For once, I get to write about another team making errors and mistakes and the Cubs jumping on those to score runs and win.
How refreshing, right?
The Cubs blew a 4-0 lead Monday night, but then the Cardinals started doing things that we have expected from Cubs teams in the past; the result was a 6-4 Cubs victory. That's the fourth win for the Cubs in seven meetings with St. Louis so far this season, with the second and final game of this brief two-game set to take place in just a few hours, on Tuesday afternoon. (Then the two clubs won't meet again until late July, when they'll play six more times in nine days. Love this scheduling!)
At last the Cubs have a win in a 2012 Ryan Dempster start, the first time they've done that, even though Dempster personally didn't get the "win". The game went scoreless into the fifth inning, when the Cubs raked Jake Westbrook for four runs, highlighted by Bryan LaHair's ninth home run of the season. LaHair came out of an 0-for-15 slump by going 3-for-4, and probably should have been 4-for-4; the ball he hit in the second inning was ruled an error on Matt Holliday. LaHair's .702 slugging percentage leads all MLB regular first basemen... by a lot. Second is Joey Votto at .583.
Unfortunately, Dempster and the Cubs coughed the lead right back in the sixth inning; a nice relay throw got David Freese at the plate with what would have been the tying run but the next hitter, Skip Schumaker, singled in Yadier Molina to tie the game at four.
Dempster was lifted in the seventh for pinch-hitter Reed Johnson with the bases loaded. Johnson struck out.
Cubs relievers did a nice job. Shawn Camp and Rafael Dolis (fourth save) threw three innings and allowed just one hit, a double by Allen Craig. The Cubs took the lead in the eighth inning, but I have to criticize Dale Sveum here for a moment.
What on Earth is he thinking, having one of his best hitters, Starlin Castro, lay down a bunt with runners on first and second with nobody out? First of all, Castro hasn't had a successful sac since 2010, and second, he's one of your best hitters! Let the guy hit!
Castro bunted into a double play. Fortunately, after LaHair was intentionally walked, Alfonso Soriano came through. He still doesn't have a home run, but he singled in David DeJesus with the lead run.
In the ninth inning, the Cubs added an insurance run when the Cardinals started making errors all over the place. After Geovany Soto was hit by a pitch, the Cubs tried another sacrifice bunt, this time by Darwin Barney. This time it worked, and Barney was safe at first when Schumaker dropped the ball.
Then Joe Mather bunted. I swear, for a moment I thought I saw Don Baylor in the Cubs dugout. (Baylor once had the Cubs bunt after a leadoff double in the bottom of the first inning. The Cubs didn't score in the inning and eventually lost the game.)
Mather's bunt was not good -- the Cardinals threw Soto out at third. But then, Freese threw the ball nearly into the seats along the first-base line, scoring Barney with the sixth run. Believe it or not, the Cubs are second-to-last in the National League in sacrifice bunts, tied with the Nationals with 12 (the Marlins are last with 10). Seems like Sveum brought that bunting tournament north from Arizona with the team; they bunt and bunt and bunt, and are hardly ever successful with them. Granted that this team doesn't have much power, but I'd rather see them hit-and-run, or just run, rather than this constant bunting failure. (If you're keeping score, or even if you aren't, that's four attempted sacrifices Monday night, only two of them successful.)
After that, Dolis had an uneventful ninth inning, striking out Rafael Furcal to end it.
The win moves the Cubs to within five games of the Cardinals. Despite St. Louis' great start, the Cardinals have lost four straight and seven of their last 11, and the Cubs, after their awful start, have won five of eight and the last two on this trip. They can sweep this abbreviated series and have a winning road trip with a victory Tuesday afternoon. (And please, knock off the bunting.)
The game preview will post here at 11 a.m. CDT.