Truth be told, I was only watching parts of this game until Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals were over. That was a mistake, because as bad as the Cubs are this year, their offense looked better than the Blackhawks' did Monday night, even though the result was another defeat, 5-2 to the Cardinals. (Many of you didn't appear to pay attention to the Cubs either, given the relatively small of comments in the game threads.)
At first, it appeared hockey-watching would go on uninterrupted, as thunderstorms that caused flooding in the St. Louis area didn't appear to want to move out of the way. But move out they did, and after a two-hour delay, the game began.
As has been the case for so many Cubs games this season, the team had a thin margin for error. Travis Wood threw very well, but a two-run double by Yadier Molina in the fourth inning appeared to be enough for the Cardinals to win, at least for a time. It turned out they'd need more than that, given the final score, and both the Cubs' defense and the umpires helped St. Louis out in the seventh.
With one out and runners on second and third, Pete Kozma grounded to Luis Valbuena. It looked like a routine play, but Valbuena bounced the ball to Anthony Rizzo, who couldn't handle it in time. Kozma was credited with a single, and Rizzo threw home to try to get Molina, who had been on third base. The ball went past Welington Castillo, who threw to Wood covering the plate.
Molina appeared to be out, but umpire D.J. Reyburn called him safe. Here's the play; you make the call. He looks out to me. He looked out to Dale Sveum, who, in quite the animated argument, was ejected. The Cardinals wound up scoring another run in the inning to take a 4-0 lead. (Molina looks out in the photo at the top of this post, too. Wood is clearly tagging him; look at where Molina's foot is, not quite touching the plate.)
Give the Cubs some credit; they wouldn't get shut out like the Blackhawks were. They scored consolation runs in the eighth and ninth, the latter on Darwin Barney's third home run of the season, yanked just inside the left-field foul pole. Barney now has 12 career home runs, 10 of them at Wrigley Field, just two on the road.
The other event of note in this otherwise routine loss was the Cubs debut of hard-throwing reliever Henry Rodriguez. You could see in his first two pitches both why he's got potential, and why the Nationals let him go. His first pitch, a 99 mile per hour fastball, hit umpire Reyburn in the foot. His second pitch, another fastball at 99, hit Carlos Beltran in the leg.
It's great when you have an arm that can throw that fast. But you need to have command of your pitches, too. If Rodriguez can learn command -- and at 26, that could still be possible for him -- the Cubs might have found a solid reliever. The Cardinals scored a run in the inning, but Rodriguez managed to settle down and throw six strikes in his nine pitches. After the run scored, he retired the final two batters in the inning on two pitches.
Otherwise, I suspect this is not going to be a happy series for the Cubs. The Cardinals are just a better team, in some areas a far better team. I'd love to see the Cubs get out of St. Louis with a win or two, but as they just had their most consistent starter this year throw the first game of the series, that might be a difficult request.
I'm certainly no expert on hockey, but the Blackhawks appear to be in a series against a better team, too. I'm hoping for better results in Game 4 Wednesday, but they're going to have to play a lot better than they did Monday night. The Cubs, meanwhile, will take on the Cardinals Tuesday, so if you care to watch, there's no conflict with hockey.