The Cubs and St. Louis have been going at it since 1892, but seldom have the two rivals spent as much quality time together as they have over the past two days at Wrigley Field.
With Tuesday's day-night doubleheader coming on the heels of the Labor Day rain-a-thon, there was plenty of time to bond at the old ballyard.
But familiarity, along with a couple high-and-tight 97 m.p.h. fastballs, can sometimes breed contempt.
"We have to go out there," Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano said after Game 1, "and kill the Cardinals."
The Cubs wound up splitting with St. Louis, winning the day game 4-2 on Sammy Sosa's two-run, walk-off home run in the 15th inning, and losing the night game 2-0 as Sosa took a seat on the bench and Matt Morris outdueled Kerry Wood.
Wood angered the Cardinals when he nearly hit Morris twice in the wild nightcap, while Antonio Alfonseca bumped umpire Justin Klemm over a controversial call and was ejected along with Moises Alou.
Down 2-0 with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, Alou hit a screaming liner down the third base line that Klemm ruled foul. Alou then popped out to end the threat before Alfonseca burst out of the bullpen between innings and ran into Klemm on a dead run, knocking him backwards and earning the ejection and a probably suspension. Alou followed with a rant and also was restrained.
Cubs manager Dusty Baker defended his players, saying it was obvious on the TV replay the ball was fair.
"That's a big play," Baker said. "That's a play where the guy has to get the call right. That's what these series are all about. It's a game of inches, and according to everyone who saw it, it was fair."
Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa disagreed.
"The ball was foul and they went nuts," La Russa said. "That's a good way to tick off an umpire."
When the madness ended, the Cubs remained 1½ games behind St. Louis and they trailed Houston by one game before the Astros game in Los Angeles.
Sosa's 15th-inning homer on an 0-2 pitch from Jeff Fassero gave the Cubs a pulsating victory in the opener, setting the stage for the Game 2 fireworks. It was Sosa's seventh walk-off home run as a Cub and his first since June 2, 1999, off San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman.
"This is what you play for as a kid," Baker said. "You're always playing hero. It doesn't happen that often. I knew Sammy was tired and he hadn't had a hit all day. But he found some strength within from somewhere."
After Monday's marathon day at Wrigley, when both teams waited out a four hour, 17 minute rain delay before playing the game, few would've figured Game 1 on Tuesday would turn into an instant classic. It started out like a routine game when the Cardinals took an early 2-0 lead against Zambrano on Chris Widger's RBI single in the second and Jim Edmonds' solo homer in the fourth.
But a gift from third base umpire Bill Hohn opened the door for a two-run Cubs fifth, ultimately changing the entire game. After right-hander Jason Simontacchi retired the first 12 men he faced, Aramis Ramirez lofted a routine fly to left-fielder Albert Pujols. But Pujols dropped the ball while transferring it to his throwing hand after the catch, and Hohn ruled Pujols never had possession.
Ramirez reached second on the two-base error, and Cubs tied it on a two-out RBI double by Alex Gonzalez and a run-scoring double by Damian Miller.
The game remained tied in the ninth when Alou was thrown out by left-fielder Orlando Palmeiro while trying to go from first to third on Kenny Lofton's single to left. That base-running gaffe proved costly after the Cubs loaded the bases with two outs for pinch-hitter Ramon Martinez, facing reliever Mike DeJean.
Martinez hit a line shot to the outfield wall, but Palmeiro leaped into the vines to make the game-saving catch and send it into extra innings, where the bullpen dueled until Sosa's homer.
"Both sides played great defense," Baker said. "They saved themselves many times on defense. We were hitting the ball hard all day long. We were knocking ivy off the walls out there."
After Edmonds' second-inning homer off Wood gave the Cardinals first blood in Game 2, things really got interesting when Morris attempted to bunt with a runner on second and no outs. After Morris missed his first attempt, he and La Russa complained it should have been called a ball.
On Morris' next sacrifice attempt, Woods brushed him back with a high and tight pitch. Wood had made light of hitting Pujols during an interview on Sunday, so the Cardinals were not in a laughing mood.
"That stuff has to stop," La Russa said.
With the Cards holding their 1-0 lead in the sixth, Randall Simon singled down the right field line but made the same mistake as Alou in Game 1, challenging Palmeiro's arm in right this time and getting thrown out at second. Troy O'Leary followed with a double off the wall, but Edmonds' caught Martinez's sinking liner to preserve the lead.
Wood knocked Morris down again with Tino Martinez on first in the Cardinals seventh.
"Obviously I'm not trying to hit the guy," Wood said. "He's a pitcher. He's an out."
But Morris got back up and laid down a perfect bunt towards third. Ramon Martinez dropped the pick-up for an error, and stood still as Tino Martinez chugged towards third. Ramon Martinez rushed an underhanded toss to Alex Gonzalez at the base, but it went over Gonzalez's head for another error as Tino Martinez scored an insurance run.
Cubs 4, Cards 2, 15 inn., Cards 2, Cubs 0
Cubs' joy turns to anger
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
Los Angeles Times welcomes civil dialogue about our stories; you must register with the site to participate. We filter comments for language and adherence to our Terms of Service, but not for factual accuracy. By commenting, you agree to these legal terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.
Having technical problems? Check here for guidance.