The last thing the Cubs need in the midst of their current eight-game slide is a visit from the big, bad, 73-41 St. Louis Cardinals.
But yet that's who's in town this weekend for a four-game series. If things go as badly as they have, come Monday the Cubs could find themselves near the bottom of the division standings--below both the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds with only the Pittsburgh Pirates blocking the dark staircase that leads to the NL Central cellar.
This once-proud rivalry is perilously close to being reduced to baseball's version of the Bears-Packers series--with Tony LaRussa in the role of Brett Favre, only Cubs fans taking it seriously while Cardinals fans play along just for cruel kicks.
At any rate, we're here for you gluttons for punishment with a blow-by-blow account of today's game. And seriously, what else do you have to do today, work?
It's Greg Maddux against South Holland's own Mark Mulder. Baseball soon--weather permitting.
1:16 p.m.: This game is being delayed by rain. We'll keep you posted.
1:27 p.m.: It's still raining here in Chicago. I haven't been to Wrigley Field in months, it hasn't rained in months. It's supposed to rain for the next few days and I have tickets for Saturday's game. Go figure. Comcast is now showing a Ryne Sandberg retrospective. Nice.
1:32 p.m.: Here's the latest radar loop. It doesn't look promising for a while.
1:34 p.m.: For those of you thin-skinned babies on the message board who keep whining about what I called Cubs fans yesterday, I called Cubs fans lemmings. I'm not the first to do so nor will I be the last. As a lifelong Cubs fan who has witnessed plenty of bad baseball in 34 years and keeps coming back for more, I think I have the right. I include myself in that statement. It's called reality.
1:49 p.m.: The tarp remains on the field. Continue with the Ryno retrospective, which may be better than the scheduled game. Though, they're going over the first retirement. A very dark time.
1:57 p.m.: OK, the Ryno show has ended. Unfortunately the rain continues. Now we're onto an episode of TWIB, which also may be better than the scheduled game. Though, I've got to say Jennie Finch is becoming a bit over-exposed. Agree?
2:08 p.m.: More rain. And no shortage of comments on the message board. Oooh, an update from Len. It doesn't look promising at Wrigley. There are a whole lot of umbrellas and panchos in the crowd. Back to TWIB.
2:24 p.m. I've risen from my nap. Still raining. OK, no, "Softball 360" is on now. This is possibly the worst show of alltime not called "Small Wonder." Back to sleep.
2:51 p.m.: I just went outside to get some ice cream and it's not raining. I come back and Wayne Messmer is singing. Game on.
Good ice cream, except there was a hole in the bottom of the cone and it dripped all over my pants. In case you haven't heard, Rich HIll down, John Koronka up. This move ought to light a fire under the Cubs. Maddux is finishing his warm-up tosses and we'll be underway shortly after an hour-and-a-half rain delay. David Eckstein slaps a double the other way down the right-field line where the immortal Jose Macias retrieves the ball. Abraham Nunez bunts Eckstein to third. Here's the dreaded, the hated, the very good Albert Pujols. He jacks one to the alley in left-center for a two-run homer. Now here's the dreaded, the hated, the very show-offy Jim Edmonds and he lines a single to right. Former Cub Mark Grudzielanek grounds into a very Cub-esque, 6-4-3, inning-ending double play.
Cardinals 2, Cubs 0
The immortal Jose Macias leads off against Mulder and strikes out. Neifi Perez grounds one past Nunez at third for a double. Lee rips it but it's right at Eckstein. Perez scampers back to second to avoid being doubled up. Aramis Ramirez pops one down the right-field line, stands there and watches it drop fair. Perez scores but I thought Ramirez was going to get thrown out at first from right field. And that had nothing to do with his being injured. He dogged it. Nomar Garciaparra pops out to Grudzielanek to end the inning.
Cardinals 2, Cubs 1
John Mabry flies out for the first out of the second inning. So Taguchi strikes out. Einar Diaz lines out to Nomar and Maddux sets the Nos. 6, 7 and 8 hitters down in order.
