A Comeback, A Payback and An Ejection

Game One Hundred Two – Cubs 6 Cardinals 5

wflag.jpg This series could boil over before the end of the weekend, Friday’s game was just the beginning and it is pretty obvious the two teams are ready to explode. The Cubs and Cardinals are one of the oldest and most heated rivalries in all of sports….and Friday lived up to the billing.

This game had it all, a good pitching performance from Carlos Marmol, another good offensive effort from the Cubs, two hit batsman that included an obvious retaliation and Dusty Baker was ejected in the 8th but most importantly the Cubs beat the Cardinals for the second day in a row and with a little help from Scott Rolen.

Carlos Marmol, to use a familiar phrase, was effectively wild. And although he tied a career high with walks with 7, he pitched around most of the walks and allowed only 3 runs, 2 earned on the day. Marmol recorded 1 out in the 6th before Dusty went to the pen and Marmol finished the day allowing only 3 hits while striking out 5 on 111 pitches, 57 for strikes. The aggressiveness of the Cardinals veterans actually benefited Marmol several times on the afternoon.

After falling behind the first two batters he faced, he struck out Albert Pujols swinging and ended up with a 1-2-3 1st inning. In the 2nd he struck out Rolen and Encarnacion to start the inning, gave up a double to Jim Edmonds and struck out Hector Luna to end the inning….through the first two innings he recorded 4 strikeouts without allowing a free pass. When he took the mound in the 3rd is when he began having control problems.

Marmol walked Bennett and Marquis to start the inning and Marquis scored on a throwing error by Aramis Ramirez after a sacrifice bunt attempt by David Eckstein. The Cubs recorded the out at 3rd on a good play by Marmol but Ramirez threw high to Walker and Marquis came around from 1st and scored. Pujols doubled to right center with 2 outs; Eckstein scored. The Cardinals scored 2 runs in the inning on just 1 hit but 1 of the 2 walks scored and was helped by the throwing error.

The Cardinals added to their lead in the 3rd after another leadoff walk to Encarnacion, he stole 2nd (mainly on Marmol) and scored on a single by Hector Luna. Luna was thrown out by Angel Pagan trying to stretch the single into a double; it was a good throw by Pagan for his first career outfield assist. Again the inability of Marmol to throw strikes cost him a run as another walk came around to score.

Carlos Marmol has a tremendous upside and once he learns how to throw strikes on a consistent basis he will be very successful at the Major League level. It is remarkable that Marmol has won 3 out of his last 4 games with allowing 22 walks; just think what he could do without throwing all of those extra pitches. Marmol must improve on his control before the teams figure out he has trouble throwing strikes and they keep taking pitches to make him throw strikes. Marmol also played a huge role in the outcome of the game that came from the offensive side.

The bullpen did another fine job with the exception of the 2 runs allowed by Roberto Novoa. Novoa was left out too long, hit Scott Rolen in the back to load the bases and gave up a 2-run, 2-out double to Juan Encarnacion. Other than the 2 runs on 3 hits that Novoa allowed the bullpen as a whole did not allow any additional runs or hits and struck out 4 in the last 3 2/3 innings. Scott Eyre struck out Edmonds looking in the 7th with the tying and go-ahead runs on 2nd and 3rd. Howry and Dempster retired the last six Cardinals to end the game. Dempster recorded out number 27 for his 19th save of the season. Cubs pitching gave up just 6 hits on the day, the entire staff did a fine job and despite Marmol being behind hitters from the 3rd inning on, again, he pitched an effective game.

The Cubs offense got the leadoff hitter on in the first two innings but was unable to breakthrough against Jason Marquis until the 4th. The Cubs had a great 4th inning, they sent 11 to the plate, scored 6 runs and hit for the cycle but the error by Scott Rolen gave the Cubs that one extra opportunity on the day. Walker led off the inning with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out to 2nd by Barrett and scored on a triple to right by Aramis Ramirez. Jacque Jones grounded out and John Mabry hit a 2-run homer over the left field wall. Angel Pagan singled (Pagan was 3-4 on the day with his first career stolen base), Cedeno singled and Carlos Marmol reached on the error by Rolen. Rolen caught the grounder cleanly but Luna was late covering 2nd and Rolen’s throw to 1st was high, it pulled Pujols off the bag and the bases were loaded for Juan Pierre. Pierre hit a triple down the right field line that emptied the bases. Marmol actually ran through Chris Speier’s stop sign and scored what turned out to be the winning run. (Marmol reminds me a little of another guy named Carlos). Walker walked and Barrett flied out to center to end the inning….he made the first and third outs of the inning. When it was all said and done the 4th inning output was all the Cubs needed. They totaled 6 runs on 6 hits (2 singles, a double, 2 triples and a home run) and were aided by a walk and the huge error by Rolen….the difference in the game.

Juan Pierre recorded 2 more hits on Friday to run his season total to 121, which is the most on the Cubs and places him in the Top 5 in the National League.

In the top of the 7th Roberto Novoa hit Scott Rolen in the back with a 96 MPH fastball. Novoa was ahead in the count and the ball obviously slipped and hit Rolen, there did not seem to be anything intentional from Novoa or the Cubs….after all why would Novoa want to load the bases with a 3-run lead? Well Tony LaRussa did not take it that way and in typical LaRussa fashion whether it is accidental or intentional it is his philosophy that “if you hit my guy, I’m going to hit your guy”. So after retiring the first two batters in the 7th, Braden Looper threw behind and hit Aramis Ramirez, there was no doubt in the intention. Ramirez started toward the mound and was restrained by catcher Gary Bennett….Ramirez started toward the mound with his bat. The benches were warned but this one incident will not be the end of it.

After a horrible call by home plate umpire Ed Montague, Dusty Baker was ejected in the 8th inning. Ronny Cedeno squared around to bunt and was hit in the wrist by the ball. Cedeno pulled the bat back but Montague insisted that Cedeno offered at the pitch and called it a strike. Dusty was infuriated, became quite animated and was ejected from the game. It was the second time this season Baker was ejected (May 20th against the White Sox) and Dick Pole took over. It was great to see Baker argue they way he did. (I do not recall ever seeing Baker that animated….I found myself cheering him on.)

The Cubs handed the Cardinals their 5 straight loss at Wrigley; the Cardinals are 0-8 on the season in Chicago and the Cubs are 8-3 on the season against the division leaders. Greg Maddux will take the mound at Wrigley for possibly the last time in a Cubs’ uniform on Saturday on FOX’s Game of the Week. Brian, Shaun and I will be in attendance….hopefully Maddux will give the Cubs their third straight victory.

From the Shoulda Coulda Woulda Department – It is too bad the Cubs could not have played the entire season like they have against the Cardinals.

Quote of the Day

"When you play, play hard; when you work, don’t play at all." – Theodore Roosevelt