Saturday's 4-3 Cubs win over the Phillies -- just the fourth Cubs win at Wrigley Field since the All-Star break -- is a tale of two games.
The first one, which lasted through five horrific innings filled with errors, hit batsmen, wild pitches, and a colossal number of runners left on base by both teams, was exactly what you wouldn't have expected from two lefthanders -- Chris Rusin and Cliff Lee -- who normally throw a lot of strikes and pitch to contact. Instead, Rusin and Lee combined for 197 pitches thrown in five innings, which lasted nearly two hours.
Mike reminded me of this old 1962 Mets story while this exhibition of bad baseball was going on: Marv Throneberry had hit a long drive at the old Polo Grounds and wound up on third base. The other team, noting Throneberry had missed second base, made an appeal play and Throneberry was called out. When Casey Stengel went out to argue the call with the umpires, he was told, "Sorry, Casey, but he missed first base too."
That's what this one felt like, and it seemed headed to a four-hour extravaganza of awful play until Starlin Castro led off the sixth inning and hit Zach Miner's first pitch deep into the left-center field bleachers for his eighth home run of the year, and just his second since the All-Star break. Castro also doubled and had much better at-bats today than he has had in recent games. Let's hope this starts a trend.
Cubs relief pitchers took up the torch, too; just two Phillies reached base after the fifth inning and the first one, pinch-hitter Pete Orr, who singled off Carlos Villanueva, was erased on a double play when he was caught off first base as Junior Lake snagged a line drive off the bat of Michael Young.
I won't even complain about Dale Sveum using three different pitchers -- Villanueva, James Russell and Blake Parker -- to get the three outs in the seventh inning, because each man did his job, and quickly, too. Pedro Strop and Kevin Gregg finished up, mostly uneventfully, though Gregg gave up a two-out single to Young. He posted his 28th save, and is just one short of tying Mitch Williams for ninth place on the all-time Cubs save list.
About the first five innings, during which the Cubs left 10 men on base and played pathetically bad defense, perhaps not much is worth saying. Anthony Rizzo made an error by having a ball pop out of his glove on an otherwise completely routine play, and then threw wildly to second, but a stolen base was given to Chase Utley on the play, all of this on Rizzo Bobblehead Day. Oh, wait... I said I wasn't going to say any more, and I won't. Just glad the Cubs figured out a way to win this game, or perhaps more accurately, a way to not lose.
A few words about the crowd. This was one of the most unruly, drunk crowds I have seen in the bleachers in quite some time. There were no real incidents, people were just drunk and out of control. This is what the Cubs get by scheduling a 3:05 game on the Saturday of a holiday weekend -- it gave people tons of time to get plastered before they even came into the park. There were still people showing up more than an hour after game time looking for seats. (Of course, with the slow pace of the game up to then, they didn't miss much, but then, those people probably weren't there to watch the game, anyway.)
Now go on, get off my lawn.
A couple more words about the crowd, in relation to Ryne Sandberg. I was told that quite a number of tickets were sold for this game over the last couple of weeks; it's likely that many who couldn't get Friday off, bought tickets for this game to give their respect to Sandberg, who got a much larger ovation today when bringing out the lineup card (again, noted by PA announcer Andrew Belleson) than he did Friday. There were far fewer no-shows today, too.
Seriously, I hope Starlin Castro can build on his good Saturday performance, have a really good September, and give us hope that he can get back to his 2010-11 level for next year. He's going to be 24 in March, still young enough to have a long and successful career as a Cub.
The Cubs have a chance to win yet another series; Sunday's game will feature Jake Arrieta against Kyle Kendrick, and start at 1:20, a much more reasonable hour.