Game Recap: Cubs 2, Cardinals 1, a relieving experience on so many levels
(Kevin will scoff at the addition of this box score into the post as he basically thinks it's jabrone, but I figure hey, why not? Eventually, we very well might have a functional "real thing" on the blog)
While the offense was tepid at best, Carlos Zambrano all-out delivered in his first outing since his shoulder issues more than two weeks ago.
On the offensive end of this, the Cubs didn't exactly set the world on fire against the Ex Crappy Closer Braden Looper, or his replacements from the deep Cardinals bullpen. The Cubs combined for only 8 hits and 1 walk, scoring 2; both runs came from solo shots. One came from Fukudome, who's been swerving us all, as he can not only read and speak perfect English, but he's been trolling the blogs and suffered great offense at the hands of Rob, who implied that he was "struggling." Even then, it was his only hit of the day.
Geovany Soto was the only guy who really seemed to have the Cardinals staff figured out tonight, as he went 3-3 with a walk and a solo homerun in the 4th which would prove to be the difference. Soto tried patiently to explain it to the rest of the Cubs, as he drew charts and graphs, but nobody really seemed to take notice - particularly not Jim Edmonds, whose first game back to St. Louis was a total bust. Lassie went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts.
On the pitching front, Lou kept Carlos on a short leash - he threw 87 pitches through 6 innings, which was enough. It was an efficient start for the Big Moose; he had 11 pitches after the first inning, and 28 through 2. Maybe if he thought he was on a pitch count for every start, he'd be more efficient and go deeper into games. Either that or he's simply well-rested. Point is, in 6 innings of work the Big Moose struck out 5, walked 2, and surrendered only 4 hits.
Thank you sweet fancy lord, Carlos is back.
Of course, no Cubs game against St. Louis would be complete without a little drama. In a close game (2-0 at the time), Lou seemed to feel as if he had no choice but to go to his most reliable set-up man in the 7th. Sit back down, Marmol, he went to Howry. And Bob did a fine job, outing the first 5 men he faced without drama before rolling the dice and landing on Cause Fear and Anxiety In Cub Fans Everywhere By Letting Pujols Tee Off On You.
One big homerun later, and Lou decided to up the anxiety factor another notch by calling on Neal Effin' Cotts to face Rick Ankiel, who he struck out swinging. I'm sure there was relief everywhere in Cubville, although you must all realize that Lou plays favorites and because of tonight, he'll go to Cotts in other close situations down the road.
Kerry Wood came in to close the 9th. It wasn't too long ago that he was a) hitting and/or walking too many batters in close games and b) letting that come back to bite him in the ass. Tonight was one of those nights that could have gone the other way - Woody got Troy Glaus to a full count before striking him out looking, and after that it was cruiseville, even after a Yadier Molina single with 2 outs in the inning.
Cub fans everywhere will be relieved to know that the Cubs can't possibly drop out of first place in this series after tonight's win. They'll also be relieved, I imagine, because Zambrano pitched well. Relief will be amplified further after Kerry Wood closed down a close one.
Tomorrow night will be a telling game. Lilly has been good, but Lohse has been ace-like.
Incidenally, either later tonight or early tomorrow we'll have some trade speculation for you. We hope you've enjoyed the fireworks, I suspect there will be more to come. Stay tuned.