Kevin Gregg blew his first save of the season Saturday evening on a night when the Mariners and Cubs wore throwback uniforms representing the 1909 season. The 1909 Cubs won even more games (104) than the 1908 version, although they were denied a pennant when the Pirates won a franchise-record 110.
As you well know, these Cubs aren't nearly as good as the 104-year-old version, and it showed when Gregg couldn't hold a one-run lead with two out in the bottom of the ninth. (This time, no blaming the manager. Dale Sveum made the right moves Saturday; Gregg just didn't execute.)
Looking through the game results from 1909, the most common score of a Cubs win that year was ... 3-2. They won 10 games by that score that year, and winning by that score would have been a nice bookend to the throwback game. Instead, they got their second straight extra-inning affair, where Alfonso Soriano rescued the bullpen's failure with a two-run homer in the 11th inning, giving the Cubs a 5-3 win over the Mariners. Unlike the common 3-2 score, the 1909 Cubs had just one win by a 5-3 score.
After hitting just one home run between May 31 and Friday, Soriano now has homers in consecutive games. Maybe he's starting one of his hot streaks. That could entice teams to offer to trade for him, perhaps.
Blake Parker, who holds the career save record for the Iowa Cubs, finished off the game for his first major-league save. Who knows? Maybe the Cubs have found a scrap-heap guy in their own organization.
Meanwhile, the Cubs looked really sharp in the 1909 uniforms, too. Here's what the 1909 uniforms looked like and I wouldn't mind at all if the Cubs used that style as an alternate uniform in future seasons. Definitely a classic look.
As for the 2013 Cubs, who have had their ups and downs, had mostly ups Saturday ... what do you call it? It was evening in Chicago, but late afternoon in Seattle with about half the game played in bright sunshine. (Technically, by MLB rules this was a day game -- anything that starts before 6 p.m. local time is considered a day game.) Jeff Samardzija struggled through the first couple of innings, but then settled down and threw seven solid innings as he continues to grow into what we hope will be the "ace" of the staff.
Starlin Castro has been hitting really well since he came back from his off day last Tuesday. He hit his fourth home run of the season -- his first in almost two months, his last one coming April 30. He's looking a lot better at the plate, too, having better at-bats, though he swung at a terrible pitch in the sixth inning which should have been strike three, though umpire Mark Wegner called it a foul tip. Castro obliged the Mariners by grounding out.
The Cubs also got some key hits with RISP, and not only that, but with RISP and two out; singles by Nate Schierholtz and Soriano wound up driving the two decisive runs, after Schierholtz took second following his RBI single. Schierholtz also pushed an excellent bunt past reliever Oliver Perez leading off the 11th, setting up Soriano's victorious blast.
I was stunned to see James Russell in this game -- his fourth game in a row. He didn't have a very good inning, allowing a walk and two singles, but got out of it when he picked off Jason Bay, and then Raul Ibanez was thrown out trying to score the tying run on a nice throw from Brian Bogusevic to Welington Castillo. I'm pretty sure Russell will get Sunday off.
There was some bad news from this game -- Ryan Sweeney made a running catch in the third inning, running into the center field wall. It didn't look like anything out of the ordinary, but Sweeney left the game in favor of Julio Borbon two innings later. Here's what happened, in case you missed it:
Ryan Sweeney banged his ribs against the wall. Has left rib soreness. #Cubs He's day to day— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 30, 2013
This win ended an unusual streak. The Cubs had lost eight straight games televised by Fox -- two this year and all six last year. The last Fox-TV game they won was August 20, 2011 against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Obviously, the players don't care what TV channel the game is on, and it can't materially affect the team record. But still, streaks like this are very strange. Baseball-related team record item: the win improved the Cubs' record in extra-inning affairs to 5-3.
Stranger still was the play-by-play of Justin Kutcher, primarily a Fox college football announcer. He doesn't seem to have any real sense of baseball history nor knowledge of the game and was constantly leaning on Eric Karros for help. The during-the-inning interview with Felix Hernandez was embarrassing, and the network barely covered the action during that inning. I realize Fox is trying to make "Baseball Night In America" an "event", but as I mentioned in the game preview Saturday afternoon, that doesn't really work. "Events" like this tend to be overproduced by television people, and it showed. Just cover the game, please.
The Cubs have three games remaining on Fox this year (July 13, Cardinals; August 3, Dodgers; September 7, Brewers) and that's more than enough for me.
Once again, the Cubs enter the final game of a series with a chance to win it; Edwin Jackson will face Jeremy Bonderman Sunday afternoon.