If you are a fan of either Duke or North Carolina basketball, you probably get that crazy nervous feeling the night before the two heavyweights tip off. It’s a feeling that lingers and intensifies as the hour nears and the two teams get it on.
Magnify that by about a million, and you have the emotions of a Cubs fan today.
We’re down to a few measly hours before Game 1 of the NLDS between the Cubs and Dodgers begins. Check back here for a running diary of the game. You will likely get two Cubs fans for the price of one, as my longtime buddy from high school and fellow Cubs fanatic Mike joins me with his comments throughout.
And there are reasons for my nervousness. Derek Lowe, the Dodgers’ Game 1 starter, has been baseball’s best pitcher over the last month. Seriously. Better than CC Sabathia. Better than Johan Santana. How does 4-0 with a 0.50 ERA in his last four starts strike you, because it strikes fear into my heart.
Not only that, should the Cubs lose Game 1, they’ll have Carlos Zambrano going in Game 2. Since his no-hitter two weeks ago, Big Z has been horrible and cranky on the mound, allowing umpires’ strike zones to get him irritated.
Rafael Furcal comes back for the Dodgers. Manny Ramirez is as great a big-time player as there is. Andre Ethier has been on fire. Matt Kemp could have his coming out party.
Certainly, there are reasons Cubs fans were rooting for the New York Mets down the stretch. They have obvious flaws.
All that said, the Cubs could be playing a 10-and-under little league all-star team, and I’d be nervous.
It’s getting closer. Now, where’s the Maalox?
I (Alex Podlogar), will have my comments in plain text while my friend, Mike Laney, will have his appear in italics.
The night’s first curve ball has been thrown and it didn’t come out of the hands of Derek Lowe or Ryan Dempster.
Sweet Lou has inserted the struggling Kosuke Fukudome into the No. 2 hole in the lineup. He hasn’t hit much higher than 5 in a meaningful game in over a month. Piniella has pushed all the right buttons for most of the season, so let’s hope this button was the right one to push.
Wow, I don’t know about using Fuku. Defensive purposes, maybe? Isn’t the wind blowing hard in tonight?
Looks like the wind is blowing left to right. Lou appears to be playing the lefty matchup against Lowe with having Kosuke at 2. Here’s pulling for April and May Kosuke.
One thing is for sure, following this playoff series and based on how the Cubs do, I will either want to kill or hug Frank Caliendo. As if TBS doesn’t advertise the Frank TV show enough, now we get his Dish Network ads as well.
I hear he likes John Madden.
God, we’re getting close.
Let’s take the field, let’s get this thing going. A good start from Dempster will keep this crowd on fire. Let’s go!
Yup, Dempster. Ryan Dempster. Ryan Freaking Dempster is starting Game 1 of a playoff series for the Cubs.
I just hope he doesn’t bring back memories of Mark Clark.
Top of the First Inning
Ball 3 to Russell Martin would have ended the night mentally for Big Z. Would have preferred to face Manny Ramirez with the bases empty, that’s for sure.
Well done, Demps. A double-play ball from Manny makes the heart slow down a bit.
Dempster looks like he has good control early.
Nice first frame for Dempster. Thanks for your Mark Clark reference there Alex, I got a little sick to my stomach. Anyway, let’s get a few early and see if Demps can keep the lead.
Bottom of the First Inning
Good, patient at-bats for the Cubs, but Aramis Ramirez missed a mistake pitch from Lowe to end the first. If the Cubs can keep this approach, they have a chance against a guy like Lowe, who would have to come in if he keeps falling behind. He’s a guy that can go 120-plus pitches though, so the Cubs need to continue to be patient.
The Cubs showed some decent patience, with the exception of Soriano. It looks like we will be working with a small strike zone tonight. With these starters, no real advantage for either with that.
Top of the Second Inning
Solid inning again for Dempster. The strikes are up in the zone; not much is getting called low. But Dempster is hitting his spots, and that’s a good sign.
I would certainly prefer to do without any more leadoff walks. Really, any walks for that matter. Doesn’t the crowd just seem so set to explode on the first real positive the Cubs can give them?
Bottom of the Second Inning
Well, at least Cubs fans know their team won’t be no-hit tonight. Jim Edmonds rips a 1-2 single with one out.
DE-RO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Home run!!!!!!!!!! Cubs lead 2-0 after Mark DeRosa slips one into the right-field corner.
