Like one of Dr. Pavlovís proverbial dogs, Cub fans have undergone systematic conditioning this year to the extent that we have come to expect the worst. I hate that. I want to listen or watch the game with hope, anticipation and with an overall positive frame of mind. Like that girl in “50 First Dates”, I want to approach each new game with a type of amnesia as to what occurred before.
Otherwise, following this team is but an exercise in despair and real life gives us enough of that thank you very much without our recreation time being more of the same.
Surely, then, when in the 8TH & 9th innings the fate of the Cubs fall to the likes of Perez, Hollandsworth and Macias, a gnawing sense of futility begins to exponentially grow with every pitch within the pit of my stomach.
The season didnít start out that way. I have done nothing but cheer on Neifi since day one, goading my contemporaries in the process. For awhile I enjoyed a playful adversarial relationship with the Todd Hollandsworth Fan Club. And while my fellow bloggers kicked Macias around for sport, I kept silent.
And so it is with exceptional personal glee to report that each of these three performed with aplomb this afternoon as the Cubs defeated the Pirates, 3-2, coming from behind late for the second day in a row.
The drama is taut indeed throughout the game. Going into the 8th inning, the Cubs have but three hits and it seems that an excellent outing by Glendon Rusch will be wasted. With one out and runners on 1st and 3rd, Neifi strolls to the plate.
But which Neifi will we see here? The one who doubled in the 1st or the one who hit into the double play in the 3rd? Fearing the worst, I am tempted to turn the radio off. Neifi isnít as hot as he was earlier in the season as the Cub Blog Army seems to find it necessary to remind me so often in recent days. Rarely have I seen so many seize upon the obvious with such abandon.
Hairston steals second, taking some of the pressure off of Perez. Then Neifi reminds me why I nicknamed him ìNiftyî to begin with as he lifts a pitch far enough to score Fontenot from 3rd. The Cubs have their first run of the day.
The Pirates fail to score in their half of the 8th thanks to Michael Wuertz who gets 3 outs by pitching to two batters.
Top of the 9th. The inning starts out positively enough when Jeromy Burnitz walks on a full count. He represents the tying run and Michael Barrett is coming up. Baker puts on the hit and run but the Pirates figure it out and guns down Burnitz on a perfect pitchout.
Reaching for the Tums, I consume double the usual dosage when Barrett doubles to center. Oh the angst, there could have been two on and nobody out at the very least and the score tied 2-2 at the most!
With Patterson due up, Pittsburgh skipper Lloyd McClendon throws the book of unwritten baseball rules into his locker to keep company with that base he uprooted a year or two ago. He puts the potential go ahead run on base.
Your move, Dusty. OK, Golden Boy Jason Dubois is lifted and Hollandsworth is sent up to hit in his stead. If this backfires, Baker will be burned in effigy from Berwyn to Lake Shore Drive. Todd returns smiles to the faces of his beleaguered and misunderstood fan club by rifling a shot off of Wardís glove that bounces down the right field line. Barrett scores the tying run and Patterson hustles to third. As Pat Hughes observes, ìThe world has been lifted from Todd Hollandsworthís shoulders.î
Up comes Macias. Breathing into a paper bag, I listen tentatively as Jose connects long enough for Patterson to score on a sac fly (4 of the 5 runs in the game score via the sac fly). Cubs lead 3-2 but the Pirates have one more chance.
Ryan Dempster, the Cubs new closer, is called upon to seal the deal. Ron Santo fears a base on balls. Ryan does one better, promptly giving up a double to Redman, one of the fastest men in a Pirate uniform. I begin that groan that starts near my liver and works its way slowly, excruciatingly up through every cavity within my body. Cubkiller Mackowiak is up, representing the winning run. Shades of í04 run thru my mind when he did more than break Cub fansí hearts, he chewed them up in itsy bitsy pieces. He walks. Two on, no out. My colon is doing the Macarena.
Sanchezí bunt is too strong and is hit straight back to Dempster who wisely goes to third, outing the lead runner. An error by Jerry Hairston loads the bases with one out. I roll up into a fetal position, hoping to heaven nobody walks into my office. Jack Wilson is up. He only has 3 hits on the day. No way he will get his fourth, right? I said right??!! He hits it to Neifi. Neifi tosses it to Hairston for one, who relays it to Lee for the double play and the Cubs win. Dempster gets his second save in as many days, bringing to mind the good ol days when Mitch Williams and Lee Smith closed games for the Cubs.
Well done, gentlemen.