ARLINGTON, Texas -- If you didn't like last night's game... well then, there would be no pleasing you as a baseball fan.
Even Texas fans, known for being a little more laid-back than most, were into nearly every pitch of last night's 5-4, 10-inning Cubs win over the Rangers. Very few of the near-sellout of 46,180 left before the game was over, and it wasn't because of a planned post-game concert at Rangers Ballpark. It's the best-played game of the year all-around by the Cubs and if you complain sometimes -- justifiably -- that there are games where the Cubs look flat and lifeless, last night's game was the opposite.
Besides the clutch hitting and solid relief work I mentioned in the headline to this post, let us not forget about Randy Wells, who threw perhaps the best game of the year by a Cubs starting pitcher. True, he allowed a pair of home runs -- no shame there, plenty of pitchers have been victimized by Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz -- that accounted for all three of the runs he allowed. Otherwise he was mowing down Rangers all night, at one point retiring 12 in a row. It should have been 13, because replays showed Michael Young was out at first in the bottom of the eighth inning on a nice throw from Starlin Castro at deep shortstop. Even Lou woke up and went out to argue the point with 1B umpire Jerry Meals.
It's plays like that where you cringe and think, "Uh-oh... something bad is gonna happen..." But nothing did. Ian Kinsler flied to Marlon Byrd to end the inning.
After Wells retired Guerrero to start the ninth, Lou was out of the dugout faster than I think I've seen him in three years to yank Wells; the 105 pitches wasn't an extraordinarily high total and Wells was cruising -- another "uh-oh" moment. And when Sean Marshall gave up a leadoff pop fly that fell in short left center for a double, there was yet another such moment. But Marshall settled down and got out of the inning, setting the stage for 10th inning Cub heroics.
And it was the man whose error on Friday night helped lead to the Rangers' winning rally who got the key hit in the Cubs' winning 10th inning -- Mike Fontenot. Tyler Colvin, another late inning replacement, led off the 10th with a double; Kosuke Fukudome batted for Geovany Soto and sent him to third, and then Fontenot drove him in, to the cheers of a very large contingent of Cubs fans.
Ryan Theriot attempted to bunt the runners over; failing at that, his grounder to second did it anyway, and then we saw something I don't think I've seen in Derrek Lee's seven Cub seasons -- someone was intentionally walked to pitch to him. Starlin Castro, who had hit his second career HR in the third inning, got the free pass -- and then, with an outstanding slide, broke up a possible inning-ending DP ball by D-Lee to get what turned out to be a needed insurance run home.
That's because Carlos Marmol started off the Rangers 10th with a walk; after a forceout, the Cubs failed to hold Elvis Andrus at first; he took second on defensive indifference. That was about the only Cub lapse last night; Andrus scored on an Ian Kinsler single.
Fontenot, who batted for Jeff Baker, had been left in the game at third base. The first thing I thought when I saw him there was, "Please, no one hit it to him!" Well, Guerrero did -- and Fontenot fielded it flawlessly and threw to second for the game-ending forceout.
This game had everything -- great starting pitching from the Cubs; some slick defensive plays; power hitting from both teams; some excellent relief from the Rangers pitchers in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings before Darren O'Day got hit hard in the 10th (and I was glad of that, because it shut up the Rangers fans who would NOT sit down while singing over and over and over and over, "O'Day, O'Day O'Day O'Day, O'Day... O'Day". Annoying).
The only down note for the Cubs was the performance of Aramis Ramirez at DH. He went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts and looked absolutely lost at the plate. I realize he's got a minor injury... but something's got to be more wrong than that. I don't know what the answer is, either.
The Cubs are still only 6-10 in one-run games, but ran their extra-inning record to 3-1 with the victory.
So the Cubs have a chance to win the series today (game preview will post at 11:30 am CDT) and have a winning road trip -- against a pretty good team. Who says this season is over?