Often, when talking about baseball, we hear the phrase in the headline to this recap: "Baseball is a game of inches."
That was almost literally true Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium, as the Cubs lost 5-3 to the Cardinals in a game delayed more than three hours by steady rain. (The delay, three hours, 21 minutes, was 40 minutes longer than the game.)
In the top of the first inning, with Jason Heyward on base with a single and two out, Anthony Rizzo launched a fly ball to left-center field:
About six more inches on that ball and Rizzo has a two-run homer. Instead, it's just a long, loud out and a fine catch by Randal Grichuk, ending the inning.
Just a few minutes later, in the bottom of the inning, after Stephen Piscotty had doubled with one out, Matt Holliday homered [VIDEO], barely into the first row with Kris Bryant looking up forlornly. A couple feet less on that blast and Bryant catches it at the wall.
And there you have it, a few inches, or maybe two or three feet, the difference between having the Cubs lead 2-0 and the Cardinals actually leading 2-0 after the first inning.
Kyle Hendricks gave up two more runs in the second inning on a double, a single and a wild pitch (for the first run) and then a stolen base and single by Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez for the second. After that Hendricks settled down, helped in part by a successful replay challenge on this play:
Hendricks made it through one out in the sixth inning before being lifted for Clayton Richard with two men on base. Richard and Neil Ramirez got out of the inning, but the failure of Hendricks to go six broke the Cubs' streak of having starters go at least six innings at 14 consecutive games. Hendricks didn't pitch all that badly, but the Cubs couldn't do very much with Martinez, except for Rizzo, who crushed this home run [VIDEO] into the second level of the right-field bleachers in the fourth inning. But the Cubs could manage just two other hits off Martinez.
There was one more Cubs highlight on this day, this fine catch by Bryant [VIDEO] of a sinking liner hit by Matt Adams to end the third inning.
After the rain delay, the Cubs scored a pair of runs in the eighth off new Cardinals reliever Seung Hwan Oh, the first runs he'd allowed in the big leagues after coming over from Korea, making the score 4-3. But like last Sunday, the Cubs entered the opposition's last at-bat trailing by a run, then coughed up an insurance run, this one off Adam Warren, and the two-run deficit was too much to overcome.
Interestingly enough, two of the Cubs' four defeats so far this year are day games after night games. Any connection? Probably too early to tell. Joe Maddon even shuffled his lineup a bit for this one, perhaps trying to get more rested players into this game. For this one, it's probably less that factor than two fly balls that went the Cardinals' way instead of the Cubs' way.
But the Cubs can't leave St. Louis too unhappy. They came into their biggest rival's ballpark and took two of three, likely exactly what they'd hoped for going in. In general they got solid pitching, and at least in the two wins, timely hitting. This all bodes well for the future.
Thursday evening, the Cubs open a four-game series against the Reds in Cincinnati. Jake Arrieta will face Brandon Finnegan .