While the 36,311 blue clad fans at Wrigley Field booed Dale Sveum on Wednesday when he lifted starter Matt Garza from the mound, the boos came from a much different reason than you may expect.
Garza, who struck out nine and scattered just three hits, was one play away from heading a complete game shutout in the Cubs 8-0 winning effort against the reigning NL Central champion Brewers.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and two strikes on Brewers pinch-hitter Norichika Aoki, Garza induced a slow rolling comebacker to the mound. The right-hander fielded the ball cleanly, turned to first and launched the ball into the stands.
Following the blunder, Cubs manager Dale Sveum arose from the dugout, taking the ball from Garza and turning to reliever Shawn Camp to record the final out of the game.
What Sveum later called, “the greatest worst throw of all time", was backed by a relentless offensive attack for truly the first time this season.
The Cub leading the battery charge? none other than the one calling Garza’s dazzling pitching performance – catcher Steve Clevenger. Clevenger, who went 3-for-4, belted a pair of doubles in the contest, the first of which started a six run third inning.
Opened by Clevenger’s soft double, Reed Johnson followed with an RBI base knock that gave way to a string of hits.
Rattling off five consecutive hits, the double play duo of Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro blasted back-to-back RBI singles. Alfonso Soriano and Ian Stewart also added RBI hits in the inning, giving the Cubs a lead they would never surrender.
Garza’s stellar 8 2/3 innings of three-hit baseball was nothing new for the Cubs. The story of the season has been impressive starting pitching tinted by late inning bullpen collapses. What changed? Timely hits with runners in scoring position.
Coming into the day, Cubs’ batters were 7-for-50 with runners on scoring position. A 7-for-12 Thursday effort launched the club to a season high eight runs.