Monday, April 4, 2011
Posted: 7:58 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
This didnt make you want to skip work or cut class.
The Cubs are supposed to be a huge draw wherever they go spring training, on the road, at Clark and Addison. Wrigley Field is expected to be timeless, but it isnt immune to outside factors.
A soft economy, cold April weather and an Arizona Diamondbacks team that isnt generating any sort of buzz couldnt have helped. But the Cubs hosted whats believed to be their smallest crowd in almost nine years 26,292 on a gray, 47-degree Monday afternoon.
Those who were there saw a strong start from Randy Wells, clutch hitting by Alfonso Soriano and a collective effort out of the bullpen in a 4-1 victory over the Diamondbacks.
Its a little bit strange seeing those empty seats, Kerry Wood said, but its our job to change that.
Thats the thing you are now automatically used to seeing a packed house every night because the Cubs have set the bar so high. Unoccupied sections of the lower level and upper deck wouldnt be much of a story in other markets during the first week of the season.
Cubs officials say the season-ticket base is bigger than its ever been. They fully expect to pass the three-million mark in attendance for an eighth consecutive season.
Monday, cold weather people dont want to get out of their house. But I think when it gets warm, people will come to the game, Soriano said. We have a very good team and we play hard. We want to be (a) contender this year.
The Cubs are built around pitching, and Wells kept his composure long enough to give them another quality start.
Willie Bloomquist had more than 2,000 career plate appearances and 13 home runs on his major-league resume before he drove the games fourth pitch into the left-field bleachers.
Wells recovered and worked around four walks to limit the Diamondbacks to one run across six innings.
Thats not the end of the world. You got to almost start the game over and go back to work, Wells said. I put myself behind the eight-ball, (but) you just try to bear down and make pitches.
The Cubs (2-2) got enough offense through Soriano, who admired his solo home run in the third inning as it sailed into the left-field bleachers. But Soriano was more proud of his at-bat in the eighth, which yielded a two-out, opposite-field RBI single.
Soriano has notched at least one hit and driven in at least one run in three consecutive games. He will never win over all Cubs fans, but he likes where his game is at.
My mind is clear, he said. I feel very comfortable right now.
Thats how Mike Quade feels whenever he can turn a lead over to his bullpen. The manager used three relievers Sean Marshall, Marcos Mateo and John Grabow to get through the seventh inning before Wood and Carlos Marmol finished off the Diamondbacks (1-2).
For the second day in a row, Wood loaded the bases but escaped unscathed. About 24 hours after blowing a save, Marmol closed out the ninth inning. Neither wanted a day off. Both wanted a piece of the action and let Quade know that.
Of course, Marmol said. If they need me out there, Im going to be there.
The Cubs know that the fans will come back when theyre winning, and thats all that should matter. Obsessively tracking attendance figures is another quirk of Wrigley Field, like day baseball, swirling winds and flocks of seagulls.
Marmol got the 27th out by inducing a fly ball from Justin Upton. The seagulls hovered overhead as Marlon Byrd tracked it in center.
As long (as) were doing high fives at the end of the game, Byrd said, that doesnt bother me.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.