Game Nine – Cubs 4 Cardinals 7
WP – Adam Wainwright (2-0) LP – David Patton (0-1) Save – Ryan Franklin (2)
Lou Piniella’s staff added four more walks on Thursday to their season total of 42…and three of those runners came around to score, the difference in the game. The Cubs’ pitching staff ranks third in the National League among walks allowed behind the Braves (46) and the Brewers (43). The pitching staff’s inability to throw strikes consistently, especially late in games, is past the point of becoming concerning. While Thursday was only the ninth game of the year, there is no excuse for not making teams earn their victories.
The turning point in the game came in the sixth inning. And while the mainstream media will undoubtedly focus on Milton Bradley being ejected from the game, he was justified in voicing his displeasure…and the fire he displayed was more than a welcome sight to see.
The Cubs put runners on second and third with no outs in the sixth after a leadoff single by Aramis Ramirez and two errors in left by Chris Duncan. The Cardinals’ left fielder dropped a routine fly ball of the bat of Mike Fontenot then threw the ball wide of second trying to force Ramirez. Geovany Soto struck out then Ryan Theriot was intentionally walked to load the bases.
With the game tied at four, Lou Piniella called on Milton Bradley. Adam Wainwright started Bradley off with three straight out of the zone…then received a very generous strike from home plate umpire Larry Vanover. It was ball four. On a 3-2 pitch, Wainwright delivered a pitch down and in, it was ball four, again, Vanover called it strike three and Bradley immediately turned and said a few ‘kind words‘ to Vanover. Bradley was ejected and Alfonso Soriano flied out to left to end the inning.
The Cardinals scored a pair in the top of the seventh and the Cubs offense did not record another hit after the Ramirez single in the sixth.
David Patton was hung with the loss after giving up a pair of runs in the seventh. Patton walked Joe Thurston to start the inning. Aramis Ramirez robbed Rick Ankiel of a single to left with an excellent diving stop. Patton intentionally walked Albert Pujols.
With runners on first and second with one out, Ryan Ludwick flied out to left, Thurston advanced to third and scored on a single to right by Yadier Molina. Larry Rothschild made the slow walk and brought in Neal Cotts to face Chris Duncan with the Cubs down by one.
Duncan hit a 3-2 pitch from Cotts into center, his third RBI of the game plated Albert Pujols from third. Both walks issued by Patton in the seventh scored…and Neal Cotts, the Cubs’ lefty specialist has yet to figure out how to do his job.
The highlight of the day for the Cubs came in the fifth inning. Down by two, Ryan Theriot led off with a single and stole second with Sean Marshall at the plate. Alfonso Soriano walked and Kosuke Fukudome hit his third home run of the season into the bleachers in right center. Fukudome’s three-run shot gave the Cubs a brief one-run lead.
Sean Marshall did his job and put his team in position to win. Marshall allowed three runs on seven hits in five-plus innings with four strikeouts and two walks…one of the two came around to score on Chris Duncan’s two-run homer in the fourth.
The Cubs dropped the first game of the year to the Cardinals, and their second game in a row for the first time in the young season. The Cubs offense managed only six hits and four walks on the afternoon…and that is not going to win many games. Coupled with the 12 hits and four walks given up by the Cubs’ pitching staff, the result is typically the same…a loss. The Cubs were outplayed, out hustled and most importantly out pitched. The Cardinals pen did not allow a single hit or walk in the last three innings…and Ryan Franklin sat down the Cubs in order in the ninth on nine pitches, eight for strikes.
Derrek Lee tied the game at one in the first with a sacrifice fly to right. Alfonso Soriano led off with a walk and advanced to third on a double by Kosuke Fukudome. Fukudome popped up Adam Wainwright’s first pitch into shallow left. Duncan was playing extremely deep and Khalil Greene could not make an over the shoulder catch…it was originally ruled an error.
Both runners tagged and advanced but Kosuke was stranded at third. Micah Hoffpauir flied out to medium depth right field, Aramis Ramirez walked and Mike Fontenot grounded out to end the inning.
The Cardinals run in the first off Sean Marshall came after a leadoff double by Brendan Ryan and an error by Alfonso Soriano. Rick Ankiel grounded out to first, Ryan held at third. Marshall fell behind Albert Pujols before intentionally walking him. Ryan Ludwick followed with a swinging bunt up the third base line that allowed Ryan to score the game’s first run.
Aaron Heilman replaced Sean Marshall with one on in the sixth and the Cubs up by a score of 4-3. Geovany Soto threw out Chris Duncan on an apparent hit and run…then Khalil Greene tied the game with a home run to left on a 1-1 pitch.
The Cardinals seventh run came via another long ball in the eighth inning. Brian Barden hit his second of the year over the wall in left off of Angel Guzman.
The Cubs have yet to play a complete game this season. It is only nine games in but a little hustle and desire would be a good thing to see…and a few more strikes and a lot less walks as well.
Carlos Zambrano will face P.J. Walters on Friday afternoon. Walters will be making his big league debut…