Cubs’ bats shine after rain
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org May 12, 2011 12:32AM
Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro hits a two-run single off St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Jason Motte, scoring Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, during the third inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 11, 2011 in Chicago. Watching the play is catcher Gerald Laird. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Updated: August 30, 2011 12:15AM
During a nearly hourlong rain delay Wednesday night, fans at Wrigley Field huddled in the covered seating and concourse areas, barely noticeable until an occasional stroke of lightning flashed over the ballpark — at which point the ‘‘ooohs’’ and ‘‘aaahs’’ rose over the sound of hard rain.
It was as though they’d never seen a thunderbolt before, never seen a sudden charge or a flash of power at Wrigley before.
Uh, wait a minute. . . . Never mind.
A funny thing happened on the way to another low-wattage loss to an upper-division opponent on this dark and stormy night.
After the game resumed in the bottom of the third inning, the lousy early-season weather that had often been a bane to these Cubs took the form of an ally.
The Cubs broke out for their biggest inning of the year against sapped and sopped starter Jake Westbrook on the way to an 11-4 victory over the rival St. Louis Cardinals.
‘‘We needed one of these,’’ Cubs manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘I don’t care if it took four hours, eight hours, whatever.’’
The Cubs didn’t hit any more home runs than usual — as in none — but three doubles and two triples provided a virtual fireworks display one night after a 13-single game that resulted in a loss.
If nothing else, the sudden burst of offense out of the rain delay — six runs in the third and four more in the fifth — finally gave the fans a lot more to ooh and aah about than the weather.
‘‘All I know is, there’s an 11-spot up there at the end of the day,’’ said Quade, whose growing concerns over the clutch-hitting disparity prompted him to have hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo address the hitters about it behind closed doors Tuesday afternoon.
Whether that was the difference, the Cubs’ 4-for-4 hitting with men in scoring position in the big third inning alone equaled their entire output for that lost three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds over the weekend (4-for-24).
It included a bases-loaded double by Carlos Pena, followed by one of Starlin Castro’s four hits — a two-run single.
They were 7-for-13 in the game in those situations.
‘‘A good day,’’ Quade said. ‘‘One day. But a real good day.’’
The post-rain downpour erased an early 1-0 deficit and gave starter Matt Garza (2-4) all he would need to earn his first home victory as a Cub.
‘‘Garza showed me something, too,’’ said Quade, who feared the same kind of malaise Westbrook suffered after a 53-minute delay. ‘‘I’m glad we could get him through five and get him out of there. I don’t think there’s anything more nerve-wracking for a manager than to have a guy come back after a rain delay. But when you see his first fastball at 97, you think you’re OK.’’
Garza, who threw 85 pitches and said he was prepared to pitch longer, walked his first batter after the long break but then struck out the side. The major-league strikeout leader finished with seven.
The Cubs will be without one of their hottest hitters for Friday’s series opener against the San Francisco Giants.
The Cubs said after the game that cleanup hitter Aramis Ramirez (7-for-19 during the homestand) is leaving after today’s game to return home to the Dominican Republic for a family matter.
He’s expected back in time for Saturday’s game.