About an hour before the scheduled start time for the Cubs/White Sox makeup game Monday evening, it started raining. Hard. Hard enough for the Cubs, who were in the middle of batting practice, to scurry off the field and for the White Sox grounds crew to deploy their white tarp which bears an enormous caricature of WGN-TV weathercaster Tom Skilling.
All I could do is shake my head and start laughing. When was the last time -- if any -- that you heard of the makeup game for a rainout also being rained out?
It rained off and on for about an hour, then stopped as quickly as it had begun, and the game started just 29 minutes late.
Alfonso Soriano, the subject of trade desires on the part of many Cubs fans if not many actual trade rumors, had one of the best days of his 2013 season, going 3-for-4 with a walk, a home run and four runs scored. Soriano's home run came only moments after a flash of lightning and loud rumble of thunder from a storm passing nearby. He also reached on a dropped third strike and stole two bases, leading to this bit of information:
The Cubs defeated the White Sox 8-2 in a game that the home team appeared to not be very interested in playing, sweeping the season series for the first time since 1998. The White Sox kept the game close until the Cubs put together a five-run eighth inning. The Sox scored their first run on a homer by their rookie catcher Josh Phegley (who now has two homers in three big-league games), and the second on a weird double steal. The Cubs were busy botching things up, too, when Julio Borbon got himself picked off first base as Starlin Castro was striking out in the seventh inning; at that time the game was tied 2-2, prompting this tweet from my SB Nation White Sox counterpart:
These teams deserve each other.— South Side Sox (@SouthSideSox) July 9, 2013
At that time, I couldn't disagree with that assessment.
But the Cubs broke the game open in the eighth inning, sending 10 men to the plate. The key hit was a double into the left-center field gap by Luis Valbuena -- off lefty reliever Matt Thornton. That's a pretty good piece of hitting; Valbuena wasn't even supposed to be in the game. He was inserted for Welington Castillo at DH when Castillo was removed from the starting lineup for an unspecified "illness". Before Monday, Valbuena was just 4-for-20 against lefties this year.
Dave Sappelt, who had his best day of the year, going 4-for-5, also drove in a run in that big inning, and Cody Ransom wrapped up the scoring with a two-run single. One of the runners scoring on that single was Borbon, who added to the festivities by drawing three walks, hitting out of the nine spot. The Cubs closed out the scoring with a run on three solid singles off White Sox closer Addison Reed.
Meanwhile, Matt Garza was breezing through yet another opposing lineup. He threw seven innings and allowed two runs, one unearned due to Darwin Barney's second error in as many games. (That error, a throwing error, was totally unnecessary; Barney stepped in front of Castro to try to make a throw and wound up being off-balance.) Garza's last five starts have produced a combined 37 innings pitched, 24 hits and eight walks allowed (0.865 WHIP), 34 strikeouts and a 0.97 ERA. After the game, Garza said:
"At the end of the day, it comes down to my decision if I want an extension, and a trade, it’s obviously [the Cubs']decision," he said. "I like being a Cub, I want to get this team to October and win it here. Like I’ve said before, it’d be one [heck] of a party. I’m just going to get ready for every five days."
So who knows? Maybe Monday's national article about Garza and the Cubs talking extension isn't just posturing, and maybe he'll wind up staying. Consider that this year's Cubs rotation has been very good -- the problems with this team have been elsewhere. Going into 2014 with a solid rotation, maybe Theo & Jed can work on solidifying the bullpen and improving the offense. Regarding Garza, the Cubs originally said they wouldn't give him a "personal catcher", but Garza's surge has directly coincided with Dioner Navarro catching his starts. If that's what it takes -- then do it, and re-up Navarro if you're keeping Garza. (Maybe even if you don't, because Navarro has been very good this year, especially with the bat.) From where I sit, I'm 99 percent sure that Garza will make his scheduled start Saturday against the Cardinals.
Despite the weather, the White Sox' poor play and the fact that this makeup game was squeezed into the middle of a White Sox road trip, a surprisingly large number of people made the trip to the South Side for this game. The announced tickets-sold total was 31,552, and I'd say close to 25,000 were actually in the park. Most of the Sox fans departed during and after the Cubs' five-run eighth; chants of "Sweep!" from the remainder, almost all Cubs fans, could be heard during the ninth inning. I'd say the crowd was close to 40 percent Cubs fans.
The complaint department should be closed after wins like this, but I do have one. The Cubs recalled Brooks Raley Monday after trading Scott Hairston, adding an extra pitcher instead of a bat. The stated reason for this was that the bullpen has been "overworked", which is certainly true. That being the case, why on Earth was James Russell summoned with one out in the ninth, a six-run lead, and Blake Parker having efficiently recorded four outs on 11 pitches? Yes, Adam Dunn lefthanded hitter blah blah blah.
In situations like that, someone please anchor Dale to the bench, please. Sure, Russell recorded the final two outs on only six pitches, but why was he even in the game? (And someone else -- I couldn't see who, but it was a righthander -- was warming up even as Dunn popped up and Jeff Keppinger grounded out to end the game.)
The Cubs are now riding a three-game winning streak and have won 10 of their last 16. They've reduced their overall season run differential to -4 (comparison point: the Yankees, also with a -4 run differential, are seven games over .500). The Angels visit Wrigley for a two-game set starting Tuesday night; that will wrap the Cubs' interleague schedule for 2013, a successful schedule, as they will enter Tuesday's action 12-6 in interleague games.