- he said Marlon Byrd did, and I agree. Incidentally, when Byrd was batting, some fans in the LF corner stood up and started flapping their arms like birds. Not sure I want to see this become a trend.
And the booing of Alfonso Soriano -- ridiculous. Yes, he made an error, but it had no bearing on the scoring, and he also went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored. You can clearly see, though, that he's still not running at 100%. I think you'll see much more of Colvin in left field in upcoming games.
It was a terrific win, on a beautiful day. A few more notes:
- I checked out the main concourse today. Everything has been painted and looks much brighter. The "fan services" window has been enlarged and opened up -- a nice touch. I had one of the bison cheeseburgers, which you can only get at the Sheffield Grill in the RF corner. For $8 you get toppings and chips with the burger -- a good deal, but if you get it in the first hour it's 25% off, which means $6, one of the best food deals at the park. Highly recommended, and I like what the Ricketts have done so far.
- The bleachers were packed today, as you might imagine on a summerlike April day. There were no fights today, but a number of people in front of us spent the day yelling "chug" to everyone around them; security had to cart a few of them out, including one inebriated young man who actually climbed from the LF box seats into the bleachers. People: don't do this. It's stupid and it will just get you in trouble.
- We were joined today by BCB's ballhawk, one game after his great catch of Jeff Baker's opening day HR, and the lovely Mrs. Ballhawk. I'm sure he'll have his own thoughts in the comments.
- And finally, despite Jessica's dire warnings of disaster for Cub ticket sales, the paid crowd today was 39,565, close to a sellout and actually larger than the second crowds of 2009 and 2008. There were some no-shows, likely from season ticket holders who didn't come, but I'd estimate around 32,000 were actually in the house, including a fairly large number of groups that made a steady stream into the park. With the win and the nice weather predicted for tomorrow, I'd expect a good walkup sale for the series finale.
Nice win. Let's sweep 'em tomorrow.