Thursday, September 11, 2008

When You Come By, Bring My Stomach: Cubs 4, Cardinals 3

When You Come By, Bring My Stomach: Cubs 4, Cardinals 3

If you are a Cubs fan of "a certain age", you will recognize the headline of this post as something Jack Brickhouse would say every time the Cubs got out of a tough situation.

That was the case last night as I sat screaming at my TV after Kerry Wood gave up the two-run homer to Ryan Ludwick in the 9th inning: "He should have let Lilly finish it!"

Ted Lilly survived a shaky first inning and after that was outstanding, throwing only 90 total pitches and allowing just five hits, the single run in the first and walked no one and the Cubs survived Wood's rust and beat the Cardinals 4-3, holding on to their 4.5 game lead over the Brewers and reducing the magic number to clinch the division title to 13, and to clinch a playoff spot to 9.

It was the third straight game decided by a 4-3 score. The Cubs scored just enough runs in the second inning, helped out by two Cardinals errors -- and they should have scored more; they had three runs in with nobody out when Lilly raced home on a contact play and crashed into Yadier Molina, who held on to the ball and tagged him out. It was a very aggressive play for a pitcher, but Lilly has that bulldog attitude in him. Another run scored later in the inning and the Cubs had the bases loaded with two out, but Kosuke Fukudome was called out on strikes.

In the third, Alfonso Soriano threw out Cesar Izturis at the plate on one of his patented throws where he slings the ball sidearm and at first you can't believe he has anything on the throw, yet it gets there in time. It was a little to the first base side of the plate and so Geovany Soto didn't have time to get his leg in to block the plate; it was a very close play and replays showed that Izturis... well, he might have been safe.

Nevertheless, no one argued, and we'll take it. Lilly settled down and had several low pitch-count innings, and really, could have and should have been allowed to finish. Yes, I know Wood needed the work -- he's pitched only twice in eight days -- and it appears he still needs the work, since he gave up ringing extra-base hits to Ludwick and Albert Pujols, who doubled before Ludwick's homer.

Other good things: Soriano drove in his 70th run of the year. That equals his total from 2007 -- in 39 fewer games, and there are still 17 games remaining on the schedule. Felix Pie had a nice game in his first start since returning from Iowa -- walking twice (where did he learn to do that?), singling, scoring a run and driving one in. It's extremely small sample size, obviously, one game, and no judgments on his future can be made from this game. But it's a positive to build on.

One thing for the future that has to be decided immediately: where are the Cubs and Astros going to play their weekend series?

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said he had spoken Wednesday to Katy Feeney, Major League Baseball's senior vice president of scheduling, and she had no concrete plans for rescheduling games.

There has been no known talk about shifting the Saturday or Sunday games, though there is speculation Saturday's game would be postponed if the hurricane hits Houston, possibly forcing a doubleheader Sunday or single games Sunday and Monday, which is an off day for both teams.

Another possibility is playing the final two games in St. Louis because the Cardinals will be in Pittsburgh.

Well, if they're going to play in St. Louis, why not play the entire series there, rather than make the Cubs fly to Houston, then fly back to St. Louis a day later? Phil Rogers, in one of his rare pieces that make sense, lays out the scenario:

The Astros seem to be preparing for a scenario in which the teams play Friday, hunker down while the hurricane blows through Saturday and then choose between a day-night doubleheader Sunday or single games Sunday and Monday (when both teams have scheduled days off). If the storm is too bad for them to play Sunday, theoretically the Cubs could stay over until Monday for a split doubleheader.

"I don't think we can get out [of Houston] if we get in," Piniella said Wednesday. "We stay in [through the storm] if we get in."

Huh? Isn't this just a little absurd?

While the lateness of the season dictates this series has to be played, there's no way it should remain in Houston, no matter how loudly McLane argues that his team deserves home-field advantage as it tries to stay alive in the wild-card race.

There are 15 major-league parks that will sit empty this weekend, including Wrigley Field.

The series should be moved to a neutral site—say, Busch Stadium in St. Louis or Turner Field in Atlanta—if McLane and Selig aren't agreeable to the Cubs getting three extra home games in the middle of the playoff race.

This probably could go without saying, but money is a factor. The Astros expect three sellouts, bringing in revenue to help underwrite their $90 million payroll, and will be forced to refund money if the games aren't played.

This is where MLB needs to step in, dipping into the central fund to help subsidize McLane's losses. Ticket sales from a relocated series could be donated to hurricane relief, with the Cubs and Astros providing matching funds.

Here's the predicted track of the hurricane as of 7 am CDT today:

Evacuate!

MLB wants the Cubs to ride that out sitting in Houston? I say, no way. Move the series to a neutral site -- St. Louis makes the most logical sense. Hope they make a decision soon.

In any event, there is business to be taken care of first: win this series, and root for the Phillies tonight.

Al Thu, 11 Sep 2008 13:31:28 -0000

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