Welcome back to the lineup Mark DeRosa! Now with the 2-0 lead, Ryan Theriot is up. Wonder if Dick Stockton will tell us about him playing college ball at LSU with Mike Fontenot now or later?
Later, I bet. In a big spot somewhere. He’s saving it.
The inning ends with the Cubs up 2-0. Speaking of up, Lowe got quite a few of his pitches up in the zone, allowing the Cubs to rip him for three hits. Soriano missed another one, too.
Top of the Third Inning
Nice to get the early lead. No walks early in this inning will be key as we will face 8-9-1. I know it’s early but it is a big inning for Demps to get the momentum on our side.
There’s why Fukudome is in the game. Trips on the bullpen mound and still catches the foul popup for the first out.
Walking the pitcher is never a good plan. Never. The crowd is getting on the ump about the strike zone but it has been consistently tiny all night so far on both sides.
Uh-oh. Two straight walks.
If Harry were still with us, he would reluctantly say, “There is danger here, Sherie.”
Two on, two out for Manny, and Russell Martin just nearly went yard. I feel sick.
Manny gets on with an infield single. Theriot may have saved a run there.
Bases are drunk, though.
Huge strikeout for Dempster, and I mean HUGE. He threw a lot of pitches in that frame, though, which could bite us later. For now though, big exhale.
Demps has thrown 61 pitches so far. We’ll be lucky to get six innings out of him now.
Bottom of the Third Inning
I’m guessing Ron Darling will be the announcer who makes the required comment that says something like, “You have to wonder if Derek Lowe being on the basepaths for that long will take anything out of him.” Maybe Gwynn, likely Darling, though.
Beautiful display of patience for Derrek Lee on that AB.
The Cubs are getting pitches to hit, but A-Ram bounces into a double play. 2-0, Cubs.
Top of the Fourth Inning
Aramis Ramirez is really overanxious at the plate. We need him to settle down and relax. We also need a good quick inning for Dempster with just a handful of pitches. The bullpen before Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood has been bad lately so we need Dempster to get us to Marmol.
A little bleeder of a single, but aside form the 3-1 start to Matt Kemp, a good bounce-back for Dempster.
Bottom of the Fourth Inning
OK, back-to-back singles for DeRosa and Theriot, which brings up Dempster and puts Soriano in the leadoff spot for the fifth. Good NL baseball there.
Don’t worry about that AB there Mr. Dempster, you just keep throwing a shutout. At least Theriot’s hit put us in position to start the next inning at the top of the lineup. Another quick inning would be appreciated. Cubs, 2-0.
Top of the Fifth Inning
Wow, another walk. Great. Now comes Martin, who will take a bunch of pitches, too.
Not the best timing for the control monster to jump back on Ryan Dempster’s back. Nice battle back to get Martin. Here’s Manny again.
Manny forces yet another walk. How long can the Cubs walk this tightrope?
I would have preferred to see at least one attempt at making Manny chase one in the dirt instead of trying to get him to chase the high one three times.
Walks ’em loaded now. This is going to end badly.
Good grief. I think sucking down a cajun filet biscuit three times a day would be better for my heart than watching this battle with the strike zone.
Go ahead and say it, Mike. I’ll leave this one to you.
Not a good pitch with two strikes. Loney smashes a grand slam. When you walk that many people, it’s only a matter of time before you get burned. To answer your tightrope question my friend, not long. Good grief. Dempster appears done and now we are into the pen way too early.
OK, Sean Marshall fans Blake DeWitt to keep it at 4-2, Dodgers.
The Cubs have had a lot of stunning rallies this year. Nothing new for them. They’ve got 15 outs left.
Another thought on the grand slam from Loney: do you get the feeling like the entiire crowd was just kind of sitting around waiting for the first thing to go wrong? That’s being a Cubs fan in the playoffs, I guess. But hey, let’s try to stay postive here. It’s the 5th inning and our offense is capable of coming back. Last year’s team quit in the desert; we have said all year we are better than that team. Now is a great time to show it.
As for the “waiting for something bad to happen?” When you walk that many guys…
Bottom of the Fifth Inning
Soriano is a great hitter — against bad pitchers. Good pitchers like Derek Lowe make him look like I’m up there trying to hit.
Kosuke really smacked that ball. That’s a tough error on Casey Blake. Either way, he’s on and we need the heart of the order to produce some runs.
