CHICAGO – Cubs fans, known for invading opposing ballparks around the Midwest, found themselves on the receiving end this week.
Detroit Tigers fans noticeably overwhelmed Wrigley Field as interleague play resumed, turning the Friendly Confines into Motown South. Their “Let’s go Tigers” chants were met with half-hearted boos and were easily drowned out.
The Tigers gave their fans plenty to celebrate Thursday with their 5-3 win against the Cubs to take two of three games in the series. The Cubs (21-42) couldn't overcome a late one-run deficit, and Detroit outfielder Austin Jackson's two-run homer in the ninth helped stave off the Cubs, who managed a run off closer Jose Valverde.
“It's a little bit strange,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the number of Tigers fans. “Today it seemed like quite a bit more actually. That's kind of the adage of interleague play sometimes. They'll spend a lot of money to take their vacations and come to a landmark stadium like this and pay a lot of extra money for the tickets.”
The series drew 124,782 fans, the largest midweek three-game series crowd in Wrigley Field history. Last year’s meeting with the visiting New York Yankees marks the ballpark’s top three-game series total (126,283). Thursday’s attendance of 42,292 was the largest crowd of the season, at least half of which were Tigers fans.
“I love it here. It's a great atmosphere,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I've always said a Cubs game is more than a game, it's a happening.”
Starting pitcher Travis Wood tried to block out the rowdy Detroit fans while on the mound, no easy task with the pro-Tigers crowd. The left-hander knew he had little room for error with Tigers ace and former AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander pitching. And though Wood took the loss, he held his own and matched Verlander (6-4) pitch for pitch for six-plus innings. A two-run second inning was all the Cubs' offense managed against Verlander, who allowed five hits and struck out eight.
“I would say for me it was a little more amped up going against a guy like Verlander because you know you have to be on top of your game,” Wood said. “You know that even if he doesn’t have his A game he’s still a great pitcher.”
Wood (0-3) surrendered three runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out three. In five of Wood’s six starts he has allowed three or fewer runs. His only blip came in May when he served up four home runs with 30 mph gusts blowing out.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to have some good ballgames and have been throwing the ball well, and the pitches have been working,” Wood said. “The confidence level is high.”
Detroit’s leadoff batter reached base in each of the first seven innings against Wood, three of which eventually scored. However, the Cubs’ defense helped bail out Wood by turning three double plays.
“He had command of his fastball in to get those ground ball double plays,” Sveum said. “He made the pitches when he had to. Had a few walks that got him in trouble but then he got out of it. … He did a good job when he had to today.”