Game Observations – Sat. 8/19 – Cubs 5-4 (10)

On Saturday afternoon, the Chicago Cubs evened the weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals winning by a 5-4 score in ten innings. Carlos Zambrano pitched seven solid innings, but the game was decided by the bullpens as Jason Isringhausen took the loss. With the defeat, the Cards' 65-57 record equates to a three-game lead in the NL Central Division over the Reds.

Cardinals' starter Jeff Suppan struggled, allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk in just 4-1/3 innings. He uncorked two costly wild pitches. Carlos Zambrano was the superior pitcher, going seven innings, with the Birds scoring just two runs against him.

The Cardinals blew a 2-0 lead, then came back to tie, lost the lead, then tied it again before Jason Isringhausen took the loss in relief.

The offense struggled for much of the day, totaling nine hits. After Albert Pujols plated a run, Ron Belliard fanned with the bases loaded in the first. Yadier Molina hit a solo home run in the second, Chris Duncan re-tied the game in the eighth with his own bases-empty shot and Belliard knotted the score again with a ninth-inning double. But, the Cards left the bases loaded in that inning and didn't threaten in the tenth.

One year ago today
On August 19, 2005, the Cardinals rallied from a 4-0, ninth-inning deficit to defeat the Giants 5-4 at Busch Stadium. Yadier Molina's three-run home run in the ninth was followed by a two-run, walk-off double by Jim Edmonds to key the win. The comeback effort kept Chris Carpenter's nine game win streak intact, as the right-hander went eight innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on nine hits while fanning five. Julian Tavarez (2-2) picked up the win.

The match-up
Jeff Suppan (9-7, 5.00) vs. Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano (13-5, 3.38).

The line-up
Miles (SS), Duncan (RF), Pujols, Rolen, Spiezio (LF), Wilson (CF), Belliard, Molina and Suppan.
Out: David Eckstein, Juan Encarnacion, Gary Bennett.
In: Aaron Miles, Scott Spiezio, Yadier Molina.
David Eckstein is out with an oblique strain suffered on Friday.

On to the game…

Cards first – Shoulda been more
Despite a nice diving stop by Ronny Cedeno, Miles legged out a leadoff single. Duncan singled his first pitch into right to put runners on the corners. The table was set for Albert, who hit a sac fly. Rolen doubled down the left field line to put two in scoring position. Duncan was thrown out at the plate as Mabry collected Spiezio's grounder and fired home. Wilson walked to load the bases. Belliard fanned on a full count to end the inning as Zambrano gestured with emotion. Cards 1-0.

Cubs first – To third, not home
Juan Pierre looped a little single to left field. With one down, Pierre stole second and took third as Molina's throw drifted into centerfield for an error. But, Suppan stranded him there.

Cards second – Tater served up
Molina put Zambrano's first pitch of the inning into the back row of the left field bleachers. It was Molina's fifth of the season. Miles singled to left with one out. He was erased in a Duncan fielders' choice. Pujols again flied out. Cards 2-0.

Cubs second – So far, so good
Suppan fanned Mabry swinging for the second out of a 1-2-3 inning.

Cards third – Looking
Wilson struck out looking to end a perfect frame for Zambrano.

Cubs third – Two RISP
Cedeno led off with a single to right. Zambrano hit into a fielders' choice and became the runner at first. Pierre slapped a single into left. A ground out to Pujols put two in scoring position with two down. Matt Murton flied out to end it.

Cards fourth – Quiet
Second straight quiet inning as the bottom of the order went down in order.

Cubs fourth – Wild pitches cost lead
Aramis Ramirez singled to left to start. Cameras caught Pujols and A-Ram smiling and chatting it up at first base throughout the next at-bat. Somewhere I know Bob Gibson is grinding his teeth. Jacque Jones then singled to right. A wild pitch moved the runners up with one down. Another wild pitch enabled Ramirez to score as Molina was unable to smother the ball. Henry Blanco walked. Cedeno attempted a squeeze, but bunted the ball foul before singling the run home. Miles dived, but the ball glanced off his glove. It would have gotten the run home anyway. Duncan the hitless came out for a chat. Suppan and Molina continue to have trouble with the signs. Zambrano was unable to get a bunt down and eventually fanned for the second out. He tried to snap his bat over his knee in frustration then broke it on the rail and stormed into the dugout. A force out at second ended it. Tie 2-2.

