Take a look at the calendar. No, flip the page; it's the first of the month. Yes, you read that right: It's October and the Cubs are still playing.
Good afternoon, evening, whatever it is, and welcome to a very special playoff edition of From the Cubicle.
Let's try this again. Last time we did this feature for a Cubs playoff series, it was uglier than an Al Davis news conference. So bad that I'm sorry I even mentioned it.
The Cubs, who should be either really rested or really rusty after taking the last week and a half off, welcome Joe Torre, Manny Ramirez and the Los Angeles Dodgers to chilly Wrigley Field for Game 1 of the NLDS in a rematch of ... what, that game when that guy swiped Chad Kreuter's helmet and the entire Dodgers bullpen jumped in the Wrigley crowd? I was at that game and come to think of it, these two teams haven't been matched in many memorable games over the years (in my lifetime, at least).
Derek Lowe, who was 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA this season, toes the slab for the Dodgers, while the Cubs counter with Ryan Dempster, who it's still hard to believe went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA, but more importantly and impressive, 14-3, 2.86 at Wrigley Field.
A lot of people are picking the Dodgers, or at least the people I saw on The World Wide Leader this morning. But only because they desperately want to see Manny Ramirez in the World Series managed by Joe Torre playing the Red Sox. OK, fine. Great logic.
Here's your lineups. Kosuke Fukudome, back in Lou Piniella's good graces, gets the start and will hit second.
This game is on TBS, which means no Len, Bob or Bob Rohrman and a whole lotta Dick Stockton and Frank Caliendo. Let's see if unlike last night, Stockton can tell the two Chicago baseball teams apart. Also, good to see Dennis Eckersley's still got the stache and mullet.
It's cold, it's dark and TBS just showed footage of a priest blessing the Cubs dugout with holy water. Baseball soon.
But first! Lou Piniella and Joe Torre, combined age 133, hugged it out at home plate, exchanging lineup cards and Rascal Scooter stories. It's Ron Darling, Tony Gwynn and Dick Stockton in the crowded TBS booth. Tony, move over. Once again, baseball soon, hopefully.
The Cubs take the field. It's 56 degrees at game time with a 15 mph wind blowing from the north-northwest, meanign it's blowing across the outfield from left to right. Rafael Furcal, who spurned the Cubs' big offer a few years back, quickly fall behind 0-2. Dempster, sporting a full beard, throws a few in the dirt but Furcal doesn't bite. Furcal does bite at the next offering. He swings and misses and Geovany Soto throws down to first on the pitch in the dirt. One out. Russell Martin -- eighth in the league in walks, Stockton informs us for some reason -- falls behind 1-2. Martin checks his swing at a 3-2 pitch and it's ruled he didn't go around. Very close call. Martin reaches on the walk to put a guy on for Manny Ramirez. Manny hits the second pitch into a 6-4-3, inning-ending double play.
Cubs 0, Dodgers 0, Frank Caliendo 1
Alfonso Soriano leads off and strikes out on four pitches. Fukudome works the count full before grounding out to first. Derrek Lee v. Derek Lowe -- Winner has to change the spelling of their first name. Lee draws a walk and Lowe will have to add an R to his birth certificate. Ramirez grounds one to third, Lee is out on the force and we move to the second inning.
Andre Ethier fouls off a 2-1 pitch and then draws a leadoff walk. James Loney pops out to Mark DeRosa. Between calling groundballs "bounders" or something, Dick Stockton says something really fascinating (that someone in the truck passed along): The Cubs and Dodgers are tied 1,012-1012 all-time, which is amazing. Matt Kemp flies out to right. Dempster gets ahead of Blake DeWitt 0-2. DeWitt checks his swing, the crowd finally gets into it and it's ruled a ball, which completely deflates the Cubs fans, who had been sitting in nervous silence for an inning and a half. DeWitt flies out to Edmonds and so much for that leadoff walk.
