Sweep Not in the Cards….Even Without Pujols

Game Fifty-Five – Cubs 6 Cardinals 9

The Cubs had not swept a 3-game season series in St. Louis since June of 1988 and the drought still stands. The Cardinals got 5 RBI’s from Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds on a day that Greg Maddux had trouble getting out of the 1st inning. Maddux was not sharp from the beginning of the game and allowed 3 runs on 2 walks and 2 hits while throwing 26 pitches in the 1st inning alone. Maddux left too many balls out over the plate and the Cardinals took every advantage. The Cardinals scored 6 off of Maddux and 3 off of David Aardsma to avoid the sweep at the hands of the Cubs. Despite the win, this was the Cardinals first series loss at the new Busch Stadium.

The Cubs had plenty of opportunities to put the game away against Jason Marquis but were unable to take advantage of two bases loaded situations and left 12 runners on base Sunday afternoon. The Cubs also committed 2 errors in the game, but there were more of the mental variety that led to extra opportunities for the injury strapped Cardinals. For the ninth time in ten games the Cubs pounded out double-digit hits but were only 5-15 with runners in scoring position and 1-5 with RISP and 2 outs. Carlos Marmol was impressive in his Major League debut. Marmol faced 6 batters, allowed a hit and struck out 3 including the 1st of his career against Hector Luna and Scott Rolen looking in the 8th.

Greg Maddux only threw 76 pitches, 48 for strikes, in 5 innings but gave up 6 runs on 9 hits with 2 walks and no strikeouts. Sunday’s outing was the fourth time since May 3rd that he has allowed at least 6 runs in a game. Maddux could not find his usual pinpoint control and that allowed to the 3 runs the Cardinals put up in the 5th. With the Cardinals down 5-3, So Taguchi singled to center with 1 out, stole his second base of the day and went to 3rd when the ball bounced off of his leg; Barrett was given an error….the first of the series for the Cubs. Scott Rolen singled to center to score Taguchi, the injured Jim Edmonds (3-3 with 2 runs, 2 RBI’s and a walk on the day) doubled to score Rolen and Juan Encarnacion doubled to left on a ball just out of the reach of Matt Murton.

The Cardinals put the game out of reach in the 6th against David Aardsma. With 1-out Aramis Ramirez could not handle a bouncing ball to his left and pinch hitter Chris Duncan reached on an infield single. David Eckstein singled to center and Taguchi singled to right to score Duncan, both runners advanced on a throwing error by Jacque Jones. Scott Rolen hit a sacrifice fly to right center and on bad communication by Pierre and Jones, Eckstein scored and Taguchi moved to 3rd and scored on a single by Edmonds. The mental errors and physical errors cost the Cubs the game….the Cardinals did not beat the Cubs they took advantage of the Cubs’ mistakes….like the Cubs did in the first two games.

The offense played well but the lack of execution with runners in scoring position was troublesome from the beginning of the game. The Cubs loaded the bases twice in the first inning but only scored 1 run. Matt Murton was the only position player in the game without a hit and left 7 runners on bases while striking out three times. Murton is 2-28 this season against the Cardinals. The Cubs did score 4 of their 6 runs in the 3rd and led in the ballgame twice.

Tony Womack singled to start the 3rd, Barrett followed with a single to right and Womack scored on a single to right by Todd Walker. Ramirez blooped a single into shallow left to score Barrett and Jacque Jones hit a ground rule double into the stands in center to score Todd Walker. Murton struck out, Cedeno was intentionally walked and Greg Maddux hit a soft grounder to David Eckstein to score Ramirez. Juan Pierre popped out to left field on the first pitch he saw to end the inning. The Cubs scored again in the 7th on a single to center by Ronny Cedeno that scored Jacque Jones who had doubled with 1-out.

The Cubs are really hitting well as of late. Cedeno has a 9 game hitting streak and is hitting .303 on the season. Jacque Jones had a huge series (8-13) and is hitting .306. Michael Barrett is at .304 after going 8-13 in the series. The Cubs are playing good ball right now and it was not for the fact they dug themselves such a huge hole every game would not be as critical as it is. They have won back-to-back series for the first time since April 14th – April 19th (Pirates and Dodgers) and 4 of their last 6. They have started out the road trip 2-1 and with the possibility of a 3-game series in Houston without facing either Roy Oswalt or Andy Pettitte could not come at a better time.

The next week will play a major role in the rest of this season….Carlos Zambrano takes the hill on Monday night against the Astros. The Astros have not announced who will start on Monday. Roy Oswalt was scheduled to pitch on Sunday in Houston but was scratched at the last minute due to back spasms after leaving his last start with a strained right hamstring…Fernando Nieve started in place of Oswalt against the Reds. Nieve was scheduled to pitch on Monday against Zambrano and the Cubs.

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver