Always give 110%. Unless you’re giving blood.
No one ever says, “It’s only a game” when their team is winning.
- George Carlin
Show me a good loser and I’ll show you an idiot.
- Leo Durocher
If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?
- Vince Lombardi
As kids we’re not taught how to deal with success; we’re taught how to deal with failure. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. If at first you succeed, then what?
- Charlie Sheen
Yesterday baseball again came to the fore in Chicago. It witnessed two first place teams squaring off against bitter miscreants heel bent on destroying their success. These are the kind of soul crushing games that ruin lesser teams. We’ll take a look at what happened from the point of view of the victors. We start with Brian Hedger in Cincy with his take on the soulless commie Reds versus the luvvaboo wuvvaboo Cubbies.
It wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty, but after dropping a season-high five straight games, the Reds don’t care much about style points.
All they wanted on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field was to get back to winning, which they did in a nerve-wracking 10-8 victory against the error-prone, yet resilient Cubs (44-67).
Despite holding leads of 5-1 in the third inning, 8-3 in the sixth and 9-6 in the eighth, the Reds (67-46) still needed a four-out save by fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman to finally get their first win on a road trip that started Monday in Milwaukee.
“I personally can’t believe we lost five in a row, but it happens,” said Ryan Ludwick, who went 3-for-5, scored four runs and somehow managed to hit his 20th homer of the season into the teeth of a strong wind blowing in from center field. “This is a really, really big win, especially for the fact that we had to fight for it. It wasn’t an easy win. They kept coming back. They kept fighting, and we had to keep putting up more runs, and eventually we got it done.”
As for those style points, the way the Cubs played most of the day (five errors) made the Reds’ performance look far less sloppy by comparison. The Reds also had their slumbering bats wake up for the first time since leaving Great American Ball Park, after stranding 28 baserunners and going 1-for-19 (.053) with runners in scoring position in the first four games of this trip.
They rapped out 15 hits, got some help from the strong wind gusts and were also aided by those five Chicago errors. And that’s not mentioning the Cubs’ two wild pitches, a passed ball and at least one glaring poor decision on the basepaths by Starlin Castro to kill a potential rally in the sixth.
Ludwick’s homer knocked in two runs during a three-run third that also featured three Cubs errors, as the Reds pushed their lead to 5-1 at that point. Todd Frazier then knocked in three of his four runs of a 3-for-4 performance over the next five innings of Cincnnati’s offensive outburst—helping his team stay just ahead of the Cubs’ continued comeback attempts.
“We don’t harp on what happened yesterday or the day before,” Frazier said of the snapped losing streak and offensive struggles. “We just keep on doing what we have to do. This is a pretty good win for us, but getting 10 runs on the board is pretty nice.”
The win extended the Reds’ lead in the National League Central to three games over the Pirates, who were in action against the Padres on Friday night.
It was anything but easy, though, and the strong wind wound up being a pretty big factor—wreaking havoc on anything hit that wasn’t a ground ball or a line drive.
“There was a popup near second base that ended up 30 rows up in the stands [behind our dugout],” said manager Dusty Baker. “And then on the [double] that [Welington Castillo] hit [in the sixth], [right fielder Xavier Paul] was doing the Salsa and Meringue and La Cucaracha and everything else. That was a tough day out there. I’m just glad we got the win.”
Homer Bailey (10-7) started and earned the victory, which gave him a career high for wins in a season. The wind conditions and some bloop hits, though, put him in some tough spots. Bailey went 5 2/3 innings and allowed four earned runs on nine hits and two walks, but he did limit the damage during some sticky situations in the first and third.
Bailey also gave the Reds their first lead with an RBI single in the second, and they never trailed again, despite nearly coughing up the lead a couple of times.
The Cubs refused to go down quietly, despite trailing most of the game. They cut the deficit to 9-8 in the eighth after doubles by Castillo and David DeJesus, but Chapman made sure that’s where the comeback bid ended.
He struck out rookie Anthony Rizzo on four pitches to end the eighth, registering 102 mph on his final pitch of that frame, and then retired three straight in the ninth to secure the win. In all, Chapman fanned three of the four hitters he faced and made it look pretty easy.
“Whenever he comes in, it’s more of a relaxed state and you know he’s going to throw that fire,” Frazier said. “So, you’ve just got to be ready for it. When a righty’s up and I’m playing first, I’m ready for it. It’s nice to see him come in and work his magic.”
It wasn’t nearly as nice for the Cubs, who were led by Castillo’s two doubles. Castro smacked a big two-run double for the second straight game and Alfonso Soriano drove in three runs, but overall it was a tough day for the guys in light blue pinstripes. In addition to the five errors, Cubs pitchers combined for two wild pitches to go with a passed ball and Castro’s ill-advised decision to go from first to third on a single in the sixth that killed a potential rally.
