Games like this absolutely infuriate me.
Infuriate? How can a crisply-pitched game with timely hitting, 5-2 Cubs win over the Cardinals, be infuriating?
Because I keep wondering why the team that showed up today can't show up every day! What is it about the 2009 Cubs that makes them play like this -- like the 2008 version -- one day, and another (yesterday, for example) look like they couldn't beat a team of T-ballers?
If anyone has the answer to that, call Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella right away. They, like the rest of us, would like to know.
Ted Lilly went eight innings for the first time since May 2 vs. the Marlins, when he also allowed just one run, and was in command all the way, posting his 100th career victory. He could have had eight shutout innings if Jeff Baker hadn't triple-clutched on a ground ball that the speedy Colby Rasmus beat out for an infield hit; later in that inning a bouncer by Ryan Ludwick glanced off Aramis Ramirez's glove for a RBI double, and that's all the Cardinals got till the ninth inning. More on that ninth inning later.
In the meantime, the Cubs came out swinging in the first inning against Brad Thompson, though the only really big hit was Baker's two-RBI single with the bases loaded, after Milton Bradley had taken one for the team and was hit by a pitch, forcing in the first run of the game. Nice work, Milton, and nice work again in the fourth inning; Bradley reached on a dropped third strike when it seemed as if no one really knew what was going on or where the ball was. That inning didn't produce any runs, but Lilly also had a nice idea when he tried to push a bunt past Thompson with Bradley on third. Lilly, realizing his hitting limitations, tried to surprise the Cardinals and almost got away with it. (Dave reminded me that such a play works much better with a lefthander on the mound.)
Lilly continued dominating; after the one run scored he gave up only two harmless singles and got out of the seventh with a slick double play that kept his pitch count low enough for him to throw the eighth (otherwise Angel Guzman or Sean Marshall probably would have thrown that inning). I especially liked the way Lilly ran out of the dugout for that eighth inning, something you likely didn't see on TV -- hustling, even though he was nearly gassed.
Then Lou decided to, again, give Carlos Marmol some work in a low-pressure situation, four runs up in the ninth inning. It was... not pretty. After an easy groundout, a single and walk put two runners on and then Marmol got a comebacker... which he almost threw into center field; it took a great stab by Ryan Theriot to prevent that, and Tony LaRussa came out to argue the out call at second base (he might have had a point; Theriot might have been off the bag). When Yadier Molina singled in a run, Lou was forced to summon Kevin Gregg to finish it off, which he did.
What's wrong with Marmol? Mike thinks his velocity might be down, which means he can't use the fastball as an out pitch and he either doesn't have command of, or doesn't trust, his slider, which was the pitch that got so many hitters out last year. It's getting beyond the point of "a couple of outings" for Marmol -- since June 2 he has thrown 18 innings and issued 20 walks. That's... well, it's bad. His season WHIP is 1.51 which is... well, it's bad. Maybe the All-Star break will help him get his head on straight.
The All-Star break also beckons Derrek Lee, who suffered a relapse of the neck spasms which put him out of action for almost a week in early May. D-Lee says he's good to go tomorrow, but I wouldn't take any chances with that unless he shows up tomorrow morning and says he's 100%. And although Koyie Hill said he could catch both games tomorrow, Jake Fox says he's ready to step in and catch if needed. If he is needed, expect him to catch the second game, where Randy Wells will start -- Fox caught Wells as they were both coming up through the system and making the same stops for the first few years of their careers.
Note I said "second game" -- Lou has, according to that link, decided to switch starters tomorrow and go with Z in the first game and Wells in the night game. That's fine with me. The Cubs can make a statement tomorrow. It's way past time to do so.