Part I-Every Opportunity

{This is Part I in a series that will look at the Cubs 2007 playoffs}

I kept playing this imaginary conversation in my head after the Cubs were swept out of the playoffs after Saturday nights embarrasing defeat to the Arizona Diamondbacks.  It went like this;

Dbacks- Hey Cubs.  Sorry about the whupping we put on you in Arizona. Here, take game 3, we’ll give it to you.

Cubs- No thanks Dbacks, but thanks for offering.

Dbacks- No, no really. I insist.  Win this game and we’ll beat you in game 4.

Cubs-No really, it’s ok.  We don’t want it.

The Diamond backs gave the Cubs every opportunity in the world to win Game 3, and the Cubs refused to take it.  The atmosphere at the ballpark was nothing like 2003.  There was no electricity, no Banks_first_pitch buzz, just nervous waiting.  Fans wondered if the Cubs were finally going to break out, or were they going to just lay down and die.  While the fans were loud and appreciative when the Cubs team was introduced on the field, and even more excited when Ernie Banks threw out the first pitch, any type of excitement was gone after the first inning.

One Pitch

The first inning was a microcosim of the whole game and the whole Hill_watches_ball series.  The lead off batter was Chris Young, who batted .237 this season with 32 home runs. The guy can’t hit off speed pitches, so what does Rich Hill, whose best pitch is a curve ball, throw Young?  A fastball right down the middle for a lead off homer. 

"He’s been doing that all year, jumping on that first pitch," Hill said. "He did it again. I’ve seen him do it a hundred times. I’ve seen [Soriano] do it a lot. It’s something that happens."

So Rich, if you’ve seen this a hundred times, why the **** did you throw something he could hit out of the park on the first pitch?

"The fans are as passionate fans as anyone in baseball,” manager Bob Melvin said of the Wrigley crowd. "We knew we had to try to take them out and take the momentum away. And Chris Young’s home run in the first inning went a long way to [doing] that.”

The next batter Stephen Drew, who hit .238 in the regular season, hit a line drive that Cliff Floyd lost in the sun for a double.  Hill struck out the next two batters, Byrnes and Jackson, and was ahead of Mark Reynolds, but turned around and walked him.  The next batter, Jason Upton (.221 regular season), singled and the Dbacks were up 2-0.

In the Cubs half of the first, Alfonso Soriano acturally drew a lead off walk.  Livan Hernandez, Saturday’s starter, constantly fell behind every Cubs hitter, and the Cubs never made him pay.  With Ramierz_questions Soriano on first, Hernandez fell behind Ryan Theriot 3-1, but Theriot swung at the next pitch and grounded into a double play.  Derek Lee followed with a single, and then Cliff Floyd was hit by a pitch, but with two outs, Aramis Ramirez struck out without even swinging.

No Clutch Hits

Hill only gave up a single in the second, and got out of a jam in the third when he gave up a lead up lead off double to Conor Jackson, but the Dbacks left his stranded.  Meanwhile, the Cubs continued to blow chances against the struggling Hernandez.  In the second, Mark DeRosa reached on an error by Drew, but was thrown out at second when Jacque Jones reached on a fielders choice.  Jason Kendall singled, and Rich Hill laid down a bunt, but Jones got thrown out at third.  When the pitcher is bunting, the runners need to get a good secondary lead, which Jones did not.  Still, the Cubs had runners at first and second with two outs, but Alfonso Soriano grounded out.  In the bottom of the third, Theriot again got ahead of Hernandez 3-Floyd_double_play 1, and again he swung at the next pitch and grounded out to short.  Derek Lee singled and Cliff Floyd walk, putting runners at first and second with one out, but Aramis Ramirez hit into a double play, ending the threat. 

Bottom of the Order

In what seems to have been the trend this year, the bottom of the order of the opposing team also did some damage.  After dodging some bullets in the second and third inning, Hill couldn’t get out of the fourth.  Hill was ahead in the count, 0-2, against the backup catcher, Miguel Montero, but threw four straight balls.  Then the pitcher, Livan Hernandez, singled to chase Hill, who gave up three runs, six hits and two walks over three innings. Michael Wuertz came in the game and walked the first batter he faced, Chris Young, to load the bases.  Wuertz struck out Drew, and got Eric Byrnes to ground into a possible double play ball, but Byrnes hustled and reached on a close play at first, scoring another run.  Had the Cubs turned the double play, the inning would have been over, but instead the Dbacks added to the lead, making it 3-0.

The Nail in the Coffin

The Cubs finally were able to put a run in on a Jason Kendall ground out in the bottom of the fourth to make it 3-1.  Carlos Marmol came in to pitch in the fifth. He got Reynolds to pop out, but then he walked the next two batters, Upton and Augie Ojeda, but came back to get the next two outs and the crowd started buzzing.  In the bottom half of the fifth, Theriot led off with a walk, and then stole second, but Lee grounded out to the shortstop.   Cliff Floyd drew a walk, and then Aramis Ramirez would reach first for the first and only time in the series by drawing a walk.  So there is Livan Hernandez, who just walked the bases loaded with one out, Derosa_double_play and he falls behind the next batter, Mark DeRosa, 3-1.  The crowd rose to its feet and screamed at the top of their lungs to try and will the Cubs to finally get that big hit, but it wasn’t to be.  DeRosa hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the rally and in essence, the Cubs season.  After that play, the life was completely ****** out of the crowd.  We sat there quietly the rest of the game in disbelief.  It was like we were at a wake with an open casket, watching the final moments of the season that was already over.  Derek Lee hit into one more double play, Marmol gave up a solo home run, and what was probably the last time he would pitch in a Cubs uniform, Kerry Wood pitched the ninth and gave up as solo home run to Stephen Drew.  As we walked sadly out of the stadium as the Dback were celebrating on our field, one couldn’t help to think of what might have been. 

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3 comments

  1. tomliz92990@sbcglobal.net

    Mark will be laying off that pitch all off season. I am thinking that Kerry WILL be back and I want to thank you for the tickets this year and for providing this blog. See you next year!

  2. jdyjohns@hotmail.com

    I saw your sign folded up and sitting on the railing. What a sad day. What was that sock you had? Good to see you but couldn’t get down there to talk to you so a quick yell of your name had to suffice.

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