A Walk-off Sweep….On the Road to 90

Game One Hundred Thirty – Cubs 6 Cardinals 10

More defensive mishaps cost the Cubs a very winnable game, the story of 2006. Gary Bennett beat the Cubs for the second day in a row with a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 9th inning. Bennett beat the Cubs in the 9th on Saturday with a single and had an unbelievable week and series and should be named the NL Player of the Week. The Cubs had chances in the 9th to get out of the inning but their defense could not bail out the pitching staff….again.

Swept by the Cardinals, a team that had struggled to beat them this season until last weekend. The Cubs did win the season series 11-8 but lost 5 out of the last 6 against the Redbirds. The Cubs defense, or lack there of, led to the defeat on Sunday night. Les Walrond took the loss and was credited with 5 earned runs but at a pivotal point in the game an indecision by Ronny Cedeno led to a 4 run inning….and 4 earned runs for Walrond on the night he made his first Major League start.

Albert Pujols led off the 9th with a single to right, only his 2nd hit of the series, and with the hit and run on Scott Rolen hit a soft liner up the middle that bounced, Cedeno caught the ball and fired to 1st to nail Rolen with plenty of time. Cedeno was moving to 2nd to cover the bag with Pujols running and had plenty of time to stop, touch 2nd and fire to 1st to get Rolen, he did not and Pujols eventually went to 3rd on an infield single by Juan Encarnacion. Belliard walked, the Cards walked 5 times on the night, and Miles grounded out to Cedeno, who fired home but Blanco could not double up Miles at 1st. Howry then served up the slam to Bennett. Howry has pitched in 5 of the last 6 ballgames. The inability of Cedeno to turn the double play resulted in Rick Sutcliffe making the comment that “Izturis would have turned that double play”, no one will ever know.

Of all the rookies that have started this season for the Cubs, Les Walrond probably does not figure into any future plans of the Cubs but he deserved a better fate than the one he received on Sunday. Walrond had trouble throwing strikes and even walked Jeff Weaver but he did not throw anywhere near as bad as the box score indicates.

The Cubs did battle back to tie the game in the 7th but fell short for the second straight day. They also walked 4 times on Sunday, Dusty cannot be happy and that must be the reason they lost….those bases were clogged.

The defense was the main problem early in the game; it led to 5 of the 6 runs the Cardinals scored. Jacque Jones allowed a single by Scott Rolen to go under his glove and roll all the way to the warning track, Wilson easily scored from 2nd and Rolen rounded the bases and beat a terrible relay throw from Ronny Cedeno. In the 3rd Pujols recorded his first hit of the series, a little tapper to 3rd that went about 88′, Juan Encarnacion singled and Ronnie Belliard walked to load the bases. Aaron Miles then hit a bouncer up the middle that was caught by Ronny Cedeno, Cedeno could not decide what he wanted to do with the ball, did not make a throw and the tying run scored. With Gary Bennett at the plate, Michael Barrett allowed his 10th passed ball of the year (tops in the NL) and they intentionally walked Bennett to reload the bases. Jeff Weaver singled to right to drive home 2 to chase Walrond from the game. Not one of those runs should have scored.

While the Cubs defense was horrible, the Cardinals defense was spectacular and they robbed the Cubs of several hits. Scott Rolen saved 2 runs and a double off the bat of Aramis Ramirez, a la Brooks Robinson, when he made a diving catch in the 2nd inning. After a 1st inning error, Juan Encarnacion made two very good plays to take away hits in center and Ronnie Belliard robbed Ramirez of a single in the 7th that would have driven home 2.

Juan Pierre had another good night and stole his 45th bag of the season. Freddie Bynum added 2 hits; Jacque Jones added 2 hits that included his 22nd home run of the season. The Cubs had plenty of chances, they left 5 on base but defensively they were outplayed all night long.

Angle Guzman is scheduled to take the hill in game one of the last series in Pittsburgh on Monday night. The Cubs need to put together a few wins in their last 32, if not the road to 90 could turn into the road to 100.

Quote of the Day

"Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves." - W Anderson.
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