Ace pitcher Jeff Samardzija did what he was supposed to do. The Cubs bats did what they were supposed to do. The wife of Harry Caray even did what she was supposed to do. In a heartbreaking five-run ninth, however, the Cubs’ bullpen did not do what they were supposed to do and the hosts fell 7-5 to end Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday bash. The victory would have been the Cubs’ third in a row, a feat the team has not accomplished since last July.
The presence of Fergie Jenkins, Dick Butkus, Billy Williams and Mr. Cub Ernie Banks seemed to be just what the Northsiders needed to cap off a stellar 100th birthday celebration for the Friendly Confines. Samardzija gave up seven hits over 7.1 innings while walking just two. He gave up two earned runs and also struck out five. Shortly after he put the finishing touches on his fifth quality start of the season, Dutchie Caray, widow of late Cubs’ broadcaster Harry Caray, joined Jenkins, Williams and Butkus in a crowd-energizing version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and all seemed right in Cubdom.
Chicago led 3-1 after five innings when some small ball produced the Cubs first run through a Diamondbacks’ error in the fifth. Next, Samardzija got a sacrifice fly RBI and Emilio Bonafacio drove in a run with an RBI ground out to close the inning. In the sixth Justin Ruggiano hit a two-run home run to give the Cubs a 5-2 advantage.
Perhaps given the Cubs’ history, their fans knew better than to get too excited. Chicago’s bullpen by committee did the Cubs in once again. To start off the ninth inning, Pedro Strop could not stop anybody, but this time it was not all his fault. He did walk Chris Owings to begin the inning, but then Starlin Castro committed an error on Tony Campana’s grounder to short. The shortstop was handcuffed trying to turn a potential double play. After the error, Strop walked Eric Chavez and then Martin Prado lined a single that caromed off of the second base bag, allowing two runs to score.
“I’ve never seen a ball hit the corner of the bag on a ground ball,” Cubs’ manager Rick Renteria said. “That’s a first for me.”
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson conceded that Cubs’ second baseman Darwin Barney would have most likely made a play on the ball had it not taken the strange hop off of the bag. Gibson said that the play probably would have resulted in an out and one runner scoring, rather than two runs scoring and the other runners advancing into scoring position. The episode has now morphed into fodder for conspiracy theorists along with the Billy Goat Curse, Leon Durham’s error in the ’84 series and Steve Bartman.
Strop left the game with the Cubs clinging to a 5-4 advantage, but James Russell and Justin Grimm followed and both gave up hits allowing runs to score that were credited to Strop. The end result was a 7-5 loss for the hosts.
Despite the loss, Cubs fans who attended the festivities were treated to a parade of former Cubs’ and Bears’ players that had played at Wrigley Field at one time or another. Along with Jenkins, Butkus, Williams and Banks, Andre Dawson and Gale Sayers also took part in the party at the Friendly Confines. Major League Commissioner Bud Selig was on hand to celebrate the park as well.
“There are always things in this job and my career where I think, ‘This is one of those special days,'” he said. “I’m enjoying it immensely. It brings back a lot of history for me.”
Speaking of history, the Cubs wore the uniforms of the Chi-Feds who played at Wrigley for two years before the Cubs moved in. The Diamondbacks also got nostalgic by wearing Kansas City Packer uniforms. The Feds and the Packers played the first game at Wrigley on April 23, 1914.
Commentary by Jeremy Mika