Game Sixteen – Cubs 1 Cardinals 2
WP – Braden Looper (3-1) LP – Ted Lilly (1-2) Save – Jason Isringhausen (4)
The lack of fundamentals by this organization has been well documented over the years. Just when the Cubs appear to have lost a game in every possible way, they prove everyone wrong. While the play in the 9th inning on Friday may or may not have cost the Cubs the game will never be known but the fact it happened is mind boggling in itself. What will be lost because of the base running gaffe, other than the game, is another quality start by Ted Lilly in which he lost his second game in a week by just a single run.
When Lou Piniella took over the Cubs in the off-season he promised the Faithful a good brand of baseball and that his team will be fundamentally sound but sixteen games into the season the Cubs have played only a few complete games and have yet to win a game decided by two runs or less. After Friday’s game Piniella stated, “I am encouraged by what I see but I don’t like our record and I don’t think anyone does, just need to start scoring runs and that should come.” There were a couple of plays on Friday that could simply be labeled as bizarre but the base running mistake by Ronny Cedeno in the 9th inning is another fundamental error in a long line for the Cubs shortstop. While Cedeno has a lot of untapped talent or not is a topic for a later debate but the mental mistakes he seemingly makes on a daily basis cannot continue to be excused.
With 1-out in the 9th, Mark DeRosa singled past Jason Isringhausen to center to put the tying run on base. Piniella decided to pinch run with Cedeno. Jacque Jones worked a 3-1 count on Isringhausen before being over aggressive and trying to check his swing on what would have been ball four. With a 3-2 count, Cedeno started with the pitch, never looked back and Jones took an inside pitch for ball four. The pitch was close but not that close and Yadier Molina threw down to David Eckstein….like a catcher is taught to do from the time he can put a glove on his hand and throw a ball more than 20 feet. Cedeno slid head first into 2nd but his momentum took him off the bag and Eckstein held the tag until the play was complete. By Eckstein knowing the rules of the game instead of the tying run being on 2nd with just 1-out, the Cubs were reduced to 2-outs, runner on 1st with pinch hitter Matt Murton stepping to the plate. The ever-patient Murton swung at the first pitch and popped it into shallow left to David Eckstein to end the game.
Lou Piniella did argue the play but it was the right call by the umpiring crew (that featured Steve McMichael’s favorite umpire, Angel Hernandez), Cedeno was out and the would-be-comeback was over before it had a chance to get started. While the loss cannot be blamed on this one play, Piniella and his staff have to figure out a way to keep these types of plays from happening in the first place.
The play in the 9th had been preceded by an apparent triple play in the bottom of the 7th. After the Cardinals had taken the lead in the top of the inning, Mark DeRosa led off with a walk and advanced to 2nd on a single by Jacque Jones. Henry Blanco attempted a sacrifice bunt but popped the ball in the air, Molina reached for the ball, knocked Blanco’s helmet off, threw to 2nd for the force, Eckstein threw to 3rd to get DeRosa and Rolen threw across the diamond to Adam Kennedy to complete the triple play. Piniella ran out of the dugout and “discussed” it with the umpires. After the huddle, Blanco was called out (batter’s interference) and DeRosa and Jones were returned to 1st and 2nd respectively. Cesar Izturis and Daryle Ward struck out to end the inning.
The Cubs wasted another great performance by Ted Lilly. Lilly has allowed just 3 runs in his last two games (13 innings) and is 0-2. He pitched another 6 1/3 scoreless innings on Friday before walking Jim Edmonds ahead of the Preston Wilson home run in the 7th. Lilly gave up just 4 hits, 2 walks, struck out 6 and of the 100 pitches he threw, 70 were for strikes. Lilly has pitched better than anyone could have predicted in his first 4 starts and could easily be 4-0….7 runs on 15 hits in 26 innings (2.42 ERA/0.77 WHIP) typically equals more than a 1-2 record.
Where is the offense? The Cubs managed just a 1st inning run off of Braden Looper and to his credit he has been very good as a starter so far this season. The Cubs are getting little to no production from the bottom of the lineup and with no one on base in front of them Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez can only do so much. All 6 of the Cubs hits were singles while half of the Cardinals hits were for extra bases (a double, a triple and a home run). The Cubs are wasting very good pitching early on this season.
The Cubs were 8-2 against the Cardinals last year at Wrigley and Friday’s game was the first of 16 meetings this season between the division rivals. The Cubs have to figure out a way to win at Wrigley….2-6 at home is not the way to start the season.
Jason Marquis is scheduled to face Anthony Reyes and his former team on Saturday. The Cubs need a solid performance from Marquis and their defense but most importantly they need to remember how much fun it is to hit the ball and score runs.