Chicago Cubs: All signs point to a nail-biter in the making
By the verve in the announcer’s voices, it became clear that I was witnessing something special by the middle innings. Wood had added six more punch-outs, bringing his total to 12 through six scoreless frames.
“I felt a change in about the first part of the fourth inning,” Wood said after remembering throwing back-to-back breaking balls to Astros superstar slugger, Jeff Bagwell. “That’s when everything started to click.”
Blue signs that donned assorted wooden bats which resembled the letter “K” started to flood the Wrigley Field bleachers as the “bleacher bums” began keeping tabs on Wood’s number of strikeouts.
Now, I don’t know if this was a common thing in baseball at the time, but I remember this instance as the first time I saw “K” signs in the crowd to denote a pitcher’s strikeout total in a game.
They kept adding another one to the line after each strikeout and, with each strikeout, the Wrigley faithful became louder and more raucous than the last.
It began to feel otherworldly as the movement of his pitches became sharper and sharper, making a mockery out of the formidable Houston lineup that consisted of the “Killer B’s” (Biggio, Bagwell, Derek Bell). Out of his 12 strikeouts to that point, six of them came catching the Astros’ batters looking.
You could tell Wood was rolling on pure adrenaline. His wild pitches were probably the result of his nerves but oddly that seemed to only be beneficial to him, as the Astros didn’t quite know how to handle them. It became almost comedic to watch as I laid on the couch.
After retiring Bell to end the top of the sixth inning, Wood walked off the mound, trying to mask his pumped-up nerves with a confident mask across his baby-face, letting out a deep exhale on his way back to the dugout.
The unearned run remained the difference, still the only score of the game, as the Cubs maintained their tight 1-0 lead.