Cubs' bullpen collapses

Chicago CubsSportsBaseballTony WomackDerrek LeeMichael BarrettSteve Kline

The Cubs and Cardinals have played each other 2,152 times since 1892, but few of those games could match the electricity in the final innings of Wednesday night's showdown at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis blew two early leads before bouncing back from a four-run deficit to score the winning run on a passed ball in the eighth inning of a 10-9 victory.

One disputed pitch to Reggie Sanders in the seventh led to a chain of events that caused catcher Michael Barrett to be ejected along with reliever Kent Mercker. Barrett's replacement, Paul Bako, was charged with a passed ball with two outs in the eighth that allowed So Taguchi to score the go-ahead run.

"The ball just got away," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "It's a tough way to lose a game. That was a heck of a game. This is a heck of a series."

The Cubs led 9-8 with one on and one out in the seventh when Mercker thought he had struck out Sanders on a 2-2 pitch. Sanders wound up doubling and the tying run scored on Hector Luna's sacrifice fly. After the inning ended, home plate umpire Sam Holbrook ejected Mercker and Barrett.

"I'm in the heat of the battle," Mercker said. "I don't really ever show emotion or complain. But games like this, [pitching coach Larry Rothschild] works his butt off to teach us how to throw strikes, and when you do it, you want them called, especially in a game with a situation like that. It wasn't even borderline. If it was fringe, I wouldn't have said a word."

Barrett said he felt "awful" about the ejection and called it "massive confusion" because he thought he was tossed first when actually it was Mercker. When Barrett tossed his helmet, he was next to go.

"I was just trying to make a point to Sam, and before I knew it, we were both tossed out," Barrett said. "I didn't think either one, Mercker or I, deserved to be thrown out in that situation."

Bako replaced Barrett in the next inning, and Mike Remlinger (0-1) walked Taguchi leading off the eighth. After a sacrifice and groundout put Taguchi on third, Baker called on Kyle Farnsworth to face Edgar Renteria. Farnsworth's first pitch rose on Bako and deflected off his outstretched glove, sailing to the backstop as Taguchi scored.

The Cubs went down meekly against Steve Kline (2-1) in the ninth, falling two games behind leading St. Louis in the National League Central race.

Todd Walker had four hits, including a homer, and Derrek Lee reached base five times, but the Cubs committed three errors and stranded 11 runners.

Glendon Rusch put the Cubs in an early hole when he served up a two-out, three-run home run to Albert Pujols in the third inning. The Cubs stormed back against Jeff Suppan in the fifth, tying it 3-3 on Aramis Ramirez's two-run double and Corey Patterson's RBI single.

The Cardinals regained the lead with two off Rusch in the fifth and the Cubs answered again with a six-run sixth, sending 11 men to the plate. Walker's home run off Kiko Calero started it and by the time Ramon Martinez cranked a two-run double, the Cubs held a 9-5 lead.

But it was only a mirage.

St. Louis bounced back immediately against Francis Beltran, pulling to within two on Taguchi's two-out, RBI single.

Mercker induced pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson to ground to short, but Martinez muffed the play for an error and Tony Womack followed with a run-scoring single to make it 9-8, setting up the explosive seventh.

"The whole magnitude of this series, you don't want to be the guy who failed," Mercker said. "And I failed."


FROM THE CUBICLEChicagoSports.com's Adam Caldarelli will be giving play-by-play commentary of the Cubs and Sox on Friday at 3:05 p.m.


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