What a wet and wacky afternoon it was at Wrigley Field, a madcap Mother's Day—or, as the Cubs' bulletin board said: "Happy Mudder Day."
When it was all over, the Cubs had not only gained playoff revenge with a series sweep of Arizona but had slipped into a virtual tie with St. Louis for first place in the Central Division.
"We feel like it was a little bit of payback for us, [since] they beat us in the playoffs last year," said Daryle Ward, whose eighth-inning pinch double scored the final two runs in a 6-4 victory as the Cubs battled from behind for the third straight day.
This one wasn't easy, and it was anything but normal. Morning-long rain delayed the start by an hour, resulted in scheduled starters Carlos Zambrano and Randy Johnson being scratched and created a "Who's on First?" routine.
Cubs starter Sean Gallagher didn't know about his assignment until 45 minutes before the game and wouldn't have been here in the first place if the Brian Roberts trade had gone through.
And in that eighth inning, Aramis Ramirez stole his first base in nearly two years, Kosuke Fukudome laid down a perfect bunt even though he wasn't in the original starting lineup, Alfonso Soriano was walked intentionally as a pinch-hitter even though he was in the original lineup and Ward delivered the big hit using a pink bat.
Oh, and then there was Reed Johnson, hitting his first homer as a Cub right into the teeth of a 20-m.p.h. wind to left-center. He also had to fight off starving seagulls in the outfield.
"That's what it's called, a team," manager Lou Piniella said. "You get different people doing different things, and the team's successful."
As for those pesky birds, who went into a feeding frenzy while Kerry Wood was saving his seventh game ...
"Unbelievable," Johnson said. "I was out there in center field, and they all started going nuts around me. I didn't know what to do if a line drive was hit over there. I'd be scrambling, 'Where's the ball? Where's the bird?' type of thing."
But it was the Cubs who drove the Diamondbacks batty again, with Carlos Marmol picking up his first victory of the season for pitching a scoreless eighth inning.
"Arizona is a good baseball team," Piniella said. "They're athletic, they've got good [pitching] arms and they've been playing awfully well. We won three important games at home, and we have seven to go."
Seven to go in the longest homestand of the year, with San Diego coming in Monday night for four.
The heroes were many Sunday, but none bigger than Ward, who had delivered a pinch single the day before to tie the game and then whacked the first pitch Sunday from reliever Tony Pena.
"He couldn't have thrown it any more down the middle than he did," Ward said. "As a pinch-hitter, you see a pitch down the middle, you've got to swing. I was just hoping it would land, and it did. I wanted it to land in the seats, but it still worked."
In his first major-league start, Gallagher was pulled in the fifth inning with the bases loaded, one out and one run already home.
Reliever Chad Fox was summoned for the pressure situation, even though he had barely warmed up and had appeared in only two major-league games in the last three years. He walked the next two batters to give Arizona a 4-2 lead. But Fox finished that inning and the next one with no more trouble.
In the bottom of the seventh, Johnson took Gallagher and Fox off the hook with his two-run homer. Derrek Lee had slugged his 10th homer in the third inning. He didn't hit his 10th until July 28 last season.
A horde of heroes.
"Just look at this game," Gallagher said. "I came out of the game, and two or three innings later, we're right back in it. This team just seems to come through in the clutch."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun