I recently wrote about my fart loving cat. Well, this morning I was wakened by the feel of something hard near my butt. Upon scooching around I found the cat, with some of her toys, happily camped near my rear end. It was like she’d set up a shrine to my farts.
”Oh wondrous source of glorious odors
Bringer of the Holy fumes
I beseech thee
In the name of all that is pure and good
Please emit more of the sanctified effluvia
Forever and ever, meow.”
Okay, I know that the cat didn’t actually build a shrine. Cats just like to have all their favorite stuff in their happy place. I just wish she had a different happy place.
Since I wrote about my cat on the last day of Spring Training I figured I should follow up now that Opening Day is in the books.
Yesterday the Cubs faced the Pirates, a team that gave them fits all last year, and prepared to show their fans how much they’d improved from last year’s disappointing season. As CARRIE MUSKAT reports, that was a pretty good idea on paper.
Mike Quade is a glass half full kind of guy, so even though the Cubs lost his first Opening Day game as a big league manager, he could find plenty of positives.
The Cubs outhit the Pirates and created opportunities, the middle infield duo of Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney were solid, and the bullpen did its job. But there was no happy ending as the Pirates upended the Cubs, 6-3, in front of 41,358 soggy fans at chilly Wrigley Field.
“No storybook ending, but I don’t believe in those things anyway,” Quade said. “You have to earn what you get, and we didn’t earn it today. We got beat.”
Neil Walker belted a grand slam with two outs in the fifth and Andrew McCutchen added a two-run homer, both off Ryan Dempster, to power the Pirates and spoil the festivities.
Dempster (0-1) held the Pirates to two hits over the first four innings and the Cubs had a 2-0 lead in the fifth when Ryan Doumit singled, and one out later, Ronny Cedeno walked. Both advanced on a sacrifice by Kevin Correia, and Jose Tabata walked to set up Walker’s homer off a 3-2 pitch. The ball bounced off the right-field bleachers and onto Sheffield Avenue.
Walker, who batted .469 against the Cubs last season, had struck out and flew out to right his first two at-bats against Dempster. This time, the Cubs starter was in a mess.
“He was trying to get me out away and was successful the first two times,” Walker said. “I just tried to grind the at-bat out and got to 3-2, and fortunately he left a pitch out over the plate.”
It was the second grand slam by a Pirates batter on Opening Day and first since Roberto Clemente did so in 1962.
Walker then doubled with two outs in the seventh and McCutchen followed with his home run to chase Dempster, who gave up six hits, walked four and struck out seven.
“I’m more mad about the [McCutchen homer],” Dempster said. “The grand slam hurt. When it’s 4-2 and you’re right in the game and you give up the add-on runs, those usually end up putting you away for the rest of the game. They scored all six of their runs with two outs. I have to do a better job.”
McCutchen’s homer came on Dempster’s 114th pitch. Quade checked with his starter in the sixth, and the right-hander said he was OK.
“He’s earned the right for me to ask him,” Quade said. “It’s a little different than going out to talk to [Andrew Cashner] and say, ‘Let’s figure out how we want to do this.’”
In the Cubs’ first, Castro was safe on an infield hit that Pedro Alvarez had trouble getting a grip on. Castro then scampered home on Alvarez’s throwing error as he fielded Marlon Byrd’s grounder but overthrew Lyle Overbay at first. The Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the third, and Carlos Pena picked up his first RBI when he hit into a force at second to make it 2-0. Kosuke Fukudome added an RBI single in the seventh.
The Cubs had enough hits and now need to work on timing.
“We hit the ball good,” Aramis Ramirez said. “We just didn’t have any extra-base hits or big hits. They got six runs on two swings.”
“It’ll come,” Quade said. “Are you disappointed because you didn’t get a big hit or are you happy that you created many opportunities and believe that if you keep creating them, you’ll cash in on them? I prefer the latter and think we will cash in.”
We told you he was an optimist.
It wasn’t all good. The Cubs had a runner at first in the sixth and Pena swung at a 3-0 pitch, popping up into a force.
“I thought I had the green light because I missed the sign,” Pena said. “I felt pretty good, got a good pitch to hit, but I hit the bottom part of the ball and popped it up.”
It was miscommunication.
“Carlos came over and said, ‘I screwed that up,’” Quade said.
Correia (1-0) struck out three and served up six hits over six-plus innings for the win. The Pirates, under new manager Clint Hurdle, picked up where they left off last season when they won 10 of 15 meetings.
“They just got us once this year,” Dempster said. “We’ll come out tomorrow and play a better game against them tomorrow.”
This wasn’t Quade’s first game managing in the big leagues or his first game at Wrigley Field, but it was his first Opening Day as a big league manager and this is his hometown. No happy ending.
“Let’s come back and go to work tomorrow,” Quade said. “Ultimately, we got beat today and we have to figure out a way to beat these guys tomorrow, whether it’s the second game of the season or whatever.”
He rode the “L” train to the ballpark on Friday and planned to do the same on Saturday. Will he wear a disguise?
“I’ve got Pittsburgh gear,” he said, smiling. “My routine is not going to change.”
It’s good that Quade has a sense of humor, he’s going to need it. Last year the Cubs outhit quite a few of their opponents and lead the league in runners left on base for a large part of the season. The same held true yesterday. Yes, the Cubs pen looks pretty good. Yes, the starting rotation seems to be solid. I’ll forgive the pitch that Neil Walker dropped onto Sheffield for his first career grand slam since it was a good pitch and the guy just got all of it. But Pena faced a bases loaded situation, exactly why the Cubs paid him $10 mil, and walked meekly back to the dugout. Later, with a 3-0 count and a runner on first he swung at a golf ball and the obvious happened. Everybody out.
