What was worse? Living through the eighth inning of Game 6 of last year's NLCS or the interminable offseason that followed it?
If that wasn't the longest sixth months on record, I'm Hee Seop Choi.
By now everyone is tired of the talk of baseballs and bespectacled Bartmans, goats and ghosts, or that a certain pitcher for a certain Chicago team is on the cover of a national magazine that has been accused in the past of witchcraft.
Last we saw these Cubs they were standing stunned on the Wrigley Field grass as the Florida Marlins celebrated the National League pennant in front of them. They went from five outs away from their first World Series in 58 years to another next year.
No more hocus-pocus. It's time to see if the Cubs can right a wrong and erase last season's collapse or if they'll follow the lead of their recent playoff past and fade the following year.
The weather is cold but the bunting is in full bloom at the Great American Ballpark. The teams are being introduced.
The PA announcer just said, "The historic moment is here! ... The 2004 Cincinnati Reds Opening Day lineup!" I really had my hopes up for something a little more historic than that.
No surprise here: Ken Griffey Jr. is out of the lineup.
Baseball soon...right after Nick Lachey (minus his better half) sings the anthem and Veep Dick Cheney (with his better half) throws out the first pitch. Interesting combo. Cheney throws harder than Shawn Estes.
OK, we're ready. Sorry about the little glitch with the e-mail form. My bad. It's fixed now. Mark Grudzielanek takes a ball from Lidle before bouncing out to third. It's safe to say Corey Patterson is OK. He just cranked a change-up to the right-field bleachers. He hit two on Opening Day a year ago, if memory serves. Sammy Sosa pops out to second, bringing up Moises Alou, who flies out to Adam Dunn in left.
Cubs 1, Reds 0
So much for the no-hitter. D'Angelo Jimenez, the former White Sox second baseman, leads off the inning with a bouncer up the middle that finds a hole. Barry Larkin hits one where Jimenez did, but Grudzielanek makes a nice play, steps on second and has plenty of time to double up the aged Larkin. Wood fans Sean Casey to end the inning.
Aramis Ramirez starts things with a lazy grounder to third. Derrek Lee strikes out on three straight breaking balls and Alex Gonzalez flies out to Dunn. Quick half inning. Cubs hitters didn't show much patience there.
Austin Kearns rolls one to Gonzalez, who picks up right where he left off in Game 6 by booting the easy play. After Dunn strikes out looking, Jason LaRue hits a chopper to Ramirez, who starts a nice 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
New catcher Michael Barrett is thrown out trying to bunt for a hit. Loyal reader Mike, formerly Mike from Mexico, checks in to say he's moved and is now going by Mike from Milwaukee. Welcome back to the States, Mike. Wood grounds out to Jimenez. Grudzielanek, in an effort to eliminate the butchering of his last name, henceforth will be referred to as the G-man. As in the G-man muscles a single to left. Patterson is plunked, bringing up Sosa with two aboard. Lidle gets two strikes on Sosa but a splitter gets by catcher Jason LaRue and the runners move up. Sosa eventually draws a walk and Alou comes up with the bases loaded and two outs. Alou works the count full before clearing the bases with a double down the left-field line. Ramirez pokes a single the other way and Alou advances to third. Lee comes up empty again with an easy grounder to Larkin at short.
Cubs 4, Reds 0
Woods strikes out Ryan Freel, but Barrett lets the ball goes right through the five hole and Freel reaches on the error. Freel then steals second on Barrett. Great start for the new catcher. Wood walks Juan Castro and Lidle bunts both runners over. Wood is laboring a bit finding the strike zone. He throws four straight breaking balls to Jiminez, who dinks the fourth one into center in front of a diving Patterson. One run scores. Patterson nearly made a great catch. Larkin grounds to the G-man at second and he can't get the ball out of his glove. He gets Larkin at first but blew the double play. Another run scores. Casey strikes out and doesn't like the call. He was on his way to first thinking he had walked when umpire Joe Brinkman rung him up.
Cubs 4, Reds 2
Alex Gonzalez was retired to start the inning but I'm not sure what happened because I was checking on the Sox game. Barrett hits one to right that gets by Kearns. Barrett is off and slides into third with a hustle triple. Wood chops one off the glove of Castro, who was in defending against the bunt, scoring Barrett. G-man fans chasing an outside pitch. Reader Mike from Gurnee writes in to say they're scoring that dropped third strike last inning as a wild pitch, so the runs are charged to Wood. I disagree with that ruling, but thanks for the heads up, Mike. Anyway, Lidle gets out of the inning.
Cubs 5, Reds 2
Kearns leads off the Reds' half of the fourth with a bloop single to center. To answer your question, Tom from Chicago, no, I don't have Tivo here and don't anticipate getting one. Would be nice, though. Dunn draws a walk as Wood struggles with his control a bit. Wood gets LaRue looking. Freel hits one back to Wood, who takes his time and gets LaRue at second. First and third and Castro flies out to left to end the inning.
