7/14 Cardinals 10, Cubs 6

The Cubs saw first-hand why the Cardinals are the best team in baseball at the All-Star break. St. Louis pounded a season-high 21 hits off the Cubs, including a go-ahead RBI single by Allen Craig with one out in the ninth and a three-run homer by Yadier Molina that inning, to post a 10-6 come from behind victory and split the series.

“That’s a great team over there, from top to bottom, even with [Matt] Holliday out,” Chicago starter and All-Star Travis Wood said. “They’ve got guys stepping in and filling the spots and doing an outstanding job. You’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game every time you face them.”

Wood did just that, holding the Cardinals to three runs over 5 2/3 innings, and falling one out shy of becoming the first Cubs pitcher ever to record 18 quality starts before the All-Star break. His 17 quality starts lead the Majors, and he’s the fourth Cubs pitcher in franchise history to have that many at the break, joining Bill Hands (1969), Fergie Jenkins (1969) and Greg Maddux (1988).

“When a guy has done what Travis has done, that’s our horse, and that’s our most consistent guy,” Dale Sveum said.

Wood reached 100 pitches when he walked Allen Craig with one on and two outs in the fifth. Pedro Strop took over, and needed just one pitch to end the inning, getting David Freese to ground out.

“It was just time,” Sveum said about his decision to pull Wood.

The Cubs needed nearly every pitcher as they tried to keep the Cardinals in check.

Chicago trailed 3-1 in the sixth against All-Star Adam Wainwright when Dioner Navarro and Brian Bogusevic hit back to back singles. One out later, Darwin Barney, who hit a RBI single in the second, launched the first pitch into the basket rimming the left field bleachers for his sixth home run. According to ESPN, the ball traveled 366 feet and would not have gone out of any other Major League ballpark except Wrigley Field.

“Barney’s home run was huge at a huge time,” Sveum said. “We had the bullpen set up. You’ve got to give their hitters a lot of credit. That’s why they’re the best hitting team in baseball. But [Pete] Kozma hits one off his thumbs that bloops in and took the momentum away from us.”

That was part of the Cardinals’ seventh inning rally against Matt Guerrier. Molina doubled and scored one out later on Kozma’s single that dropped over shortstop Starlin Castro. One out later, pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso singled to chase Guerrier, and Matt Carpenter greeted James Russell with a go-ahead RBI single.

Matt Adams added a RBI double in the eighth, driving in David Freese from second. Anthony Rizzo cut off Castro’s relay throw home, cutting off a possible play at the plate.

“I don’t know why he was there,” Sveum said of Rizzo. “That’s not really protocal in our playbook.”

Rizzo said he usually looks behind him to see where the catcher is, but didn’t this time.

“It would’ve been a close play,” Rizzo said.

“That didn’t lose the game for us,” Barney said. “They swung the bats a little better than we did. You can’t take anything away from them or say we did anything wrong. They had more good swings than we did in the end.”

The Cubs did rally again with one out in the eighth as pinch-hitter Cole Gillespie singled in his debut, and one out later, his former Oregon State teammate, Barney, singled, to set up pinch-hitter Cody Ransom’s two-run double off Edward Mujica, named to the All-Star Game late Sunday.

With the game tied at 6 and one out in the St. Louis ninth against Kevin Gregg, Carlos Beltran doubled to right and reached third on an error charged to Dave Sappelt, who lost his footing. Beltran tallied on Craig’s single and Freese then singled to set up Molina’s home run, his seventh.

“Yadi is unbelievable,” Barney said.

The Cubs end the first half 42-51, and 15 games back in the NL Central behind the Cardinals. Wood was given the go-ahead to take part in the All-Star Game. Tuesday would be his side day.

— Carrie Muskat


Loss aside, this game shows the Cubs really have something good going on here, and that the rebuilding effort is starting to yield fruit. 9 games under .500, playing roughly .500 baseball now in a year that was supposed to be another dismal season, I’d say this is going better than expected. I was prepared to write this year off, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

What a game! Sorry to lose but edge of seat excitement anyway. Welcome to Cole Gillespie – nice 1st hit, Cole.

Your guy is now batting “a thousand” for his new team White!!! Way to go Cole!! (Savor it….)

I fear the 2009 Kevin Gregg has returned……..trade him now.

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