UPDATE: Neither Gameday nor the boxscore link below acknowledged the White Sox scored seven runs in this game. However, I have changed the headline and link to reflect what actually happened.
The eagle-eyed BCB reader with a good memory will recall that the title of this recap is the same one I used for the last game the Cubs played before Sunday, the final game in Mesa back on March 11 before the 2020 season was put on hiatus due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
That recap was given that title because the game had some weird twists and turns.
This one has that title because baseball and life have taken bizarre twists and turns that none of us likely could have imagined on that spring day more than four months ago.
And so, Sunday night the Cubs played another team for the first time since that game in March, which feels a lot longer than four months gone.
In some ways the Cubs’ 7-3 loss to the White Sox felt like any spring-training game. Starting pitchers went as far as their prescribed pitch count called for. Starting position players all departed the game after two or three at-bats. It was as if a game March 12 had simply followed that March 11 game, only after waiting a very, very long time.
And then there were the ways it was far different. It was in Wrigley Field instead of Mesa. No fans were in attendance. Crowd noise was piped in — and though many object to this, I didn’t mind it. It made the TV broadcast seem more “normal,” and we could use some normal right about now. Keep in mind that the crowd noise is mostly not for you, the TV viewer. It’s for the players, to make the ballpark feel more “normal.” Whether it works or not is up to them, really.
As far as the game is concerned, Jason Kipnis, serving as the designated hitter (the first time a DH has ever been used in a game at Wrigley, as far as I know), gave the Cubs an early lead [VIDEO].
That ball was crushed!
It has to be weird for Len Kasper to do a home run call like that when no one’s in the park. For announcers, too, they have to feed off the enthusiasm of the home crowd.
Willson Contreras singled and Jason Heyward walked in the second inning, and Willson advanced to third on a fly ball by Victor Caratini. Contreras then scored on a sacrifice fly by Nico Hoerner to make it 2-0.
Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks was sailing along pretty well, although a 22-pitch first inning wasn’t optimal. He ran out of gas in the fifth, and I’m pretty sure manager David Ross would have liked Kyle to complete the fifth. But at 83 pitches and with one run already in (on a homer by Adam Engel), two runners on and two out, Ross lifted Hendricks for Jharel Cotton. One more out would have kept the game at 2-1 ...
Cotton was bad, really bad. The Sox slammed four straight extra-base hits off him, three doubles and a triple, and within a few minutes’ time the game went from 2-1 Cubs to 6-2 Sox, three of the six runs in the inning charged to Hendricks.
Now, you might think that’s a typical spring-training outing where a pitcher simply throws fastball after fastball, but per Gameday Cotton threw nothing but offspeed pitches for that entire inning, curveballs and sliders. Cotton isn’t likely going to make the Opening Day roster anyway, but that seemed like an odd choice. The four XBH came on just 10 total pitches. Cotton also threw the sixth with no further damage.
Rex Brothers, Dan Winkler and Rowan Wick completed the game by throwing a scoreless inning each.
In the eighth, the Cubs tried to rally back. They loaded the bases on three straight walks and David Bote hit a ground ball that Nicky Delmonico couldn’t handle. A run scored and the bases remained loaded, but Hernan Perez flied to right and that ended that inning.
The Cubs failed to score in the ninth, and so this first practice game (of three this week) went into the books as a defeat, for whatever that’s worth. At times it felt weird. At other times it felt totally normal. It was, as far as I know, the first exhibition game played in Wrigley Field since April 25, 1995, when the Cubs lost to the White Sox 6-2, part of a pair dubbed the “Tribune Twinbill,” sponsored by the newspaper. (The Cubs lost the other one, too, April 24, 1995 at Comiskey Park, 6-3.)
Without access to Marquee Sports Network, I watched this game on NBC Sports Chicago with Jason Benetti and Steve Stone as the announcers. While the broadcast was Sox-centric, the two did bring some Cubs content into their commentary, likely knowing there were Cubs fans watching. I continue to hope that Marquee and Comcast/Xfinity will come to an agreement before Friday’s regular-season opener.
Speaking of which, I am still very, very ambivalent about this 60-game season. I’m concerned about possible spread of COVID-19, especially with teams beginning to travel. Baseball’s attempting to give us some feeling of normalcy in life, even in empty ballparks. I’m not so sure we’re ready for that. But I will watch the games. At times, they do feel normal. We’ll see how far they get into the 60 games. I have my doubts.
There’s another Cubs/Sox practice contest tonight, this time on the South Side. Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs and Dallas Keuchel will go for the Sox. Game time is 7:10 p.m. CT. TV coverage will again be on Marquee Sports Network and NBC Sports Chicago. If you are outside the Cubs market territory you will watch on MLB.TV (if you have a subscription). Radio broadcasts will be on 670 The Score (Cubs) and WGN (Sox).
Site note: Ashley MacLennan had a family emergency Sunday night and so Outside The Confines will not appear today. It’ll resume Wednesday.