“Not the prettiest game we’ve played all year, that’s for sure,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
No, it wasn’t very pretty. But, to be fair to the Cubs, they have actually played some pretty heads up ball all season. Sadly, however, these new look Cubs are going to have more days like this than not until the end of the season. Too many kids, too little experience and not enough support for anything else to happen. If Sveum had any hair he’d probably pull it out anyway. The Cubs have flushed this season and next down the proverbial drain. Whether they can compete in the final year of Sveum’s contract, 2014, remains an open question.
On the Southside the first place White Sox took the field against the hated Billy Ballers. Like the Cubs the Sox relied on rookies. Unlike the Cubs, they had a couple of vets providing help. The difference is in the pudding, as some people like to say.
I have no idea why they say that but I’ve never been fascinated by pudding.
Moments after cleaning the shaving cream from his face, eyes and nose, and just before the media throng descended upon him at his locker, Jordan Danks was given a present he won’t soon forget.
Danks was handed the game ball he’d drilled 417 feet into the right-field stands at U.S. Cellular Field for his first Major League home run. Not only that, but the two-out, ninth-inning drive gave the White Sox a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the A’s on Friday night before a crowd of 25,041.
“It wouldn’t have been sad if I didn’t [get the ball back] because this feeling is just 10 times greater, but to get it back is pretty cool,” Danks said. “I’m probably going to display it somewhere, try to make a trophy case or something.”
Danks ripped the first offering from A’s reliever Pat Neshek (1-1) to provide the dramatic victory for Chicago (61-50). It was the club’s fourth solo home run of the night.
“That was my first walk-off home run in my life and it feels good, I got to tell you,” Danks said. “Being late in the game especially, bottom of the ninth, it’s something that everybody dreams about their whole life. Right before that I saw myself doing it and it was just one of those things. It was just awesome.”
A.J. Pierzynski, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo erased an early 3-0 deficit with home runs off Oakland starter Brandon McCarthy, who began his career with the White Sox during their World Series championship season in 2005.
“It was a good win, obviously coming back after falling down early and we found a way to battle back,” said Pierzynski, whose 22 home runs are the most by a Chicago catcher since Carlton Fisk hit 23 in 1987. “Luckily, we hit four home runs, otherwise we didn’t do much offensively.”
White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd continued a trend of getting into early trouble, then gutting out an effective performance to preserve the bullpen. That allowed his teammates the opportunity to chip away at that three-run deficit after two innings.
Floyd pitched six-plus innings, allowing three runs on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts. Although Oakland (60-52) had at least one runner on base in every inning against Floyd, he only allowed two runners into scoring position after a two-run home run by Brandon Moss gave the A’s a 3-0 lead with no outs in the second inning.
“It’s been like that the past couple games,” Floyd said of his early troubles. “But I’ve got to go out there and compete, and keep my team in the game. When it happens I’m going to battle my butt off to put up zeros.”
The bullpen followed with another strong outing as four pitchers combined to get the final nine outs, which included five strikeouts. A ninth-inning walk by eventual winner Brett Myers (1-1) was the only blemish by the relievers.
In the past 17 games, the White Sox bullpen has a 1.36 ERA, having allowed only seven runs in 46 1/3 innings.
But the star of the night was Danks. Injuries have given Danks the opportunity to start four consecutive games. The team learned earlier in the day that Paul Konerko was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list.
Regardless of being a starter or late-inning replacement, Danks said he realizes no role is unimportant on this White Sox team.
“When I wasn’t playing every day, I was always ready to get in there before the seventh inning,” Danks said. “I knew that was going to be my role when I got here. If somebody needed a day or somebody goes down, fill in and do it to the best of my ability. I feel like I did pretty good tonight.”
Tempers flared briefly in the sixth when McCarthy hit Pierzynski with a 92-mph sinker on a 2-0 count. Pierzynski stared at McCarthy as he began his trot to first while home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo warned both benches. That came after Floyd hit Yoenis Cespedes with a pitch in the fifth inning.
Any time Gavin Floyd wants to ptich a drama free first inning is fine by me. Even if he decides to do so every start from now on. I promise not to complain.
That being said, the Sox, more often than not, seem to find ways to win the close ones having gone 11-3 in their last 14 one run games (including last night). Jack Jones, at the Bet Firm, puts one run games squarely on the shoulders of the manager and then cites numerous examples as to why.
Yeah, I know, I still think KW got lucky with this one but I’ll take it.
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