In a see-saw game like few in recent memory, the Cardinals came back three times and the Cubs twice during an afternoon when the wind was blowing out and the two teams, both struggling offensively coming in, combined for 33 hits.
Adam Wainwright started for the Cards and had allowed four runs through the first five innings yet had a three-run lead, thanks to his offense putting three on the board in the top on the fifth. However, when manager Tony La Russa tried to squeeze another inning out of his talented youngster, the move backfired. Wainwright served up a three-run jack to Aramis Ramirez that re-tied the game at seven runs each and the starter departed with one out in the sixth.
The Cards offense came through again in the top of the ninth. Chris Duncan walked and Albert Pujols lined a screaming single through the box. The star of the game, Scott Rolen, shot a triple into the right field corner to score both runners.
Now, Jason Isringhausen, four for four this season in closing opportunities, needed to get the final three outs. It was not to be. Cardinal-killer Michael Barrett singled. But, with two out and two strikes on pinch-hitter Alfonso Soriano, the trouble really began. A ball was hit sharply over third base and curled into foul territory. The double put Barrett on third.
Mark DeRosa was up next and popped a foul ball high into the air down the first base line. With Albert Pujols, Aaron Miles and Preston Wilson chasing, the wind blew the ball back into fair territory. When it dropped between the three, the game was tied. DeRosa himself was so sure it was foul that he didn't even move from the plate until the ball fell fair and therefore, settled for a single instead of a double if he had been hustling. Izzy took his first blown save of the season in the process.
Heading into extra innings, the Cardinals offense quickly took care of business. In the process, a win was put alongside Izzy's blown save, proving some solace for the weird bottom of the ninth for the Redbirds' closer.
Speaking of closers, Wilson singled against Cubs closer Ryan Dempster to start the top of the tenth. David Eckstein singled off the shortstop with one down. Albert Pujols then blasted a 0-1 pitch completely out of the park to center for the final margin of victory.
Tyler Johnson was called upon to retire Cliff Floyd leading off the home tenth and the lefty came through once again. Russ Springer finished off the Cubs by fanning Derrek Lee and retiring Aramis Ramirez on a deep drive to right to end the game. Wilson made a tough catch against the ivy for that final out.
The Cards' 2-3-4-5 hitters each hit home runs on the day. Scott Rolen also added that triple and three singles, going five-for-six. He and Pujols each had three RBIs. Scott Spiezio and Adam Kennedy contributed doubles, with the latter driving in two and walking twice in a real team win.
The Cardinals are off Monday, preparing for the Cincinnati Reds, who play at Busch Tuesday and Wednesday nights and Thursday afternoon. The Cubs make their first 2007 trip to St. Louis next weekend.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at Brwalton@earthlink.net.
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