9.11.2004

North Side Wake Up Call

It was a familiar situation for the Cubs. Going into the bottom of the seventh against the Marlins they were down two runs. Dontrelle Willis had held them scoreless for seven, despite not throwing much of a game. His control was off early, and the Cubs had the bases loaded in the second. Derek Lee promptly grounded out. Until the fifth, Willis was having trouble throwing first pitch strikes. But the Cubs let him settle into a groove and he was taking them apart at leisure. With the Marlins bullpen ready to come in and lock down the game, it was a show we'd all seen before. The Cubs hadn't hit a home run all day, and they weren't going to. That's a recepie for failure, for the Cubs. Zambrano had thrown very well, giving up only one earned run, the two runs due to a throwing error and a broken bat flare. The Cubs don't have a Rally Monkey for these sorts of situations. The animal most associated with the Cubs is a goat. This seemed appropriate.

There was only one person on the field who must have felt out of place. Only one man felt unfamiliar today. Sammy Sosa hadn't hit sixth in a lineup in over 10 years. But his first two at bats were familiar. They were exactly what we'd come to expect from the Cubs this year.

And then, it happened. The Cubs had threatened and then scored one in the seventh, but all that managed to do was bring the dreaded Guillermo Mota into the game. After the strikeout of Moises Alou looking to end the inning, the Cubs looked beaten. Two more runs off Mota, or Benitez with the bottom of the lineup? Highly unlikely.

In the eighth, Dusty Baker pinch hit with Nefif Perez. This in itself was enough to suggest to me that he was ceding the game, but Perez rapped a ball through the infield and took second on a throwing error. There was a glimmer of hope for a moment, and then I saw the man in the on-deck circle. It was Sosa.

There have been times when seeing the Dominican Daddy step to the plate with the game on the line would have sent electric shivers through me. But I thought we'd lost that Sammy. For the year he's hitting .236 with men on, .209 with a man on second, and .185 close and late (results in the 7th inning or later with the batting team either ahead by one run, tied or with the potential tying run at least on deck). I thought it was the end.

And then it happened. He happened. Sosa chipped a ball into the outfield, scoring Perez. The Cubs piled on for three more with a bases loaded double from Lee. Still, in the back of my mind, there was a worry. Hawkins had to go through Conine, Encarnacion and Gonzalez. He did it in nine pitches. Nine strikes. Three strikeouts. He was pouring heat on the outside corner and had Conine and Ecnarnacion swinging at pitches six inches off the plate. It was determination, it was grit, and it was blistering fastballs centimeters from the edge of the plate.

It may be premature, but this is exactly what the Cubs needed. There were flubs, blown bunts, Nomar came out in the fifth, and the error in the first. But the Cubs needed to remember how good they really are. They needed to pick up a game on the 'Stros and Marlins. And more than anything else, one thing needed to be proven, that Sammy Sosa was still Sammy Sosa. If the Cubs win the Wild Card, this game will have been the turning point. This is when they started believing they could win it all. In the end, it was the Marlins who looked beaten, flailing at Hawkins in the ninth. The Cubs looked ready for more.

3 comments :

The Josh said...

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Anonymous said...

barry bonds is good but over rated.Just because some one is good on ofense and hits homers dosent make him good.This year bonds didnt do nothing on defense except cacth a fly ball

Anonymous said...

i pick my nose