Inside-the-park home runs are exciting, aren't they?
You had to figure that if Tony Campana were ever going to hit a major league home run, it would have to be an inside job, and when he lined a single to the left field corner in the first inning and it bounced away from Reds left fielder Yonder Alonso to the wall, my first thought was that Campana had a real shot at a home run.
It wasn't close, and the Cubs had their first inside-the-park homer at Wrigley Field since Sammy Sosa hit one on October 6, 2001, nearly 10 years ago. It was the first IPHR by any Cub since Geovany Soto hit one in Houston on May 19, 2008, a ball that took a crazy bounce off one of the weird-shaped walls in Minute Maid Park; replays showed that it probably should have been ruled a home run anyway. In fact, it was that home run and several other near-misses that week that provided the impetus to institute home run replay review.
No review was needed for Campana's hit; he flew around the bases and doubled his season RBI total to four. It also made him the first player in Cubs history whose first career HR was an inside-the-park HR at Wrigley Field. According to this tweet from Carrie Muskat, one other Cub did that on the road:
Campana is 1st #Cubs player to have inside the park HR as his 1st HR since Carmen Mauro, 10/3/1948, at St. Louis
Carmen Mauro hit just one more home run in a brief (456 plate appearance) major league career. I'm hoping Campana learns some plate discipline; if so, he could be a useful fourth outfielder.
Campana wasn't done, either; he doubled in the seventh and singled in the eighth; Darwin Barney was waved home on that eighth-inning single and was easily thrown out. So Campana was "a triple short of the cycle".
I've written about this before and think that mainstream media shouldn't write that as if it's some sort of rare feat. Why? I happened to look that up this morning after the Cardinals' Albert Pujols singled, doubled and homered last night.
Campana's single-double-home run game is the 12,557th such occurrence in the major leagues since 1919 (as far as baseball-reference.com's Play Index goes back). That's an average of about 135 times a year for nearly a century; it's happened now 151 times this season and two other players besides Pujols (Troy Tulowitzki and Desmond Jennings) did it yesterday. It's commonplace.
Anyway, Campana still wasn't done with his big day -- he made an outstanding catch against the ivy in center field of a Brandon Phillips drive. You might say that Sam Fuld would have made that catch. This time, no, he wouldn't; Fuld is fast, but not as fast as Campana. No one else would have even caught up to that ball in time to catch it.
The rest of the game, a fairly long 3:07 (though interesting throughout), had plenty of back-and-forth. Ryan Dempster kept walking Reds, six in all, but kept getting out of jams. He posted his ninth win of the year and his ERA edged down some more, to 4.87. Tyler Colvin homered -- his second since being recalled -- to make it 3-0 in the second inning, but the Reds cut it to 3-2, making the run the Cubs scored on a sacrifice fly in the seventh important.
That's because Kerry Wood gave up a home run to Ramon Hernandez on his second pitch, making it 4-3. But Wood redeemed himself by striking out the side, and Carlos Marmol put us through the usual emotional wringer with a HBP and a walk before finishing up for his 24th save. That's the third in three days for Marmol, and having now thrown in four of the last five games, let's hope the Cubs win in a blowout tomorrow so he can get a day off.
And I can say that hopefully, actually, because the Cubs have won six straight for the first time since last September. The last time a Cubs team won more than six in a row was from May 26 to June 3, 2008, when they won nine consecutive games. The way this team is playing, why not?
42,245 was the announced crowd today, the second largest paid crowd of the season. Maybe 10-15% were Reds fans, and there weren't many no-shows, maybe 3,000-4,000 or so. There were plenty of cheers to go around, but fans are starting to boo Alfonso Soriano in a nearly Adam Dunn-type style. Soriano went 0-for-4 and didn't have good at-bats today. I wonder how long the team can stick with him, even with three years left on his deal, when it's clear that most of the fanbase has turned on him.
That's a question to be answered another day, though, I think. Celebrate six straight wins, and let's go for seven.