Cubs closer LaTroy Hawkins went down kicking and screaming Tuesday afternoon after imploding in the ninth inning of a devastating 11-8 loss to St. Louis at Wrigley Field.
Manager Dusty Baker and four of his coaches were needed to restrain the enraged reliever, who was trying to get at plate umpire Tim Tschida over some disputed calls after being ejected during the Cardinals' three-run inning.
In a scene that exemplified the out-of-control atmosphere surrounding the Cubs during their two-week fall from contention in the National League Central Division race, Hawkins looked like he was daring the league to suspend him. He may get his wish after Major League Baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson looks at the videotape and renders judgment.
"You know what, it's one of those things that's up to Bob Watson," Hawkins said. "I didn't throw any bat at him, right?"
Baker said he was not embarrassed by Hawkins' actions, which came after he had served up a pair of home runs to help the Cubs blow an early six-run lead.
"You never lost your temper?" Baker said. "Anybody is capable of losing their temper. I'm not embarrassed at all. Sometimes you get frustrated and sometimes you have to let it go."
The Cubs' frustrations are mounting for obvious reasons. Albert Pujols went 5-for-5 with three home runs, including a two-run, opposite-field blast off Hawkins that broke an 8-8 tie in the ninth. Hawkins and Kyle Farnsworth each gave up a pair of home runs over the final three innings as the bullpen blew an 8-3 lead for Glendon Rusch.
The loss sent the Cubs 10 games behind the division-leading Cardinals with 69 regular-season games remaining and no head-to-head matchups.
"I'm not conceding anything," Baker said. "Right now they have a 10-game lead. We have a big mountain to climb, but we can overcome it."
A wild-card berth appears to be the only route to the postseason for the Cubs, who lost six of their final seven meetings with St. Louis to drop the season series 11-8.
After Tschida issued warnings to both sides in the first when Cardinals starter Matt Morris threw a pitch behind Corey Patterson's back, the Cubs erupted for seven runs in the second, highlighted by two-run home runs from Derrek Lee and Michael Barrett and a two-run double from Patterson.
Rusch, replacing the injured Mark Prior, had an 8-2 lead and left with the score 8-3 in the sixth inning after giving up three straight singles, including Jim Edmonds' RBI hit. But Francis Beltran walked the first two hitters he faced, forcing in a run on a bases-loaded walk to Mike Matheny. The Cardinals added two more runs on So Taguchi's infield hit off Beltran's glove and Ray Lankford's sacrifice fly to pull within two runs.
Farnsworth entered in the seventh and served up a home run to Pujols on his first pitch. Taguchi's solo shot to left field onto Waveland Avenue off Farnsworth with one out in the eighth tied it 8-8. After Pujols' shot off Hawkins gave the Cardinals a 10-8 lead, Reggie Sanders added the fifth homer of the day for St. Louis.
Upon leaving the mound, Hawkins asked Tschida for a reading on three of his pitches. He wasn't pleased with Tschida's response, and refused to stop arguing until Baker and his coaches literally dragged him into the clubhouse.
"Do I regret it? No," Hawkins said. "I talked to him like a man at first, and it didn't work."
The Cubs left the bases loaded in the ninth off Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen, losing their third straight game.
"Hopefully we'll see them in October," Baker said.
That could be only in the National League Championship Series, a destination the Cubs can only dream of at this juncture.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times