By Shannon Drayer
So I got a little lost on the way to the ballpark today. Actually I knew exactly where I was going. Cubs had a noon game, Sox a game at 6:00, it was an easy call to do the doubleheader. We don’t have this opportunity very often as the Cubs and White Sox usually aren’t in town at the same time so you have to grab the opportunity when you get it.
I grew up going to Wrigley Field as I lived about two hours south of Chicago and took on the Cubs as my team when I was in junior high. I have been there a number of times as a fan as well as a couple of times to work with the Mariners and despite this Wrigley Field never fails to take my breath away. It is picture perfect today.
One of the things I love about the park is that it is as old school as it gets. With the exception of the lights it looks just like it did when I was a kid. No video replays, very little signage or advertising. Just a lot of green and the fantastic sights, sounds and smells of summer baseball. The organ music and the audio highlight reel that they played before the game began were great touches.
I did have a first today, I tried the Chicago Dog. Hot dog, poppy seed bun, celery salt, onions, tomatoes, mustard, spicy peppers and an otherworldly, almost florescent green pickle relish. Quite good even at 11:00 which for me was pretty much 9am. Chicago dog breakfast at Wrigley Field sitting in the center field bleachers? It doesn’t get much better than that. I highly recommend it.
The last thing I wanted to share was this little scene I stumbled upon. The batting cages at Wrigley are below the center bleachers. Behind those bleachers is a small cooling area (it was 95! degrees there today) that are up against a fence that allows the fans to get a peek, barely a peek of the guys working in the cages down below.
The two kiddos above were watching intently. Who was in the cage? The guy whose jersey the one on the left was wearing. A neat scene that could have happened in any decade. It was great to see.
After my fun at Wrigley it was time to head across town to the South Side and go to work. Another close but not enough one for the Mariners. While Friday’s loss was almost a “feel good loss” this one was a little different. Mistakes were made. Opportunities were wasted. The team is playing much better baseball but the little mistakes are costing them games. If they are going to run with the division leaders then they have to play mistake free baseball and we are not seeing that right now.
Friday night it went largely unnoticed but Jesus Montero did not have a good night behind the plate. A throwing error and failure to block a slider helped lead to White Sox runs. Josh Kinney was credited with the two base wild pitch but Montero could have done more to try and block it. He in fact didn’t try to block it, he tried to backhand it rather than get his body in front of it. He should have had time. This was a Josh Kinney slider, not a Brandon League splitter or nasty Felix pitch.
Tom Wilhelmsen took the loss after surrendering two runs in the 9th. Before today’s game Eric Wedge had an interesting comment about that.
“When that inning started, he wasn’t even thinking about being in the game,” he said. “The emotional range was from one extreme to the other. He’ll be better for it. That’s the first time he’s had to do that.”
Wilhelmsen was no doubt prepared with his plan of attack to face the hitters but what he wasn’t prepared for was what he didn’t know and that was getting ready emotionally that fast. It comes into play with closers more than any other position on the field. I have seen this. The adrenaline is real. Some guys you can’t even talk to right after a game because they are still so amped up. JJ Putz was like that early on in his closing career. They have to learn to manage and use it. They also have to get to that level. It is a tricky thing and tough to explain but I have seen it and when Wedge talked about it before the game today it made sense.
As for tonight’s game the obvious mistake was the missed sign by Chone Figgins in the 8th inning. A bunt was needed. The runner on first had to be moved to second and Figgins grounded into a double play.
Wedge mentioned there were other plays they failed to execute on that were costly in the final innings. The sac bunt that went for a hit by the catcher as Kyle Seager appeared to not believe he had a play on perhaps was something he was talking about. A passed ball by John Jaso and a wild pitch by Lucas Luetge in the same at bat also was something Wedge was most likely not happy about.
The good news is, they are in these games. They really don’t look overmatched very often anymore. We will see what happens in the off season, what help Eric Wedge is given, but for now and until the end of the season they are what they are with their talent and experience. A play here or a play there however can make a difference. Eliminate a few mistakes and that W column could look a lot better at the end of the year.