Saturday, May 10, 2008

Somewhere Mario Mendoza is Smiling...

Thanks to Alfonso Soriano going 4-5 today, his batting average is now a robust .223 for the season. Which means Mr. Mendoza can have his line back. With any luck, this is the beginning of the return of the Soriano we were all hoping for when he signed that big contract. Now if he would only start hitting some bombs onto Waveland again...

Speaking of which - today's batting practice was a repeat of yesterday's. Only two came out, both by Arizona. Big difference today though - I actually caught one, unlike yesterday's error. So I got that going for me. Wind was still blowing in at a pretty good clip, so wasn't surprised that nothing came out during the game as well. Tomorrow's forecast doesn't look good, and the rather anemic San Diego Padres come in on Monday for a four game series, so it might be awhile before we see another street homer.

Oh well, I suppose it's worth it as long as the Cubs keep winning. Would be very nice to see October baseball on Waveland again - this time for more than one game.

Friday, May 9, 2008

And A Pitcher Shall Lead Them...

No doubt about it - the Cubs have been through quite a rough stretch lately. Losing two out of three in St. Louis, and repeating that effort (or lack thereof) in Cincinnati, with Wednesday's 9-0 shellacking the crowning insult. Go back to the previous homestand and the Cubs were 3-7 in their last ten games. Ugh! Yesterday's day off couldn't have come at a better time.

And today's pitching (and hitting) performance by Ted Lilly couldn't have come at a better time as well. Seven strong innings, allowing only 3 hits and walking 2, while striking out 10. Gave up only one run, a solo home run to Chris Young in the first inning that I'm sure gave everyone a bad sense of déjà vu all over again from last year's NLDS Game 2 when Young homered off Lilly. Thankfully, Lilly quickly put that behind him today and shut down the D'Backs the rest of the game. Marmol pitched a strong 8th, and turned it over to Woody, who came in, threw 9 pitches (all for strikes), and quickly closed it out for his 6th save.

But were it not for Lilly's hitting prowess, the Cubs could have been on the losing end of a 1-0 score. Instead, Lilly cracked a two out RBI single in the 5th inning - this after Reed Johnson was intentionally walked. Can't fault Arizona manager Bob Melvin here - it's a sound baseball strategy, but it just backfired today. Soriano followed up with an RBI double, and Cubs take the lead, 2-1. Derrek Lee added an insurance run in the 8th with his 9th home run of the year.

Great, great game. Yes, I was outside the whole time, futilely waiting for a street homer, but it sure felt like I was watching it, thanks to the crowd noise and Pat & Dave on the radio. Yes, no Ron Santo today -he had a rough road trip as well and is still a bit under the weather, so Dave Otto filled in for him. Hopefully Ron will be back over the weekend.

With a fairly constant 10-15 mph wind blowing in from left, batting practice was fairly uneventful. Cubs didn't come close and Arizona only connected on two out to Waveland. Slim got the first one, after it bounced off a mail truck. Second one should have been an easy catch for me, but I stumbled coming off the curb and just couldn't get back on track with the ball. Went off my glove and tipped my hat - guess I should be thankful I didn't get a face full of ball. A little kid ran it down and was excited as could be, so all's well that ends well.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Free Ticket Day... already???

At some point in the season, chances are pretty good you can get a free ticket to a game just by hanging outside the park. Of course, this usually happens once the Cubs are out of it, it's a weekday game or the Pirates are in town. Not this year. Second game of the season, against the Brewers (our new bitter rivals) and there were free tickets everywhere! Bleachers, field boxes, terrace reserved, upper deck boxes - you name it, it was free. Well, maybe not those new CBOE bullpen seats - I don't think we'll ever see any of those being given away on the street.

