You can't say the weather in Chicago isn't interesting. After playing a game through unseasonably cold weather Wednesday night, the Cubs came to Wrigley Field Thursday night in unseasonably cold conditions that produced a thick fog blowing off Lake Michigan.
Only one play was really affected by the fog. With two out in the sixth inning, Luis Valbuena lofted a fly ball to medium-deep center field. Nationals center fielder Denard Span had no idea where the ball was, and it dropped behind him for a triple. No runs scored in that inning, but had that out been made, different batters would have come to the plate in the seventh inning, where the Cubs rallied for two runs off Nats reliever Craig Stammen. Those runs proved to be the difference in a 5-3 Cubs victory.
I'm kind of starting in the middle here, so let's wind back to the beginning. The game was scoreless in the top of the second when Nats left fielder Ryan Zimmerman hit a ball into the gap in right-center. Junior Lake raced after it, couldn't catch it, and hit the door to the left of the "368" sign. Hard. With his head. Even halfway across the park in the left-field bleachers, I could hear Lake's head hit the door.
That was a scary moment, as Lake didn't get up for quite some time. Concerned teammates, manager Rick Renteria and medical personnel went out to tend to him. Lake finally did get up and walked off the field under his own power. Fortunately, he appears to be fine:
#Cubs Lake has couple bruises (head, left leg), and did not show any concussion symptoms from collision with outfield door— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 27, 2014
Lake told Castro he wanted to keep playing and tried to stay in the game. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 27, 2014
Castro on Lake: "He's good, he walked good, he wanted to still play but they didn't let him." #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 27, 2014
So that's good news; hope Lake is back in the lineup soon. One thing is for sure: the Cubs ought to put pads on those doors. The doors aren't landmarked -- the Cubs don't need approval for that -- and it shouldn't be a problem putting any advertising on the pads, if they so choose.
After Lake's adventure, Zimmerman tried to score on a single by Wilson Ramos but was thrown out on a nice relay from Ryan Sweeney to Luis Valbuena to Welington Castillo. Sweeney appeared somewhat surprised that Zimmerman tried to score, as I saw him hesitate just briefly as he was deciding whether to throw to the cutoff man or all the way through. As it turned out, he did throw to the cutoff man (Valbuena) who made a perfect throw home to get Zimmerman.
The Cubs scored three in the fifth. Starlin Castro drove in Justin Ruggiano (single) and Anthony Rizzo (double) and Castillo plated Castro with a single. Castro now has 47 RBI, which puts him on pace for 99. I didn't think he would, but he seems to have taken to hitting in the cleanup spot. This might not be a long-term spot for him, but for right now, he's hitting quite well there: .291/.342/.511 with nine home runs and 38 RBI in 223 at-bats hitting fourth. The Cubs did quite well against Doug Fister, who walks very few and walked no one Thursday night. In this case, aggressive hitting worked well for the Cubs, who had seven hits off Fister.
Travis Wood struggled at times and might have been left in too long; a double by Span scored the tying runs in the seventh after Wood had walked Ramos and Danny Espinosa. Span was thrown out at third base, perhaps a critical play as Neil Ramirez was then summoned to finish off the inning, which he did on a popup that Rizzo managed to see through the fog and catch.
The Cubs came right back and took that two-run lead off Stammen in the bottom of the seventh. Darwin Barney, who is somehow keeping his BA just over the Mendoza Line, led off with a double down the left-field line. Pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan walked, and after a force play, Justin Ruggiano doubled them both in. Incidentally, ZImmerman, who's had shoulder problems and missed almost two months on the disabled list, is playing left field for the first time in his career this year. The shoulder has to still be bothering him -- he made several very weak throws. The Nats say he'll move back to his normal position, third base, when Bryce Harper comes back from a DL stint, but that won't be in this series.
Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon (ninth save) finished up for a satisfying win, even more satisfying for BCBer Zeke and Mrs. Zeke, who joined us in the bleachers Thursday night. She hadn't seen the Cubs win at Wrigley in more than two years. Maybe that's a good sign.
The fog is supposed to lift in time for Friday afternoon's contest (3:05 CT). Jason Hammel will face Tanner Roark.
And if you missed the game, or got only one angle on the fog from CSN Chicago's TV coverage, here's 20 seconds or so of the fog from my vantage point, taken in the eighth inning: