Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

And then occasionally I am reminded why I love baseball. A season's worth of bitching about the Cubs was at least somewhat redeemed by Tuesday night's 13-inning show between them and the Reds.

The first eight innings flew by in just about two hours, in no small part on account of the one-hitter Mike Leake threw over that period and on into the ninth. The Cubs were down 2-0, but that's hardly unusual. It was a cool-but-not-too-cool evening, and I was in the best seat I've had all year, thanks to the visiting Rich and Rose, who were smart enough to not buy a season package back in January but wait until this time of year to swoop in from Philadelphia and nail some cheap seats via Stub Hub. We were about 15 rows behind home plate, just slightly to the third-base side.

Things were winding down in the bottom of the ninth, with two away and Leake still on the mound. Starlin Castro beat out an infield hit, but that's also not that unusual. Pacific Coast League MVP Bryan LaHair stepped in, and Rich said, "It'd be great if he slugged one out of here." I sighed. This was Rich's first trip to Wrigley. LaHair did have a great year with Iowa, but the already dominant narrative on him was that a 29-year-old just plain ought to dominate at that level, so what was all the excitement about? I said, "Ain't gonna happen."

This might be the time to mention that in my life I have voted for Bruce Babbitt in a presidential primary, Al Sharpton in a race for Senate, and Ralph Nader for... well, you know.

After LaHair launched a bomb 410 feet in the direction of Lake Michigan, tying the game, Leake slumped, the stands erupted, and everyone remained standing for Aramis Ramirez's at-bat, thus:

Ramirez—Chicago's best hitter over the second half—flied out, and things somewhat returned to normal.

The late innings were a delight, though, with plenty of scorecard-mangling substitutions and too many close chances for the Cubs. In the bottom of the tenth, Jeff Baker could have bunted with the bases loaded, one out, and future prom king and speedster Tony Campana at third base, but some great cosmic force—or was it managerial inattention?—led him to ground into a double play.

The back and forth continued, with both teams tearing through their bullpens. I was secretly beginning to hope for at least one of those two great bellwethers of a game that has gone on too long: a second singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the middle of the 14th (which we did see earlier this year), and a position player valiantly taking the mound.

No such luck. The game puttered into the 13th—another two hours having elapsed since the bottom of the eighth. A fan yelled, "Fourth place is at stake!" And then the Reds hit a couple off hapless John Grabow, and things wound to a close. But it was a lovely night full of twists and turns, thrills and agonies, and unobstructed views—really, what I hope for every time out.


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