The St. Louis Cardinals rolled into town for a four-game set against the Cubs Thursday, in a battle of NL Central contenders. In the end, the Cardinals showed that they should be taken very, very seriously this season, bashing their way to a 7-4 win.
All I can say is...ouch. The thing that has struck me from the beginning about the 2009 Cubs is that they are very front-line heavy, featuring big hitters in the starting lineup, and some very impressive names at the front of the rotation.
However, once you scratch the surface a bit, you find a suspect bench, a less than sturdy back of the rotation, and a highly suspect bullpen. And most of that was on display today.
Let's start with Sean Marshall. While to his credit he's not seen meaningful action since the end of spring training, he was rocky—to say the least. The box score will tell you that he was okay—going five innings, while allowing three runs—but don't buy it.
The Cardinals worked him over and wore him down, including a monster bash by Chris Duncan in the fourth inning. The worst part, though, wasn't his performance, but that his early exit forced the Cubs to utilize their middle relief, which is just bad.
What about Aaron Heilman? Rocked for a Khalil Greene solo shot in his inning of work.
David Patton was beaten like a rented mule, allowing two runs in two-thirds of an inning.
Neal Cotts was once again failing to get out that one lefty that, you know, he's supposed to get out as the LOOGY.
Angel Guzman? Brian Barden home run in the eighth.
Mercifully, Jose Vizcaino retired the side with a scoreless inning in the ninth, but I suspect that the Cardinals were more interested in dinner plans at that point than padding a lead.
But the Cubs did keep it interesting for a bit, especially with a three-run Kosuke Fukudome homer in the fifth inning to keep the score close.
But when pinch-hitter Milton Bradley struck out in the sixth inning, that was pretty much the end of the story. But hey, I'd never seen a Bradley episode in person, so his subsequent ejection for arguing the called third strike alone was worth the price of admission.
Well, there are three more games to try to salvage this series, which got off on a very bad foot today. In the meantime, I'm going to go now. I'm sitting in a bar with third base coach Mike Quade—no, I'm not kidding—and it's much more interesting than recapping this terrible game.
He's stopped to take a call from someone looking for a scouting report on ex-Cub Casey McGehee. While I think it would be in terribly poor taste to tell you who I think is on the other end, I will say that his scouting report is not only drop-dead funny, but almost Bull Durham-esque in nature.
Till next time.
Click here for the photo gallery of today's game.