Last Friday was a real good day for a buddy of mine. Called into the boss’ office at the end of the day he feared the worst. Instead he found out he’d been promoted and gotten a 25% raise. By the time he was getting in his car his cell phone rang and he found out that his ex-wife had run off to Vegas and married this week’s boy toy, thus ending several years of alimony payments. So, Sunday he invited a few friends over to his favorite bar and bought us drinks all day.
We also watched baseball.
One of my friends, ever the diplomat, hired a stripper who looked EXACTLY like my buddy’s ex.
All in all it was a fun way to kill a Sunday.
Anyway, during those rare moments where we weren’t slack jawed in awe (this was a nimble and adventurous lass, that’s all I’m saying), we managed to pay attention to the idiot boxes long enough to tell the Cubs and Sox apart.
What? You want to know about the Bears’ game? Okay, here’s all you need to know; the new and improved O-line allowed 9 sacks against the worst team in the NFL and everybody at Halas Hall was pleased with the progress.
Kill me now.
Anyway, as it turned out, this young lass also had the good breeding to be a Sox fan. A fact that endeared her to all of us immediately. Well, that and all the other stuff she did.
However Chris Cox wasn’t with us, he was in Atlanta watching the Cubs game and getting paid for it, so I’ll let him tell you about the Cubs come-from-behind (I’ll never think of that particular phrase the same way again) victory over the Braves.
It wasn’t pretty, but they’ll take it.
Despite striking out 18 times and committing four errors, the Cubs left Turner Field on Sunday afternoon with 6-5 win over the Braves, and a series victory, thanks in part to Carlos Pena’s go-ahead, two-run homer in the seventh inning.
“It’s very seldom that happens,” Pena said. “We’re happy to come out with the victory today. We didn’t play good defense. At the same time, I’m proud of the ballclub because we just kept coming.”
After suffering through the Braves’ home run barrage on Friday night, and the drama surrounding pitcher Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs rallied to win the final two games in Atlanta. It represented the first time Chicago has won four consecutive series since September 2008.
“I think we finally just stopped worrying about everything,” pitcher Matt Garza said. “You get to the point where we’re at, we want everything to be good, but just shut up and play. That’s all we can do.
“We’re playing and having fun. You see guys smiling. It might have taken five or six months, but I think my message finally got across.”
It was Garza that had been stressing to the Cubs that things would eventually turn around. And while he spotted the Braves an early 4-0 advantage through five innings, the right-hander kept Chicago within striking distance before eventually earning a no-decision.
Garza is one of just four pitchers in the Majors this year to win five games or fewer while registering a sub-4.00 ERA in 22 or more starts.
“He believes. It has been tough on him,” Pena said. “It almost seems like it’s not fair. He’s pitched unbelievable games where we’ve just been unable to get him the win. He’s pressing on every single pitch, making sure he gives it all he has. ... That’s kind of impressive. Human nature, sometimes you give in to those things.”
Garza and his defense played a part in the early deficit Sunday afternoon. He had a chance to turn a routine double play in the first inning, but his throw toward second base sailed into center field, allowing Michael Bourn to take third. Bourn promptly scored on Dan Uggla’s sacrifice fly.
“I just launched the thing into center field,” Garza said. “That’s not called for. You’ve got to stay accountable for that.”
The Cubs’ defense sprung another leak an inning later on Bourn’s RBI single. They looked to have Braves left fielder Jose Constanza caught in a rundown, but third baseman Aramis Ramirez plunked Constanza in the back before the ball rolled into center field. Constanza would come around to score when Martin Prado’s base hit ricocheted off Ramirez’s glove.
The defense came through for the Cubs later in the game, though. Second baseman Darwin Barney’s fifth inning, highlight-reel dive in right field robbed Dan Uggla of a single, as the second baseman saw his 33-game hitting streak come to an end.
“Just because of the circumstances and all that, I’m pretty happy about it,” Barney said. “It was a good streak for him. He’s a great player. I think our pitchers are happy. They take a lot of pride in that. I’m happy for them. Sometimes, you get lucky.”
That’s when the Cubs finally took Garza off the hook. After forcing Braves starter Brandon Beachy from the game thanks to Pena’s sacrifice fly, Chicago tallied three consecutive singles—including a two-run knock by Tyler Colvin—off reliever Scott Linebrink.
Linebrink was pulled in favor of rookie Arodys Vizcaino, whose wild pitch with two outs brought home Alfonso Soriano from third as the Cubs pulled even.
“We fought,” Garza said. “We showed our grittiness and our ability to claw back when we can. We took advantage of their mistakes.”
The tie was short-lived, however. The Braves brought home the go-ahead run moments later thanks Chicago’s fourth error of the afternoon. Jason Heyward started the rally with a leadoff single before stealing second base. He came home on the next at-bat, when Alex Gonzalez grounded a ball to hurler John Grabow, whose throw to first was well over Pena’s head at first base.
But the error was once again negated by Pena, who sent a towering two-run shot into the right-field stands in the seventh off Eric O’Flaherty, giving the Cubs a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
“We put a big sixth inning together and, obviously, Carlos’ home run [was big],” manager Mike Quade said. “You don’t want to be trailing these guys when [Jonny] Venters and [Craig] Kimbrel come in. That was really good.”
Quade wasn’t kidding. The young Braves duo combined for six of Atlanta’s 18 strikeouts.
