If you did not watch the Cubs Cardinals game last night, you missed quite a ballgame. Saturday evening’s contest represented game three of the four game set, and the well traveling St. Louis fan to help fill Wrigley Field added to the atmosphere. The two teams have played good games so far in the series and there was a buzz in the air as if it was 2003 again, with both teams battling for a playoff spot.
As Cubs fans and Cubbies Crib readers are well aware, using the word “contenders” and “Cubs” in the same sentence has not applied since the front office boldly proclaimed it this past off season. The North Siders got off to another bad start thanks to a terrible bullpen and an inconsistent offense, and Cubs fans had to console themselves with the long term picture in mind.
But the ball club has played much better of late and proof of that was on full display Saturday. The Cubs fell behind 1-0 in the second when the visitors collected a trio of singles to draw first blood against Matt Garza. The home team answered back in the bottom half like any contending team would. Dioner Navarro hit a single to cash in the lead off double by Alfonso Soriano, with the help of an error by Carlos Beltran. Another Cardinals miscue, this time a passed ball, allowed Navarro to reach second. And again, like a good team, the Cubs cashed in on a mistake thanks to a RBI single by Dave Sappelt.
A one out bunt attempt by Garza turned into a single to load the bases, and the struggling Starlin Castro chopped one right along the third base line that played like a picture perfect bunt single to make it 3-1. The Cubs offense proceeded to roll with that momentum, scoring in the next two innings as well. Soriano continued his hot hitting with a solo homer in the third and Luis Valbuena provided a two run shot in the fourth, which would turn out to be the game winner when all was said and done.
Mean while Garza kept the Cardinals off of the scoreboard until the seventh. During that span the Cubs trading chip got out of a jam in the fourth, but otherwise had a handle on the first place Red Birds. It was the top of the seventh when the visitors got to Garza again with a trio of singles.
Matt Guerrier came on to finish off the seventh inning for Garza, limiting the Cubs starter to just two runs allowed. Blake Parker started the eighth, but was only able to get one out before getting himself into a bases loaded jam, with the help of a Julio Borbon error. That brought in James Russell and the Cubs lefty was able to limit the damage to a sac fly before closing out the eighth.
The Cubs threatened to close out the game in the bottom of the eighth, but they let a bases loaded two out opportunity slip through their hands, with the Cardinals being able to get Soriano to ground out to third. That set the stage for Kevin Gregg to come in for the save. The Cubs closer made quick work for the first two outs, but a pair of walks that followed started to make Cubs fans nervous. Jon Jay hit a single to right that just deflected off of Darwin Barney’s glove to make it 6-4 Cubs.
However Castro and Gregg recorded a save on the next St. Louis batter, with the Cubs shortstop making a Web Gem worthy back handed short hop pick to just get the final out at first. The Cubs played an overall solid game, especially on defense (despite the one error) and are in position to go for the series win against one of the best teams in baseball on Sunday night.