Michael Barrett draws a leadoff walk. Matt Murton looks at a curve for strike three. Corey Patterson hits the first pitch he sees into right field for a double. Barrett takes third. Maddux chops a bouncer to third that's slow enough to score Barrett to tie the game. Patterson had to hold at second. The immortal Jose Macias hits a bleeder to left that falls in and Patterson hustles around to score. And, no, I'm not making all of this up. Mulder, all of a sudden, is worried about the speed demon Macias on first. Another throw over. OK, seriously, he's got about a two-step lead and yet one more throw. When he gets around to throwing a few balls to the plate, he gets two strikes on Perez. Macias finally takes off and Diaz nails him. Perez will get to start over in the bottom of the third.
Cubs 3, Cardinals 2
Mulder grounds a 1-2 pitch to Perez, who throws to Lee for out No. 1. Eckstein flies out to Patterson. Abraham pops out to Ramirez and Maddux has sat down seven straight.
Perez tries to push a bunt by Mulder with no luck. The pitcher is all over it and flips to Pujols. Lee walks. Ramirez lines one to the gap in right-center, Edmonds tries a half-hearted decoy with his glove, but Lee has learned since the Juan Uribe incident and scores all the way from first. Ramirez coasts into second after driving in his second run. Nomar grounds out to third. Ramirez stays put on second. Barrett draws another walk. Again, I am not making this stuff up. Murton, the red-headed rookie, the Big Murt, the patient one at the plate, the future, grounds out to third on the first pitch.
Cubs 4, Cardinals 2
Now comes the tough part for Maddux's modest streak: Pujols. But he gets him. Pujols pops out to Perez in shallow right. After getting robbed on an 0-2 pitch that looked like a strike on TV, Maddux gets Edmonds to ground to Ramirez. That's nine in a row. I don't know why I'm keeping track of this. Grudzielanek rips one back through the box into center field that nearly knocks Maddux over. A two-out single. With Mabry up, the G-Man is thrown out by Barrett trying to steal second.
Patterson grounds out to Eckstein. Maddux, who is batting .234 this year, which is better than a couple guys in the lineup today, grounds out. Macias pokes a single to center for his second hit of the day. And here comes repeated throws to first by Mulder. No throws but Perez goes the other way with the pitch and lines a single to right. Mabry's got an arm and Macias puts on the brakes at second. Lee gets all of that one. A three-run homer. Lordy. It may have hit on a fly the yellow brick building on Waveland. He came up there swinging for everything. He took a mean cut at the first pitch, foul tipped it and then ripped the next one. Ramirez quickly lines a single up the middle. Mulder is not long for this one. We've got to get a better replay of that homer. It was crushed. Nomar grounds out to end it.
Cubs 7, Cardinals 2
Mabry, I think, grounds out. It was quick and I was reading the message board and didn't see it. Taguchi grounds one just out of the reach of Perez for a one-out single. Taguchi swipes second. Diaz hits it back through the box and Maddux makes a nifty back-handed stop and throws out the catcher. Someone, unbeknownst to Comcast, is pinch hitting for Mulder. It's Jason Marquis, a pitcher, and he hits an infield single off Maddux's glove. Taguchi goes to third. Eckstein has swung and missed at a pitch this year very few times, like under 30. He just did there before knocking in Taguchi with a bloop single to center. Nunez bounces a hit by Perez, scoring Marquis. So four scratch hits this inning have led to two Cardinals runs. Larry Rothschild trots out to talk to Maddux, probably about how they're going to face Pujols with two on. I think Maddux wears the pants in that relationship. Maddux fans Pujols with some fancy changing of speeds and spot-on location. Vintage stuff.
Cubs 7, Cardinals 4
Righty Brad Thompson is the new St. Louis pitcher. He'll face Barrett, who's walked twice today. Barrett dumps a broken-bat single down the left-field line. Everything is falling in today for both teams. Barrett takes a big turn around first but that's just for show. Easy there, big fella. Murton bounces back to Thompson, who turns and gets Barrett at second but the throw to first is too late to get the red-headed one. Patterson hits it off the mound or Thompson's foot. Either way it bounces into center. Off the mound, that was. Murton stops at second. Maddux, showing bunt all the way, lays it perfectly down the third-base line. Nunez makes the play but the two dudes on base advance. Macias looks at two straight strikes, fouls one off and hits it back to Thompson, who slips and then throws it by Pujols. Both runners score; Macias takes second. That wasn't Thompson. That ball hit Pujol's right in the glove. He wiffed on it. Closed the glove too early. Wow. You don't see that every day. Perez flies out to Edmonds, but the Cubs get two more and have scored in every inning. Again, you don't see that every day.