“That’s one thing about a strikeout. You can’t hit into a double play when you strike out,” Quade said.
I do love Mr. Sunshine. It’s almost a pity his career’s forever ruined for being associated with these losers.
I remember a manager, I think it was Leo Durocher, who said “Live by the homer, lose 100 games.”
Oh, what would he know?
Anyway, on the Southside, the Sox faced their odd nemeses the Kansas City Royals. While nowhere near as entertaining as the nice lady, they nevertheless kept their fans entertained on a Sunday afternoon. Scott Merkin was there and has all the highlights.
Knowing how accurate he reports things I can only thank God he wasn’t with me.
For the fourth time since April 17, the White Sox are back at the .500 mark.
That goal was achieved on Sunday afternoon through a 6-2 victory over the Royals before a crowd of 25,517 at U.S. Cellular Field. It was the White Sox eighth win in their last 10 games, moving them within four games of American League Central-leading Detroit (64-56) and just 1 1/2 games behind second-place Cleveland (60-57), which comes to town on Tuesday for a crucial three-game set.
With the White Sox offense producing in each of the last 10 games, aside from Bruce Chen’s gem on Friday, and the pitching holding at a continued level of excellence, Ozzie Guillen has to be encouraged by this latest return to the break-even level.
Guess again, according to the White Sox manager.
“Nope. Not at all,” said a smiling Guillen, who wasn’t really trying to be funny. “I’ve been sitting here for like three times in a row saying, ‘Yes, we’re on a roll,’ and all the sudden we go backwards three steps. We’ve got to continue to play the way we did.”
Guillen could be excused if he’s not ready to start printing postseason tickets after his team captured a third straight series for the first time since May 6-15 at Seattle, at Anaheim and at Oakland. The White Sox (60-60) last reached .500 on July 29 with an impressive 3-1 victory over the Red Sox, and followed up that stretch with six straight home losses, including a four-game disaster against the Yankees.
So, .500 is more of a cautionary jumping off point, with catching the Tigers and Indians serving as the primary focus. Capturing this series from the pesky Royals (50-71), and doing it at home, where they had lost seven straight prior to Saturday, is a more important way to move forward.
“We’ve had problems with Kansas City,” said White Sox designated hitter Paul Konerko, who finished 3-for-3 on Sunday and reached base five times. “We’ve felt more comfortable against teams that are in better circumstances than they are.
“They put a lot of pressure on you and they get a lot of hits and can score runs. After the first game, it would have been easy to crater and give away the rest of the series. We fought and won the series and we hoped to do that going into it. But it wasn’t as easy as it looked.”
Even Sunday’s final outcome wasn’t as one-sided as it appeared.
The White Sox jumped on Jeff Francis (4-13) for four in the first inning, with Carlos Quentin singling home the first run, and Brent Lillibridge’s 10th home run accounting for the other three. Lillibridge reached double-digit home runs in just 146 at-bats, while playing solid defense in the relatively unknown defensive position of first base.
“I’m looking for something out over the plate to just hit hard up the middle,” said Lillibridge of his home run. “He was trying to come in, but he left a fastball right out over the plate and I was able to get my hands through it and get it over the fence.
“It was a huge one. I hit the ball hard a lot [Saturday] and couldn’t find the RBIs, and it was frustrating. Keep on swinging and it’s going to eventually pan out. It was a big one early and I knew that was going to be enough for John [Danks].”
Danks allowed two runs on four hits over six innings on Sunday—improving to 5-9 after a dismal 0-8 start. For 5 2/3 innings, though, this start looked at it was going to be something historical for the southpaw.
Danks didn’t allow a hit until Billy Butler reached on a bad-hop single over the glove of Lillibridge with two out in the sixth. The play was originally ruled an error, but official scorer Bob Rosenberg quickly changed it.
Fans applauded when the error went on the left-center field scoreboard, but with Jeff Francoeur at the plate, the crowd began to boo loudly when the error was changed to a hit. Francoeur followed with a clean double down the left-field line.
“I was up there and it’s 0-and-1 and I hear everybody booing and I looked up and saw the hit,” Francoeur said. “So, I thought I might as well make it official.”
“You know what, I noticed the boos, which was one of the cooler things I’ve ever noticed out on the field,” said Danks, who threw 66 of his 105 pitches for strikes, and struck out six. “So, I knew they had switched it to a hit when I heard the boos, but I don’t blame Lilli at all. That’s a tough play and there’s nothing he could have done about it.”
Kansas City scored two in that sixth, cutting the deficit to four. But the Royals couldn’t get any closer against Danks, Jason Frasor, Matt Thornton and Will Ohman. Danks dropped his ERA to 2.29 in his last nine starts, while the starters’ ERA sits at 3.03 over the last 10 games.
Holding a 6-1 season edge on the Indians, the White Sox look poised to jump over .500 for the first time since they were 7-6 on April 15. The team is optimistic, but has been here too many failed times before to get cocky.
“There is enough games against the teams ahead of us that we can make some leeway,” Danks said. “It only takes a good week against the right opponents and we’re back in it.”
“I’ll take two out of three against anybody that comes to town,” Guillen said. “You just win the series, that’s more realistic.”
Since their disastrous 11-22 start the Sox are 49-38. Had they been on that pace since the first of the year they’d have over 70 wins by now.
But they weren’t so they don’t.
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