Every baseball team, when discussing its opponent's hitters, will say about one specific hitter on that team, "We can't let him beat us".
For the Cardinals, that hitter is Albert Pujols. It doesn't matter that Pujols is off to a slow start, or that Lance Berkman is hot; Pujols is the guy who you can't let beat you.
That's why it's inexplicable that Mike Quade would go out to the mound to talk to Jeff Samardzija in the bottom of the 12th inning and tell Shark to do anything with Pujols other than "Walk him".
Instead, Samardzija -- and Pujols confirmed this in postgame comments to Fox's Ken Rosenthal -- laid in a slider that Pujols was sitting on; Albert launched it into the Cubs' bullpen and the Cardinals had a 5-4 win over the Cubs, the Cubs' fifth straight loss, dropping them to a season-low 10 games under .500 and 10 games out of first place, and we have not even completed the first week of June yet.
Seriously, why would you do that? There are two out and nobody is on base, and I don't care how hot Lance Berkman is, he was 1-for-5 with two strikeouts Saturday afternoon. Put Pujols on and take your chances with Berkman. And the performance by Pujols today -- which puts him back on track to have his typical 1.000 OPS season (he raised his OPS from .761 to .804 today, and I should note that only one player with close to full-time playing time on the current Cubs roster, Alfonso Soriano at .823, has an OPS higher than .804) -- is exactly the reason the Cubs absolutely, positively need to sign him. Is one player the turnaround for this team? Not as presently constituted, of course, with half a Triple-A roster on the field. But the Cubs need a positive buzz and to sell tickets. Albert Pujols would do that.
All of this ruined a pretty good outing from Randy Wells, who allowed just three hits. One of them was Pujols' first HR of the day, also the Cardinals' first hit, which made it 2-0 St. Louis after Ryan Theriot walked. Sean Marshall gave up only two hits, but one of them allowed a run charged to Wells to score and tie the game at 4 in the last of the sixth after the Cubs had taken a 4-2 lead in the top of the inning in part thanks to a two-run homer from Carlos Pena, his eighth.
The bullpen then did an outstanding job, at least until Shark's mistake. Kerry Wood, James Russell and Carlos Marmol threw four shutout innings, allowing just three hits and a walk and striking out five. Unfortunately, the split-squad spring training lineup couldn't score.
- Tyler Colvin really, truly looks overmatched. Can we get Brett Jackson up here, please? It's time.
- Blake DeWitt isn't really a very good 3B, even though that was his primary position in the minor leagues. He had a tough error today and he doesn't hit enough to play corner infield (or outfield, either).
- Some of the Cubs callups would be the 25th man on most rosters -- Lou Montanez, for example. But Brad Snyder doesn't really belong on a major league team at all. It's kind of a waste of a roster spot to use on a guy who's going to pinch-hit or pinch-run three times a week.
- Kosuke Fukudome was 3-for-5 today with an RBI. That gives him six for the year. The only other player who has that few RBI with as many PA as Kosuke is Jamey Carroll, who has four. But Carroll is a light-hitting middle infielder, not a corner outfielder.
Those of you who said the Cubs might get swept on this road trip may have a point. Carlos Zambrano, who's been very good lately (3.52 ERA and only three HR allowed in 46 innings since April 29) will try to salvage one game from this series tomorrow.
I know there are injuries. But the Cardinals have had just about as many injuries to key players as the Cubs have -- and they're threatening to run away with the division. It's all about having depth and an organization that can withstand injuries. At this time, it doesn't appear the Cubs can.
And I'm still hoping the Cubs are the winners of the Pujols Derby in the offseason.