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Let me get this straight.

One of your key starting pitchers is injured and will miss his next start on Monday.

And a critical game on Friday night goes into extra innings, and the two pitchers called on in relief are the exact pitchers who would be called on to replace the injured starter?

Who's making these decisions, anyway? Daffy Duck?

I like Dusty Baker, as you know, but geez. Tony LaRussa's first man out of the bullpen last night was his closer. Baker's first man out of the bullpen ought to have been his closer.

Or, if he insisted on using Glendon Rusch, why use him for only one inning? Do a double-switch and keep him in the game!

This was only one of a myriad of things that went wrong last night in a completely frustrating, banging-your-head-against-the-wall 2-1 loss to the Cardinals.

You can mention the squeeze play all you want, but the real reason the Cubs lost this game is this boxscore line:

LOB: 11

How can you have the best pitcher in the NL constantly on the ropes, and not score more than one run?

How can you waste an absolutely spectacular performance by Carlos Zambrano? Frankly, even though you could see how much he was sweating on a hot and humid night, I think I'd have left him in for one more inning -- particularly since the Cubs really didn't have anyone better on the bench to pinch-hit. Even if you think that Z should have been removed from the mound, I think he still should have hit.

Jody Gerut, frankly, had a terrible at-bat pinch-hitting for Z. Jason Isringhausen threw five straight pitches out of the strike zone, inside, and Gerut swung and missed at three of them. Isringhausen was totally beatable last night and when Jerry Hairston tripled, standing on third with one out, everyone in the ballpark and every one of us watching via WGN knew what ought to happen next:

A squeeze bunt.

Ah, but Dusty Baker doesn't like squeezes. I suppose that's why he was the only one in the ballpark, or watching via WGN, who was surprised when David Eckstein's squeeze in the bottom of the 11th won the game for the Cardinals.

There were so many options with Eckstein at the plate:

  • give him an intentional walk.
Ah, but that brings up John Rodriguez, who had already homered for the other St. Louis run, and who had absolutely ridiculous stats at Triple-A Memphis this year (17 HR, 47 RBI in 34 games, including four grand slams), and Dusty doesn't want this guy beating him either. I can understand that. Option two:
  • Pitch out.
That's what I would have done on the 1-1 pitch. On the suicide squeeze, the runner is easily tagged out, and then Mitre could have likely retired Eckstein, who before the 11th had gone 0-for-4 against Z.
  • Walk both Eckstein and Rodriguez and pitch to Albert Pujols.
Well, I never said there were that many good options. Pujols, however, had gone 0-for-4, with two strikeouts.

The problem with this, of course, is that the wrong pitcher is in the game for such a scenario.

I keep going back to this, though:

LOB: 11

The game should never have gotten this far; the Cubs ought to have had, with nine hits and five walks (yes, they showed very good patience against Chris Carpenter), at least four or five runs, and made a statement to open this very, very important series. Three doubles and a triple -- more or less wasted; the only one of those that scored was Jerry Hairston's third-inning double; he advanced to third on a groundout and scored on another groundout.

Man, that's exciting baseball.

(That was sarcasm in case you didn't spot it.)

What was really exciting was Jeromy Burnitz' homer-saving catch in the sixth inning, jumping and sticking his glove just over the yellow line on the RF wall to steal a home run from Albert Pujols.

We cannot live on Web Gems, however.

And we cannot live with this bullpen, either -- not that it's totally terrible, just that it's mismanaged. Again, if Glendon Rusch is going to be in the game, he's got to be in there for more than one inning. And Sergio Mitre doesn't belong in such a tight game, unless it's the 15th or 16th inning.

And now, the Cubs don't really have an option for a starter on Monday to replace Kerry Wood. The article linked above suggests that Rich Hill might be recalled from Iowa to start -- but what does that do to the bullpen? Or is a trade brewing?

Whatever's happening, it had better happen soon. Carlos Zambrano threw perhaps his best game of the season last night, and all he has to show for it is a hug from Larry Rothschild in the dugout, a season high for strikeouts (12), and a no-decision.

The Cubs can still win this series, but obviously, it's much more difficult to do with Jerome Williams facing Matt Morris later today. I wonder if Fox will be assigning Cardinals PBP man Joe Buck to this game.

LOB: 11. This simply cannot continue.