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Today in Cubs history: The last sub-two hour Cubs game

It happened near the end of spring training 2010.

Peoria Stadium in Peoria, Arizona
Photo by Brad Mangin /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in a series of Cubs spring training history articles I wrote when it appeared the lockout could cancel more spring games.

Now, of course, we have baseball, but by gum, I wrote these so you’re going to get to read them, even on game days. This is the fifth and last of five Spring Training “Today in Cubs history” articles. Hope you enjoy.

Sub-two hour games are nearly a thing of the past in Major League Baseball. The last one anywhere in MLB happened May 19, 2019, a 1:59 game between the Marlins and Mets. The last time the Cubs played one in the regular season was September 25, 2009, a 3-0 win over the Giants in San Francisco, a two-hit shutout thrown by Carlos Zambrano that was completed in 1:56.

But the Cubs have played one sub-two hour game since that 2009 Zambrano gem, a spring training contest against the Mariners at Peoria the following year

Here’s part of the game recap I wrote at the time, lightly edited

It was 77 degrees and beautiful, but the wind was most certainly NOT blowing “out” to left field as the boxscore indicated.

I can tell you this because I was sitting on the left field berm at Peoria Stadium and the wind was coming strongly from behind me, blowing in. Why is this important? Because if the wind had actually been blowing out, Ken Griffey Jr.’s long fly ball caught at the base of the wall by Sam Fuld for the second out in the ninth inning would have been a game-tying home run. Instead it was just a long out, and when Eric Byrnes hit a fly to left to end the game in an amazingly fast one hour, 59 minutes, the Cubs had their first 1-0 game and first shutout in spring training since a 1-0, 10-inning win over the A’s on March 25, 2006.

The game went so quickly that when I was exiting the park, people were standing around, apparently not realizing that it was over. The crowd of 13,629 was, for the fifth time this spring, a new Cactus League attendance record, breaking the newest record set yesterday, 13,583 at Camelback Ranch in a game between the Mariners and Dodgers. Peoria Stadium was unbelievably crowded — I don’t think I have ever seen the lawn there that packed, and the concourses were hard to negotiate, especially for people in wheelchairs.

Ryan Dempster was outstanding Sunday afternoon. Dempster allowed only four hits and until the seventh inning, no one past second base. In that seventh, he got himself into a jam with two singles sandwiched around a walk. Miracle of miracles, Lou Piniella did NOT come out of the dugout to make six pitching changes; instead he let Dempster work his way out of it, which he did with a flourish — three straight swinging strikeouts. Very, very impressive.

That Cactus League attendance record has been broken many times since, by Cubs crowds at Sloan Park. The current record is 16,100, set March 25, 2019 against the Boston Red Sox.

No Cubs game — spring, regular season or postseason — has finished in under two hours since this game in 2010. The fastest Cubs game since took two hours and five minutes, done twice: May 9, 2012 against the Braves at Wrigley Field and May 23, 2017 against the Giants, also at Wrigley Field. The last sub-two hour game at Wrigley Field happened June 21, 2002, a 2-1 win over the Cardinals in which Jon Lieber threw a three-hit complete game with seven strikeouts, finished in a rapid time of 1:49.

The last sub-two hour Cubs game of any kind, this spring win over the Padres, happened 12 years ago today, Sunday, March 28, 2010.