The Cubs and Cardinals. The longest baseball rivalry, that spans even further back than the Yankees and Red Sox, once again delivered an incredible extra-innings slugfest on Friday night.
Skip Schumaker hammered a walk-off home run in the 11th inning to defeat the Cubs 5-3. Afterwards, he felt as if he was walking on air.
"I had a kid this offseason, and [the home run] is next," he said, momentarily leaving out one other big moment. "That was the best time for me in the big leagues by far. The walk-off [single] a couple days ago was a good feeling, but this was incredible. I'm at a loss for words. Other than having a kid and getting married -- should mention that one -- obviously the walk-off is the best."
This was not the first time Skip came to the rescue for the Cardinals this week. Last Saturday against the Astros he once again stepped up to the plate and delivered a game-winning single.
Schumaker was not alone in this rally. The essence of pinch hitting, Aaron Miles came into the game to get the ball rolling with a single. The small ball did not stop there as Brendan Ryan bunted Miles to third after Miles advanced to second on a wild throw.
Amidst all of the offense was a glaring weakness. The Cardinals closer. Jason Isringhausen allowed this extra-innings affair by giving up a 2-run home run to Alfonso Soriano in the 9th.
Isringhausen proclaimed he still felt fine and just made a mistake with his pitches.
"I feel great physically," he said. "I'm just struggling very badly right now. That's all I can say. I feel good. I make some good pitches, and then I make a bad pitch that ends up getting hit."
This seemed to spell doom for the Cardinals, but it was not to be. Ron Villone came out of the bullpen to shutdown the Cubs offense to get the victory.
A natural competitor, Villone reminded manager Tony LaRussa of another bullpen hurler.
"He is a really good competitor and he'll do anything out of that bullpen," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. "He gets into that game. He reminds me a lot of [Troy] Percival. They come in and they know it's your club trying to get the other club and you've got to get the hitter out. That was outstanding. That was huge what he did today."
Starter Adam Wainwright turned in a solid outing pitching six innings while only giving up one run. This, after coming off a career-high 126-pitch outing against the Astros six days ago.
Keeping it in perspective, Wainwright stated that it IS only one month into the season.
"I think my arm was given plenty of time to rest," Wainwright said. "The important thing is to not push it too early. We're just getting out of April here. It's good to be a hero, but not all in the first month."
Despite a costly mistake by Isringhausen, the Cardinals seem to keep finding the player to step up in the clutch that isn't named Albert Pujols. Rick Ankiel, Skip Schumaker, Brendan Ryan, Ryan Ludwick, Aaron Miles.
Get to know these names well as they will be popping up on score boards and Sportscenter highlights throughout the season.