Cards fifth – Zambrano dominating
Pujols fanned swinging to end the third straight 1-2-3 inning and 11 outs in a row in total.

Cubs fifth – Taking the lead
La Russa engaged in a heated argument with the home plate umpire Jeff Nelson apparently about the manager's complaining about balls and strikes, as he can't do that. Neifi Perez reached on a bunt single to Pujols and scored on a Murton double into the left field corner. Duncan the phenomenal pitching coach came out for an in-depth discussion. Tyler Johnson is warming up in the bullpen. More pitcher-catcher problems with the signs. Why? After the runner moved to third with one out, Suppan was relieved by Johnson. He got lefties Jones and Mabry to escape the jam. Jorge Sosa had been up in the pen. Cubs 3-2.

Cards sixth – Almost nothing
Spiezio singled to right with one out, but Wilson grounded into a 4-6-3.

Cubs sixth – Another Sosa in Chicago
Sosa took over on the mound and So Taguchi came in to play centerfield. Three outs followed.

Cards seventh – A baserunner
Taguchi drew a two-out walk, but Miles was retired to end the inning. Zambrano received his teammates' congratulations as he left the game.

Cubs seventh – Two-on threat
Sosa remained in the game. Spiezio made a diving attempt, just missing Perez' single with one out. Ramirez walked with two out, but that was all.

Cards eighth – Duncan no-decisions Zambrano
Bobby Howry relieved Zambrano. Duncan greeted him with a line drive home run to straight-away center. That got Jason Isringhausen up in the pen. Tie 3-3.

Cubs eighth – Just enough
Mabry singled, leading off against Sosa. Ryan Theriot pinch ran and was sacrificed to second. Phil Nevin pinch hit with two out and dropped a little RBI single into center. Cubs closer Ryan Dempster began to warm up. Cubs 4-3.

Cards ninth – Blown save but blown chance
Dempster walked pinch-hitter Jim Edmonds. He came home, making a tremendous slide to score the tying run on a one-hop double off the wall by Belliard. Molina bunted Belliard to third. Timo Perez hit for Taguchi and took a four-pitch walk. Miles also walked to load the bases, leading to Dempster's exit, accompanied by a chorus of boos. Juan Encarnacion pinch hit and fanned swinging against reliever Will Ohman. Michael Wuertz was the next pitcher and did his job, but just barely, as Pujols' shot was pulled down at the ivy by a leaping Juan Pierre.Tie 4-4.

Cubs ninth – Izzy time
Jason Isringhausen came on to try to get the game to extras. Edmonds is in center and Timo is in right. Three uneventful outs followed.

Cards tenth – A runner
Wuertz remained. Edmonds hit a 3-0 offering into short left for a two-out single, but Belliard fanned swinging.

Cubs tenth – Izzy sinks
Izzy stayed in. Jones ripped a double past Pujols for a leadoff double. Angel Pagan laid down a beautiful bunt and legged it out. Blanco fanned. Cedeno was walked intentionally to load the bases. Nevin ended the game on the first pitch, as his one-hopper bounced off the left-field wall. Cubs 5-4.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Sun., Aug. 20 at Cubs: Chris Carpenter (11-6, 3.09) vs. Juan Mateo (1-0, 3.00) 1:20 p.m. WB11
Mon., Aug. 21: Off day
Tue., Aug. 22 at Mets: Jeff Weaver (2-3, 5.54) vs. TBA 6:10 p.m. FSNM
Wed., Aug. 23 at Mets: TBA vs. TBA 6:10 p.m. FSNM
Thu., Aug. 24 at Mets: TBA vs. TBA 6:10 p.m. FSNM

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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