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by alex ciepley
And sometimes you get exactly what you wish for.
A couple days ago I declared that I was tired of the one-run nail biters (mostly because the Cubs had lost two of 'em in a row) and was hoping for a "7-0 romp." Since those words were written, the Cubs have defeated the Reds 8-1 and the Pirates 9-1. Do you think it would be pushing it for me to declare, "I'm sick of these 8-run wins, I want the Cubs to pitch no-hitters and score 14 runs"?
I "watched" yesterday's game from seats up behind home plate at Shea Stadium in New York, soaking up a Mets-Expos extravaganza. I enjoy scoreboard watching, and it is a good way to gauge my own personal fears and desires about the Cubs. To wit:
Cubs batting, top of the first:
Almost immediately after the Chicago game goes "live" on the scoreboard, a 2-spot goes up for the Cubbies. I think, Sammy! It turns out to be a Patterson 2-run bomb, but I don't know this until I get home later. When the Cubs are still batting for a while, and two more runs are tallied, I think, Barrett! Not because I think Michael is a great homerun hitter or anything, but because the timing seemed about right, and Barrett's hot. In real life, A-Gonz has just hit a two-run double.
Pirates batting, bottom of the third:
While witnessing Leiter and Day plow through the batters for their respective teams, it seems that the scoreboard has paused excessively long on the bottom half of the Pirates' third inning. I envision 2 walks and a broken bat single for the Buccos. The bases are full, the game is already on the line, and Zambrano has thrown about 47 pitches in the inning. But now I see it must have been a glitch in the stadium board: Z threw 13 pitches that inning, giving up only a harmless single to Tike Redman.
Pirates batting, bottom of the sixth:
I'm feeling pretty good now. Not only is the game in front of me being well-played (current score 1-1, after a Juan Rivera RBI single), but the Cubs now lead 8-0 (Sammy again!, I think). The only thing I'm worried about, of course, is Zambrano's arm. Still thinking he threw about 47 pitches in that third inning, I now see the Pirates score a run, and I groan. Zambrano's probably at 126 pitches already! Look how Dusty just leaves him in there to give up runs. I get up angrily from my seat and go get an order of crappy fries, a Shea specialty.
Cubs batting, top of the eighth:
The Cubs get another run. Sammy's third of the day! I can't believe it! Little do I know that my earlier prediction of a Michael Barrett homer would have been accurate this time around.
Pirates batting, bottom of the eighth:
Number 38 is still listed as the pitcher, so my nerves are calmed a bit. Surely Baker wouldn't leave him in for 162 pitches, would he? Maybe that third inning wasn't as bad as I assumed.
Pirates batting, bottom of the ninth:
According to the scoreboard, Zambrano is still the Cubs pitcher, going for a one-run complete game. The inning passes quickly, the Cubs win, and I'm happy, though concerned about how many pitches Z threw this early in the year. Turns out I needn't have worried. Not only was Carlos not pitching that inning, but when he had been in the ballgame he had pitched well and efficiently.
So there you go. When getting minimal information about a Cubs game, it seems I jump to two conclusions: 1) Sosa is somehow responsible for every run the Cubs score, and 2) Baker will leave every Cubs pitcher in about 45 pitches too many. Chalk it up to a neuroses bred from Sosa-centric offenses of years past and Woodish abuses inflicted just days ago. Turns out this time around I was happily wrong on both counts.