The Cardinals were down, 4-2, going into the bottom of the ninth. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa made a couple of very questionable decisions, in the inning, but of course now with the most dramatic win of the season already in the books, all is forgiven, no one is going to question La Russa's decisions and I guess he's still a genius.
My ninth inning replay and analysis;
Kerry Woods is on the mound for the Chicago Cubs, with the Cardinals down, 4-2 and Ryan Ludwick leading off.
Ludwick on a 3-1 count pitch, takes a called strike to work the count full and then Wood misses the plate to walk Ludwick. Thank you Mr. Woods, we'll take a base on balls.
The Cardinals have the leadoff man on, with Yadier Molina coming to the plate. Molina the toughest man in the majors to strike out, is who you would want at the plate in this situation, because Woods can be wild at times, if you make him work. Molina can do just that.
Molina swings at the first pitch, a fast ball, no problem, good deal, because it was probably going to be the best pitch he was going to see in this at-bat. Woods came back with three straight curves, missing the plate twice and getting Molina to swing through one them. Like I said, Molina is going to make a pitcher work. He fouls off the next two pitches, both fastballs and then finally draws a walk.
Ludwick advances to second, Molina representing the tying run is at first. It's at this point, I begin to lose it. (Hey I'm a fan) I'm yelling as if La Russa can hear me, put Aaron Miles in to run for Molina, or somebody. If not Miles, who's our fastest pitcher, because we carry a truckload of pitchers, the bench only had position players Aaron Miles, Chris Duncan and Jason LaRue left at this point in the game.
La Russa apparently doesn't even consider running for Molina, I'm just dumbfounded. Here we have the slowest man on the team representing the tying run at first and nobody is running for him. A huge mistake, if you ask me. (I know you didn't ask me)
Next batter, Adam Kennedy, the conventional wisdom calls for a bunt, playing to get into extra innings at home. I'm against the conventional wisdom here as I am most of the time when it calls to give the opponent an out.
La Russa doesn't give the bunt sign (genius call here considering the Cubs defense alignment) Kennedy swung away, pulling a double down the right-field lineon the very first pitch, Kennedy doubles down the right field line, while I'm cussing Tony La Russa out, for not having somebody running for Molina, the Cardinals pull with one run, with Ludwick scoring from second. Molina
If Miles had been running for Molina, the Cardinals could have tied the game, (I would have waived Miles home) on Kennedy's double. Then they would have had a runner at second with nobody out. As it was, we ended up with Kennedy at second and Molina at third, nobody out.
It may not seem like a big deal, except how the Cubs were going to play the defense with the next batter.
The Cardinals send Chris Duncan in to bat for McClellan, now the Cubs were going to walk, whoever the Cardinals sent to the plate in this situation, to set up the force play at any base or a double-play, conceding the run at third if they had to. My take is they wasted Duncan's left-handed bat in this situation.
Woods intentionally walks Duncan, four pitches to load the bases. Exactly what everyone expected.
Still no outs, bases loaded, the Cardinals are still one run down, when in my opinion, the game should have least already been tied.
Skip Schumaker is up and you have to like your chances, because, he can work a pitch count and battle with the best of them, only this time, Woods gets the best of him, as Schumaker grounded to third, causing a force play on Molina at the plate, for the first out, Schumaker safe at first.
One out, bases still loaded, Cardinals still down a run, while I'm still yelling at La Russa for not running for Molina and the neighbors dogs are starting to bark, I'm not sure if they are agreeing with me or not, I didn't even know the dogs were watching the game.
Up next, Aaron Miles, if I had been running things, Miles would have already scored the tying run, but now he's up with the bases loaded, one out. The Cubs infield is back at double-play depth, as you would expect. At this point, I'm kind of getting that sick feeling in my stomach, that this game may be slipping away, when by all rights, it should have been tied by now.
It's at this point of the game, with Miles coming to the plate, I would have actually had Chris Duncan batting, because, I would have ran Miles for Molina, and had back-up catcher Jason LaRue bat in the pitcher's spot instead of Duncan. The Cubs were likely going to walk whoever came to plate at that time. I say let them walk the right-handed hitting La Rue, then I would have had left-handed hitting Duncan coming to the plate for Ryan, at a time, when they would have had to pitch to him, with the bases loaded.
Who's most likely to hit something deep enough to score the runner from third, Aaron Miles, Brendan Ryan, Jason La Rue or Chris Duncan? I rest my case. (If you chose somebody besides Chris Duncan, I can't help you)
In addition, if the Cardinals had scored both of their runs before recording the first out, the momentum would have shifted from the Cubs to the Redbirds big time.
As it is, Aaron Miles is in to pinch-hit for Brendan Ryan. Miles pops up to short, two outs bases loaded. Now the agony of defeat is creeping up on me, Tony, Tony, Tony, I keep asking myself, how in the world did you ever win 2,000+ games?
My neighbors, who apparently can hear me talking to myself, are calling 911, complaining they can't hear their fireworks, with all the noise coming from 812 W. Madison.
I catch my breath, and renew my faith, because I know we still have a chance, because stepping to the plate, with two outs, and the bases loaded, is Mr. Natural himself, Rick Ankiel.
Rick had already hit a solo home run in the sixth, to put the Cardinals on the board, now we just need a base hit out of the infield for the win, to even the series at one game a piece. If anybody in today's crop of Cardinals has a flair for the dramatics, it's Rick Ankiel. The stage is set.
Woods looks in, first pitch, called strike, my renew faith, shaken but not stirred. The next pitch is on the way, HOLY COW!, it's a base hit up to the middle into center field. Some guy who looks familiar, playing shallow center field for the Cubs comes charging in, but it's too late, one run is in, two runs are in, that's a winner, game over, Cards Win! Cards Win! Cards Win!
In front of the largest crowd in Busch Stadium history, Rick Ankiel hits a game-winning two-run single in the bottom of the ninth to lead the Cardinals pass the Chicago Cubs, 5-4, to even the series 1-1, with the rubber game being played Sunday.
Give Cardinals' starter Kyle Lohse some credit, he kept St. Louis in the game through seven innings, giving up only two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out six. Lohse extended his unbeaten streak to 11 games with the no-decision, as Kyle McClellan picked up the win.
Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa and I didn't see eye to eye on how to manage the bottom of the ninth. The bottom line, the Cardinals win and I put myself through a lot of pain and agony on Saturday for not and La Russa can chalk up another win.
The win brought the Cardinals (50-39) to within 2 1/2 games of the first-place Cubs (52-36) in the National League Central.
NOTES AND QUOTES
...I'm expecting Joey "Bombs" Mather to be recalled to St. Louis today.
...Cezar Izturis will likely be activated off the DL and be in today's lineup.
...Anthony Reyes has been activated off the DL by the Cardinals and optioned to Memphis. If you still have Reyes on your fantasy baseball team, we need to talk.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
...Eight of the last nine games between the Cardinals and the Cubs have been decided by two runs or less.
...Molina extended his hitting streak to 12 games Saturday, with a rare infield single.
...reliever Kyle McClellan picked up his first major league victory with two perfect innings of relief.
That's it for today, I'll catch you back here next week, for our next Sunday morning coffee, that is, if the Cardinals haven't asked me to replace La Russa because of his questionable decisions. :)
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