Cardinals Dig The Long Ball; Two Home Runs Defeat Cubs

Pitcher Randy Wells of the Chicago Cubs pitches 8 innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on September 25, 2011 at Busch Stadium in St Louis, MO. (Photo by Ed Szczepanski/Getty Images)

So what would you have done?

Randy Wells had thrown 96 pitches (62 strikes) through seven innings, but had just allowed a solo homer to Yadier Molina, tying the score 2-2. The Cubs didn't score in the eighth, and Wells was due up third in the ninth.

Leave him in, or take him out?

Mike Quade chose to leave him in. Wrong call, Mike. Rafael Furcal hit Wells' second pitch over the right field wall for another homer. The Cubs went down meekly in the ninth inning and the Cardinals had a 3-2 win over the Cubs, their second straight come-from-behind one-run win.

Instead of helping eliminate the Cardinals from the wild-card race, the Cubs put St. Louis right back in it by basically giving them two of the three games. The Nationals shut out the Braves 3-0 Sunday afternoon. So, with three games left in the regular season, the Braves lead the Cardinals by just one game in the NL wild-card chase. Worse for the Braves, they have to host a Phillies team that has to be upset at the eight-game losing streak they just broke today against the Mets, while the Cardinals visit Houston to play an Astros club that lost its 104th game of the year to the Rockies -- 19-3.

If you believe in baseball momentum, it would appear the Cardinals have it.

The Cubs fashioned a nice little lead Sunday, too. Carlos Pena walked leading off the fourth -- his 99th BB of the year -- and made his way to third on a single to left, nice baserunning, and scored on a sacrifice fly. After the Cardinals tied it in the fifth, the Cubs took a 2-1 lead on a Marlon Byrd double and a Starlin Castro single. Castro's hit gave him 203 for the year, 65 RBI and it was the 37th consecutive game in which he had reached base.

All of that looked pretty good for the Cubs to send Cardinals fans home unhappy in their final home game of the year. But after St. Louis' rally, there's a chance they could play again in St. Louis. They gave Albert Pujols a standing ovation each time he came to the plate, leading the Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer to tweet:

Standing O for Albert before 1st AB in what could be final home game as a Card. Visions of Rami at Wrigley Wed.
Sep 25 via txtFavoriteRetweetReply

Well, that makes no sense. If he's talking about this Wednesday, the Cubs are in San Diego. If he was talking about last Wednesday, Aramis didn't play in that game. If he was trying to be sarcastic, he needed this:

Such is our lot in our lives as Cubs fans this season.

Wells got credit for a complete game for his effort today; by retiring the final three batters he faced after Furcal's home run, he lowered his season ERA below five -- just barely, at 4.99. In 14 starts since the All-Star break, Wells' ERA is 4.04 and his WHIP is 1.213, much closer to his performance from last year, and an indication he can be a capable No. 4 starter. Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster give them a No. 2 and a No 3; if they can just find that elusive "ace"...

Incidentally, the Cubs now have four complete games in 2011, two from Wells and two from Garza. Each has one in a win and one in a loss. The last time before this year that a Cubs team had more than three CG in a season was in 2005, when they had eight (three by Greg Maddux, two by Carlos Zambrano, and one each by Mark Prior, Glendon Rusch and Sergio Mitre).

There's your blast from the past for today. The Cubs will have to sweep the Padres in San Diego to finish the season with fewer than 90 losses; Quade insists he's going to play the kids on Monday. So there's that.

Enjoy Cubs baseball while it's here. Bad as it has been, we will miss it when it's gone. And enjoy the two wild card races, which are both going to go down to the last day, or so it would appear.

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