Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
They had only one World Series win in the previous 95 years but were riding high with a substantial lead at home and only 6 outs to go with a possible world championship looming. They got the first out easily. However, a key defensive error and a porous bullpen turn the lead into a deficit in the eighth and the team went down to ignominious defeat.
The Cubs? No, of course, I am referring to the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies, who led Toronto 14-9 in the eighth inning of game four of the World Series (October 20, 1993), but ended up losing the game 15-14. Two games later they lost the series to Joe Carter's walk-off homer, the first to the point in a World Series game.
There were a lot of similarities between the 1993 game and the Cubs defeat yesterday. In 1993, a ball was booted by Dave Hollins though not scored an error with men at first and second and one out. Last night, Alex Gonzalez dropped a possible double play ball with one out and men at first and second and the Cubs leading 3-1. The Cubs turned to Kyle Farnsworth who gave up three runs in a third of an inning. The '93 Phils turned to Mitch Williams, who surrendered three in two-thirds an inning.
Williams went on to become, undeservedly, the goat of the series. He would relinquish the Carter series winner three days later. In the offseason, Williams is the subject of abuse from the fans and he is mercifully traded to the Astros in December.
The Cubs goat was not a player, though Gonzalez may have worn that mantle, but rather a fan who reached for a foul ball apparently in the stands but one that may have still been caught by Moises Alou, attempting to secure the second out of the eighth. The fan technically did not interfere with the ball since it was ruled in the stands. However, he has already been the butt of many an angry North Sider's spleen. The fan's name was disclosed by a Chicago newspaper (though we bloggers have better scruples and I would not publish it here) along with his place of work and the name of his little league club (?).
Just like Williams in 1993, this fan is not at fault for the events that enfolded last night. The Cubs somehow lost a 3-0 lead with 5 outs to go and created a 5-run deficit within the span of 22 minutes and 8 seconds including two breaks for pitching changes. They also went from a 3-0 lead to a tie game in three pitches. Here is how they did it:
0:00 Mordecai flies out to Alou for the first out of the inning.
2:23 Pierre doubles down the left field line.
4:56 Prior's 3-2 pitch to Castillo is his 110th of the night.
5:52 Farnsworth gets up in the bullpen (finally).
6:20 Castillo hits the infamous foul ball (112th pitch).
7:07 Ball four to Castillo and wild pitch, Pierre to third. (114th)
7:50 Conference on mound, probably to buy Farnsworth time.
7:53 Steve Lyons advices the Cubs faithful to throw the fan onto the field a la the throw'im back opponent home runs. Lovely.
8:17 Security removes the fan.
8:40 Hanger on first pitch to Rodriguez, which he misses. (115th)
9:44 Single to left by Pudge on 0-2 pitch, Cubs 3-1. (117th)
10:33 Cabrera's grounder dropped by Gonzalez. Looks like a slightly bad hop, but catchable. Loads bases. (118th)
11:25 Lee doubles down the left field line (see a trend yet?) on first pitch. Score tied. (119th)
13:49 Farnsworth is in.
14:18 Lowell intentionally walked to load the bases.
15:00 Sac fly by Conine, 4-3 Marlins. Sosa either misses cutoff man or cutoff man is out of position. Weak throw gets most of the way home before cut off. Runners both advance, 2nd and 3rd.
16:25 Hollandsworth is intentionally walked to load the bases.
17:44 Mordecai (the Marlins batted around) shows bunt on 0-1.
18:46 Mordecai double to gap in left on 2-1 pitch, Marlins 7-3.
19:41 Conference on mound.
21:58 Mike Remlinger in.
22:08 Pierre singles to right. Mordecai scores, Marlins 8-3.
If you notice, all of the balls including the foul one hit off of Prior in the eighth were to the left. They were jumping on his hanging curveballs. However, it took almost 6 minutes to get a pitcher up in the bullpen. And another 7 minutes to finally give Prior the hook.
If the fans of Chicago would a goat, don't blame the fan. Don't blame Alex Gonzalez. Don't even blame the Billy Goat, who haunts the Wrigley faithful to this day. "And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for those pesky kids and their dog."
Just like in 1993 when Jim Fregosi went to clearly unserviceable Mitch Williams time and time again, blame the manager for the Cubs' loss. Put the blame squarely on Dusty Baker's shoulders. Baker had no one up in the bullpen to lead off the eighth. Baker failed to recognize that Prior had run out of gas even though the batters started to feed furiously. I understand Baker did not have that many great options in the bullpen, but to keep Prior in there to work out of his jam when he had thrown over 110 pitches and clearly had nothing left was foolish.
I would have pulled him after the first man reached. Certainly he should have been gone after the walk-wild pitch. Baker was just stirring his pen brethren at that time.
Now, we NL'ers have to live with a substandard, Jeffrey Loria-owned Marlins team representing us in the Series. This club used five starters in the last two days, so who knows who will be the starter for McKeon's club come Saturday.
I do have to admit that the Marlins defined the series in the first game. They showed their tenacity and their ability to come back. The Cubs could have closed the door on this club and it is to their credit that the Marlins did not let them. I don't think the same can be said of a superior Yankee or Red Sox team.
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