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.
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.