Game Fifty-Three – Cubs 5 Cardinals 4 – 14 Innings
The Cubs pulled out arguably their biggest win of the season against their biggest rival….in their house in front of the largest crowd of the season at Busch Stadium. On a night when the Cubs did not play good fundamental baseball they were able to outlast the best team in the National League and win their longest game of the year….a one run decision on a ground out to 1st base. Juan Pierre led off the 14th with a double to left, probably his hardest hit ball to the opposite field all season and scored on a ground out by Todd Walker, who got the game winning RBI while going 0-7 on the night. Neifi Perez had a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt to put Pierre and the Cubs in position to win the ballgame.
Sean Marshall pitched a great game and even struck out the great Albert Pujols. While Marshall was on the mound he only allowed 1 run and shutout the Cardinals until 2 outs in the 6th. Marshall had his command and confidence back but was unable to get the victory on Friday. Bobby Howry and Scott Williamson gave up the other 3 runs on the evening for the Cardinals, but the rest of the bullpen did just enough to win the game….and although it was not pretty, a win is a win and this victory against the Cardinals was HUGE from both a record and mental standpoint. After falling behind 4-2, the Cubs did not quit and came back to tie the game in the 9th inning….with a little help. Freddie Bynum led off the inning with a single to center and Juan Pierre advanced him to 2nd with a groundout to Aaron Miles. Phil Nevin, making his Cub debut, drew a walk and Neifi Perez pinch hit for him. Michael Barrett walked and with the bases loaded, Todd Walker hit a routine groundball to Scott Rolen, it went under his legs and both Bynum and Perez scored to tie the game. Neither Aramis Ramirez nor Jacque Jones could plate the go ahead run. The Cubs got to Jason Isringhausen again and he blew the 3rd save of his career against the Cubs and is 1-4 with a 5.14 ERA lifetime against the Cubs.
The offense was very quiet in the extra frames with the exception of a leadoff single in the 10th by John Mabry and did not have another base runner until Pierre’s double in the 14th. The Cubs had difficulties doing the “little things” on Friday and the lack of fundamentals should have cost them the game, but it did not and Neifi Perez laid down an almost perfect sacrifice bunt to put his team in position to win the ballgame….and on his 33rd Birthday. Neifi has not been playing well and I have been riding him a lot as of late, but he really came through on Saturday morning. As mentioned Pierre scored the go ahead run on a ground out by Todd Walker in the 14th.
The pitching staff really came through for the Cubs on Friday/Saturday. Besides only giving up 3 free passes (2 were intentional) they kept Albert Pujols from beating them and struck him out three times, but none as impressive as the one in the 9th. David Aardsma pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief and struck out Pujols on a 101 MPH fast ball (Busch StadiumÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gun registered the pitch at 101, while Comcast registered it at 102). Aardsma has pitched a lot better since being called up this past Monday….there is a confidence there that was missing before. Will Ohman, Roberto Novoa and Scott Eyre all pitched well even though they had base runners the entire evening. The bullpen did allow 11 of the Cardinals 19 hits, but Ohman, Novoa and Eyre kept the Cardinals from scoring and Ryan Dempster pitched the last 2 1/3 innings to earn his first victory of the season. Again Dempster made it exciting, but he looked more like the Dempster of 2005 than the one that the Cubs Faithful has seen over the past month….he was not perfect, but effective.
Jacque Jones hit his 10th home run of the season in the 5th, Juan Pierre went 3 for 7 and both Michael Barrett and Ronny Cedeno added 3 hits of their own.
The offense has now put up double-digit hits in seven of the last eight games but they must work on their fundamentals. The Cubs keep beating themselves and if they could eliminate that one bad inning or the mental mistakes that have plaqued them this season then they might be able to string some wins together. It’s those little mistakes, those missed signs, those plays that most look at as fundamental baseball that keep leading to the Cubs losing ballgame after ballgame. The Cubs could have easily won their last 7 games but they continue to be unable to play a full 9 innings. They hit into 4 double plays, including an inning ending double play by Ronny Cedeno in the 8th with the bases loaded. The Cubs left 13 on base and ran themselves out of two different innings.
Before Friday night/Saturday morning’s loss, the Cardinal were 31-0 when leading after 8 innings. The Cubs keep fighting back and who knows what tomorrow will bring….