Once again, I managed to eek out Opening Day tickets for the Crew’ home Opener (thanks Roger, thanks Melissa).
The day started much the same as any other home Opening Day–we arrived at Miller Park just after 9:30, a full 5½ hours before game time (and, AP reported, a full 4½ hours before Corey Hart did, thanks to a 3 a.m. arrival in Milwaukee and Ken Macha letting the players report to the ballpark later than usual). Our car was only the 20th in line, wondering why the sparse turnout. The threats by Miller Park personnel to not open the lots until 4 hours before game time, or at 11:05, were taken in stride by the cars starting to back up on the Interstate. The rest of the car broke out their first beverage of the day–the traditional Hamm’s–prompting the car behind us in line to demand we sing the Hamm’s jingle…and, strangely, all four of us knew most of the words.
The lot opened around 10:15, and I became the first to christen the Helfaer Field bathrooms (note to Miller Park staff: Yes, we drink in line and we would appreciate the bathroom lights on as soon as the gates open…luckily, there was just enough light after propping the door open to finish my business, egged on by the 30 mph winds threatenting to blow the door shut and leaving me in complete darkness).
At 1:00, Roger and I proceeded to the Metavante Club in left field, to find it still rather sparse…we were able to get a table outside near the corner, only to find that tables now require “a $25 per person per hour” minimum food purchase. We quickly moved to the rail, only to eventually find the same sign there…we decided that (a) the seats were to good to give up and (b) at $8 per hot dog we might hit their target anyway.
Oh, the game. Corey Hart’s homer got us feeling optimistic…I avoided a beating by fellow fans after I mentioned that I had the Cubs’ Milton Bradley on my fantasy team and wouldn’t mind it he got a hit…fortunately for me/unfortunately for the Brewers, Bradley hit a homer to cut the lead to 2-1. In the bottom half of the fourth, the Crew loaded the bases with two outs with Brewers’ starter Braden Looper due up…now Looper had thrown 76 pitches in his first start of the season, just two less than Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum had on Tuesday, prompting me to yell for a pinch-hitter (particularly, Brad Nelson)…Ken Macha either unheard me or ignored me (or both), promptly ending the inning. Someone (okay, it was me) had mumbled that Ned Yost had returned.
In the 5th, Looper served up a pitch to the first Cubs’ batter, Alfonso Soriano (called “Sorry- ano” by us the entire day) that was smashed to left enabling Brewers’ left fielder Ryan Braun to make a leaping catch. Things were looking up for the Crew faithful until Cubs’ back-up catcher Koyie Hill plunked a two-run shot over the wall to give the “Flubs” a 3-2 lead.
A failed comeback attempt in the 7th, followed by numerous Cub pitching changes to stave off a rally, finally led to the Cubs’ clinging to the same 3-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth. After Jason Kendall grounded out to third, Chris Duffy, batting the 9th spot now as a result of double switch, drew a walk. Fans were understandably a bit worried when leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks came to the plate. Weeks was hitless on the day, 0-4, after having gone 0-for-7 in the past two games. Weeks worked a 2-1 count, however, before drilling a smash to deep left just over the head of Alfonso Soriano, to plate Duffy with the tying run. Weeks just managed to advance to third on a wild pitch by Kevin Gregg, and, after a Corey Hart walk, went home on a Ryan Braun grounder to shortstop Ryan Theriot. Being in left, I could not tell if he made it or not, but when home plate umpire Jim Reynolds threw up the safe sign, those of the 45,455 still left when nuts.
The Crew is back at .500 with 158 games left…but got the home fans talking about their tenacity after home game #1…and Rickie Weeks bought himself at least a day’s worth of admiration by the fans.