It sounds weird to say as a die-hard Cubs fan, but last night's game was probably the most thrilling experience I've ever had at Wrigley Field when the Cubs ended up losing. The comeback Cubs appeared to be at it again, but then of course, heartbreak. It's a familiar feeling, but in 2008? Not so much.
When Henry Blanco struck out with bases loaded to end the game, there was a moment of complete uncertainty at Wrigley Field. It was the eeriest moment I've ever felt as a sports fan. People were looking to see who was batting next. The game was concluding and there was just silence. No high fives, no Steve Goodman's "Go, Cubs, Go," just the end of the ball game and the wrong team celebrating near the pitcher's mound. Everyone who'd been following this team all season was used to that satisfying feeling after a Cubs game at home and just with a swing of the bat with the bases loaded, it wasn't there.
Wrigley Field is a special place to be this year, no doubt about that. Despite the phenomenal home record, last night's game was telling about the die-hard and ever-faithful nature of those that support this team. I can only imagine the feeling in the clubhouse-I didn't get a chance to hear any post-game interviews.
In the bottom of 7th through 9th innings, every ball the opposing pitcher threw, every miniscule positive thing for the Cubs, was awarded insane reaction from the crowd. I would have been terrified if I'd have been an Orioles pitcher on the mound in those innings. It was special, and I knew at one point in those innings that I'd enjoyed my time even if the Cubs didn't pull another comeback out of nowhere, which as you know they didn't.
I'm not sure who I want to blame more for the loss. It's really easy to get on Cedeno, Fukudome and Blanco for striking out in a row with the bases loaded because by no means is that ever acceptable, but the truth is that the situation should have been avoided in the first place. The difference makers were some errors and some poor outings by Michael Wuertz and Neal Cotts. Lou did exactly what I expected with Sean Marshall. He wanted him to go 5 full innings, but when he surrendered the fourth run with two outs, Lou didn't hesitate to pull him. Wuertz got out of the jam, but the horrible blunder in center field put the lead-off hitter on second and it went downhill from there. The Orioles were hitting the ball all over the field. There were 4 earned runs in yesterday's game credited to Sean Marshall; the Cubs scored 5 of their own. No reason you have to blame a failed comeback by the offense, even though I don't like offering up excuses to three players who should not have struck out.
I suppose you can't come back in every game, but the Cubs put themselves in that situation. I don't necessarily blame Lou for clearing his bench to bring righties in to face left-handed pitchers, you've got to trust one of them is going to deliver, at least as much as you trust your lefties to make contact at least. I really though Murton could do something with his at-bat in the 8th, but it happens.
The Cubs must rebound tonight to keep the home field energy and I think they can do it. The Orioles kept the ball in the park last night and considering Ted Lilly struggles against teams who hit the long ball, I think he's got a good chance at striking out a lot of blackbirds.
The Cubs will face their first lefty (Brian Burres) since Scott Kazmir, so it will be interesting to see what Lou does without Reed Johnson. We very well could see Fukudome back in center field again tonight. Matt Murton will definitely get a start in the outfield and DeRosa will probably play there too, which means in all likelihood that Ronny Cedeno will have a chance to redeem his horrendous average since mid-May when he hits eighth.