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Cardinals 2, Cubs 1: The sleep-deprived game

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The Cubs got swept out of St. Louis.

Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

This is exactly the kind of game you would expect to see after a long, rain-delayed contest finished at nearly 1 a.m. and the players needed to be back on the field 12 hours later.

Quick (2:38, tied for seventh-fastest Cubs game this year). Pitcher-dominated. And the first team to make a mistake, or to make more mistakes than its opponent, would lose.

That’s exactly what happened in the Cardinals’ 2-1 win over the Cubs Sunday afternoon. Cole Hamels actually outpitched Adam Wainwright, but the Cubs made too many mistakes and the Cardinals kept turning double plays and making fantastic defensive plays.

Hamels kept the Cardinals down in the early innings, but the Cubs had no hits off Wainwright. They did keep drawing walks, though. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make anything of them, as they hit into double plays in the first and second innings. When Kris Bryant finally broke up any thought that Wainwright would throw a no-hitter with a one-out single in the sixth, Anthony Rizzo followed with a screaming line drive that should have been a base hit into right-center.

But Kolten Wong leaped and snared Rizzo’s drive and doubled Bryant off first base to end the inning:

Oh, and while we’re talking about the sixth inning, let’s look at the pitch Kyle Schwarber took for “strike three”:

Pitch 7, which was called “strike three,” was in almost the precise location of pitch 1 (obscured), which was ball one. Seriously, umpires: Get these calls right. These things are being missed more and more often, especially on Schwarber, who has elite pitch-judging skills. Either that, or let’s get that automated strike zone implemented. Like, now.

The Cardinals had taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth off the Cubs’ first mistake. Jedd Gyorko singled with one out. Seriously, Gyorko is about the last guy on the Cardinals you’d expect to steal a base, but he did (that was just the 20th SB attempt of his seven-year career), and Willson Contreras’ throw went into center field, allowing Gyorko to take third base.

When Wong hit a fly ball to medium-deep center field, Gyorko scored. A popup ended the inning, so if not for the error, no run likely would have scored.

With one out in the eighth, the Cubs mounted a rally again. Daniel Descalso, batting for Hamels, walked and Schwarber blooped a single to left. Bryant struck out, bringing up Rizzo again. And he blooped a ball into short right field that looked like it was going to be a run-scoring single... but Wong leaped and grabbed it, robbing Rizzo for the second time in the game:

And just to show you it doesn’t matter how hard you hit the ball:

Wainwright was allowed to throw a ridiculously large number of pitches in this one, 126. It’s the second-most pitches thrown by anyone this year, the only starter who threw more: Mike Fiers, who threw 131 in his no-hitter May 7. But even in that no-hitter, Fiers walked just two. Wainwright walked seven, which hasn’t been done in a long, long time:

And for a Cardinals pitcher, even longer:

Still, it’s only 1-0 and Brad Brach allowed a one-out single to Wong, then retired rookie catcher Andrew Knizner. Matt Carpenter stepped in to bat for Wainwright, so Joe Maddon called on the only lefty he had available, Mike Montgomery (Kyle Ryan had thrown 20 pitches sometime north of midnight).

This was a really bad idea, and here’s why:

baseball-reference.com

Small sample size, to be sure, but did the Cubs really want Montgomery, who had those numbers vs. LHB going into this game, facing the lefty-hitting Carpenter? Especially since Carpenter is actually doing somewhat worse vs. RHP this year:

baseball-reference.com

Well, if you didn’t see it, you can guess what’s next. Wong stole second and Carpenter singled him in, making it 2-0.

That’s what made the ninth inning so frustrating, because the Cubs did rally against tired (35 pitches Friday night) Cardinals closer Jordan Hicks. Contreras walked and Jason Heyward singled him to third, putting the tying run on base. John Gant relieved Hicks and Addison Russell hit a slow grounder, not fast enough for a double play, and Contreras scored. If not for the extra run, the game would have been tied.

David Bote, who’s had some late-inning heroics in his career, was next, but he grounded out to end it, and the Cubs, who swept the Cardinals at Wrigley four weeks ago, had the “favor” returned to them.

I’m going to steal a page from Thomas Smith’s Heroes & Goats page and remind you that no team is as bad as it looks when it’s on a losing streak. The Cubs allowed 26 runs on this six-game road trip, which isn’t awful... but they scored only 19, which is where the real problem lies. This team is too good to hit like this for long, and soon, Carlos Gonzalez will join the ballclub. He certainly would have been sent up to pinch-hit at some point in this one if he’d been on the roster. Not saying CarGo is the answer to the Cubs’ offensive drought, but he’ll be a better bench player than Jim Adduci (no offense, Jim).

One last note on the KB/St. Louis is boring kerfuffle. The WGN broadcast did this during the game:

Well, ha ha ha, but can we let this go now? Bryant, according to the WGN broadcast, said he was getting tired of being asked about this every day by the beat writers, and at the very least, maybe they ought to stop doing that. The Cubs will get their chance for revenge on the Cardinals in less than a week, as the Cards will be at Wrigley Field for a three-game set starting Friday.

In the meantime, there are other home games to be won. The Angels visit Wrigley Monday afternoon for the makeup of their April 14 snowout. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and our old buddy Trevor Cahill will be on the mound for the Halos. Game time Monday is 3:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will again be via WGN.

Hang in there. The recent losing is just part of the ups and downs of a normal season. This team will be just fine.