The Fourth to Seventy

Game One Hundred Twenty-Three – Cubs 3 Cardinals 5

Juan Mateo barely made it out of the 1st inning, he gave up 4 runs on 2 home runs that included a 3-run homer off the bat of Juan Encarnacion. Mateo did settle in and show very good composure, especially for a rookie, and did not allow another hit after a lead off single in the 4th by Chris Carpenter until he left the game after the 7th inning….6 scoreless innings. Mateo struck out 5 and walked 3 on the day but anytime Chris Carpenter is given a 4-run lead it is going to be a rough afternoon for the opposition and Sunday was no exception.

The Chicago Cubs joined the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Kansas City Royals with the dubious distinction of being among the first in the league to hit the 70-loss plateau. The Cubs have played better of late but when a team wins just a handful of games in back-to-back months….this is usually the result. The Cubs season series at Wrigley against the Cardinals is wrapped up with the Cubs winning 8 of 10….too bad they could not have played against the rest of the league like they have against the Cardinals. The Cubs had chances early against Carpenter but were unable to cash in until the 6th inning. Juan Pierre, who extended his hit streak to 12 earlier in the game (longest on the season by any member of the Cubs), tripled (number 12 on the season) to right and scored on a single to center by Matt Murton. Aramis Ramirez doubled and Jacque Jones grounded out to short to score Murton. Phil Nevin struck out swinging to end the inning. The Cubs had a good opportunity in the 8th when Pierre led off the inning with a single. Pierre was caught in a run down after a very good play by Albert Pujols, who robbed Izturis of extra bases, Pujols touched 1st and doubled off Pierre in a run down.

Aramis Ramirez hit his 30th home run of the season (the 3rd consecutive season Ramirez has hit 30 or more home runs for the Cubs) off of Jason Isringhausen in the 9th and that was as close as the Cubs would get on the day. Michael Barrett flied out to center to end the game and John Mabry was in the on deck circle if Barrett had reached. What would Dusty have done had the Cubs had to gone out for the 10th inning? Mabry would have pinch hit for Cedeno and Theriot had already been used….no one will ever know.

Juan Mateo pitched a very good game after a horrible start and retired 9 of the last 10 batters he faced, the only Cardinal to reach was Aaron Miles who reached on an error by Cedeno. Mateo looked like he was going to be lifted in the 2nd but got the double play he needed, settled in and gave the Cubs the innings they needed from the rookie. Although he gave up the 4 runs and recorded his first loss it was good to see how he would deal with adversity and he passed with flying colors. If a loss can be a positive, it was for Juan Mateo.

The Cubs defense played a good all-around game with a few exceptions from Ronny Cedeno. Cedeno continues to have problems in the field; he must work on being consistent at a very important position. Several times he was out of position, he did not turn a routine double play and got the “neighborhood” call on the force out. Cesar Izturis showed off his glove and arm and Phil Nevin played a solid 1st base, with a nice double play in the game. The Cubs turned 3 double plays and could have turned 2 more if not for Cedeno. The defense looked good for the most part on Sunday.

Chris Duncan had a huge series, hit a home run in all 3 games and the Cardinals hit 10 on the weekend. The Cubs still have the edge in the season series 11-5 and even if the Cardinals sweep next weekend will finish with a winning record against the Cardinals for the second season in a row.

The Philadelphia Phillies will start a 4-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley on Monday night. Two former Cubs are slated to start the series, Jon Lieber on Monday against Rich Hill and Jamie Moyer against Ryan O’Malley on Tuesday; it will be Moyer’s first start at Wrigley since 1988.