With all the dire warnings of street closures and protests surrounding the NATO delegates who were scheduled to attend Saturday night's game, it was really nothing more than an ordinary Chicago Cubs night game in the year 2012. The city never did close Clark Street near Wrigley; cars, cabs and buses continued to drive on it throughout the game. The crowd, the biggest of the year, wasn't too rowdy; there were quite a number of Sox fans who were quite pleased at the way their team played.
For Cubs fans, it was simply another loss in a season piling them up quickly. The Cubs had a four-run ninth inning for the second time in three days, but lost anyway, 7-4 to the White Sox, dropping their record to 10 games under .500. That's only one game better than the worst record in the major leagues, currently held by the 14-26 Twins... who are on an upswing, having won four in a row.
The Cubs won four in a row once, I think. A long time ago. (Actually, as recently as last July/August, when they won seven straight. Seems like longer ago than that.)
Saturday night, in front of an announced 40,228 which actually did look like a full house (I estimated 40,000 before the announcement), John Danks retired the first 13 Cubs hitters he faced before Alfonso Soriano doubled down the left-field line.
Meanwhile, the White Sox were teeing off on Ryan Dempster with a run in the first inning and three in the third, the latter as a result of a walk and back-to-back homers by Dayan Viciedo and A.J. Pierzynski. The Sox later got a homer from Adam Dunn, a monster shot deep into right-center field.
So that's home runs from the White Sox 3-4-5 hitters, kind of the way a middle of the order should be. The Cubs' 3-4-5 hitters had three hits and a home run, but all of those were by Soriano, who is once again tied with Albert Pujols at three home runs. (What a race!) Meanwhile, for Dunn, it was his 26th career homer at Wrigley, one behind Pujols for the most among active players (Willie Mays hit the most overall, 54). Dunn also walked four times. It was only the second game this season that Dunn did not strike out at least once.
The four walks were among six issued by Cubs pitchers, the most in the National League (158) and just one behind the Blue Jays for the most in the major leagues. The Cubs rank 26th in the major leagues in walks drawn by hitters with 102. It's like Dusty Baker is managing this team again.
Beyond that, I do not understand the continued failure of Cubs pitchers to attack the strike zone. At one point, Shawn Camp ran the count to 3-0 on Danks before getting him to ground out. 3-0 on an AL pitcher who had not batted all year until Saturday night and who was 1-for-16 in his career coming in? Why are you throwing a hitter like this anything but strikes?
One of the six walks deserves particular mention. James Russell strugged Saturday night, allowing the Dunn home run and a double to Pierzynski. After an intentional pass, a single and an error charged to Joe Mather loaded the bases. That's when
Terry Bevington Dale Sveum called on Blake Parker.
Unfortunately, Parker had not spent much time warming up. I'd guess he threw only about six or seven warmup pitches -- I have no idea where the miscommunication was, but clearly Parker wasn't ready. But
Bevington Sveum called on him, and once the call was made, Parker had to come in. He did manage to strike out pinch-hitter Brent Lillibridge, but in running a 3-0 count on Alejandro De Aza, he apparently landed wrong on the mound and had to leave with a hamstring problem. Michael Bowden came in and completed the bases-loaded walk.
I don't know for certain if the lack of warmup time caused Parker's injury. But it could not have helped.
Turned out the White Sox needed that eighth-inning rally, because the Cubs decided to make it interesting in the ninth, after three-quarters of the crowd and all the dignitaries (who left in police-escorted motorcades) had departed. Zach Stewart came in to pitch for the White Sox and he was awful... or good, depending on which team you were cheering for. Sandwiched around a couple of outs were a pair of two-run homers, one by Soriano and the other by Joe Mather, which made the game closer than it appeared at 7-4. (Insult added to injury: a Sox fan threw Soriano's home run ball back on the field.)
And up came... Koyie Hill. The irony and unintentional humor of this are things I don't have to explain to you. Hill actually came to the plate hitting .333 -- 1-for-3 -- after an eighth-inning single after which he was left stranded. Had he reached base, David DeJesus likely would have been the pinch-hitter for Casey Coleman and... who knows?
But Hill grounded to second, which was wholly not unexpected.
I don't know what else to say. It was a typical Cubs game of the year 2012. We're only a quarter of the way through the season. There are going to be a lot more of these... hopefully, at least Sunday afternoon, the Cubs can go atypical and salvage one game of this series. The game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CDT.