Since our friends Bob and Deb moved from Connecticut to Maryland, getting together with them has been a bit more of an adventure. Rather than one couple or the other making the 4+ hour trip, we've started meeting at the halfway point, which is in New Jersey just across the river from Philadelphia. We meet at a motel Saturday morning, have lunch, go adventuring in Philly, have dinner, adventure some more (or sit and talk), then head on our separate ways after Sunday morning breakfast.
This weekend, our primary goal was to see the Genghis Khan exhibit at the Franklin Institute and that's where we headed. The plan was then for dinner and then to Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies / Cubs game. Well, we saw the exhibit, wandered the Institute some more, and then decided we needed a snack. We headed back to our motel and found a diner just down the road with excellent cake. The forecast, however, was for showers all evening and we debated whether we would actually see a baseball game.
Since we had all eaten sizable pieces of cake at 4:30, no one was particularly interested in having dinner at 5:30. (See, your mom was right; snacks before dinner do ruin your appetite!) So we headed off to the ballpark... and it started to rain while we were en route.
It was clear that the Phillies had no intention of calling the game. There was a decent crowd at the ballpark and, though the tarp was still on the field, the rain was easing up. Shortly after 7:30, the announcement was made that the game was expected to start at around 7:50 and at that time, we made our way to our seats. And through the evening, not another drop of rain fell.
Bob and Deb are Mets fans through and through. I divide my allegiance between the Yankees and the Mets, since they are in separate leagues, but in a head-to-head game, I am much more likely to be rooting for the Bronx Bombers than the Amazing Ones. I watch plenty of other games on TV or online when the Yanks and Mets are not playing. But I always enjoy a game at the ballpark and root for the home team.
In the case of the Phillies / Cubs game, the only player on either starting line-up that I had heard of was the Philadelphia left fielder, Jeff Francoeur, because he had played for the Mets a few years back. Everyone else was an unknown.
In addition to watching the game, which was quite a pitching duel for the first six innings, Bob, Deb and I were watching the scoreboard. (Laurie, by the way, who has minimal interest in baseball, spent the evening chatting with us and knitting a sweater for Alex.) Bob and Deb were paying closest attention to the Mets / Braves score and secondarily to the Nationals / Marlins; the Mets are closing in on the NL East title and the Nats have pretty much self-destructed out of the race. I was checking the Yankees / Blue Jays game, where the Toronto team was beating up on the Yanks. In the end, the Mets won, the Nats lost, and the Yanks got blasted for the third time in two days.
Meanwhile, in Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies pitcher Jerad Eickhoff, was pitching a one-hitter into the 7th inning. Unfortunately for him, the one hit had been a home run, and he was on the losing end of a 1-0 score. (For those of you who believe in baseball jinxes, I offer the following: I mentioned to Bob and Deb that this was going to be a tough luck loss for Eickhoff since his one bad pitch had been a home run. As soon as I said it, the next two Cubs got hits!) In the bottom of the 7th, the Phillies bats came alive, sparked by a pinch-hit by Ryan Howard -- hey, a Phillie I actually recognized! -- and they went ahead 5-1.
Unfortunately, the Cubs came back to tie the game in the 8th and we headed into the ninth inning with a 5-5 score. As I was watching the Phils' pitcher quickly dispatch the Cubs in the top half, it occurred to me that we had not seen much action on the field -- fly ball outs were few and far between and ground outs seemed almost nonexistent. I asked Bob, who was keeping score (and has done so at every game he's attended since the early 1990s) how many strikeouts there had been. He counted. Eleven Phillies and eleven Cubs; make that twelve Phils as another one went down in the bottom of the ninth. Twenty-three of the 53 outs in the game -- 43% -- were strikeouts! I don't have any idea what the Major League record is, but this one most assuredly is one in the book of games I've attended.
Oh, and those of you who are baseball fans are probably saying, "Hey, wait a minute, nine innings, three outs each --what about the 54th out?" Well, that never came. With two outs, the Cubs pitcher walked the next batter. Then a guy named Cody Asche (who we thought was announced as "Kobioshi") pinch-hit a game-ending home run into the right field stands. Phils win, 7-5.
The Phillies fans who had stayed to the end went home happy. And so did we, having spent an enjoyable evening at a ball game.