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Cardinals 6, Cubs 2: Déjà Vu

The Cubs got blown out and shut out Friday. The Cubs got blown out and scored a pair of consolation runs Saturday. I'm detecting a pattern here.

Dilip Vishwanat

If you are calling up BCB Saturday evening expecting to see game threads for the 6:15 p.m. CT scheduled start -- you're too late, because the game was moved to 3:15 p.m. CT due to a forecast of mid-evening storms that could have forced a long rain delay.

If that's the case, trust me, you didn't miss much. The Cardinals crushed the Cubs for the second straight day, 6-2, in a game that felt depressingly like Friday night's. Anthony Rizzo's ninth-inning homer, his 23rd, ruined St. Louis' chance for their second straight shutout; two doubles, by J.C. Boscan and Donnie Murphy, scored another run before a double play ended it.

It's too bad that Edwin Jackson hadn't been scheduled for the same fate as Travis Wood, because if he had been pulled after the first inning, the Cubs would have gone into the late innings trailing just 2-0 and maybe they'd have been able to put together some sort of rally against the Cardinals bullpen after Adam Wainwright was pulled after 5⅓ innings and 72 pitches, likely to give him a break before he opens St. Louis' division series next Thursday. (And a big thank you -- serious, not sarcastic -- to WGN-TV for cutting away during Wainwright's replacement, before the Cardinal fans' likely ovation for him. We didn't need to see that, and thanks to WGN for not imposing it on us. However, one WGN thing I will not miss are the "summer" commercials for that awful beer.)

Jackson... man, this was another bad start in a horrible season. His 18th loss leads the major leagues this year. No one else has more than 16. He managed to keep his ERA under 5 -- barely, at 4.98. That ranks 79th of 82 qualified starters in the major leagues this year. His 1.46 WHIP also ranks 79th. By almost all measures, Jackson was one of the three or four worst starters in the major leagues this year, and of the others, only one (Edinson Volquez) spent the year in the National League.

And, Jackson ended his year not only with a bad outing, but with an injury:

This shouldn't be a big deal, and he has five months or so to get it fixed before spring training.

Let's hope for a better year from Jackson in 2014. He could hardly be worse, and the Cubs are pretty much stuck with him for three more years.

Of the offense in Saturday's game, not much can be said; apart from the little ninth-inning rally, the Cubs managed just four other hits: a double by Starlin Castro in the eighth and three singles, to go along with two walks. Give credit to the bullpen Saturday: Carlos Villanueva, Zac Rosscup, Justin Grimm and Blake Parker threw 5⅓ innings, allowing just two hits and one walk and striking out seven. Rosscup, in particular, has had a nice little run in September, and has a chance to be a part of next year's bullpen. It would be very, very good to have two, or even three, lefthanders in the pen in 2014.

Speaking of Villanueva, take a look at these two stat lines:

2013 - Carlos Villanueva 7-8 47 15 0 0 0 1 128.2 117 58 58 14 40 103 4.06 1.22

2012 - Carlos Villanueva 7-7 38 16 0 0 0 0 125.1 113 59 58 23 46 122 4.16 1.27

I mean, if you didn't see the name attached, you'd certainly guess those were two years from the same player. Villanueva had almost precisely the year for the Cubs in 2013 that he had for the Blue Jays in 2012. A few more relief appearances this year, fewer home runs allowed, fewer walks and fewer strikeouts, but essentially the same numbers within a couple percent in almost every category.

So, the Cubs will put their 2013 season to bed Sunday afternoon against the Cardinals, who are still trying to win to clinch home field throughout the National League playoffs (they'd need to finish ahead of the Braves; if the teams wind up tied, Atlanta gets the nod due to winning the season series over St. Louis). Jeff Samardzija will go for the Cubs, and in a change, Jake Westbrook will start for St. Louis.

As far as the other still-unfinished playoff race (American League wild card) goes, the Indians won Saturday. Thus they are in command; if they win, they're in as the first wild card and would host the wild-card game. The Rays and Rangers lost Saturday and remained tied; if one wins and the other loses, that winner would head to Cleveland. If they do the same thing Sunday, Texas and Tampa Bay would be tied and would play off for the second wild card Monday... but there's still a shot at the three-way tie I wrote about earlier today.

Here's hoping. Well, I am, at least. The more baseball, the merrier.