NLCS Game One

Top of the first: Zambrano is pretty straightforward as a pitcher. He doesn't try to locate the ball precisely. He rears back, throws that nasty, heavy sinker over the plate, and dares you to hit it. He looks like he's overthrowing a bit--you can tell because his sinker flattens out. But when he doesn't overthrow it tails down and away to lefties, and down and in on the hands of righties. Nasty, and he shatteres one of Derek Lee's bats with one of those. Derek Lowe threw two such beauties to end yesterday's game
One thing I hate: umpires don't call strikes strikes if the ball misses the catcher's glove.
Gonzalez and Grudzielanek nearly collide on Lee's popup. Johnny Damon may miss a few games in the ALCS because he and Damian Jackson ran into each other. Do professionals not know how to call for the ball? Sheesh. I learned that in Little League. Waving your arms does no good if the other fielder is looking in the sky for the ball. You have to use those things in your throat called vocal chords.
Bottom of the first: Alan calls. He's stuck on a bus somewhere in Manhattan. He asks if I'm watching the game. Yes, it's a rhetorical question. I tell him Lofton has walked and that I'll give him updates as they occur.
The announcers praise Dusty Baker for having Grudzielanek trying to bunt Lofton over. In the first inning? Whatever. If your #2 hitter isn't good enough to swing away in the first inning, you're in trouble. Fortunately, they then let Grudzielanek swing away and he triples over Pierre's head in center, plating Lofton. I call Alan.
"What happened?" he asks as soon as he picks up.
"Grudz plated Lofton with a triple. Center fielder misplayed it and fell down."
"That's what I'm talking about." That's our phrase. During the Cubs clinching game 5 against the Braves, we were both watching on TV and called each other to say that just about every inning.
Alou homers! I call Alan again. That's what I'm talking about.
Right away, Ramirez hammers a Beckett fastball. I'm on the phone to Alan again. Then Gonzalez singles and Conine misplays it into a double. I'm on the phone to Alan again. I should just put him on speakerphone.
Good to jump on Beckett early. He's not the type of pitcher you expect to blow out, and if he gets things together he could put up a lot of zeroes later. Perhaps it was first inning jitters for the Fish.
Zambrano has to be feeling really good. Just throw sinkers over the plate, nothing fancy, and dare the Fish to hit them. Do that enough and this game could be over.
If by the grace of the baseball gods the Cubs should make it past the Fish, you can't go wrong with either the Red Sox or Yankees. The Red Sox vs. Cubs would obviously make a great story. And the Yankees are pretty much as despicable a team as there is. They're the good-looking, wealthy, snobbish neighbor everyone loves to hate. And, if the Yanks make it, Alan and I can fly back and forth between Chicago and NYC to catch every game.
Between 2nd and 3rd: Commercial for Intolerable Cruelty. A strange choice for a Coen brothers movie, huh? I'll see it, of course. I hope I'm half as studly as Clooney at his age. Zeta-Jones still looks smoking. Why did she marry that old fart?
Top of the 3rd: Another triple, this from Pierre. There will be a lot of triples in this series, especially in the more spacious confines of Pro Player Stadium, with speedsters like Pierre and Castillo and the slow Cubs outfield.
Zambrano walks Castillo. Just what he didn't want to do with a big lead. Carlos! Just throw strikes and force the other team to hit the ball to beat you. With stuff like he has, there's no reason to walk anyone.
And Pudge pounds one deep into the seats. That's why you don't want to walk anyone. Didn't look like a sinker, either. A sinker that flattened out, perhaps. Zambrano is off and has been for several starts now. Is he fatigued, or just overthrowing? Hard to tell. He still has very good velocity.
Another flat fastball, and Cabrera pounds a frozen rope into left field. That ball may have killed one of the spectators.
And now Encarnacion pounds a missile of a homer. From feeling on top of the world to burying my face in my hands. Zambrano's sinker ain't sinking. Is it his release point? Should he go more 3-quarters instead of over the top?
To add insult to injury, Fox has superimposed that ugly faux billboard on the wall behind home plate at Wrigley. I had Beckett, Cabrera, Encarnacion, and Pudge on my fantasy baseball teams this year, so I have a very good idea of how good they can be. Sigh.
Bottom of the third: Alou grounds into a double play. The Cubs have grounded into about 98 double plays this playoff series. The Cubs have zero speed in their starting lineup--Lofton used to be fast, and now he's just quick.
Top of the fourth: Bako throws out Pierre. The Cubs were surprisingly good at stopping running games this year, considering how many power pitchers they have with big leg kicks.
Bottom of the fourth: Steve Lyon comments on the fact that Pudge stands up high to receive what would seem to be a high fastball. Even though Pudge then sits down, it reminds me that I've seen a lot of that in this postseason, catchers standing nearly as tall as the batter to receive a high fastball. Very strange, especially with runners on base who can obviously telegraph the pitch location to the batter.
Crap. Stella, err, Beckett has got his groove back.
Top of the fifth: Why is Al Leiter color commentating? Good pitcher. Terrible announcer. Steve Lyon isn't going to win any awards for his insight either. Thom Brennaman is working with the B team for Fox.
Bottom of the fifth: Zambrano just barehanded a Beckett curve on a bounce. Why isn't anyone commenting on that? Wow. He has a good at-bat but gets blown away by Beckett cheese on 3-2. I have a sinking feeling. When Beckett gets his stuff going, he is an ace.