Soto "bounds" out to third. Edmonds lines the first hit of the ballgame over a leaping Furcal. DeRosa pokes one down the line the other way ... that just squeaks by the foul pole in and into the first few rows of the bleachers for a two-run homer. Ryan Theriot takes a called third strike for the second out. Dempster rips the first pitch by Furcal and into left for a two-out single. Soriano flies out to Furcal in shallow left.
Cubs 2, Dodgers 0
Blake pops up down the right-field. Fukudome drifts over towards the side wall, (look out for the bullpen mound!), trips on the mound, stumbles but still makes the catch. Hai! Dempster walks Lowe. Dempster goes full to Furcal and walks him. Soto trots out to the mound. Larry Rothschild joins him. Dempster's struggling with his control a bit but gets ahead of of Martin 1-2. He misses to even the count and that's already his 50th pitch, as Manny looms in the on-deck circle. Martin drives it deep to left. Soriano chases it down and grabs it in the well right in front of the wall. Soriano fires the ball back to the infield and the runners stay put. Dempster wants no part of Manny. He throws two balls up in and in. Ramirez hits one in the hole at short. Theriot make a nice back-handed, sliding stop but Ramirez beats the throw to first to load the bases. In essence that's as good as a walk because Dempster threw Ramirez a 2-0 strike there and was fortunate he grounded to short. Ethier hits with two outs and Dodgers everywhere. With the count full, Ethier chases a ball in the dirt for strike three. Dempster gets out of it but his pitch count is climbing.
Fukudome tries to drag bunt his way on but fouls it back. Fukudome then grounds to second on the next pitch. Lee singles to left. Ramirez, looking a bit antsy, grounds to short and that's a double play. Next inning, please.
Cubs 2, Dodgers 0
Loney pops up down the left-field line where Soriano snags it and puts a little extra in his leap there. Kemp bounces out to third. Two quick outs for Dempster. Until now. DeWitt bloops a single over Theriot's head and into shallow left. Blake rips one but right at Lee for the final out.
Soto hits it sharply but right at Kemp in center. I'm now surrounded by people helping themselves to an unbelievably large spread of Thai food. Edmonds tries to hold up but can't and he's out on strikes. DeRosa grounds a two-out single up the middle. Theriot pokes a single to right. DeRosa stops at second. Dempster comes up, shows bunt and misses, swings and misses and then waves at a ball five feet outside for strike three.
Cubs 2, Dodgers 0
Lowe grounds out to Theriot. Pitch-count update: Dempster 75ish; Lowe 68. Dempster throws three straight balls to Furcal before grooving a strike. The next pitch is ball four and that's Dempster's fifth walk. Another 3-0 count, this one to Martin. Another get-me-over fastball and Dempster is really living on the edge here. Martin flies out to shallow right. Here's Manny with a runner on and two outs; he fouls off the first pitch. Dempster throws a high fastball by him for strike two. After a ball, Dempster throws another fastball over the plate and Ramirez fouls it straight back. High ball two. And another high fastball up near Ramirez's eyes for ball three. The ninth three-ball count of the game for Dempster and the third of this inning ends in a walk. Two-and-one to Ethier and Dempster's all over the joint now. When he misses it's not even close. Ball three and Larry Rothschild gets on the phone. Ball four and Dempster has walked the bases loaded. Rothschild trots out to the mound. Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija get up in the pen. James Loney hits with the bases loaded and helps Dempster out by swinging at a ball in the dirt for strike one. Strike two. Loney just gets a piece of an 0-2 pitch to stay alive. Loney jumps all over a 1-2 changeup and hits a grand slam to center. Kemp lines a double to the left-field gap. Piniella ambles out to yank Dempster. And it'll be Sean Marshall when we get back from commercial. A horrible outing for Dempster, his worst of the year, in the biggest game to date. He walked seven and left a fat, hanging change over the plate to the immortal James Loney and it's now 4-2 Dodgers. Marshall fans DeWitt and can someone tell Dick Stockton that "grand slam" should suffice; no need to keep calling it a "grand slam home run."
