Monday, July 26, 2010

St. Louis Cardinals 5 at Chicago Cubs 6 - July 23, 2010

After spending all of Friday getting to Chicago from Des Moines via Minneapolis, I woke early today, rented a car at O'Hare and then crawled over to Wrigley Field for a Cubs-Cardinals daytime duel.

There had been severe thunderstorms in Chicago over the past day; my flight spent an hour circling over Madison, Wisconsin on Friday night due to the weather and Saturday morning saw power still out in several locations. The rental agency's computer systems were down so they were handwriting the rental agreements. Traffic on the Kennedy Expressway was ridiculous, and it wasn't any better when I got on surface streets - stop lights were out here and there causing slowdowns for miles. It took about 90 minutes to drive the 11 miles between O'Hare and Wrigleyville. I finally parked about a mile from the ballpark and walked over.

I had arranged to meet Andrew Van Cleve, another sports roadtripper who maintains a site at Any Game, Anywhere. He's another international traveler who has seen plenty of soccer, cricket, and rugby in Europe as well as most of the stadiums in the US. He lives just a block from Wrigley Field and is a Cubs' season ticket holder. He contacted me a few months ago and when he found out I would be in Chicago, he kindly offered to attend the game with me. It was great fun swapping sports stories. Check out his site and blog, it's very interesting.

Wrigley Field

Normally I would write about the ballpark, but we didn't get in until just a few minutes before first pitch, so I didn't do the tour. However, there's not much to see here in terms of amenities. Wrigley is the second oldest ballyard in the nation and it hasn't been seduced by newfangled innovations like digital scoreboards or massive club sections. Of course, some changes have been made over the years; lights were installed in 1988 and there are a few digital linescores here and there. But I would guess that the atmosphere is the same as it was 94 years ago when it was first opened.

Parking is available about a mile from the ballpark north and west. As you get closer, you can expect to pay a minimum of $20 to park, so I would suggest parking north of Irving Park or west of Ashland.

Getting around can be difficult, weekend games are crowded and walkways are small. It took me about 25 minutes from the end of the game to walk out and get a block away. If you are in a rush, get close to an exit near the end of the game and make a run for it.

There's little in the way of encouraging fans to cheer at certain points. No "Everybody Clap Your Hands" garbage here, the fans know when to cheer and when to boo. It was still quite loud as fans are talking to each other and the sound seems to be trapped under the rooftops. These open air parks let the ambient noise escape, but it's part of the fun here at Wrigley.

I'm not going to detail much else here. I just sat back and watched a great game. If you haven't been to Wrigley and you are a ball fan, plan a trip. Spend time in Wrigleyville as well, it's a unique experience and one that shouldn't be missed.

The Game

It was a 12:05 start today as the division leading Cardinals sent spot starter and B.C. native Blake Hawksworth against Tom Gorzelanny, who is taking Carlos Zambrano's spot in the Cubs' rotation.
Chicago got off to a quick start when Tyler Colvin led off with his 15th homer of the season, which leads all rookies. St. Louis responded in the second with a Brendan Ryan RBI double to tie the game. After Hawksworth, batting 8th, struck out, Tyler Greene singled home Ryan to give the Cards a 2-1 lead.

In the third, the Cubs added 2 on a home run by another rookie, shortstop Starlin Castro. Derek Lee (above) walked and Marlon Byrd doubled him home for the 4-2 lead.

St. Louis got one back in the fifth when Greene reached on a bunt and Aaron Miles singled him to third. Jon Jay then hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-3 Cubbies.

Chicago got two easy ones in the 5th. After Castro and Aramis Ramirez (below) singled to chase Hawksworth, Mitchell Boggs relieved and promptly walked Byrd to load the bases. He then uncorked a wild pitch which allowed Castro to score. Cards' catcher Yadier Molina threw wild to Boggs covering home and Ramirez raced home for the Cubs' 6th run.

But the Cardinals were not quite done. In the 7th, Miles and Jay led off with base knocks, and Albert Pujols followed with a sac fly to score Miles. That's Pujols watching it below - it was nearly a homer but fell short on the warning track.

The first two Cardinal hitters in the eighth also reached on singles and then Ryan hit a tailor-made grounder to second baseman Ryan Theriot, who booted it, allowing a run to score and make it 6-5. The Cubs' fans looked like they had seen this before, but pinch hitter Randy Winn flew out and Greene grounded into a double play to end the threat.

Carlos Marmol (above) came in to close it out and struck out Miles and Jay before walking Pujols. Matt Holliday represented the go-ahead run but he could only meekly flare a ball to Theriot, who caught it to preserve a gritty win for the home team.

Next Up

Traffic problems made me late into Milwaukee, so I skipped the game tonight. I'll go to tomorrow's afternoon game with the visiting Nationals and then drive back to Chicago to catch the Cards-Cubs night game. I then fly back to Japan on Monday and get ready for the World University Baseball Championship which begins next week. As usual, updates will be posted here.



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