GENEVA – Friday brought Country Music Night to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark before, during and after the Cougars’ 6-5, 10-inning loss to Burlington.
If not dueling fiddles, the promotion’s muse spurred slight clubhouse discord.
“I’m not a huge country guy,” second baseman Giuseppe Pappacio said. “Really, I’m not.”
Fair enough for a native of Nutley, N.J., just northwest of New York City, but how about someone from the south?
“I listen to country music a lot, yeah,” first baseman Dan Vogelbach said. “Coming from Florida, I mean, you get a lot of it.”
For better or worse, subplots surrounding the final game of the Cougars’ three-game series against the Bees (45-67 overall, 19-28 second half) reflected several country hits, past and present.
Here’s a look, y’all:
Defiance was undoubtedly the initial reaction when home plate umpire Nick Garvey ruled Bees first baseman Wade Hinkle safe on a 10th-inning sacrifice fly that provided the final margin.
With one out and the bases loaded, Riley Good lofted a fly ball to Cougars left fielder Reggie Golden, who made the catch and threw home well ahead of Hinkle.
Cougars catcher Carlos Escobar was unable to handle the throw, but still tagged Hinkle, who appeared to slide past home plate.
Chevy Clarke, waiting on deck for the Bees, implored Hinkle to touch home, adding to the argument for Kane County (47-65, 17-29).
“I mean, my whole thing is, if he goes back of the plate and I tag him before he touches the plate, that’s just baseball,” Escobar said. “I mean, you’re out.”
The Cougars’ Jose Dore leapt above the right-field wall to pull Sherman Johnson’s would-be two-run homer back into the park to end the top of the second.
Burlington already had capitalized on a throwing error by starter Tyler Skulina – a fourth-round draft pick of the parent Cubs in June – to grab a 2-1 lead earlier in the inning.
“Unbelievable, huh?” Cougars manager Mark Johnson said. “That was freaking awesome. I didn’t think he had a chance on it. He made an incredible catch. That was definitely a web gem.”
Left-hander Rob Zastryzny, a second-round draft pick from Missouri, kept the Cougars close in his first outing since his promotion from Short-A Boise this week.
His three innings of scoreless relief included two hits, one walk and one strikeout.
“Felt good to be back on the field,” Zastryzny said, “especially for a new team so close to Wrigley, you know.”
Center fielder Albert Almora professed to stay upbeat despite a bone bruise in his right groin that will keep him on the disabled list past the initial 7-day diagnosis.
Almora felt a tweak in his groin during Sunday’s game at Clinton and left in the fourth inning. His DL stint began retroactive to Monday.
“Things have changed, so I’ll just have to go with the flow and take it day-by-day,” Almora said.
“There’s nothing much I can do. Just rest.”
The Tennessee Smokies, the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate in Knoxville, Tenn., hosted Jazz Night on Friday. Given Geneva’s proximity to Chicago, might the melodious promotions have been flipped around?
COUGARS SHORT HOPS
Cougars (RHP Felix Pena, 4-4, 4.00 ERA) vs. Cedar Rapids (RHP Jose Berrios, 6-5, 3.74 ERA), 6:30 p.m. Saturday, AM-1280
Friday’s crowd of 8,696 pushed the Cougars’ season total to 307,766 fans in 53 home games. Kane County attracted 274,285 fans through the same span last season.
And smelled. With the Cougars' Jeimer Candelario batting with one out in the bottom of the ninth, a skunk scurried onto the field, waddling from the first base side to the center field wall. Three Cougars employees jogged out to corner the rodent, which was escorted off the field when the center field gate opened. Unofficially, it was a four-minute skunk delay.
"I don't think I've seen a skunk [disrupt a game]," said Cougars manager Mark Johnson, a former major leage catcher. "I've seen a lot of other things."
Cubs brass will be excited because
Catcher Carlos Escobar delivered each of his four RBIs with two outs and extended his hitting streak to five games.
"It's a work in progress and I got away from my approach there late, but it's feeling better," Escobar said.
Cubs brass will cringe because
They discovered reliever Michael Hamann is mortal in 2013. The right-hander allowed the Bees' eventual winning run in the 10th, the first earned run he has permitted in 20 2/3 innings between Short-A Boise and the Cougars.