Baseball 101: Cubs 3, Cardinals 4

Lou Piniella got outmanaged last night, and I'm not real happy about that.

Answer this question: why would you, in the eighth inning of a tie game, have one of your best RBI men bunt? Maybe this question should be asked first, and don't look it up before you answer: how many sacrifice bunts did Geovany Soto have in his major league career before last night?

The answer is zero, and it's still zero after he bunted too hard and Ryan Franklin turned it into an easy double play, after Jim Edmonds had walked to lead off the inning and Felix Pie was sent in to pinch-run for him. Soto slammed the bat down in the dugout afterward (at least he didn't break any bones!); was that out of frustration at not being able to do the job, or disbelief that he was even asked? They couldn't believe it either in the Yahoo recap:

Top 8th: Chi Cubs
- J. Edmonds walked
- F. Pie ran for J. Edmonds
- G. Soto unknown into double play pitcher to shortstop to first, F. Pie out at second
- M. Fontenot grounded out to first

0 runs, 0 hits, 0 errors
Chi Cubs 3, St. Louis 3

"Unknown into double play". Yeah, that about sums up the Cubs' 4-3 loss to the Cardinals. It wasn't just Soto's DP -- Alfonso Soriano also hit into one in the 9th -- but it was also failure to capitalize on other opportunities; the Cubs could have put the game away in the first inning with some timely hitting, and again in the sixth when they had the bases loaded and one out.

Ryan Dempster threw well enough -- it's no shame to give up a HR to Albert Pujols, many have done this -- and it wouldn't have mattered if the Cubs had scored the six or seven runs they should have scored last night.

The other criticism I have of Lou last night is: why didn't he walk Cesar Izturis? In a situation like that, you almost have to load the bases to set up force plays at every base. Yes, I am well aware that Skip Schumaker, who was on deck, is a far better hitter than Izturis. But if you induce Schumaker to hit the same grounder that Izturis hit -- only have the bases loaded instead of runners on second and third -- well then, all Soto has to do is step on the plate instead of try a desperate swipe tag. In that situation I think an IBB is mandatory, no matter who the hitter is.

Here's what Lou said:
"We're playing like we're waiting to get beat," the Cubs manager said after Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. "You don't have a big enough lead in September to play ball like that. Teams who play baseball like that invariably get caught, no matter how big the lead."

Yeah, that includes you too, Lou. I like Lou -- he's been a godsend to this team -- but last night wasn't his finest hour.

This is a strange month. There are 13 teams within five games of a playoff spot -- quite a large number for this late in the year -- and only five of them have winning September records:

Astros: 7-1 Dodgers: 7-1 Red Sox: 6-2 Mets: 5-2 Cardinals: 4-3 Angels: 4-4 Phillies: 4-4 White Sox: 3-5 Twins: 2-5 Rays: 2-6 D'backs: 2-6 Brewers: 2-7 Cubs: 1-6

Yes, only the bad play in Milwaukee has saved the Cubs from a horrid fate so far this month. Thank you for the second night in a row to the Reds, who came back and beat Milwaukee 5-4 in 11 innings after blowing a 4-1 lead. They'll play a day game today, with CC Sabathia on the mound for the Brewers, so the Cubs will know exactly how they need to do to reduce the magic number further before they take the field tonight in St. Louis.

I received an email from a friend last night, someone who is an occasional poster at this site, which read in its entirety:

Just shoot me now, it'll be less painful.

When I emailed him back to tell him I was going to post this -- and he can identify himself if he wants to, I won't -- he replied:

I still believe, but I'm taking Prilosec and buying a defibrillator off ebay.

I think we all need those. As ever, win tonight and the ship will begin to right itself.

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