Who Turned Off the Power?


As I mentioned at the end of my post on Monday, when the Cardinals come into town for a visit, there is always a buzz in Wrigleyville due to the rivalry. But this series had additional storylines off the field that added to a bit of a circus like atmosphere. Jordan already touched on the most obvious one regarding the pending free agency of super star Albert Pujols. The Cardinals first baseman and Cubs GM Jim Hendry put on a nice show for the media and fans in attendance when they greeted each other with a big hug during batting practice.

The second side show leading up to game time involved former Cub Ryan Theriot. The scrappy infielder seemingly burned bridges to the hearts of Cubs fans that once cheered him on when in the off season he made a comment that he was “on the right side of the rivalry now” after being traded to St. Louis. The fans in attendance at Wrigley made sure to let their feelings be known when Theriot stepped into the batter’s box for his first at bat of the game by showering him with boos. Koyie Hill had made a comment at this past Cubs Convention that his pitching staff may toss a couple pitches at Theriot in response to the remark, but the Cubs did not follow through with that threat even though Hill subbed in for an injured Geo Soto early in the game. For what it is worth, Theriot was seen hugging and greeting his ex teammates, including Kosuke Fukudome and GM Hendry. And apparently he tried to make up for his off season comment by poking fun at St. Louis natives regarding their fashion sense involving tank tops, jean shorts, and Timberland boots while making an appearance on ESPN 1000, one of the sports radio stations in Chicago.

The final story leading up to the first pitch was the bsence of Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, who apparently has been battling shingles for a few weeks now. With the long time manager being known as a wise baseball strategist, his inability to lead St. Louis from the dugout steps seemed to be one thing going in the Cubs favor before one pitch was even thrown. But after all of the hoopla mentioned above, the Cardinals handed the Cubs a loss to start the series and leaves me with not much fun left to talk about.

After solid starts in his last two outings, Carlos Zambrano was roughed up a bit by the hated rivals, giving up four runs on eight hits despite pitching through seven innings. His defense did not help him out as well, as there were a couple miscues in the field, including an embarrassing wipe out by Alfonso Soriano (video courtesy of MLB.com), that hurt the Cubs despite not officially being ruled errors in the box score. To be fair to the left fielder though, he did make a nice leaping grab later in the game.

Despite the less than stellar start by Zambrano, the Cubs offense was actually able to make some noise. The home team loaded the bases to start the 1st inning, including a lead off walk to Fukudome followed by back to back singles by Darwin Barney and Marlon Byrd. Aramis Ramirez provided the rare clutch hit (video courtesy of MLB.com) with runners in scoring position to cash in two runs on the bases loaded no out situation, but the Cubs offense could not open the flood gates to really pour it on St. Louis, thanks in part to a double play by Soriano that ended up nailing the lead runners at third and second base respectively.

The Cubs actually loaded the bases again in that frame after a Carlos Pena single and a walk by Starlin Castro, but the Cubbies Crib readers non favorite Koyie Hill hit a weak pop fly to third base to end the inning. The Cubs tied the game in the 7th inning on a sac fly by Pena and a single by Castro, as the young short stop tries to battle out of his recent slump. But the usually solid veteran set up man Kerry Wood was wild on Tuesday night, allowing a walk in the top of the 8th and falling behind 2-0 to Cardinals third baseman Daniel Descalso (who?) before giving up the hit to put the Red Birds on top 6-4.

Where is the power? The Cubs collected 13 hits to go in line with their overall above par team batting average, but again it was the clutch hits that eluded the offense, along with the fact that all 13 hits were singles. Also leave it to our Cubs to jump start both Pujols and Chris Carpenter. Pujols came into the game hitting an uncharacteristic .248 before going 4 for 5 against the North Siders, and Carpenter was winless for 2011 until taking the mound last night, going seven innings to collect his first win. The Cubs are now five games behind the first place Cardinals and are in danger of falling to seven games out if they get swept this series.