Dodgers 4, Cubs 2
Soriano strikes out to open the Cubs' half of the fifth. Fukudome lines a single off the third baseman's knee. Lee bounces to Furcal, who steps on second and throws to first to complete the double play.
Dodgers 4, Cubs 2
Marshall remains in the game. Blake lines a shot to the right side that Lee picks and steps on first. Marshall falls behind the pitcher 3-0. Lovely. He walks Lowe on four pitches and they're booing at Wrigley. Another ball and Marshall can't find the plate. Here comes Rothschild again. And Jason Marquis is up in the pen. Furcal helps Marshall out by swinging at a 3-2 pitch out of the zone. Martin rips one but right at Soriano.
Ramirez jumps all over a fastball and sends it deep to right-center off the base of the wall for a double. Lowe falls behind Soto 2-0 but comes back and strikes him out on a slider. Lowe misses twice to Edmonds and Martin comes out to talk things over, maybe change signs with a man on second, Ron Darlins says. Edmonds grounds out to third; Ramirez takes third. DeRosa flies out to right and so much for that leadoff double.
Dodgers 4, Cubs 2
Marshall's still in there and for his troubles he gets Manny and Manny golfs a solo homer off his shoetops and into the left-field bleachers. Ethier pops out to DeRosa. Marshall fans Loney and Kemp.
Dodgers 5, Cubs 2
Righty rookie Cory Wade is the new Dodgers' pitcher. Theriot grounds out to first and the Cubs are running out of outs. Mike Fontenot hits for Marshall and singles to center. Wade jams Soriano and Soriano pops out to shallow right. Fukudome fans and with the Cubs down and lifeless TBS takes this opportunity to remind us of their century of futility. I thought, perhaps, we could go one game without any mentions of bartman-like half billy goat/half black cat creatures. But, no.
Dodgers 5, Cubs 2
Samardzija comes on and throws two straight balls to DeWitt, the second of which went all the way to the backstop. DeWitt then rips a triple over Edmonds' head. So much for this Cubs team learning something from last year's postseason meltdown. Blake hits a 3-2 sinker back up the middle for an RBI single. Surely veteran Jeff Kent will hit for the pitcher Wade. Kent grounds to DeRosa. Blake ducks DeRosa's tag, so the throw goes to first. Lee then throws to second to get Blake for the 4-3-6 double play. Furcal flies out to left but the Dodgers get one more.
Dodgers 6, Cubs 2
Big ol' righty Jonathan Broxton is the next Dodgers pitcher to come on and surely baffle the Cubs. Lee grounds out to second. Ramirez flies out to right. The first five guys in the Cubs' lineup are 2-for-17 tonight. Soto draws a two-out walk. Edmonds slices one down the left-field line that bounces just foul, by an inch. Edmonds gives it a ride to center but Kemp tracks it down on the track.
Dodgers 6, Cubs 2
Jason Marquis on to pitch ninth-inning garbage time. Marquis gives up a leadoff homer to Martin. I have a ticket to tomorrow's game and don't really want to go now. Marquis somehow strikes out Manny. Ethier gives it a ride but Edmonds tracks it down. Loney grounds out to DeRosa.
Dodgers 7, Cubs 2
And just to stick it to the Cubs even further, Joe Torre has Greg Maddux pitch the ninth. DeRosa grounds out to short. Theriot lines one off the first baseman's glove and then beats Maddux to the bag. Ward grounds out to first; Theriot takes third. Soriano bloops out to Loney to end it.
Final: Dodgers 7, Cubs 2
So the Cubs pick up right where they left off in last year's playoffs, dropping Game 1 to the Dodgers. I'll be at the game tomorrow night. The great Amanda Kaschube will be here to bring you that win. Thanks for reading. Pass the Knob Creek.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun