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Anyone Still Got A Pulse Left?; Open Thread: Cubs vs. Cardinals, Saturday 9/15, 12:10 & 7:10 CT

Well, it's a good thing Daryle Ward is on this team, right? Ward hit a bases-clearing double in the top of the ninth inning, making a 2-1 game into a 5-1 game, and leaving some breathing room for Ryan Dempster -- who had a bad ninth inning, getting hit hard, allowing two HR and another hit -- but Bob Howry came in and shut the door (but not before allowing two more hits, putting the tying and winning runs on base), and the Cubs hung on for a paramedic-call 5-3 win over the Cardinals, solidifying their hold on first place, now a lead of 1.5 games after the Brewers lost to the Reds 6-5, an eerily similar game in which Cincinnati appeared to be in charge with a three-run ninth inning lead, but Bill Bray made it close by allowing a two-run HR to Brewers September callup catcher Mike Rivera, making it 6-5, before he finally closed it out.

About Ryan Dempster: yes, he sucked last night. In fact, Dempster's a standup guy: if you asked him, he'd probably tell you, "I sucked." Does that take away all the good outings he's had? No, it doesn't. Does that mean someone else should be the 9th-inning pitcher? No, it doesn't, because as was pointed out in the comments in the game thread, sometimes it's more important to get outs in the 7th or 8th, and Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry have been very, very good in those slots.

That said, though, I was glad to see Lou get Howry up after Dempster started to melt down, and to go get him when it was clear he (Dempster) had nothing. I don't think Lou will hesitate to put someone else out there if Dempster is shaky again. That's a good thing. But to shake up the entire bullpen? That wouldn't be a good idea, I think.

It almost negated a terrific outing from Carlos Zambrano, who allowed only four hits and a solo HR from Albert Pujols in what (for him) was an efficient 101-pitch 8 innings. There was much debate, both on the air (Bob Brenly said he'd have taken Z out) and here and by me about whether Z should start the 9th. I think that if he weren't coming back on three days' rest to start on Tuesday, Lou might have let him. But given that he IS coming back on three days' rest, it was the right call.

It gave us all heart failure. But a win's a win, right? You could see the Cubs, as they all went on the field to exchange high-fives, also exchange sheepish grins, as if to say, "Man, did we dodge a bullet tonight." And they did, and does it matter how they accomplished the feat? Not to me, it doesn't. I'll say it again: a win's a win.

Here's how loose the Cubs are right now -- Torii Hunter got thrown out of the Twins/Tigers game for arguing a strike call, and his friend and former teammate Jacque Jones had some fun with him:

... Jones called Hunter on his cell phone to razz him, and Hunter -- who figured he would be fined -- put Jones on speaker for everyone in the clubhouse to hear how loud Jones was laughing.
More about ejections: I was flipping over to the Brewers game between innings, and at one point I switched just in time to see Geoff Jenkins rung up by 3B umpire John Hirschbeck on a check-swing for a strikeout. Jenkins, naturally, didn't like this, and Hirschbeck started jawing at him from third base, and tossed Jenkins pretty fast. Now, not that I mind a Brewer being tossed, but this is just plain wrong. Umpires shouldn't be jawing at players from 90 feet away. It's as if Hirschbeck wanted to see himself on SportsCenter. I've seen more and more umpires do this in recent years -- trying to be part of the show. This sort of thing ought to stop -- and right now.

Another non-Cubs note: did you see who's filling in for Baltimore manager Dave Trembley while he's suspended?

"I've never seen one before like that [referring to an unusual unassisted DP turned by an outfielder, Jay Payton]," said interim manager Tom Treblehorn, who is leading the Orioles while Trembley serves a three-game suspension. "It was fortuitous for us."
And that AP recap linked above spelled Tom Trebelhorn's name wrong, too.

During the telecast Len and Bob had fun by mentioning that it was the 21st anniversary of the game in which Brenly made four errors in one inning, playing third base, a position he didn't play often or well (three booted grounders and a bad throw, leading to four unearned runs). The kicker, of course, is that Brenly hit two HR in that game -- including a walkoff off ex-Cub Paul Assenmacher.

Hey, we can have some fun after a game like that, right? Especially when it's onward to a long day's baseball journey into night:

Game One Starting Pitchers
Ted Lilly
T. Lilly
vs. Braden Looper
B. Looper
15-7 W-L 12-10
3.85 ERA 4.70
156 SO 80
51 BB 43
26 HR 19
vs. StL -- vs. Cubs
Game Two Starting Pitchers
Sean Marshall
S. Marshall
vs. Joel Piñiero
J. Piñiero
7-7 W-L 5-4
3.92 ERA 4.79
61 SO 46
32 BB 21
13 HR 12
vs. StL -- vs. Cubs
If Tony LaRussa had scheduled his pitchers differently, we could have had the third Lilly/Piñiero matchup in the last month. Instead, Lilly will face Braden Looper, who threw a decent game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on August 17, but was defeated by a two-run Jacque Jones HR. Looper's thrown almost twice as many innings this year (157) as in any other year in his career, majors or minors, and got pounded by the Diamondbacks in his last start, a good sign now that the Cubs seem to have their power bats cranked up again.

Sean Marshall has made only one relief appearance since his last start 16 days ago; perhaps the rest will do him good. He beat the Cardinals at Wrigley Field on August 18 in his only start this year against them.

For more info on Lilly and Piñiero check the gameday thread from last Monday, when they faced each other at Wrigley Field.

Site note and TV notes: this DH is as a result of the game that was cancelled on April 29 after the death of Josh Hancock. It was originally supposed to be on ESPN. The regularly scheduled game today was originally a Fox game, at 2:55 pm CT. Neither network will carry any Cub/Cardinal game today (and what a surprise: Fox will show the Red Sox and Yankees in Chicago today. Aren't we lucky!); the first game is on WGN, the second on cable in Chicago, over-the-air in St. Louis, on EI, and at the Mediacenter. This thread will serve as the recap and gameday thread for both games; I'll write up a DH recap and combined game thread tomorrow morning. Gameday for game 1 (2007 version) Gameday for game 1 (2006 version) Gameday for game 2 (2007 version) Gameday for game 2 (2006 version) Gameday for the Brewers/Reds game (6:05 CT starting time)

Discuss amongst yourselves.