Jeff Samardzija was fantastic again tonight, though the build up of the later innings – including extras – makes it easy to forget.
I don’t really do “game recaps,” but I started writing these chunks as the game was going on in anticipation of it ending a few times (when it didn’t):
Down one, the Cubs put two on base in the 7th inning with nobody out, and, when Ryan Sweeney stepped to the plate, I’ll confess, I was nervous that he was going to be asked to bunt. Fortunately, he was not, and he slapped a single into left. Rizzo got a fantastic read on the ball – knew exactly where the shortstop was, and where the ball was going – and scored easily from second.
But then Ricky Renteria called for the hit and run, which was a great call with Starlin Castro at the plate … but not with Carlos Martinez on the mound and Yadier Molina behind the plate. Martinez has great swing-and-miss stuff, and Molina is Molina. Castro whiffed, and Molina threw out Nate Schierholtz (who had a hell of a game) very easily at third. The rally’s air came out of the tires, and the Cubs probably left a run or two on the bases.
Fortunately, a couple innings later, the Cubs came through with two runs (in an inning that featured Emilio Bonifacio being asked to sac bunt with a man on first and nobody out – le sigh), the second of which featured a CardinLOLs moment where Matt Holliday tried to catch a sinking liner from Nate Schierholtz, looked awkward as hell doing it, missed the ball, someone retrieved it, threw it away in the general direction of home. Result? The runner at first (Mike Olt) scored, and Schierholtz ended up on third.
Speaking of Olt, he had just pinch hit for third baseman Luis Valbuena, but did not stay in the game to play defense. He clearly hurt his shoulder on a dive back to first – he was shaking it out, stretching it, grimacing – but it’s unclear whether it was a serious kind of hurt, and that’s why he didn’t stay in the game, or if it was just a precautionary kind of thing (it allowed Bonifacio to stay in the game and Darwin Barney to come in and play at second). Obviously Olt has had the shoulder issue, so we’ll see if there’s an update tomorrow.
All of that is prelude, of course, because Jose Veras came on for the two-run save and had absolutely no command. No one had any idea where the ball was going, including the two Cardinals batters he hit, and the one he walked. He also threw one to the backstop. I’ve got no beef with having a “closer,” but when he comes out and he’s nowhere near the plate after 20 pitches, why is he still in the game? Veras got squeezed on a pitch or two later in his appearance, but you aren’t going to get those calls when your other pitches are three feet off the plate. (Also, the strike zone was ridiculously inconsistent for both teams all night long.)
Thankfully, Welington Castillo bailed everyone out in the top of the 11th with a two-out (both outs coming on bunts, obviously), three-run homer.
The Cardinals had a chance to win in the 10th, and, with the winning run on second base, the Cardinals elected to do this …