May 14, 2011
At the Ballpark, Giants/Cubs edition
This game report was written in the wake of the Friday, May 13 game between the Giants and Cubs, but was delayed in publishing until this morning. Apologies.
Baseball is a funny sport. You can spend two-plus hours watching the game and be sure you know what the game is all about only to be proven wrong with one swing of the bat or one bad pitch. Friday afternoon, for example, the first six innings of the Giants-Cubs game in Wrigley Field was most certainly about the weather and the pitching, but a fan leaving game after the ninth inning would remember the game differently.
Fans who woke up early Friday saw warm sun and a cloudless sky, but it didn't last. In the time it took a Cubs' batting practice home run to die at the warning track, the wind shifted. Fog blew in from the lake and the field dropped 15 degrees. This was the weather players would be "hitting" in all afternoon.
Not that pitchers Madison Bumgarner or Ryan Dempster were complaining. Bumgarner had a hard time finding himself in the second inning, when he gave up two walks and three base hits (around a perfectly dropped sacrifice bunt by Koyie HIll) for three runs, but was effortless in his other five innings of work.
"Dempster was fantastic", as Cubs manager Mike Quade said. A couple of well hit grounders found their way through in the first inning gave the Giants a run, but Dempster ignored them with ease. Through two innings, he had four strikeouts and seven strikeouts through four. Giants hitters, particularly Cody Ross and Freddy Sanchez, just could not figure him out. By the time he retired for the day, Dempster had rung up 11 Giants batters. He wasn't too impressed with his own numbers, though. "Strikeouts are kind of overrated. I'm just trying to get outs out there. I'm just happy to get a bunch of them by strikeout today."
But, like the weather Friday morning, things seemed to change in the seventh inning. The fog finally burned away just as Jeremy Affeldt came in to relieve Bumgarner to start the inning. he quickly retired Hill on a groundout, but that would be the only out Affeldt would record. He left the game four batters later, with one run in and the bases loaded. A bases clearing triple from Reed Johnson, whose efforts in the field had both saved a triple and allowed a triple already, made it 8-2. The great pitching match-up that 37,000 paid ticket holders had sat through on a blustery day was gone, replaced by a blowout. The Chicago crowd didn't seem to mind too much, though. They were just happy for a chance to sing "Go Cubs Go".
A few more runs were scored before it was all said and done, but the 11-4 Cubs' victory was never in doubt. In his postgame press conference, Quade summed it up best: "Sometimes you never know. It's a funny game."