CHICAGO | Not even a low pass from the swooping, 100-decibel Thunderbirds squadron of jets in the nearby Chicago Air and Water Show could have distracted Tom Gorzelanny from his own mission Saturday.
The former Lansing resident ensured he would not be emotionally overwhelmed by his first start against the Pittsburgh Pirates, his former team, which traded him to the Cubs on July 30. Nor would he hit himself beside the head at the concept of donning a Cubs uniform in Wrigley Field after growing up a White Sox fan.
"He's got blinders on," said his father, Schererville resident Bob Gorzelanny, watching from the box seats.
The younger Gorzelanny summoned some kind of laser focus to carve up the Buccos with eight strikeouts in five innings in a 3-1 victory, his second in three starts as a Cub. Gorzelanny pitched well enough to earn at least one more start on the upcoming West Coast road trip.
Ninety minutes before the game, Gorzelanny was like an automaton, several times walking from the trainer's room to the video room for more study without seeming aware of his surroundings. He kept his game face on afterward -- except when the one-upmanship of getting a hit off old Pirates buddy Zach Duke in the second inning was brought up.
"It was a good thing," he said with the hint of a smile. "I thought he would at least start me off with a breaking ball. I was just sitting fastball. I was lucky enough to break my bat and hit it up the middle, and everybody missed it."
Most of the outward emotion was left to Bob Gorzelanny, who was part of a family contingent that included his wife, mother, grandfather and brother. Bob Gorzelanny sweated out a ninth inning that required an acrobatic catch against the vines by left fielder Sam Fuld to preserve Tom Gorzelanny's win while mercurial closer Kevin Gregg worked. After the final out, the elder Gorzelanny busied himself accepting congratulations.
"He's a very determined kid," Bob Gorzelanny said.
Pops did not talk to Tom Gorzelanny for several days prior to the start -- for good reason. "When he gets into a zone, he doesn't want to be bothered," Bob Gorzelanny said. "He wants to relax. He wants to be very calm, cool and collected. He doesn't want any stress."
Only postgame would the left-hander admit to the special nature of Saturday's contest.
"It's great," he said. "I've said how amazing a feeling it is to play in my hometown. Now being here and having my first start here at home was a great feeling. The crowd was great, we played a good game. For the sake of being home, it was something special."
More coverage of Tom Gorzelanny's solid pitching start begins on PAGE B1.