Hey Lou! Where’s the Offense? – Cubs 1 Cardinals 2

Game Thirty-Eight – Cubs 1 Cardinals 2
WP – Chris Carpenter (2-0) LP – Ryan Dempster (3-3) Save – Ryan Franklin (10)

The St. Louis Cardinals outplayed the Chicago Cubs in just about every facet of the game on Wednesday night. The Cubs were nearly shutout for the second game in a row, a dubious feat that has not happened since the horrific 2006 season.

Micah Hoffpauir’s two-out pinch-hit single in the ninth drove in the Cubs’ first run since the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon. Milton Bradley doubled to left with one-out in the ninth…just the Cubs fifth hit of the game. Geovany Soto got the benefit of the call on a 3-2 check-swing that resulted in a walk. With runners on first and second, Lou Piniella finally allowed Micah Hoffpauir to hit. Hoffpauir drove Ryan Franklin’s first pitch into right…Bradley scored and pinch runner Ryan Freel ended up at third. Reed Johnson battled, but the rust from lack of playing time showed, and he eventually struck out to end the game.

Ryan Dempster did his part and was the lone bright spot in a lackluster game. Dempster allowed only two runs on six hits in seven innings of work. Dempster walked two (both intentional), struck out three and was on top of his game. Dempster was the victim of poor defense and no hustle in the fourth inning that led to the Cardinals first run.

Albert Pujols hit a grounder up the middle, just to the third base side of second, that ate up Ryan Theriot. Alfonso Soriano took his time getting to the ball as Dempster screamed from the mound. Albert Pujols hustled out of the box and took advantage of the Cubs defense. Pujols ended up at second, Yadier Molina sacrificed him to third and with the infield in, Chris Duncan pulled a 2-1 pitch past a drawn in infield into right field…and a diving Bobby Scales.

The Cardinals manufactured a run by playing the game the way it should be played.

Chris Carpenter made his first start since April 14 and threw five innings of shutout ball. The offense was aggressive against Carpenter and made him throw only 67 pitches in his first start back from the DL. He allowed only five baserunners…three hits and two walks.

Lou Piniella’s crew continued making mental mistake after mental mistake on Wednesday. After working a lead off walk in the fourth, Milton Bradley was doubled off first on a fly out to left by Mike Fontenot. Bradley broke for second on an apparent hit and run, Fontenot lined the 3-1 pitch to Chris Duncan, but Bradley never looked back. Bradley rounded second before he realized Duncan had the ball and could not make it back to first.

With the way the offense is not producing, every mistake is magnified.

Following the game Ron Santo said, “I think tomorrow we might see a different kind of lineup.” The Cubs are not producing and are looking rather bad not doing so…it is up to Lou Piniella to make changes and get results. For the second night in a row, Lou Piniella received a tremendous effort from his starting pitcher (and a great outing from Carlos Marmol) only to see his offense completely dominated.

The Cardinals second run came in the seventh inning…an inning in which Lou Piniella was completely out managed. Chris Duncan reached on a bloop double down the left field line on a 1-2 pitch. Brian Barden dropped down a sacrifice bunt in front of the plate. Soto picked up the ball and wanted to go to third, but Mike Fontenot broke in on the bunt and could not get back to the bag. Fontenot was out of position and Soto had to settle for the sure out at third.

Piniella called for consecutive pitch outs with Joe Thurston at the plate…Piniella was thinking the squeeze was on. Dempster ended up intentionally walking Thurston. Tony LaRussa went to his bench for a struggling Khalil Greene.

On a 1-1 pitch, Piniella called for another pitch out, nothing was on and Greene worked the count to 3-2, with a little help. The next pitch was popped into right center, Milton Bradley made a nice diving catch, but as soon as he hit the ground there was no way to throw out Duncan at the plate. Duncan tagged and scored, 2-0 Cardinals.

With Brendan Ryan at the plate, Piniella called for the fourth pitch out of the inning. Nothing was on, Thurston stole second on the next pitch but was stranded when Ryan flied out to Kosuke in left center.

It is one thing to lose games, every team does, but the way the Cubs have played the past two games is very concerning. They look lifeless and simply out of sink and if they cannot get up for games against the Cardinals, when will they?

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Sean Marshall will try to salvage the final game of the series on Thursday night. The offense will have their hands full again with Adam Wainwright.