On Wednesday, the Cubs celebrated the 100th birthday of their ballpark in style. There was a cake, and balloons were let loose after a birthday serenade, and greats from the Cubs and the Bears sang the seventh-inning stretch. The Bears played in Wrigley Field for 50 years, and Wrigley once held the record for the most NFL games played in a stadium. And the Cubs held a three-run lead heading into the ninth inning. And then the Wrigley Field centennial celebration took a turn for the worse.
Pedro Strop, who became the Cubs’ closer when it became obvious Jose Veras isn’t up to the task, needed to get three outs to give Jeff Samardzija his first win of the year, and to send all of the nostalgia-minded Cubs fans home happy. The first century of Wrigley Field didn’t go so well, but maybe the second one would bring better things. You can’t start it off any better than with a win.
But Strop walked the leadoff hitter. Perhaps Strop shouldn’t have even been out there to begin with, since Hector Rondon had finished out the eighth inning by throwing just six pitches in relief of Samardzija. The day’s opposition, the Arizona Diamondbacks, took what Strop was giving, as well as shortstop Starlin Castro, who made a costly error that prolonged the inning. But Strop battled back, and struck out Paul Goldschmidt to bring the Cubs to within one out of victory.
But rather than staying with the Cubs closer, manager Rick Reneria again made a questionable pitching move by bringing in James Russell to face Miguel Montero with the game on the basepaths. Russell needed to get a call on a two-strike pitch to Montero, but it was called a ball, instead. And from there, well, one thing led to another and the winning runs came around to score on — and I swear that I’m not making this up — a pop-fly triple. The home team wore uniforms that said “Feds” in honor of the Federal League team that once played there, but yesterday’s collapse was Cubs all the way.
So, the idea of spring-boarding off a historic day to build momentum is gone. In fact, the one team in the National League with a worse record than the Cubs is the Diamondbacks. To allow the worst team in your league to get off the floor and steal away a game is bad. And as much as Samardzija claims to want to remain in Chicago, his 0-2 record and 1.53 ERA (just let those two numbers play around inside your head for a moment) suggest otherwise. Leaving Chicago probably can’t come soon enough for the pitcher we call the Shark.
But it’s a new day, which brings a chance to put this debacle behind us right away. And the Diamondbacks are in town for one more game, which could mean that the Cubs will finally win a series this year. Hope springs eternal, and that’s no different in the second century at Wrigley than it was in the first.