Chicago sports fans can help provide the winning edge for their favorite teams, and that quality has not gone unnoticed by members of the White Sox and Cubs.
The intense atmosphere at the United Center for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals was such a reminder for Cubs and Sox players and managers.
The Cubs and Sox met at Wrigley Field Thursday afternoon in the series-finale as Jake Peavy (6-3) got rocked and took the 8-3 loss. Cubs lefthander Travis Wood (5-3) earned the win and delivered a key grand slam.
The Cubs mounted a two-out rally off Peavy in the second inning. Luis Valbuena doubled before Darwin Barney singled him home. Wood rapped a single into the hole before David DeJesus delivered an RBI base hit to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead.
The Sox got on the board in the third inning when Paul Konerko delivered an RBI single to score Alejandro De Aza, who opened the inning with a walk.
The Cubs got a grand slam from Wood in the fourth inning to make it 6-1. Welington Castillo and Luis Valbuena had opened with singles before Barney was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Wood then followed with that grand slam to left on a 2-1 pitch.
Wood became the first Cubs pitcher to hit a grand slam since Jason Marquis on Sept. 22, 2008, against the Mets at Shea Stadium. The last Cubs pitcher to hit a grand slam at Wrigley Field was Burt Hooton on Sept. 15, 1972.
Peavy was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning. Peavy was charged with six runs on eight hits in four innings. He struck out three.
The Cubs tacked on another run in the fifth when Nate Schierholtz led off with his sixth home run off reliever Nate Jones to make the score 7-1.
Konerko drove in his second run of the game when he doubled in Alex Rios in the sixth to make it 7-2. Valbuena hit a solo homer in the eighth to make it 8-2.
The Sox tried to rally in the ninth off Kevin Gregg, but managed just one run on a base hit by De Aza.
But the buzz around both clubhouses before the game was the scintillating Blackhawks win that many of them attended.
“You can’t help but understand the passion of the fans and the city … and see the electricity that went on (Wednesday) night in that stadium,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “You can’t help but think about the ‘what-ifs?’ and ‘when it comes together (for the Cubs),’ what it would be like around Wrigleyville.”
Konerko participated in the shoot-the-puck competition between periods at the Hawks game Wednesday night against the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija.
“The fans are so into it” said Konerko of the 2-1 in overtime Hawks win.
“Like, the fans during the game … I had one guy over my right shoulder who was yelling at (Brent) Seabrook the whole game,” Konerko said. “He was a Hawks fan, wearing the jersey, the whole nine yards. He’s just yelling at him, just saying how much he doesn’t like him and this and that. And then (Seabrook) ends up getting the game-winner. I look back at that (fan) after the game and he’s cheering and laughing and having the best time of his life. And I’m thinking: ‘Was it really necessary to be yelling at the guy the whole game?’”
Konerko said he and his Sox teammates try to tune out criticial fans when rhey are playing baseball.
“We can hear (fans) because there is no glass (around the baseball stadium). I don’t think hockey players can hear it at all,” Konerko said. “But we can hear it if we want to. It’s just a choice of if we want to or not. Hockey players, they can’t hear it all, which I guess is a benefit for them.”