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Cardinals 10, Cubs 4: Back To The Drawing Board

Jake Arrieta is expected back in the Cubs' rotation soon. Not a moment too soon, I'd say.

Dilip Vishwanat

Cubs manager Rick(y) Renteria challenged this close play at first base in the bottom of the third inning and won:

It was pretty clear even on first viewing that the runner was out; the correct call was made, saving (at the time) the Cubs a run, leaving the score at 4-1 going into the fourth inning, a reasonably close game. This is one of the best reasons to have review; there's no silly arguments, no ejections, just having the result reflect what the players actually do on the field, rather than one man's opinion of what happened. Under the pre-review system, Renteria probably gets tossed, it's 5-1, and the Cardinals are still batting, perhaps scoring even more runs.

This might have mattered if Carlos Villanueva hadn't blown up in a nasty, five-run fourth inning for St. Louis in which the Cubs did almost nothing right. It's not even worth going through the mess of play-by-play which resulted in the just-arrived Chris Rusin replacing Villanueva.

Rusin did help save the bullpen by throwing five decent innings in which he allowed just one run. Do you know how rare a five-inning relief appearance is for the Cubs? Under previous managers Dale Sveum and Mike Quade, the team seemed allergic to allowing relievers to go more than two innings. From 2011-13, three full seasons, the Cubs had just two relief appearances of five innings. (This 2011 game, in which I believe Carlos Zambrano left due to injury, and this 2012 game, in which Matt Garza got pounded, much as Villanueva did today, in a three-inning outing.)

It's good, I think, that Rick(y) Renteria is willing to actually use a relief pitcher as a "long reliever" and give the rest of the pen a break. The previous two (really, three, because Lou Piniella wouldn't do it, either; he had just one reliever with a five-inning appearance during his tenure) managers kept going back to their bullpens over and over and over, with predictable results.

That doesn't help the result of this game, a 10-4 loss to the Cardinals, just the second loss of the season in which the Cubs were really blown out. Among good things that happened for the Cubs, apart from Rusin's outing:

  • Junior Lake led off the game with a home run (on the first pitch), the first leadoff homer of his career
  • Nate Schierholtz continued his hot hitting, with two doubles
  • Starlin Castro made a couple of nice defensive plays, including the above-mentioned throw which wound up being acknowledged as an out on review

As noted above, Carlos Villanueva in the rotation won't last much longer. Jake Arrieta is supposed to make one more rehab start and then should take that rotation slot. It's possible Renteria might choose to move Villanueva to the bullpen (where he threw much better last year than he did as a starter) and give Rusin a start the next time this turn in the rotation comes up.

Interesting random note from this game: because the Cardinals were wearing their alternate home uniforms with "St. Louis" on the front, and the Cubs had on their "CUBS" alts (although, the Cubs have yet to wear the "CHICAGO" jerseys on the road this year), we saw an unusual game in which the home team's uniform had the city name on it and the visiting team's jerseys had the team name. Just four other teams -- the Angels, Rays, Brewers and Phillies -- have road uniforms that bear the team name on the shirt.

So the Cubs will have one more chance to win this series, Sunday afternoon in St. Louis, with ex-Cardinal (granted, he's almost ex-every team) Edwin Jackson facing Michael Wacha. The bullpen, at least, should be well-rested after Rusin's nice performance Saturday.