I'm having another 70s flashback... this is getting weird. During the 1970s, if you're not old enough to remember that era, we often had games like this at Wrigley Field, with multiple home runs, tons of runs scored, lead changes several times... the only real difference with this one is that it's September, not April or May, when most of those weird 1970s games happened. And though the wind was blowing out Sunday, the six home runs hit (three for each team) needed little help, particularly Anthony Rizzo's first career grand slam in the sixth inning, which gave the Cubs a 10-9 lead they never relinquished.
That sounds bizarre, doesn't it? The whole game was weird, starting in the first inning when Darwin Barney booted a routine ground ball hit by Garrett Jones. End of errorless streak, right?
Wrong. Hometown scoring again. It was ruled a hit. Ridiculous. Barney has made that play -- and tougher ones -- hundreds of times. That. Was. An. Error. MLB needs to standardize scoring and put the whole thing under the auspices of the league office. As I have suggested before, a good way to do it would be to add a fifth umpire to each crew, who would be in charge of replay review and also be the official scorer. Makes too much sense, I know.
Where can I go from here? Chris Volstad gave up homers to Rod Barajas and Pedro Alvarez; he was charged with the first 10 Pirates hits and first six runs. Pittsburgh led 6-1 aftger the Alvarez homer and it looked like it was their day.
Surprisingly -- at least to me -- the Cubs mounted a comeback, led by a pair of homers in the fifth inning by Joe Mather, and Rizzo's first of the day, off Pirates starter Jeff Locke. The Pirates took the lead back in the sixth when Alvarez hit a three-run bomb off Jeff Beliveau -- and I'm not kidding when I say "bomb". If you didn't see it, it went completely out of the ballpark not far from the TV camera hut in center field, probably at least a 450-foot home run. For that poor performance, Beliveau wound up with the "win" (his first in the major leagues) when the Cubs scored five runs in the sixth, capped by Rizzo's slam.
This is another reason that perhaps baseball needs to re-evaluate the way "wins" are credited. Yes, I realize Beliveau was the "pitcher of record" when the Cubs took the lead they never gave up, and that is the current method of handing out wins. But maybe there should be a different way in games like this, where an official scorer -- again, a league official, not a local guy with local biases -- could hand out a "win" to a pitcher who was more effective than the "pitcher of record". In this case, maybe Shawn Camp should have been the "winner", since he was responsible for the only 1-2-3 inning of the entire game.
That's a subject maybe I'll explore further during the offseason. For now, kudos to Rizzo, who hasn't played enough to win the Rookie of the Year award (yes, he's eligible), but now has 14 home runs and 43 RBI in just 72 games played. Only three other rookies -- Yoenis Cespedes, Will Middlebrooks and Bryce Harper -- have had more, and Cespedes and Harper have played 40 more games than Rizzo.
That's credit to you, Theo & Jed -- that trade, as of now, looks like big advantage, Cubs.
Barney, after making the non-error, had a good day at the plate with two walks and two hits; Alfonso Soriano had two singles and a double and with two RBI now has 101, ranking third in the league behind Chase Headley and Ryan Braun, and with a real shot at leading the NL in that category. I realize "RBI" is kind of an old-fashioned counting stat, but to have over 100 for a team that has as much trouble getting guys on base as this year's Cubs -- that's pretty impressive.
David DeJesus, who came into the game for defense in the eighth inning, put the game away with a two-run single off the sixth Pirates reliever. The incessant marches to the mound by coaches and managers made the time of game four hours and four minutes. It took till 2000 -- 12 years ago -- for the Cubs to play even one nine-inning game that lasted over four hours. Now we have seen two of them in the last three weeks.
Wacky, and entertaining, though long, and warm -- perhaps the last real summer-like afternoon of 2012, with rain expected tomorrow and cooler temperatures the rest of the week. After some real bad baseball for five months, the Cubs are playing well in September. That might not mean much, given the types of players they and other teams are using, but who knows? Perhaps a base for the future is being built. We know we've got one, at least -- Anthony Rizzo.