The walk-off blues

LaTroy Hawkins paced the Cubs clubhouse Friday night like a caged lion after walking home the winning run in the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss to St. Louis at Busch Stadium.

There was no way to console the reliever after he walked Mike Matheny on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and the bases loaded, ending an intense game with a thud in front of a crowd of 44,224.

"I didn't throw it where I needed to for a strike," Hawkins said. "I can deal with getting beat, but I can't deal with walking guys. That's not acceptable."

The Cubs are now 3-14 in St. Louis in the last three seasons and 5-26 since 2000.

This one hurt, but starter Kerry Wood saw a silver liningafter the collapse.

"In the past we tended to beat ourselves and give them opportunity after opportunity to beat us," Wood said. "Obviously they ended up doing that, but [Friday night] we played pretty good. Just one of those games. We didn't pull it out at the end."

Wood allowed two earned runs on five hits in eight innings, striking out 10 and walking none. But he left with the game tied 3-3, and the Cardinals won it on four walks.

Kyle Farnsworth opened the ninth for the Cubs with a four-pitch walk to Albert Pujols. Then Kent Mercker walked Jim Edmonds to bring Hawkins into the picture. After Scott Rolen's sacrifice bunt, Hawkins intentionally walked Edgar Renteria to load the bases before he retired Reggie Sanders on a pop foul.

Hawkins quickly got ahead of Matheny 0-2 but lost control of his fastball and, ultimately, the game.

"He just lost it, that's all," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "You won't see [Hawkins] do that probably ever again. He has been throwing the ball great too. It was just a bad ending to a good game."

The Cubs had a 2-0 lead when Michael Barrett was rewarded an apparent two-run homer down the left-field line in the fourth inning. But the call was reversed after the umpires consulted with each other, and Cardinals starter Woody Williams escaped the inning unscathed. Video replays backed up the reversal.

"It's a game of inches," Baker said. "And it was inches [Friday night]."

After Barrett's would-be homer was wiped out, the Cardinals came back in the bottom of the fourth with a two-out rally against Wood, who had retired the first 11 men he faced. Pujols singled and scored when Corey Patterson bobbled Edmonds' double , making it 2-1.

St. Louis tied it one inning later on Sanders' home run to center and took the lead in the sixth after Wood made an errant pickoff attempt at first that sent Tony Womack to third, from where he scored on Ray Lankford's sacrifice fly.

The Cardinals gave a run back in the seventh when Barrett doubled, moved to third on a sacrifice and scored on a wild pitch by reliever Ray King. The Cubs then blew a prime opportunity in the ninth due to poor execution by Alex Gonzalez.

Derrek Lee's leadoff walk off Cal Eldred put the go-ahead run on first, but Gonzalez popped up a bunt attempt and watched Matheny pick it up on a bounce and fire to second for the force.

Gonzalez was slow leaving the batter's box, apparently thinking the ball would roll foul, and was doubled up at first. Back-to-back singles by Barrett and Todd Hollandsworth followed.

"That was a tough one to lose," Baker said. "Especially the way [Wood] was dealing."