April 27 – Cubs 5, Cardinals 3

The visiting Chicago Cubs took the first of the three-game weekend series over the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night as Jason Marquis bested his former club again. Yadier Molina starred for the Cards with his bat.

The St. Louis Cardinals (10-12) dropped the first game of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs (9-13) in Busch Stadium on Friday by a score of 5-3. Jason Marquis (3-1) got the win while Anthony Reyes (0-4) took the loss. It was a game filled with drama and close calls, and it could have gone either way. Toward the end, about five feet made the difference between the Cardinals having a chance to win the game or not.

Reyes got off to a good start (although the start was a little bit misleading) in the first inning, striking out all three batters he faced. He struck out two more batters and walked two without allowing a hit through three innings.

The Cardinals scored their first run in the third inning when third baseman Scott Rolen hit an RBI single, bringing home left fielder Chris Duncan.

The Cubs, who had struggled to get any hits against Reyes through three innings, came to life in the fourth frame. It may have had to do with the 41 pitches Reyes had thrown through the first three innings, but first baseman Derrek Lee hit a leadoff double. The line drive to left field seemed to be caught by a diving Duncan, but the spectacular attempt was lost as he hit the ground, forcing the ball to pop out of his glove. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez came to the plate after Lee's double and blasted a two-run home run into the left field bullpen. Two outs later, second baseman Mark DeRosa doubled and rookie center fielder Felix Pie hit a two-run blast to right field for his first career home run.

Down 4-1, the Cardinals looked for help out of the bullpen. In the top of the seventh, reliever Tyler Johnson recorded three straight outs. In the bottom of the seventh, catcher Yadier Molina decided to put on another show for the fans with some late game heroics a la Game Seven of the NLCS. It was not near the stage, but Molina's two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning put the Cardinals back in the game and gave them a chance to come back and tie it. Molina's home run was followed by pinch-hitter Aaron Miles' double, but shortstop David Eckstein popped out behind home plate to end the threat.

Friday's call-up, Kelvin Jimenez, entered the game in the eighth inning and promptly gave up a single to left fielder Alfonso Soriano. Soriano, a base-stealing threat, was a huge distraction for Jimenez. After a long at-bat with shortstop Ryan Theriot, Jimenez got the first out of the inning. As he continued to watch Soriano, he struck out Lee for the second out. On the same play, Soriano escaped his grasp and reached second with a stolen base. Molina snap-fired a throw to second to try and record the out but Lee barely leaned into Molina's line of sight, preventing a straight line throw to second base. Molina overthrew the ball for an error, and Soriano found himself at third base. After walking Ramirez, Barrett flew out to end the Chicago threat.

In the top of the ninth, still 4-3, Chicago looked to put up some insurance. Randy Flores came in to pitch, and gave up a leadoff double to Murton. DeRosa grounded out but advanced Murton to third. Pie grounded out to the pitcher, and Murton had to stay put. Finally, with two outs and a chance for the Cards to go to the bottom of the ninth down only one run, pinch-hitter Cezar Izturis hit an RBI single over a jumping David Eckstein.

In the bottom of the ninth, the adrenaline really started going for the fans in St. Louis. Molina hit a leadoff single (his third hit of the day), and Scott Spiezio came up next as a pinch-hitter. It was a long at-bat, but one particular pitch stood out from the rest. That's because that pitch was hit hard into deep right field for what looked like a two-run, game-tying home run - only to travel about five feet inside the foul pole. Spiezio would strike out on a close pitch on the inside corner, a call that could have gone either way.

The next batter was Eckstein, and he grounded into a fielder's choice. Molina slid hard into second, giving Eckstein enough time to reach first and prevent the double play. With Albert Pujols on deck and Chris Duncan at the plate, the game looked bright, even with two outs. Duncan worked the count deep and a 3-1 pitch that looked a little high went for the Cubs and Duncan found himself with a full count. He would get under a pitch and loft one into left field for the final out of the game.

Game Notes:

- The Cubs and manager Lou Piniella really put their bullpen to work on Friday. Will Ohman came in to relieve Marquis, and he only threw one pitch - a pinch-hit double by Aaron Miles. Michael Wuertz faced four batters and gave up two base hits. Neal Cotts came in to face pinch-hitter So Taguchi but hit him with a pitch. Closer Ryan Dempster pitched 1.2 innings and allowed one hit while earning the save.

- The Cardinals' bullpen did well on Friday also, allowing only one run. Tyler Johnson continues to dominate out of the bullpen, allowing no hits in one inning pitched. He has yet to allow a run this season. Kelvin Jimenez came in to relieve and pitched one inning without allowing a run, as well. Randy Flores gave up the one run on Izturis's base hit.

- Every Cardinals position player collected a base hit on Friday except for Preston Wilson and second baseman Adam Kennedy. David Eckstein was 1-for-5, while Duncan, Pujols, Rolen, and Edmonds were all 1-for-4. Yadier Molina was the player of the game by far while going 3-for-4 at the plate and hitting a two-run home run that reached all the way up into the upper decks in left field. It landed close to 30 feet to the left of Big Mac Land.

- Good game for the bullpen Friday, good game for the offense, but imagine what would have happened if Scott Spiezio had not have hooked that ball five feet inside the foul pole? I guess it is not a good idea to second guess, but five feet would have made a different game. It made for good drama, anyway, and it just goes to show how good a rivalry this is.

- Saturday afternoon's game is lining up to be a good one as well with Cubs' ace Carlos Zambrano opposing St. Louis's former closer, Adam Wainwright.



Brady Holzhauer can be reached via email at sportswriter5@gmail.com.

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