GAME 35: Tossed In The Dempster
Jake Westbrook was hammered more often than an alcoholic college chick, while Westbrook’s teammates struggled to come through with crucial hits against Ryan Dempster as the Cardinals (20-15) lost an infuriating and extremely careless game to the Cubs 6-4.
TAILSPIN: The starting pitching has been on a slide recently; in the last ten games, the Cardinals haven’t had a starter go beyond the fifth inning in six of them. Westbrook was the latest failure. The Cubs pounded 11 hits in five innings, and Westbrook helped their cause by walking two. Westbrook was in trouble in every inning except the first, but he managed to tap-dance around the threats until a disastrous fifth. The big hit was a three run homer by Bryan LaHair, who has absolutely killed us this season. Before Westbrook crawled to the end of the inning, the Cubs were up by four.
IRON MAN: Matt Holliday looked as graceful as a water buffalo trying to catch a butterfly with its ass while tumbling down a rocky incline when he committed his 2,794 error of the season in the second. Based on offense, Holliday has been worth every penny we’ve paid him thus far and more, but he has a glove made of pure granite dipped in lead. Watching him field baseballs in the outfield has the sublime athleticism of a wounded dinosaur leaping into an active volcano.
IMPOTENCE: The Cardinals continued their bizarre recent inability to capitalize on chances with runners in scoring position. They had RISP in two of the first five innings (including the bases loaded – AGAIN) and failed to score. Even worse, the Cubs were throwing the ball all over the place tonight, giving the Cards repeated opportunities to take this game. Infuriating!
SANCHEZINATOR: Eduardo Sanchez returned to his rightful place in the Cardinals’ big league bullpen, and immediately showed what we’ve been missing since he went down last July. Sanchez was fully pumped and he powered blistering fastballs (he hit 98 mph) and evil curves at the Cubs. It was the only pitching highlight of the night, and a huge confidence booster for a talented young man. HAIL KING EDUARDO!
IN THE CLUTCH: The Cardinals had their first real offensive inning in what seems like weeks with a four-run outburst in the sixth. Dempster, who hadn’t given up a road run all season, hit a snag when the Cubs suddenly couldn’t field the ball. Jon Jay reached on a bunt single, and Holliday followed with a single. Lance Berkman drove in Jay with another single. Then, after a David Freese walk loaded the bases, El Capitan Yadier Molina roped a double into left center to score two more runs (almost a third, but Freese was gunned down at home). Skip Schumaker followed that with a looping single into shallow center, scoring Molina and tying the score. It was the kind of clutch hitting we haven’t seen lately.
SPOIL THE PARTE: Victor Marte had one of his less effective outings in the seventh. He allowed a single to LaPubicHair to start the inning. Then, LaPubes stole second while Marte stood on the mound apparently daydreaming about chocolate-covered Twinkies. This led Matheny to intentionally walk Ian Stewart and Darwin Barney and load the bases for the pitcher’s spot. Fortunately, pinch hitter Reed Johnson struck out to end the inning. No runs, but not exactly the kind of inning you want after your team just tied the game, either.
DOUBLE BERK: The Cubs mounted a rally again in the eighth. David DeJesus and Tony Campana reached safely, which brought up talented airhead Starlin Castro. Castro bunted to Berkman, who quickly threw to Freese at third, who then threw to Schumaker at first for a spectacular double play. Too bad Mitchell Boggs gave up a hit to the ever-horrible Alfonso Soriano immediately afterwards to give the Cubs the lead.
THROW IT AWAY: The Cardinals, who have played excellent defense so far this year, really looked like a beer league team in the ninth. Two errors led to Darwin Barney scoring from first to put the final, humiliating cherry on top of this one.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: I’m giving it to Sanchez, mainly because I’m biased. Yadi’s double was pretty great, too.
CONCLUSION: The first four-game losing streak of the year. A miserable game in almost every department: unfocused at-bats, crappy defense, and lousy, vulnerable pitching. The Cardinals are not playing like the elite team they obviously are. Sure, it’s only May, but the Reds are gelling and are lurking just 1.5 games back. It’s best not to get too complacent.