For the Sox fans who keep writing in asking the score of the Sox-Royals game, my cubicle mate Greg Gugger is following that game . Sosa and Alou fly out in succession. Alou's almost got out of there. Alas, Kearns snared it at the wall. Ramirez grounds to Larkin, who despite the advanced age still is pretty smooth at short.
One of the great names in baseball, Wily Mo Pena, pinch hits for Lidle and Wood makes quick work of him for his sixth strikeout. For those of you wondering, Wood threw 72 pitches through four innings. He's not necessarily having a really hard time of it, but he's a bit wild. The guys behind him haven't helped out a whole lot either. Jimenez drives his third hit of the day into center. Wood walks Larkin and Barrett jogs out to have a chat with his pitcher. The Cubs are sporting gray jackets this season to go with their road grays. Casey blasts one over Patterson's head, scoring Jimenez and Larkin. Now Wood is struggling at 88 pitches with Kearns, the Reds' best hitter up. But Wood gets Kearns to pop out on the first pitch. Someone named Mike Wuertz is up in the Cubs' pen as Woods pitches to Dunn with a guy on and two outs. Dunn pops up and slams his bat to the ground.
Cubs 5, Reds 4
John Riedling is the Reds' new pitcher and he quickly strikes out Lee. Gonzalez dribbles a swinging bunt back to Riedling for the second out. Barrett follows with a squib of his own. LaRue handles this one and throws out Barrett. Lee, Gonzalez and Barrett made Riedling look like Nolan Ryan there.
The Worst Dang Sports Show Period will never die. Wuertz, making his major-league debut, fans LaRue and Freel in succession. Shades of Carl Hubbell. And then gets Castro to gound out to second.
I'm happy to report no one has been attacked at the Sox-Royals game yet. It's only the fourth, so we've got time. Soft-throwing lefty and former Cub Phil Norton comes on in relief of Riedling and will face the immortal Tom Goodwin, who bats for Wuertz. Goodwin grounds one to Casey and nearly beats the first baseman to the bag. One out. The G-man legs out an infield hit. Patterson chops one to Casey, who has time enough to get only the G-man at second. That's it for Norton. Righty Brian Reith trots on and will face Sosa after a couple of car commercials. Sosa comes up empty with a strike out and we're back to the commercials. Actually, I believe that was a ground out back to the pitcher.
Kent Mercker makes his Cubs debut and retires the first batter. Jiminez pops out to Gonzalez. Yes, I know those two attacks occurred at Comiskey Park not in Kansas City. Larkin grounds out to second to end the inning.
Ryan Wagner is the new Reds pitcher and he strikes out Alou with a nice slider. Ramirez waves at three sliders and he sits down as well. Wagner throws four balls to Lee and, according to the rules, Lee is awarded first base. Gonzalez lofts one to Dunn and there's an early addition to the blooper reel. The ball goes off the heel of Dunn's glove, he takes about four wild stabs at it before dropping it. Lee, running on the crack of the bat, scores easily. Barrett follows with a single, scoring Gonzalez. Todd Walker pinch hits and flies out to end it.
Cubs 7, Reds 4
Sorry for messing up the innings. They should be correct now. Paul Wilson was just seen running from the Great American Ballpark, which means Kyle Farnsworth has entered the fray. Casey leads off with a quick single to right-center. Farnsworth, who as my boss said looks like he didn't miss too many off-season meals, strikes out Kearns looking. Dunn pops out to Gonzalez in foul territory and LaRue grounds out to Ramirez.
Todd Jones, the Reds' 27th pitcher of the day, is greeted by a single from the G-man. I believe Jones is the Reds' sixth pitcher and that was the G-man's third hit. Patterson walks. Sosa flies to center and the G-man tags. Alou dumps a single into center, but the human eye chart had to hold up at third before running. The hestitation cost him as Freel makes a nice throw to the plate to get the G-man. To make matters worse, LaRue cuts down Patterson at third for a double play. Score that 8-2-6 at home (Larkin was covering third).
Joe Borowski is out there trying to nail this one down. After throwing a lot of pitches, Borowski is able to get Freel to fly out to left and then fans Castro. Pinch hitter Ray Olmedo is the Reds' last chance. Borowski walks Olmedo and then starts Jimenez with three straight balls. After a strike down the middle Blownsaveski walks Jimenez. LaTroy Hawkins, wearing a skicap, is warming up in the Cubs' pen. Here's Larkin, the tying run, and Borowski can't find the plate. He sneaks a fastball that Barry Larkin of 10 years ago would've jacked and then gets Larkin swinging to end it. That was "interesting" but Borowski was able to hold on.
Final: Cubs 7, Reds 4
Give or take a few rain outs and extra-inning games, the Cubs now are 4,347 outs away from the playoffs.
Thanks for reading everyone. Stay tuned for play by play of the UConn-Georgia Tech game. Yeah, right.