What a scenario! The lowly Cubs doing the White Sox a favor by beating up on the first-place team in the AL Central, the Cleveland Indians.
Looking like an AL-style juggernaut with 15 hits, the Cubs beat Cleveland 9-4 on Saturday, giving the third-place White Sox hope of catching up in the Central race.
"I think for the first time in like a century, people on the South Side of Chicago are actually rooting for the Cubs," said Grace, who hit a solo homer and RBI triple as the Cubs evened the series at one game each.
The teams meet Sunday in the deciding game of the first regular season series between them since 1899, when Cleveland was known as the Spiders.
Cleveland cares little about interleague minutiae these days. The loss narrowed their division lead to three games over Milwaukee and 4 1/2 over the White Sox before both teams played interleague games Saturday night.
The Cubs, in last place in the NL Central and 26 games below .500, have held their own against playoff contenders in the past week. They split a four-game series with Florida and now have a chance to take two of three from the Indians.
"Today, we actually outslugged a great team," said Grace, who was close to signing with the Indians after the 1995 season but decided to stay in Chicago. "That's good to see. We know we can play with them."
Doug Glanville homered and had three hits, including a including a leadoff double in the ninth. He scored on Grace's triple off the right-field wall for Chicago's final run. Grace was 2-for-4 and scored twice.
David Justice hit his 30th homer for the Indians, giving him his second 30-homer season. He had 40 homers in 1993 with the Atlanta Braves.
While the victory gave hope to the rival White Sox, starter Kevin Tapani said not so fast. Tapani, who pitched for the other Chicago team last season, said he agreed with White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf's recent assessment that no one could catch Cleveland.
"That's been pretty well documented, right? They can't catch 'em," said Tapani (4-3), who pitched 5 2-3 innings in his eighth start after missing four months with a finger injury. "I think that came straight from the top.
"The Indians are definitely a postseason team. I don't see why not."
Tapani, who pitched portions of eight seasons in the AL with Minnesota and the White Sox, allowed four runs and eight hits while improving to 5-6 in his career against Cleveland.
Indians starter John Smiley (2-4), a longtime National Leaguer acquired from Cincinnati July 31, left after five innings and told the coaching staff his shoulder was sore. He allowed five runs and eight hits, including homers by Grace and Glanville.
"He'll be checked by the doctors tomorrow," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said. "I don't think it's anything serious."
Marc Pisciotta relieved Tapani with two outs and two on in the sixth. He loaded the bases by hitting Marquis Grissom, who deflected the ball away from his head with his left arm. Pisciotta then walked Brian Giles to force in a run, making it 6-4, but got Omar Vizquel on a liner to right to end the threat.
In the Cubs eighth, Scott Servais sacrificed runners to second and third with no outs. Jose Hernandez walked, and Lance Johnson hit a two-run single off Eric Plunk to make it 8-4.
Chicago took a 3-0 lead in the first. Shawon Dunston's squeeze bunt scored Glanville, who singled. Kevin Orie and Servais added RBI singles.
Justice hit a solo home run off Tapani in the second.
Notes: The Indians dropped to 2-1 while wearing knicker-style pants, a
trend that started last week on the West Coast. Smiley spurned the
fashion statement and had a bad outing. ... Cubs second baseman Ryne
Sandberg sat out after fouling a ball off his left heel Friday night. He
is day-to-day. ... Tapani tied Cubs pitching coach Phil Regan with 96
career wins. Regan pitched with Detroit, Los Angeles and both Chicago
clubs from 1960-72. ... Cleveland right-hander Chad Ogea is expected to
come off the disabled list Monday and pitch at Pittsburgh. Reliever
Alvin Morman also is expected to be activated Monday. ... Matt Williams extended his hitting streak to 16 games, tying a career high, with a double and an infield single. ... Indians right fielder Manny Ramirez left in the sixth with muscle cramps in his legs. ... Cleveland's Jim Thome went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.