Friday, June 19, 2009

That Just Happened

Yesterday reminded me why I love baseball, and why I will foolishly have the Cubs near to my heart until they kill me. I'm still not entirely sure that the entire ending to the game is not some elaborate hoax being perpetrated on me by some ruthless Cardinals/White Sox coalition of evil-doers.

The Cubs were dead. They weren't, there's-a-bright-light-I-must go-towards-its-ethereal-beauty dead. They were just-passed-through-the-crematorium, ashes-to-ashes-dust-to-dust dead. Jesus probably would have gone into the dugout and given up while attempting to bring new life. They were dead.

You could hear the Sox fans cracking open their cans of celebratory Keystone Light. Dave Kaplan was all ready with his flaming torches to lead the charge of the Fans Against Soriano Society's mob. Ron sounded like he was about to jump out of the broadcast booth to his death. I was getting blood all over my computer from repeatedly beating my head against my desk. The depths of sorrow were almost too heavy to comprehend for a game in mid-June.

They were down 5-1 in the 8th and Milton Bradley (who actually has been getting on base lately) struck out for the second out with two on and seemingly ended any threat of a big inning. Just as we had started to give up hope, when we began bracing ourselves for the mockery that would be heaped upon us for at least eight more days before the Cubs could even try to exact revenge against the Sox, when it seemed that no force on earth could possibly cause the Cubs to score a goddamn run - Derrek Lee stepped to the plate and hit one into the basket.

Suddenly it is 5-4, but most Cub fans were still thinking that it's a damn shame Marmol couldn't stop those two insurance runs from scoring in the top of the 8th, because we still didn't think that the Cubs could push across another run before the end of the game. But then Geovany Soto stepped up and crushed a no-doubt homerun to left to tie the game and stun the hell out of the White Sox and Cub fans everywhere.

The depths of despair suddenly became full of hope. The White Sox were now the ones who were on the defensive. We just sat and hoped that Kevin Gregg didn't incinerate the newfound hope with a pyrotechnics display out of the bullpen. Shockingly, he did not allow a run and the Cubs came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with a chance to win.

Reed Johnson edged a little closer to becoming the utility player that Cubs fans idolize and then bitch about when he is traded in the off-season at inflated value, by leading off with a single. Andy White stepped in and laid down a good sacrifice bunt to move Reed to second. This in itself was a minor miracle as the Cubs have typically had a maddening lack of ability to lay down bunts in big situations.

At this point, I was on the edge of standing up in my office and yelling encouragement into the radio, but then I saw on Gameday that Aaron Miles was the one coming to the plate. Aaron Miles is a black hole of talent where no positive feelings can possibly escape. His at-bats actually cause me physical pain.

I immediately jumped back to the conclusion that the Cubs would not score and begin playing the tenth inning at any moment because death-slumping Soriano was on deck. In less than 70 games, the Cubs have managed to erase all confidence and "Cubbie swagger" that had been built up during last year's dominant run to the playoffs. Such is the life of a Cubs fan. Positivity is always fleeting.

Sure enough, Miles grounded to shortstop and my hatred of him continued to grow unchecked. He has joined Mel Rojas and Candy Maldonado as my most hated Cubs of all time. I figured we were a couple of Soriano swings and misses at outside breaking balls from giving the White Sox new life.

For some reason, Matt Thornton, the Sox pitcher, threw a 2-2 fastball right down the middle to a guy who has spent the better part of the last month wishing and praying that someone would throw him a fastball. Soriano didn't hit it hard. It wasn't pretty. It was a humpback linedrive, but it had enough on it to clear second and not enough to carry into the outfielders' ranges. The ball fell in and Reed Johnson, taking nothing for granted, sprinted the entire way home. The Cubs burst out of the dugout to mob Reed and Soriano as the Sox walked off the field.

(AP Photo/David Banks)

I sat in my office completely stunned. It all seemed too good to be true and I kept waiting for the umpire to call Soriano out for using too much pinetar or something. But that never happened. The Cubs had actually won the game.

In the grand scheme of things, this singular instance could mean nothing. The Cubs face Cliff Lee today on the mound and the God of Baseball (that isn't thunder you are hearing in Chicago, it is Mark DeRosa nailing his hotel room door shut to keep Dave Kaplan out), in the batters box. Nothing can erase the positivity and potential momentum the comeback created like a couple of bad losses to Cleveland.

On the other side, a comeback victory of that type in a playoff atmosphere could be something that rejuvenates the team more than inserting a AAA hitter with a stone glove into the lineup ever could.

Either way, yesterday was a prime example of why I don't leave baseball games early and why I just plain love this game.


Arnold said...

Ha! Keystone Light! Those losers.

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