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Cardinals 4, Cubs 1: The Thin Blue Line

The Cubs have had a thin margin for error all season. They crossed that line again Wednesday night in St. Louis.


The headline to this recap refers not to the 1988 movie with that title, but to the very thin line the Cubs have walked between victory and defeat this season.

Consider this: Wednesday night's game, which you probably weren't watching because you were riveted to the Blackhawks' overtime win over the Bruins in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth.

Edwin Jackson had struggled early, but had settled down and he and Jake Westbrook were locked in what appeared to be a pitcher's duel.

Matt Holliday led off the Cardinals' sixth with a single. Then Allen Craig hit what could have been a double-play ball to Starlin Castro. Castro flipped to Darwin Barney for one out, but Barney's relay throw to Anthony Rizzo was wide.

We'll never know what might have happened if that double play had been completed and Yadier Molina had faced Jackson with two out and no one on base. What did happen was, after Jackson had Molina in a 1-2 hole, he threw a fastball that Molina yanked into the left-field seats for a two-run homer. Game over, because the Cubs' offense was completely impotent Wednesday night, managing just two singles (Rizzo and Luis Valbuena, and Valbuena's had nothing to do with the run the Cubs scored) in a 4-1 loss to the Cardinals.

What more can be said? The Cardinals are a better team than the Cubs. The Cubs played them pretty tough, and made one mistake that cost them. A fourth run scored after Jackson hit Jon Jay and left the game for Carlos Villanueva. That made Jackson's line -- 5⅓ innings, four earned runs -- seem depressingly like his early-season results that had his ERA over six for most of the year. As a result, the bullpen's line looked okay -- 2⅔ innings, two singles allowed, and Blake Parker in particular had a nice outing -- but overall, it wasn't a good performance by this Cubs team.

Speaking of Molina, I wanted to call your attention to this comparison Dale Sveum made between the Cardinals All-Star and Welington Castillo:

"There's no question he can develop into the catching part of it," Sveum said. "But Molina didn't strike out a whole lot in his early days. The adjustments Molina has made, whether it's different stances, different approaches, all that — that's what it takes."

Castillo has worked hard on his defense and is a much better defender, pitch-caller and pitch-framer than he was when he was first called up. Sveum is right about the strikeouts: Castillo has 47 already this year, and that's just eight fewer than Molina has ever had in a full season. Also, Molina had already played four and a half seasons in the major leagues as the Cardinals' starting catcher by the time he was the age Castillo is now. Molina is also leading the major leagues in batting average as of this morning (.365), will likely be an All-Star for the fifth straight year, and if he keeps up his hitting, should get some MVP consideration this season.

Defensively, Castillo is pretty good, but still has a long way to go to get anywhere close to Molina. Hitting? Um, not so much.

The Cubs still have a chance to get out of St. Louis with a split of this four-game series, which in my view would be a major accomplishment for this year's Cubs. Scott Feldman will face Lance Lynn.