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Cubs Win First Series Of 2012 With Stunning Walkoff Win Over Cardinals


I had about six different ledes written in my head for this recap, including blasting Carlos Marmol for again blowing a lead, ripping Dale Sveum for some questionable bullpen management, and...

None of that matters, at least for one day. The Cubs came from behind for the second night in a row and defeated the Cardinals 3-2, this time in 10 innings, also posting their second straight win in their final at-bat. In so doing, they won the series, their first series victory of this young season.

Let's be honest here for a moment. The Cubs got the benefit of two very-probably-wrong umpiring calls, the first of which gave them a run, the second of which set up the winning run. David DeJesus never touched the plate (somehow appropriate in a game in which Matt Holliday was playing for the other team) in being credited with scoring on Starlin Castro's sacrifice fly in the first inning. But then, replays showed that Yadier Molina never tagged him, either. So maybe that one's a wash.

During the winning 10th-inning rally, Tony Campana was probably out trying to steal second base. But second-base umpire Bill Welke called him safe; that got Cardinals manager Mike Matheny his first career ejection. Two batters later, Campana scored the winning run when Alfonso Soriano's sharp grounder bounced off Tyler Greene's glove and into right-center field for the game-winning hit.

We'll take them.

Jeff Samardzija was dominant, throwing 6⅔ innings, allowing just four hits, and striking out a career-high nine batters. He did all of this while throwing just 90 pitches. His batting order spot was coming up in the bottom of the seventh. So what was the big hurry in yanking him, Dale? Samardzija was so good, he probably could have thrown another inning, or maybe even gone nine. Shawn Camp finished the inning without incident, and then was removed for a pinch-hitter. Rafael Dolis came in to begin the eighth, and got two outs on line drives to Soriano sandwiched around a walk.

Here's where I question Sveum's bullpen management. To me, every game has a rhythm. If you disrupt that rhythm with needless pitching changes, bad things can happen. Yes, Holliday is a good hitter. But Dolis had two out and a lead and a runner on first base. What's the worst that could have happened? Instead of letting Dolis work his way out of it, Sveum summoned Carlos Marmol. You know, because the "closer" has to "close". Marmol has been bad at that this year. That was his third save opportunity. He has converted one of them. The worst did, in fact, happen. Holliday homered, giving the Cardinals a 2-1 lead.

Onward the game went. Michael Bowden relieved Marmol, making his Cubs debut. He has an odd little motion, pushing the ball instead of pitching it. It was easy to see why he struggled at times in the Red Sox organization; throwing strikes appears to be an issue with him. He threw only 13 strikes in 29 pitches, giving up a double and walking the bases loaded after two were out. But he managed to get Skip Schumaker on a soft line drive hit right at Castro, and on the game went to the bottom of the ninth.

Bryan LaHair had an entire cheering section at Wrigley Field Tuesday night. Perhaps you heard them on the TV or radio broadcast yelling, "Let's go Bryan!" It serves as a note, perhaps, to LaHair's current standing among players that this group of maybe 50 people -- relatives? people from his hometown? just random people who like him? -- was shunted to the far corner of the left-field upper deck. They had signs with his picture that they were waving through his first three at-bats, which consisted of a single and two strikeouts.

Too bad, then, that almost all of them had left when LaHair launched Marc Rzepczynski's first pitch of the bottom of the ninth into the bleachers in left-center field for his third home run of the year.

It was the Cubs' first homer since LaHair's own grand slam 10 games earlier, in St. Louis off Adam Wainwright. It was also LaHair's first hit all season against a lefthanded pitcher (1-for-6). Maybe he should get more playing time against lefties. (You think?)

I give the guy all the credit in the world. He's hit well. He's drawn walks and been patient at the plate. So far, at least, he's looking like a very good major league hitter, with the possibility of being excellent. Still early. We'll see where he stands a month from now.

The Cubs got the winning run to third base with two out after an error and a single, but Monday night's hero, Joe Mather, struck out.

That led to the 10th-inning heroics, started by Campana's single up the middle. Campana is having much better at-bats this season, working counts, and has a hit in all four games in which he has appeared. After the controversial steal and a strikeout, LaHair was intentionally walked, then Soriano became the hero-of-the-night with his single.

It might not mean much in the overall scheme of things -- we all know this team's abilities, and they probably can't do this on a daily basis -- but wins like this are fun, even more so when they're over the Cardinals, who had looked pretty dominant before they got to Wrigley Field. The game was witnessed by a surprisingly large house; 38,894 was the announced total, and there were probably 31,000 in the ballpark, perhaps lured by Monday night's victory. No one can expect to see a pair of walkoff wins like that two nights in a row, but there you have them.

A sweep? Possible? Hey, you never know. Chris Volstad faces Lance Lynn Wednesday afternoon. The game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CDT.