When Kevin Gregg threw a 3-2 curveball to Hank Conger, the 338th pitch of Wednesday night's game, and Conger swung and missed, all of Cubdom breathed the sigh of relief put into a single word in the headline you see above.
The Cubs defeated the Angels 8-6 in 10 innings, splitting their brief two-game sojourn to Anaheim, but as substitute TV analyst Todd Hollandsworth said during Conger's at-bat: "Nothing's ever easy!"
He was right. Nothing was easy for either team during the four-hour, 14-minute game that featured three lead changes and the Angels going through their entire bullpen before Robert Coello -- who had been in the Cubs system in 2011 and was acquired from the Red Sox before Theo Epstein was even rumored to be coming to Chicago -- loaded the bases on walks and a bloop single and gave up a bases-clearing double to Anthony Rizzo. (And for a few moments in the bottom of the 10th, it looked like the Cubs would need all three of those runs.)
Incidentally, the Cubs hit five doubles in all Wednesday -- what was it? Late afternoon? Evening? -- Rizzo's, two from Alfonso Soriano, and one each by Cody Ransom and Starlin Castro, giving them a total of 127 for the season. That's 2.23 per game, on pace for 361 for the year, which would still obliterate the team record of 340, set in 1930, tied in 2007.
Earlier, a three-run homer by Ransom -- no, I don't get how Ransom is doing this, either -- had tied the game 4-4 in the fifth inning. The Cubs took a 5-4 lead in the sixth after Castro's double and a Ryan Sweeney single, but James Russell couldn't hold it. Russell gave up a game-tying homer to Mark Trumbo in the eighth. There's no shame in that, really; Trumbo is a really good hitter. He homered again off Gregg in the 10th inning. I have often wondered why the Angels even bothered to spend $254 million on Albert Pujols, when there is some evidence that they could get close to the same production out of Trumbo for a lot less money.
Sweeney also made a nice diving catch on a fly ball in the seventh inning, potentially saving a run. Props to Theo and Jed for making a nice scrap-heap pickup of Sweeney, who cost the Cubs nothing in terms of players given up; small sample size and all, but Sweeney has hit well since his recall from Triple-A Iowa and plays good defense. I suspect we'll be seeing him get more playing time going forward, and he's potentially a center-field replacement if David DeJesus is traded.
Matt Garza threw fairly well, even while giving up four runs; he made it into the seventh inning and didn't do anything to dissuade any scout watching him from recommending him for a deal. The jury is still out, after four Garza starts, on whether he should be traded or extended.
Big props to Luis Valbuena and Dioner Navarro for drawing walks that helped trigger the 10th-inning rally. The two-run margin of victory brought the Cubs' run differential back to even for the year (240 scored, 240 allowed) and the win brought the Cubs' record in extra-inning affairs to 3-2.
A few words about Hollandsworth as a TV game analyst; he was filling in for Jim Deshaies, who was away at a high-school graduation for one of his kids. Hollandsworth tends to talk a bit too much and there are times that his cadence doesn't work with the flow of the game. That said, if you listen to the words he's saying, he does have excellent insights into how a player views game situations. Hollandsworth has been retired as a player for seven years, but is still just 40, younger than some active players, and I think has a good read on how modern players approach the game. A little more work on his pacing and he could be a very good color commentator.
The Cubs most surely enjoyed their long flight home from their brief road trip and will have Thursday off before opening a series, and much longer homestand than the trip, against the Pirates Friday. That means we'll be turning over BCB to this year's draft later on; there will be a preview of the draft, including details about the three major talents the Cubs are likely considering, at 11 a.m. CT, and then full coverage when the draft begins late in the afternoon.