TOP OF THE SEVENTH: PADRES 6
(2) – 4 CUBS
The fog is rolling in thick at Wrigley Field, with the Padres batting and my dad quoting Carl Sandburg: “The fog comes on little cat feet. // It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.”
With cats something of a bad omen to Cubs’ fans, this doesn’t sound good.
There’s a row of fans in front of us rooting for San Diego pitcher Colin Rea, an Iowa native, each with signed jerseys, hollering his name with each strikeout and growing silent with the Cubs gaining a 4-2 lead.
So with Adam Rosales coming up against Kyle Hendricks, with the Cubs on a nine-game win streak and inching closer to win number ten, everything looks sound and stable. Cubs up two.
Down in the concourse, in line for a hot dog, I see Rosales strike out on the TV monitor. Then Jabari Blash, easily the best name on this Padres team, grounds out to Javier Baez at third. Two outs.
Now Travis Jankowski comes up, whom I know nothing about until now, but on first glance appears to be Khalil Greene, on second glance appears to be Wil Myers, and on third glance I’m back up in the seats checking the scoreboard, reading his name for the first time, and seeing him hit a hard single over to third base.
Joe Maddon trots out to the mound, with Hendricks up near 100 pitches, and he calls to the pen for Pedro Strop. Dexter Fowler grabs his glove and runs out to center-field from the dugout, a double-switch with Jason Heyward shifting to right, Kris Bryant to left.
So Pedro Strop, fresh out of the bullpen, comes in throwing pure junk–down in the dirt for one pitch, up and away for the next, resembling nothing of the razor-sharpening device for which he’s (not actually) named.
He tosses a wild pitch with Myers batting, and Jankowski heads for second, the mood at Wrigley still worry-free in expectation of a good win.
Then: Wil Myers singles. Baez with a throwing error across the diamond to Rizzo, and Jankowski sneaks home to score. 4-3.
Matt Kemp comes up now, San Diego’s biggest power-hitting threat, as the mood changes to a small, creeping combination of worry, doubt and fear, and the fog picks up to a full misting of the upper bleachers.
Don’t go out there!! someone shouts, There’s something in the mist! Something in the mist took
John Lee Pedro Strop and I heard him screaming! saw him give up four runs to the Padres!
Pitching coach Chris Bosio comes out to chat with Strop, but they decide to stick with him. Bad move.
Next batter up is Brett Wallace, who hits the fourth pitch into the first row in left-center, through thick pockets of heavy air, through the happy-go-lucky win-streaking smiles of all but a small handful of fans at Wrigley, with the few Padres fans now standing up, cheering, whooping, with the Colin Rea fan club leading the charge. 6-4 lead to San Diego. (GIF credit to redditor /u/JanitorOfSanDiego)
So the Cubs’ two-run lead now flips to two-run deficit, and, somehow, Strop stays in.
Single from Derek Norris. Walk to Jon Jay. And now, finally, our long national Stropial nightmare is over, bringing back with it memories of the late-inning days of Carlos Marmol. Neil Ramirez comes in and ends the inning, on a strikeout to Jose Pirela.
The Cubs, never able to come back out of the fog, lose 7-4, but they’re still 25-7. The Padres, with the win (and another that evening), are 15-20. Hard to say this one will matter in the final analysis, but if omens are to believed, cats and Cubs are no good mix.
Take notice, all National League contenders, for the latest Cubs’ weakness. A kryptonite creeping up off the Lake Michigan waves, lying in wait to reappear this October.