World Series Dreaming at Wrigley Field, 6/23/2014

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I just got back from a fun but disappointing game at Wrigley Field in which the host Cubs dropped a late heartbreaker to the Cincinnati Reds, 6-1.  It was much closer than that for the longest time, and bear with me as I take you through our night at the ballpark…

Anno and I met at the Ernie Banks statue.  Since he was giving me free tickets, I gave the boss my extra Babe Ruth bobblehead doll and bought us both dinner.  The seats Anno has this year as a season ticket holder were better than last season’s.

Not as much obstruction, pretty good view of the action throughout.

Not as much obstruction, pretty good view of the action throughout.

We waited as the grounds crew brought in all the batting practice paraphernalia and set up the field for first pitch.  It was really cool from our vantage point along the third base line to see the Cubs players lined up during the national anthem, which was played by some classical funk band whose name I forgot (but they were good).

Line'em up!

Line’em up!

The first inning started off ridiculously as Billy Hamilton squirted a ground ball into right field, just barely past the reach of Darwin Barney.  By the time Ryan Sweeney got to the ball, Hamilton had made it into second base on a hustle double.  It didn’t really matter whether Hamilton was on first or second though as Todd Frazier smacked the ball into the gap and ended up with a relatively easy triple.  I remarked to Anno that our outfielders are ridiculously slow.  It was a miracle that Jeff Samardzija kept it together and only gave up that one run through his six innings of work.  It was also nice to not have to worry about the Cubs getting no-hit as Welington Castillo took care of that with a clean single in the bottom of the second.  In the third inning, Darwin Barney hit an ivy-rule double that Ryan Ludwick almost dug into the ivy for to negate the ground rule.  This prompted a suggestion from Cubs manager Rick Renteria to make sure Ludwick didn’t reach in all the way before raising his hand to signal ground rule, but it wasn’t to be.

They should've awarded him third base just on principle, it was a nice hit.

They should’ve awarded him third base just on principle, it was a nice hit.

This was annoying for a reason that you may not have anticipated…I had actually called for a Barney leadoff triple and for Jeff Samardzija to squeeze him in to tie the game.  Unfortunately, the ground rule negated what could have been the triple.  With Barney in scoring position I kept hoping Samardzija would just swing away, but he popped up a shitty bunt and couldn’t even advance Barney to third base.  Samardzija then broke his bat, which was kind of cool.  And of course Barney would be stranded because Cubs.

Rizzo's very exciting solo shot. (Charles Rex Arbogast, AP)

Rizzo’s very exciting solo shot. (Charles Rex Arbogast, AP)

The fourth inning was very exciting as Anthony Rizzo singled to lead off the inning and Starlin Castro hit a double down the line to get Rizzo to third base.  Unfortunately none of the three batters behind them could get the job done.  I kept hoping for a Luis Valbuena bat flip homer but he couldn’t get the ball far enough to score Rizzo on a sac fly.  Sweeney hit the ball hard but right at a defender and that was the inning.  Rizzo did end up tying the game in the bottom of the sixth on an opposite field home run; if there was a Jumbotron we would have known earlier that he had swung at a pitch that was WAY outside, but I had to find out about it on Twitter.

TicketSting sang the stretch, and nothing happened until two outs were recorded in the top of the ninth, when Hector Rondon got smacked by the BABIP fairy.  Chris Heisey blooped a single (dammit), stole second (on a wild pitch, but he was on the move anyway), and then scored shortly afterwards on a trickling grounder off Billy Hamilton’s bat that eluded Starlin Castro.  Castro actually got a glove on it but couldn’t keep Heisey from scoring.  Frazier followed that up with a broken bat flare to center, and then Devin Mesoraco, who had gotten on base every time, launched a just-barely-in-the-basket grand slam to end Rondon’s bad luck night.  That’s about when Anno had enough, but I stayed to see whether the Cubs could eke across a couple teaser runs.  With a whimper in the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs lost the first game of the series, and I too headed home.

It wasn’t a wasted evening for me, anyway.  There were times when the game got very exciting as I noted above, but with so many guys in the lineup OPSing in the .600s, it wasn’t likely for the Cubs to score a ton if Rizzo, Castro and Valbuena were off their game, which was unfortunately the case tonight save for Rizzo’s homer and that one inning where Rizzo and Castro got on base together.  Jeff Samardzija did pitch well enough to earn another quality start although he couldn’t get the victory (neither did the Cubs), and we kept pondering his trade value all night long as we kept waiting for the winning run that never came.  The weather forecast had predicted rain and thunderstorms in the area that night, but thankfully it stayed away and we enjoyed a spectacular night for baseball (just, again, no Cubs victory).  And for 8.2 innings, the Cubs actually had a chance to walk off as heroes.  But I got to enjoy a good, albeit frustrating, baseball game with 27000+ other fans (even though about a third of them were Reds fans, they were pretty cool) and talked shop with Anno for most of the night.  Pretty good start to my summer vacation and I hope to find some good deals so I can come back again and finally see the “W” flag fly with my own eyes this season.

And now I have to go to bed so I can take the pets to the vet tomorrow.  Wheeeeee.

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