Top of the sixth: Beckett is bunting with two outs and two strikes and pops one foul, striking out. Why is he bunting with two strikes and two outs? I have no idea. The Fish score one in the inning and are now up 6-4. I think I'm having an ulcer, or the onset of severe and sudden depression. Is there such a thing?
Bottom of the sixth: Gonzo goes with the pitch and hits an opposite-field 2-run homer!!! Oh yeah!! Oh yeah!! I'm dancing by myself in my room! The depression has lifted! It's better than Prozac! A guy who tries to pull just about every pitch suddenly goes to right?! Only in the playoffs baby!
Top of the seventh: Could Kyle Farnsworth be growing up in front of our eyes? Once a total head case, he has been very solid in these playoffs, and if he comes out of the postseason with solid #'s, his confidence will be sky high next year. His breaking stuff is nothing special, but it's all set up by the cheese. That 100mph fastball he struck out Derek Lee on? As Janet Jackson might say...NASTY.
Bottom of the seventh: Cubs blow a great chance. Grudzielanek swings at everything and pops out, and Sammy's heat seeker is snared on a short hop by Gonzalez. Damn!
Top of the eighth: Go Farnsworth! Kyle looks like a bodybuilding frat boy. Keep him away from your sister. Surprisingly, he has looked timid on the mound in the past. If he ever became as cocky and confident on the mound as he looks off of it, watch out.
Bottom of the eighth: Pinch-hitting Goodwin? Sure, he had a hit the other day, but you just don't catch lightning twice, even if your name is Dusty Baker. Here's where you really wish Dusty had carried Hee Seop Choi. As expected, the light-hitting Goodwin strikes out.
Earlier, Alou was out at second on a force. If the Cubs had any team speed, they would have gotten that base.
Top of the ninth: Grudzielanek misplays a grounder, allowing Pierre to reach second, and to make things worse, the Cubs fail to get Castillo at first. That's where the difference in team speed gives the Fish an Edge over the Cubs. The Cubs need to out-homer the Fish--it's like a grizzly chasing fish in a stream. An error like this always leads to bad things. Sure enough, Pudge drives home two. The Big Borowski has let us down. I'm on the phone with Dan the whole time. I tell Dan I have to hang up and slit my wrists.
I receive Apple's iTunes New Music Tuesdays e-mail. Hey, the iTunes Music Store just added the White Stripes. If the Cubs fail to score, I'll have to buy some tunes to console myself.
Bottom of the ninth: Fox shows a graphic saying the Cubs have lost 66 straight games after trailing after 8 innings. Please let this act as a reverse jinx. As soon as the graphic displays, Lofton pulls a double down the first base line. McKeon argues. Jack, watch out you don't have a heart attack.
Oh, they show the stat on how Sammy is 1 for 11 in the postseason. How Sammy has never hit a postseason home run. This has to be a reverse jinx.
OOHHHH YEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAH!!!!! SAMMY GOES WAVELAND!! THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT BABY!!! No lying, Sang bursts through my door, my cell phone receives 3 calls (Dan, Alan, Rich) and my land line rings (Joannie) all within 2 seconds. I'm answering, screaming for two seconds, hanging up, and picking up the next call, deftly, one after the other. 10% of my hairs have turned gray in the last two hours.
Top of the 10th: Alou with the diving catch! Cubs got the mo now! Just to scare me, though, Fox shows Guthrie and Alfonseca warming up. Sacre bleu! Please let the Cubs win in the bottom half, before either of those two batting machines gets in the game.
Top of the 11th: Oh no, it's Mark Guthrie. We're into the dregs of our bullpen. And sure enough, Mike Lowell pops a homer out into center in the wind. The EKG of my mood has entered a valley of death yet again. The Cubbies can't come back from this one, can they?
Oh dear, now they're bringing in Alfonseca, El Guapo. Let's ensure that Guthrie never pitches in any game of any import again, okay Dusty? He blew the game Saturday, and now he's given up the lead again. Of course, this is like going from the frying pan into the fryer. The only thing bigger than Alfonseca's waistline is his ERA. Dear god, please let him hold the Fish down, somehow, some way.
There goes Castillo, stealing on Alfonseca who has a terribly slow motion. No pitchout? No throw to first? I have a sinking feeling. An intentional walk to Pudge. Only a miracle can prevent utter disaster now. Cubs fans were admonished earlier this year for booing whenever Alfonseca is brought into the game, but c'mon. Why do you think it is that we boo? If a monkey gets shocked a few seconds after a red light comes on, is it any surprise when they start to flinch the next time the red light appears?
Another walk. El Guapo is delivering, as usual. Finally Veres gets up in the bullpen. Why wasn't he up to lead off this inning? Everyone in the stadium knew if Guthrie came in that Lowell would pinch hit. Even if Veres had been brought in, who else would McKeon pinch hit? Brian Banks? Heck, if McKeon wanted to get the lefty-right matchup, bring in Veres and force McKeon to go to Lenny No-hit Harris! Oh Dusty, Dusty.
There's our miracle. Cabrera scorches a liner to short and Martinez doubles Pudge off of second. Damn Guthrie and Alfonseca. Bums. It never fails. In the playoffs, you never seem to be able to hide your weaknesses. Bring in your bum pitchers, they pitch like bums. Red Sox and Cubs fans can empathize over our vulnerable bullpens this year.
Bottom of the 11th: 1-2-3. There's the ballgame. I feel empty. I feel nothing. Someone make this pain go away. I want to curl up and vomit.