If they’re going to be feast or famine at the plate all year, it’s going to be a long season.
Also yesterday the Sox faced the Indians, a team that gave them fits all last year, and prepared to show their fans how much they’d improved from last year’s disappointing season. As SCOTT “MY MAIN MAN” MERKIN reports, their plan worked out a little better.
Before Fausto Carmona threw the first pitch in the 2011 season opener between the White Sox and Indians on Friday at Progressive Field, Mark Buehrle made a request of his offense.
“I told the guys in the first inning, ‘Go out and get me five.’ They got me two,” said Buehrle of his team’s early output. “They said, ‘Hey, is that enough?’ I said, ‘No, keep them coming.’”
The White Sox offense eventually reached 14 after 3 1/2 innings, presenting Buehrle with a two-touchdown cushion and just 18 outs left to be recorded.
“When we got to 14, I said, ‘All right, I think that’s probably good. Save some for [starter Edwin] Jackson tomorrow,’” said Buehrle with a laugh.
It turned out Buehrle’s feeling of safety with 14 runs was accurate but not quite as comfortable as he expected. The Indians rallied to put thoughts of warming up closer Matt Thornton into the White Sox mindset and had the tying run nearby, if not immediately on deck, before succumbing in a strange 15-10 final.
These two teams combined for 35 hits, with 18 coming from the White Sox, and scored the most combined runs in an Opening Day contest since April 5, 1983, when the Padres topped the Giants by a 16-13 margin. Adam Dunn homered and drove in four during his White Sox debut, Carlos Quentin went deep and produced five RBIs and Gordon Beckham chipped in three hits.
As dominant as the White Sox offense proved to be on this day, with six starters producing multi-hit efforts, the bullpen went the opposite way in an extremely shaky first appearance.
Nonetheless, manager Ozzie Guillen wasn’t worried about style points in raising his Opening Day record as a manager to 5-3.
“We won. We are pretty good. We started very well. We are hot,” said Guillen with a laugh. “Our offense was very good. We did a tremendous job against Carmona, making him pitch, making him throw strikes. My bullpen was a little shaky today, but that’s going to happen.”
“If we didn’t have that big of a lead, it might have been a little bit different,” said Buehrle, who raised his Opening Day record to 4-1 with a 3.76 ERA over a franchise-record nine Opening Day starts. “I think if it was a closer game, the bullpen would have done a little bit better than what they did.”
Sitting with a 14-0 lead, Buehrle admitted to throwing only fastballs in cruising through the fourth and fifth innings, before the Indians got to him for a four-spot in his sixth and final frame. Will Ohman gave up three runs in the seventh, with left-handed hitting Jack Hannahan going deep as well as switch-hitting catcher Carlos Santana, before Tony Pena recorded the inning’s final out.
Cleveland had two on and two out in the eighth, cutting the lead to 15-9, before Chris Sale fanned Shin-Soo Choo. It was the first strikeout of the game recorded by the White Sox.
Another run in the ninth and two runners on base against Jesse Crain once again raised the South Siders’ blood pressure. But Crain fanned Hannahan to put to rest an impressive late-inning Indians uprising.
“Unfortunately we had one bad inning there, but you can never really count this team out,” said Hannahan, who finished with three hits. “We came back and we put some good at-bats together and got some big two-out hits. That’s what you gotta do to win games.”
“That’s the hardest part to do when you are up big or down big, is to come out and stay focused on your at-bats,” said Dunn of the Indians’ rally. “Those dudes, man, they can swing the bat.”
Four two-strike hits in the opening frame off Carmona, who allowed 10 earned runs on 11 hits over three-plus innings, gave the White Sox a 2-0 lead. Dunn struck out with runners on second and third and nobody out in the first, but lofted a 386-foot home run to right during a four-run third.
Beckham, who was running on the 3-2 pitch, lost track of where the towering drive landed. Dunn ranks third all-time with seven career Opening Day home runs, trailing only Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr., who have eight apiece.
“He’s a force,” said Beckham of Dunn. “You want people to get on in front of Adam Dunn because he can go deep any time, under any conditions. It’s good to have him. He puts fear in opposing teams and that is invaluable.”
“I’m assuming we are going to do this every time,” said Dunn with a wry smile of the team’s overall explosion on offense.
Quentin finished a triple short of the cycle, including a third-inning home run off Carmona confirmed by umpires’ review. Rookie third baseman Brent Morel chipped in with two hits and two RBIs from the ninth spot in the order, and during an eight-run fourth, every White Sox player but Alex Rios reached base safely and every player but Paul Konerko and Juan Pierre had at least one hit.
Scoring 15 runs marked the White Sox highest Opening Day output since a 17-3 victory at St. Louis in 1951. They appeared to be on their way to another 14-run blowout on Friday, but even with the late scare, any win seems sweet on Opening Day.
“Hitting, it’s a thing you don’t talk about too much because when it’s going well, you want to leave it as it is,” Quentin said. “Guys got some hits and we’ll enjoy it tonight and come back tomorrow and have another day of baseball. Don’t change anything, just go ahead and compete.”
First off, Will “Gas Can” Ohman was hired to replace Scott “Gas Can” Linebrink, not emulate him. Fortunately the Sox have Marquez and a couple of other arms in the minors, so I’ll avoid hitting the panic button. But, still, I was one of the people who lauded the signing when the Sox got him. I felt he’d matured since his days on the Northside. It was one of those things I really didn’t need to have proved wrong. But, it was anyway.
Nevertheless, it was fun watching the Sox trot around the bases. I had told a friend that I’d meet him after the fourth inning of the Sox game. I had no idea that that particular inning would last longer than some games.
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