Except D-Lee hits into a double play. That’s two tonight for the Cubs. Remember when they hit into five of them in one game against the Diamondbacks in the playoffs last year?
Yeah, me too.
Top of the Sixth Inning
I love Derrek Lee, I really do. That guy has saved us more runs and infielder errors at first this year than I could count. However, his double play-ball total is one of the most frustrating things about this season.
Marshall is getting ready to throw a critical inning. We need a “0” up there for them here and we need it bad.
Why do we keep walking Derek Lowe?
Jason Marquis is getting warm in the ‘pen. Apparently I missed some kind of scouting memo on Derek Lowe. I thought Manny Ramirez was their slugger, but I guess our pitchiing staff thinks Lowe must be. Two walks of the pitcher is ridiculous.
Another laser by Martin, but Soriano is there. Dodgers, 4-2.
Bottom of the Sixth Inning
A-Ram doubles. Good start to the 6th, let’s build on that. Let’s go, Geo!
Cubs get nothing from Soto or Edmonds. Up to De-Ro with two outs. Can he stay hot?
Wasted leadoff double. That was a pretty bad AB for Soto there; he looked like a rookie on that one. You gotta at least get that runner to third in that situation. Gotta have another big inning from the ‘pen.
Top of the Seventh Inning
Um, why is the lefty Marshall still in to face Manny?
400 feet later off the bat of Manny — maybe should have gone with the righty.
How did Manny hit that pitch THAT FAR? It was off-speed and almost in the dirt. Unbelievable. 5-2, Dodgers.
Bottom of the Seventh Inning
Dick Stockton apparently forgetting that the Cubs get to bat in the bottom of the 7th as he takes us into commercial by saying, “Dodgers lead 5-2 heading into the 8th.” Any way around it, the Cubs need to get things going here and quickly.
It’s quickly looking like Carlos Zambrano will be called on to save the Cubs’ season in Game 2 Thursday night.
We have had some luck off of both Broxton and Saito during our regular season meetings, so we still have a shot at this tonight. As it stands now though, we will need Zambrano to prove he is worth the megabucks he gets to, in reality, keep the season alive.
Top of the Eighth Inning
Jeff Samardzija continues his terrible run, and Edmonds makes it worse with an error. Leadoff man on third. Go ahead and bag it, boys.
You can feel the frustration level getting higher and higher in Wrigleyville — and my living room for that matter.
A 6-2 lead now for LA after a Casey Blake single. Samardzija is not looking that sharp at all. You gotta cut him a little slack though — he has probably been warming up for an hour-and-a-half now.
The double play ball from Jeff Kent helps, but four runs will be a lot to get in two innings, and that’s assuming we can get out with no further damage.
Bottom of the Eighth
One hit since the fifth inning. I think I’ll go into the corner and cry now.
That ball looked like Edmonds got it all, the crowd sure thought so, but it’s nothing more than a long out. The bottom third of the order will be due up in the 9th facing at least a four-run deficit pending the Dodger 9th.
Top of the Ninth Inning
Make it 7-2. Homer by Martin, who deserves it, as hard as he’s hit the ball tonight. Blowout City.
Unfortunately, I have seen this movie before. I didn’t really like it when I saw it in 1989, I really hated it last year and I’m not really enjoying it this year. This has been a tough night to sit through.
It’s all up to Big Z now. Win Thursday night, and everything changes.
Bottom of the Ninth
To add insult to injury, Greg Maddux will pitch the ninth.
Maybe this is a classy move by Joe Torre, but I think it’s bad karma. Salt in the wound.
Good to see Greg Maddux actually get a postseason out in Wrigley Field. OK, that was kinda rude, but I am a little angry right now.
Well, it’s all on Big Z’s shoulders now. The entire season is on the line beginning at 9:30 p.m. Thursday.
I may not sleep tonight. You?
What a night. Enjoyed blogging with you tonight, but I am now officially retired from it. (Yeah, I am superstitious). Not wearing the Edmonds jersey during Game 2 either. What a fantastic season we have had, and it all boils down to Thursday night with the ball in Big Z’s hands. Do the best you can to keep your head up Cubbie Nation, we still can get this done. Go Cubs Go!
I think I’ll go listen to Eddie Vedder’s song again. Someday it’ll happen.
It just may not be this year.
Anybody who thinks it’s “just one game”, doesn’t know the Cubs.