The foul ball barrage continued with Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez both hitting long foul balls onto Waveland. I ran down the Ramirez ball in the 6th and had a good view of the Braun blast in the 1st. Of course, the reason I had a good view of Brauns is because I was walking up Waveland towards the corner. Yes, I was late for the start of the game. And that tardiness most likely cost me a home run as Rickie Weeks deposited the very first pitch of the game out onto Waveland. I was walking by the old Yum Yum building, when I heard Pat Hughes make the home run call on WGN720.

Sure enough, when I got to the corner and got the scoop, I found out the ball landed about 20 feet from where I normally stand, so it would have been an easy catch for me. Oh well - share the wealth. And today's wealth was snagged by our aspiring young actor and sometimes ballhawk, Nick Eversman. One bounce, against the yellow brick building and then slowly rolling back towards the street. Nick ran it down before a couple of workers doing some brickwork in front of one of the rooftop buildings realized what was going on. It was Nick's first career gamer, though he's caught many in batting practice before. Congratulations, Nick!

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Wednesday, April 2: BP-5 [W-5,S-0], HR-1 [W-1,S-0], Foul-2 [W-2,S-0]
Season: BP-13 [W-12,S-1], HR-1 [W-1,S-0], Foul-4 [W-2,S-2]

Monday, March 31, 2008

First of All...

Always plenty of "firsts" to go around on Opening Day. Probably most noteworthy from the Cubs' perspective was new addition Kosuke Fukudome hitting a double on the very first pitch he saw. But the first "first" I saw happened on my way to Wrigley. I was cutting through the Cubby Bear parking lot when I passed a noticeably agitated Lincoln Park "Trixie" deep in conversation on her phone.

"Ok... Wait... Stop... Listen, I've always been honest with you, Joe..."

Yep, I believe I was witness to the very first breakup of the season. Hang in there, Joe, wherever you are. You're probably better off without her.

As for the game itself, after eight innings of well-pitched baseball, Cubs and Brewers were scoreless. Then Kerry Wood comes on in the top of the 9th and promptly gives up three runs. Not to be outdone, the Brewers' closer, Eric Gagne returns the favor when Dome hits a three-run homer in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game. Brewers go on to score one in the 10th and the Cubs lose, 4-3. Obviously not the best way to start the season, but it was exciting, and easily could have ended up in the W column.

Oh, and without a doubt, my favorite "first" of opening day was when Kerry Wood drilled Rickie Weeks with his very first pitch. If intentional, probably not the smartest of moves, considering it was the top of the 9th in a as of yet still scoreless game. And it's very possible that this pitch just simply got away from Kerry. But I saw the replay, and considering he's had excellent control as of late, DeRosa was hit earlier, and Wood just has that warrior mentality, I think he saw this a perfect opportunity to stick up for his teammates and deliver a message to a division rival.

More firsts... Prince Fielder hits the first foul ball out of the park - a long blast onto Sheffield but clearly foul. Felix Pie hit one onto Sheffield as well, but also foul.

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Monday, March 31: No BP, HR-0, Foul-2 [W-0,S-2], Roof-0
Season: BP-8 [W-7,S-1], HR-0, Foul-2 [W-0,S-2], Roof-0

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Meet The New Field

Definitely not the same as the old field.

The Cubs and the Brewers got a jump on the 2008 season by having a workout at Wrigley Field today. I imagine it was the first time many of them had seen Wrigley since the field was redone during the offseason. All reports indicate that everything is a lot smoother, and at least initially, the field will be much faster. Hard grounders and gap shots will be interesting to watch these first few weeks.

But a long home run out onto Waveland (or Sheffield) will still be the same - and both teams took the opportunity to launch a few during the workout. And a few ballhawks (and passers-by) took the opportunity to try and catch the season's first pearls. The Cubs drew first blood - check out this dent on the hood of a car parked on Waveland.

I had a good day, catching three out of the seven that came out on Waveland. Slim reports that one came out on Sheffield, compliments of Kosuke Fukudome. Not a bad way to start the season - even if it was a day early...

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Sunday, March 30: BP-8 [W-7,S-1], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-0
Season: BP-8 [W-7,S-1], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-0