Cubs 9, Cardinals 4
Edmonds flies out to Murton. One pitch, one out. You get the feeling that Maddux still is effective but it just takes him about 10 days to recover after every start. Maddux carves up the G-Man with a fastball on the outside corner. Mabry rips the first pitch down the line in right for a double. A couple of clown fans reached over the wall and took swipes at the ball. I think it may have gotten one of them under the left eye. They just showed the guy sitting in the crowd and the he's got a big mark on his face. Serves him right. Taguchi lines one to center and Patterson robs him of probably an RBI double with a diving catch.
Lee rips a 1-1 pitch and sends another one onto Waveland. I think Pujols' presence has lit a little fire under him. Ramirez grounds out. Nomar pokes a single through the hole on the left side. Barrett slaps one to the corner in right. Mabry makes an adventure of it, but they're not sending Nomar. He trots into third, Barrett to second. Murton hits it right at a drawn-in Eckstein, who throws home and Nomar is out easily. Barrett didn't have time to take third. Patterson, who's 2-for-3 and made a diving catch, will bat, despite coming up grimacing after making said catch, which I failed to mention last inning. It looked as if he jammed his wrist or a finger. Patterson walks to load the bases. That was one of those non-intentional intentional walks, or whatever they call it. He didn't get anything to hit and the Cardinals would much rather face Maddux. Maddux works the count to 2-2 before lining one into the Cardinal dugout that almost takes out LaRussa. That gets a few cheers. Maddux swings over a 3-2 pitch to end the inning. The Cubs score one more on Lee's homer, and, yes, have scored in every inning.
Cubs 10, Cardinals 4
Pitch count alert: Maddux has thrown 79 pitches, 60 for strikes. Diaz grounds one to Ramirez, who knocks it down but can do no more. An infield hit for Diaz. Scott Seabol pinch hits for Thompson and lines out to Murton. Eckstein grounds into a 1-6-3 inning-ending double play. Hey, Bobby Dernier, No. 20, singing TMOTTBG.
Former White Sox pitcher Cal Eldred and his bionic arm enter the game. Macias grounds out. Grudzielanek robs Perez of a hit with a diving, back-handed stop of a one-hopper. Lee flies out to end the seventh. So the normal yahoos get to sit up in the booth forever and Dernier draws a 1-2-3 inning. Harsh.
Maddux throws Nunez a meatball and he sends it to right for a double. Pujols lines out to Nomar. Edmonds, who hasn't done didly today, strikes out on three pitches. Maddux gets the G-Man swinging, as well. So who pitches the ninth?
Ramirez is grazed by an Eldred pitch and takes his base. Nomar bloops a single to left. Barrett flies out and Todd Hollandsworth will hit for Murton and he's erased by the infield fly rule. Patterson lines his third hit of the day to center field and Ramirez scores. That didn't look like the old Patterson there. He used a compact swing to send it back from where it came. Maddux will bat for himself, much to the dismay of the few late-working people left on the message board. Maddux bounces out and we move to the ninth.
Cubs 11, Cardinals 4
Maddux starts Mabry off with three balls before getting him to ground out to Lee. Taguchi lines a single to left and here comes Dusty Baker to a chorus of boos. Dusty leaves without Maddux and the crowd cheers. Diaz hits a slow roller to Nomar and they almost turn it but Diaz is just safe. John Rodriguez will hit in the pitcher's spot and he flies out to Patterson.
Final: Cubs 11, Cardinals 4
I have to say I din't see this one coming. Maddux goes the distance, Lee hits two bombs, Patterson has a great day at the plate and in the field and the Cubs spank the Cardinals and end an eight-game losing streak.
Thanks everyone for reading, writing, posting and everything else. I'm out of here.