The big news out of Chicago over the weekend was of course the firing of Cubs GM Jim Hendry announced on Friday. Despite the distraction (and I do not mean that as a slight to Hendry), the players were able to go out and perform on the field Friday afternoon. The Cubs have really taken to the spoiler role despite manager Mike Quade’s distaste for the word, having already done damage to the playoff contending hopes of the Pirates and Reds this month. Over the weekend, their targeted victim was the hate rival Cardinals.
Randy Wells continued his 2011 struggles, putting the Cubs in a 0-3 hole in the second inning. He was able to grind it out through seven innings to post a decent effort, but the credit goes to his bullpen mates and his offense in this contest. The Cubs offense posted single tallies in the third, fifth, and seventh innings, highlighted by Darwin Barney’s second home run of the year and a RBI triple by Blake DeWitt.
Geo Soto tied it up in the eighth inning with a RBI double, giving the Cubs another single run frame in the game. Jeff Samardzija and Carlos Marmol were able to hold the visiting Cardinals scoreless, taking the game to an extra inning. Sean Marshall continued the shut out effort by the pen to set the stage for a walk off game winning single by Tyler Colvin. In that bottom of the tenth, Soto had led of the frame with a single, and he was moved over to second base with a sac bunt by Marlon Byrd.
It was a bit embarrassing that the game was this close considering the Cubs out hit St Louis 13 to 5, but thanks to the pitching keeping them in the game, the offense was able to execute the win in the extra inning for the win.
On the Fox Saturday afternoon game, the Cubs were able to bunch their runs together for a three run fourth inning. The scoring came thanks to a two run line drive homer under the cross wind by Aramis Ramirez, and a double by Byrd to drive in Carlos Pena, who had tripled after the Ramirez bomb. That was the lone frame, however, that the Cubs were able to touch Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson up for.
Regardless, Cubs starter Matt Garza was able to make it hold up. He must have been excited as this kind of run support has not been frequent enough when he has pitched. Garza came through with a gem, going seven innings of five hit ball while striking out eight. The back end trio of Marshall, Kerry Wood, and Marmol were able to take it from there to secure the win and the shut out of a strong offensive team in the Cardinals.
With the series win already in hand, the Cubs had a chance to go for the sweep on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, and send the red clad fans that had invaded Wrigley for the weekend home with their feathered tails between their legs. But Rodigo Lopez was not able to follow Garza’s gem with a solid outing of his own, giving up four home runs that accounted for five of the six runs the Cardinals dropped on the Cubs.
Ramirez provided all of the scoring the Cubs would get with a RBI single and a sac fly. Other than that, the Cubs were able to scatter six other hits off of Jake Westbrook, and the St Louis bullpen kept the bats silent in the final two frames.
Despite the weekend finishing on a losing note, the Cubs have now won their fifth series in August and have already reached 13 wins for the month, exceeding their win totals in any of the previous months this season. If the Brewers had not been on a similar hot streak of their own, this stretch of winning Cubs baseball could have warranted some whispers of a miracle finish to the season that the Wrigley faithful are more accustomed to being on the victim end of (see 1969 and 2004). Instead the Cubs will have to settle for taking their spoiler act on the road against the Brewers and Giants after finishing out this home stand against the Braves. Spoiler alert!