A Fitting End to the First Half – Cubs 2 Cardinals 4

Game Eighty-Six – Cubs 2 Cardinals 4
WP – Adam Wainwright (10-5) LP – Randy Wells (4-4) Save – Ryan Franklin (21)

After the Cubs took the first of two on Sunday afternoon
, the Cardinals battled back on Sunday night and earned a split of the day-night doubleheader. The full day of baseball came to a disappointing end and when it was all said and done, Adam Wainwright out pitched Randy Wells.

Wells made only a few mistakes all night … and two of them ended up in the bleachers courtesy of Ryan Ludwick. The Cardinals right fielder torched the Cubs all weekend and has feasted on Cubs’ pitching all season. Ludwick drove in all four of the Cardinals’ runs with a pair of two-run homers, one in the first and the second in the sixth. In nine games against the Cubs this year, Ludwick has driven in 16 runs … he finished the four-game series 9-for-14 with two home runs and nine RBI.

Randy Wells dropped his first game in his last five starts. He gave up four runs on seven hits in seven innings with four strikeouts while tying a season-high with three walks.

The Cubs bullpen kept the Cardinals off the board over the final two frames with a little help from Lou Piniella. Angel Guzman worked around a two-out double by Ryan Ludwick in the eighth but gave up a leadoff single to Yadier Molina in the ninth. After an error by Ryan Theriot put runners on first and second with no outs, Piniella brought in Sean Marshall to face pinch-hitter Chris Duncan.

Tony LaRussa countered and inserted Nick Stavinoha for Duncan. Marshall walked Stavinoha to load the bases with no outs … and then it got interesting. Lou Piniella brought in Aaron Heilman to face Brendan Ryan and sent Sean Marshall to left field. Alfonso Soriano departed on Piniella’s gamble.

Aaron Heilman struck out Ryan swinging on a 3-2 pitch then Piniella brought Marshall back to face the left-handed Skip Schumaker … and trotted Reed Johnson out to left field. LaRussa countered with Jarrett Hoffpauir. Marshall struck out Hoffpauir for the second out then Reed Johnson made an incredible catch on a sinking liner to left by Colby Rasmus. Johnson stumbled and somehow made it appear that he caught the ball to end the inning.

After all of the gamesmanship in the top of the ninth, Milton Bradley, Jeff Baker and Micah Hoffpauir looked at strike three from Ryan Franklin to end the game.

The Cubs runs came courtesy of a Derrek Lee RBI single in the first and a two-out double by Milton Bradley in the sixth. Sam Fuld provided another spark at the top of the lineup (2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a run scored) but the Cubs struggled with runners on base against a very good pitcher. The offense pounded out seven hits, left six on base and finished the night 1-for-4 with RISP. Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella must find a solution in the second half to the Cubs’ ineptness against top tier pitchers.

The Cubs finished the first half with a 6-5 homestand and a .500 record (43-43). Lou Piniella’s crew proved day in and day out through the first 86 games they were an average team …

Lou Piniella said after the game that he feels his team is in good position to win the Central Division … and he’s right. Piniella explained the Cubs must get healthy, stay healthy and swing the bats. The Cubs have enough talent on their roster to have a very good second half and have shown signs of late of beginning to play better ball. When the season resumes on Thursday they must work on consistency and put .500 in their rearview mirror once and for all.

While Albert Pujols did not beat them on Sunday night, it was mistakes to Colby Rasmus that set up the two-run homers by Ryan Ludwick. The Cubs had trouble getting Rasmus out all weekend and Sunday was more of the same.

Randy Wells struggled with his command out of the gate. Skip Schumaker singled to left on a 1-2 pitch to start the game. Colby Rasmus then walked ahead of Pujols. Wells induced a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Pujols but relaxed against Ryan Ludwick.

Ludwick smashed a 1-0 pitch from Wells into the bleachers in left center … 2-0 Cardinals.

The Cubs battled back in the bottom of the first. Sam Fuld doubled to left to start the inning. Ryan Theriot sacrificed him to third and Derrek Lee drove him in with a single to left on a 3-2 pitch. Aramis Ramirez hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Sam Fuld reached on a two-out single in the third and advanced to second on a single to right by Ryan Theriot. Derrek Lee just missed a three-run homer and lined out to left to end the inning … Wainwright jammed Lee.

The Cubs had another chance in the fourth, down 2-1. Milton Bradley (2-for-3 with a double, a RBI and a walk) reached on a two-out single to center. Jeff Baker walked but Koyie Hill was called out on a check swing to end the inning.

While the Cubs tried to battle back, Randy Wells kept it a one-run game until the sixth. Colby Rasmus led off the sixth with a single to left. Albert Pujols grounded out on a high chopper to Aramis Ramirez. Rasmus advanced to second then Ryan Ludwick deposited the first pitch from Wells into the bleachers in left. At 4-1, the game appeared over.

Aramis Ramirez reached on a one-out single to right in the bottom of the sixth. After Alfonso Soriano (0-for-4) popped out to second, Milton Bradley swung the bat and came through with his 21st RBI of the year. Bradley lined a 1-0 pitch into right center that rolled all the way to the wall. Ramirez scored from first and cut the Cardinals lead to 4-2 … but Jeff Baker struck out looking to end the inning.

The other highlight late in the game was Jake Fox making his big league catching debut. Fox did another good job in the field. Lou Piniella must figure out a way in the second half to get him in the lineup more often. Maybe Sunday night opened up the skipper’s eyes to another way to use Jake Fox.

The Cubs still have a long way to go this season but after all of their troubles and the daily drama they will begin play on Thursday in third place, 3 1/2 games back of the Cardinals … with a lot of ball left to play.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Only Ted Lilly will suit up over the next three days. The 80th Mid-Summer Classic is on Tuesday night in St. Louis. The Cubs will face the Nationals on Thursday in Washington D.C. Rich Harden is expected to face John Lannan.

Quote of the Day

"Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points." – Knute Rockne