One Swing of the Bat

Game One Hundred Twenty-Two – Cubs 5 Cardinals 3
WP – Sean Marshall (6-6) LP – Anthony Reyes (2-12) Save – Ryan Dempster (19)

wflag.jpg Saturday afternoon at the Friendly Confines was just another run-of-the-mill Cubs and Cardinals game. Four home runs, one a grand slam, two rain delays totaling 2 hours and 6 minutes, a little bit of controversy and the winning team totaling less hits than runs….what else would one expect when these two teams get together? The Cubs offense managed just 4 hits, 3 by Derrek Lee and 1 big one by Daryle Ward. Lee went 3-for-4 on the afternoon and drove in the first run of the day with a 2-out single in the 3rd. Two batters later and with the bases loaded, Daryle Ward hit his first home run of the season into the left centerfield bleachers. The Cubs scored all of their runs with 2 outs but managed just two base runners the rest of the way.

Sean Marshall was effective once again in his 5+ innings of work. The only 2 runs Marshall surrendered were solo home runs by Juan Encarnacion in the 4th and Brendan Ryan in the 5th, the other 3 hits were singles to go along with 2 walks. The Cardinals’ 3rd run of the day came courtesy of Albert Pujols in the 8th inning off of Bobby Howry. The Cardinals brought the tying run to the plate in the 8th after a single by Encarnacion but the game was halted with a 1-2 count on Chris Duncan. 65 minutes later play resumed and Carmen Pignatiello threw strike three to Duncan to end the inning.

The Cubs improved to 4 games above .500 and will remain on top in the Central Division for another day.

The Cubs offense struggled all afternoon to find green. They were able to get good swings and solid contact against Anthony Reyes but when they did it was right at a Cardinal defender. Chris Duncan made a fine catch in left, Scott Rolen made several good plays at 3rd and both David Eckstein and So Taguchi chipped in as well. Typically when a team records only 4 hits, they lose and lose miserably, but not on Saturday. They took advantage of Reyes’ mistakes in the 3rd inning and the Cubs pitching did the rest.

Jason Kendall led off the 3rd inning and his typically patient self at the plate. He worked the count 3-1 before Reyes hit him with the pitch….Kendall did not attempt to move, he just stood there and took it like a man. Sean Marshall attempted to sacrifice him to 2nd but missed badly on three attempts, however on the third strike, Yadier Molina missed played the ball, it rolled past him and Kendall took 2nd base….it was ruled a passed ball.

Ryan Theriot then walked on 4 pitches. Jacque Jones hit a hard grounder up the middle, Ryan knocked it down but the Cardinals were unable to turn the double play, Theriot was forced and the Cubs had runners on 1st and 3rd with 2 outs. Derrek Lee followed with a single to right to score Kendall. Reyes then walked Aramis Ramirez on 4 pitches to load the bases for Daryle Ward. Ward swung and missed at Reyes’ first offering but took his 1-1 pitch just over the wall in left center. The home run was Ward’s first of the season and as a Cub. Ward made a curtain call and it appeared the Cubs were well on their way to an easy win….but, You Know Better….

Sean Marshall pitched around a 1-out single in the 1st by Taguchi and a walk to Albert Pujols by getting Juan Encarnacion to ground into a 6-4-3 double play….Derrek Lee made a great scoop at the end to complete the double play.

In the 2nd, Ryan Ludwick reached on the 6th error of the year by Aramis Ramirez with 1-out. Yadier Molina followed with a single to left and Anthony Reyes sacrificed both runners to 2nd and 3rd. Marshall then retired Ryan on a fly out to left center to end the inning.

Marshall retired the Cardinals in order for the first (and only) time in the 3rd. When Marshall took the mound in the 4th, he had a comfortable 5-run lead but Encarnacion chipped away at the lead with a home run to left to start the inning. Marshall settled down and retired the next 3 batters he faced….despite the home run, it was a very quick inning for Marshall.

Anthony Reyes led off the 5th and Marshall fell behind him 3-0 before Reyes tapped back to the mound. Brendan Ryan followed with a home run to left on a 0-2 count. Marshall retired Eckstein and Taguchi to end the inning.

Albert Pujols led off the controversial 6th inning with a single to left (Pujols was very cocky during the at bat on a 3-0 pitch and started walking to 1st before a strike was called). Lou Piniella quickly went to the pen for Carlos Marmol. Marmol was shaky at best and walked Encarnacion to put runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs and Scott Rolen stepping to the plate. Rolen worked the count to 3-2 before flying out to right, Pujols tagged and went to 3rd on the play. Tony LaRussa went to his bench for Chris Duncan.

Marmol found the strike zone and quickly got ahead 1-2 before uncorking a wild pitch. The ball bounced off the brick to Kendall, he threw a strike to Marmol and he tagged out Pujols before he touched home plate. Here is the controversy…. Pujols argued he was safe and actually touched home plate umpire Ted Barrett, LaRussa quickly got in between the two and argued his case. The crew on FOX showed replay after replay with different angles and they made the conclusion it was a bad call and Pujols was safe….but in this writer’s humble opinion, Pujols did not touch home plate before Marmol tagged him, he appeared to slide past the plate without initially touching it with his hand, after the game Lou Piniella said he looked at the play and it was the right call.

With Juan Encarnacion at 2nd base and a 3-2 count on Chris Duncan, Marmol threw an inside pitch that actually hit Duncan after he swung and missed at the pitch….Duncan was out by rule and the inning was over.

Scott Eyre pitched the 7th and was very effective as the rain continued to fall. Bobby Howry came in to pitch the 8th. He retired Taguchi but gave up the blast to Pujols (on another side note, Pujols appeared to make several unusual faces as he rounded the bases). Encarnacion followed with a hard single to center. Rolen flied out to right on Howry’s first pitch for the second out. Chris Duncan stepped in as the rain fell harder. Howry got in front 1-2 before play was stopped for 65 minutes.

When play resumed, Carmen Pignatiello took the mound. He threw only 1-pitch, a called third strike to end the inning. Ryan Dempster pitched a perfect 9th for the save.

Saturday by no means was a great performance by Lou Piniella’s crew, but a win is a win….especially against the Cardinals.

The Cubs $90 million dollar man is scheduled to take the hill on Sunday night, if the weather permits. Carlos Zambrano will battle Kip Wells on ESPN….get ready for Joe Morgan and all of the love for the Cardinals, especially Rick Ankiel, who should make his first start of the series.

Quote of the Day

"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." – Arthur Ashe