Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
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Why I'm Not An Oddsmaker
by Derek Smart
Before the game, I did not believe the Cubs had a chance.
Then Alfonso Soriano led off the game with a double that nearly made it out, eventually stealing third and scoring on Derrek Lee's single. Now I did think they had a chance, but a ludicrously small one.
Then Ted Lilly, after a bit of a rough time with Braun and Fielder, started to settle in and throw a nice ballgame. Now I thought they had something on the order of a 20% chance to steal a victory.
Then Alfonso Soriano drilled a shot into the left field bleachers, giving the Cubs a two-run lead. Chances of victory given by my brain leap up into the 35% range.
Both sides trade jabs for a while, and then Mr. Rooooooosevelt starts crankin' out hits like Elvis, and by the time the inning is over the Brewers have a 3-2 lead. I'm thinking 15%.
However, the very next inning, the Cubs scratch across two runs, due to equal parts patience and defensive incompetence. Sabathia is out of the game by inning's end, and the Cubs have a 4-3 lead. I start off thinking we're in the 55% range, but see Bob Howry preparing to enter the game, and quickly revise downward.
Howry makes my fear prescient, sticking a fastball right where Russell Branyan can both reach and kill it, tying the game at 4 apiece. I have now begun repeating a mantra which, I have to admit, will be spoken at intervals throughout the rest of the contest. "I'm really going to hate losing this game," I say to myself.
Quietude prevails in the eighth, and then the Cubs come alive in the ninth, showing wonderful patience, and just the right amount of timely hitting to get themselves a 6-4 advantage going into the bottom of the frame, where I anxiously await the results of "Who's Carlos This Time?" the new gameshow where contestants can win cash and prizes by correctly determining whether Carlos Marmol will be a Showstopping Badass, or a trembling, Jelly-Filled Run Machine.
Those who had 'Showstopping Badass' in the pool were mostly right, and despite walking Jason Kendall and trying like hell to get Gabe Kapler's poke over the fence, Marmol has a nice outing - probably his best in July - and the Cubs get an unexpected, heart-stopping victory.
If there's a wider point to be found, it's that this year, whenever I've truly begun to lose faith in the ability of this ballclub to keep on track for their ultimate goal of a World Series, they've found a way to restore it in spades. They did this last night by finding a way to win a game that paper gave the opposition with relative ease - by looking into the face of the man who is supposed to lift their rivals to the promised land and saying, "Not so fast. You shall not pass."
They play the games for a reason, kids. I should remember that more often. And that it cuts both ways.