by Steve Bogira
The race is too close to call right now: the north-siders are 64-81, the south-siders 64-80.
Both teams showed last night that even in the home stretch, they still have some embarrassments in them. In Toronto, the Cubs gave up 14 hits and committed two errors while falling to the Blue Jays, 9-2. On the south side, the Sox surrendered 18 hits and erred five times in a heartbreaking 11-2 setback to the A's.
I'd been thinking last week of writing a glowing post about the Cubs, who then were playing well. Alas, I waited too long. They got swept by the Pirates at Wrigley over the weekend, and before they were pummeled last night, the Blue Jays clobbered them 8-0 Monday. Nevertheless, the north-siders almost certainly will improve on last year's record (66-96), and a few breaks the rest of the way will give them a successful season of 90 losses in this, their fifth rebuilding year.
Last night's defeat was to former White Sox ace Mark Buehrle. The Cubs had an impressive first inning against the invincible lefty. After Chris Coghlan fanned and Javier Baez took two strikes, Buehrle threw Baez three bad ones. This was only sensible, given the 21-year-old's relentless search for distant curveballs, which has resulted in a strikeout pace for the rookie that Adam Dunn would envy. Baez somehow resisted, however, and on three and two he doubled to left. More astonishing still, Baez then stole third. In 175 innings this season, no runner had stolen a base against Buehrle. Jorge Soler brought Baez home with a fly to center. Winning baseball!
Unfortunately, there were eight-and-a-half innings to play. With his trademark poky fastball and pinpoint control, Buehrle gave the Cubs ten hits but no walks and only two runs in seven innings. Jake Arrieta pitched well again for the north-siders, but the bullpen entered in the seventh and turned a serious pitchers' duel into a Blue Jays' laugher.
Meantime at the Cell, third baseman Marcus Semien made errors in the fourth, fifth, and ninth, right fielder Avisail Garcia and pitcher John Danks contributed miscues, and rookie Carlos Sanchez stumbled rounding second and was tagged out with the Sox down only three in the seventh. Manager Robin Ventura said after the game he wanted his youngsters to “get it out of their system.”
Tonight, former Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija will try to do to his old crosstown rivals what Buehrle did to his.
Like the Cubs, the Sox will be able to call this season a step in the right direction, because they were a dreadful 63-99 last year. And in truth, both teams now have the makings of future success, and some year soon one or both may have an actual winning season. But for now, just sit back and enjoy the fight for bragging rights.