August 11, 2008

Cards drop series to Cubs, fret over Carp

Losing the three-game series to the Chicago Cubs by dropping the rubber match last night at Wrigley Field was only one of the worries befalling the Cardinals. When starting pitcher Chris Carpenter called for his catcher, Yadier Molina, to visit the mound, then the Cards' trainer and manager, all of St. Louis held their breath.

Cardinal Nation had witnessed this scene before, with Carpenter long ago, and with Mark Mulder long ago, and more recently, with Adam Wainwright and Mulder. Each scenario ended badly for the pitchers, respectively, and the hopes of the Cardinals' in terms of losing the services of some of their best pitchers.

And while the Cubs were busy making great defensive plays and with their pitching staff turning in solid performances on the whole, the Cards were having a bad night, or at the least, unable to have a good night. Worries over Carpenter's condition must have been running through every Cards' player's mind, with worry over a their chances for success on the field without yet another former staff ace, but worry over a teammate simultaneously.

As for the game, important enough, seeing how the Cards were taking on the NL Central's leaders, well, it was just something that slipped away once Carpenter suddenly left the field. Later, it was determined that Carpenter had a mild strain of the right triceps. But no one will completely buy that one until "Carp" gets to throw again and can find out if that's all there is to it. Cardinal Nation is hopeful.
Ryan Dempster pitched a great game for the North-siders, extending his record to 13-5. Dempster seems overshadowed in Chicago by the big salaried Carlos Zambrano and a great season by left-hander Ted Lilly, but make no mistake, Dempster is every bit a pitcher as anyone on that Cubs' staff.

Throwing 73 strikes in a 113-pitch night, Dempster went 6.2 innings, allowing six hits and only two runs. He walked three but struck out six.

By the time Dempster was pulled by Cubs' manager Lou Piniella (who had made an "I'm winning" mound visit earlier), the Cubs were up 6-0.

The lopsided score came on a five-run sixth inning, that was a bit worse than it might've been when Adam Kennedy, who is normally very solid at second base, let a ground ball shoot between his legs to open the floodgates of a Cubs' bum rushing of relief pitcher Brad Thompson.

The Kennedy error was quite costly, but as TV announcer Joe Morgan put it, there isn't a fielder who has played that hasn't had that happen to them at one time or another. No one felt worse than Kennedy, but it has happened to many of the other Cards' players this year. Kennedy's contributions at the plate and in the field so far this season far outweigh this one mistake.

The Cubs' relief crew of Jeff Samardzija, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Marmol allowed only one hit after Dempster left the game, all but shutting down the Cardinals. Joe Mather hit a double off of Dempster, bringing home Izturis for the first Cardinals' run, and after Dempster was relieved by Samardzija, Albert Pujols doubled home Mather, those two runs the only ones scored by St. Louis all night.

The wind was blowing every which way at Wrigley last night, but mostly in, the Cubs able to prove they are good enough a ball club to win on runs scored by other means. The Cubs outhit the Cards 9-7, with only power hitting coming in the form of three doubles, by Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Ronny Cedeno.

The loss drops the Cardinals to seven full games behind the Cubs, and permits the Brewers, who won last night in extra innings, to increase the lead of second place (and currently the Wild Card) by three full games.

The Cardinals now travel to Florida to take on the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium in a four-game series. The first game is slated for tonight at 6:10 p.m. CT.
photo by Barbara Moore