GAME 18: The Umpire Strikes Out
Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday flashed their vintage form, but the Cardinals couldn’t pull themselves together in the face of blatantly-incompetent umpiring. The Cubs and the umpiring crew conspired to defeat the Cardinals (11-7) by the score of 3-2 in ten excruciating innings.
BUENO: Now this is more like it! Adam Wainwright pitched six excellent innings of one-run ball, striking out seven. He had his stuff moving around the plate, and his curve looked better tonight. This surely must be a shot in the arm for Waino, who has been really torn up about his recent performances. Now if he could just get some run support … the Cardinals have yet to give Wainwright a run of support so far this year. Embarrassing.
BAD CALL PART I: David DeJesus came home on a Starlin Castro sacrifice fly in the first base. Apparently the rules have changed in baseball, because I thought an umpire could only call a runner safe at a base when they touched it. DeJesus completely failed to touch home plate, as Yadier Molina had the base thoroughly blocked. Yet home plate umpire Chris Conroy called DeJesus safe, giving Chicago the game’s first lead. Awful call.
SHARPE MARTE: How ’bout that brilliant barehanded play by Victor Marte in the seventh to gun down Darwin Barney? Barney bounced a high chopper up the middle of the infield. Marte pounced off of the mound, barehanded the bouncer, and fired it high but close enough to nail Barney at first. Stellar play by someone who doesn’t look all that athletic.
RESURGENCE: Matt Holliday ripped a two-run opposite field home run in the eighth inning to give the Cardinals a temporary lead. Like I said a few days ago, Holliday is close now. And just in time, because the rest of the team is cooling off.
BLOWN: For the second straight night, the bullpen blew a save in the ninth inning. This time, the offender was Marc Rzepczynski, who gave up a home run to newest most annoying Cub Bryan LaHair to lead off the ninth. This tied the game at 2-2, and sent the game into the dreaded extra innings where destiny awaits.
THE ANIMAL WITHIN: Anyone who thinks that Mike Matheny is some sort of Bible-stroking creampuff might want to look at his passionate argument in the tenth that led to his first managerial ejection. He really unloaded after the game’s second blown call, and looked surprisingly un-Christian. I loved it.
BAD CALL PART II: Tony Campana led off the tenth with a single. Everybody in the Midwest knew Campana was running, and he did. Molina threw probably the best pickoff in the history of the game to get Campana, who was blocked perfectly by Tyler Greene at the base. YET THE UMPIRE CALLED HIM SAFE. Severely awful umpiring tonight.
REPLAY: I want to highlight this: baseball needs instant replay. Even if it’s just one per game, managers need the chance to call up a disputed play and get it right. I despise seeing games decided by erroneous umpires rather than the play on the field. Umpires and their calls should facilitate the game, not overpower it. End of editorial.
WALK OFF: With Campana on third, Alfonso Soriano laced a tough single to second, which totally overpowered Tyler Greene and skipped into center field for the game winner. It was a distasteful way to lose this game.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: It’s either Wainwright or Holliday; both showed welcome signs of life tonight.
CONCLUSION: The Cardinals are not hitting (just six hits) and their bullpen is suddenly unravelling under pressure. There is no reason why either of these games were close, yet the Cardinals allowed the Cubs to hang around until they could come back. Where is the killer instinct in these situations? These two games revealed certain troubling problems with this team. Hopefully they’re paying attention.