For as many complaints as we have all had about Alfonso Soriano continuing to play on what is obviously a bad leg -- and it hurt the Cubs again defensively Tuesday -- I'm sure every Cubs fan was happy he was in the lineup in the ninth inning, when he hit his first home run of the season.
Yes, at last, Soriano has as many home runs as Albert Pujols!
It didn't matter, as Rafael Dolis couldn't hold the tie score in the ninth inning and the Cubs lost to the Cardinals 7-6; they could have had a winning road trip had they managed to win this game, and moved to within four games of first place.
Instead, they come home six games under .500 and six games out.
The Cubs had a lead of 3-0 after a half inning; Paul Maholm couldn't hold it. It was 3-3 after two, but then Maholm settled down and had a decent outing, finishing six innings. Bryan LaHair had tied the game at 4 with his 10th home run, and Maholm left the game; he had earlier given up a home run to Matt Holliday that had put St. Louis ahead 4-3. Pinch-hitter Reed Johnson, batting for Maholm in the seventh, gave the Cubs the lead back and Maholm a chance for a "win".
It didn't last long. Kerry Wood, who appeared to be improving in his last outing, came in and couldn't throw strikes; he issued two walks and then Allen Craig inside-outed a high fastball down the right-field line to tie the game 5-5. I don't know what to say any more about Wood; now he looks bad again, but what other options do the Cubs have at this moment?
The Cardinals touched James Russell for a run in the bottom of the eighth, on yet another solo homer, this one by Matt Carpenter, to take a 6-5 lead. That's when Soriano gave Cubs fans hope by hitting his first -- to the opposite field, of all things -- to tie it up yet again at 6.
This was a day when it was good to be the team with the last at-bats, and the Cardinals took advantage of Rafael Dolis, who gave up a single to Holliday, then struck out Craig.
David Freese then hit a ground ball right at Ian Stewart, who thought about trying for a double play, but had to settle for getting Freese. That set up what turned out to be the game-winner, a single by Yadier Molina that glanced off Darwin Barney's glove. If Barney doesn't deflect that, maybe it gets to David DeJesus faster and DDJ might have a chance to throw Holliday out at the plate, but with the ball slowed down, DDJ had no shot.
It really all comes down to walks. Cubs pitchers issued six walks Tuesday afternoon; Cardinals pitchers had just one (by closer Jason Motte after Soriano's home run). That gives the Cubs pitching staff 140 walks for the season, just two fewer than the major-league-worst Padres and one fewer than the Blue Jays. You're not going to be a winning team if your pitching staff is simply putting hitters on base. That's a pace that would have the Cubs staff walking 635 batters this year, which would be third-worst in team history (the two worse: 687 in 2006, 658 in 2000, both of which were horrific seasons).
And don't even get me started on the bunting.
In past years, coming home to play the Phillies would be a tough series. But the Phillies are struggling this season, just 18-19 after an extra-inning win over the Astros Tuesday afternoon. Maybe the Cubs can do better in that two-game series than they did in the one just ended.