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8/11/2016 Recap: Duke Walks In Losing Run as Reyes Sits On Bench

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Eleventh inning ends in heartbreak as Cardinals lose valiant effort in ivy-infested hellhole somewhere in the bowels of North Chicago

A metaphor for tonight?
A metaphor for tonight?
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame

Bleed Cubbies Blue site manager Al Yellon had this to say about this series between the Cardinals and the Cubs:

Last time the Cubs and Cardinals met, it did not go very well for our side, as the Cardinals swept a three-game series at Wrigley Field. As I noted in the recap to last night's game, the Cubs played those three games without Dexter Fowler, who went on the DL just before the series began. Two of the losses were tough, one-run affairs, and Joe Maddon was mixing and matching with lineups.

Things are different now, with the Cubs on a roll and the Cardinals having just lost five of nine games against the awful Braves and Reds.

I'm certainly not saying this will be easy. Never is, against the Cardinals. But the Cubs are in a much better place than they were back in June.

Viva El Birdos Managing Editor and Leading Light Craig F. Edwards responded in kind:

Back on April 18 as the Cardinals were preparing to play for the Cubs, I wrote a piece entitled, Cardinals should destroy the Cubs. The Cubs took two of three and many people seemed upset. Some even laughed. On May 23, I wrote a piece entitled, Cardinals should destroy the Cubs. The Cubs took two of three and again many people seemed upset and again some even laughed. On June 20, I wrote a piece entitled Cardinals should destroy the Cubs. The Cardinals swept a three-game series and nobody said anything. I didn't even laugh. The Cardinals should destroy the Cubs.

The Cardinals head to Wrigley Field for a four-game set against the division-leading Cubs. The Cardinals poor play over the course of the season, especially as the Cubs were struggling has prevented this matchup from becoming an important series for divisional purposes. The Cubs are now 12 games up and have a 99.7% chance of taking the division.

This series is not an important one for the Cubs unless you are a big believer in pride. The Cubs have played 12 teams at least four times this season and they have a losing record against only the New York Mets and Cardinals. As for the Cardinals, they are in a very close wild card race and every game matters.

We shall see which site manager prevails.

Jon Lester takes the hill for the bad bears tonight.  He's been good lately.

Carlos Martinez, he of the as-yet-unrealized phenomenal potential and the bad last time out, will twirl for the beloved visitors.

Let's knock the ivy off those stupid dilapidated brick walls, Birdos.

I couldn't find the Cardinals lineup on my normal go-to, the @cardinals twitter page.  So, uh, behold:

The Game

The Cardinals struck first, in the first.  Two outs occurred to set the stage.  But then, Matt Holliday hit a single and took third on Brandon Moss's subsequent single.  Yadier Molina caught the hint - "These single things are pretty good!" - and hit one of his own.  Holliday scored.  Cardinals lead, 1-0.

The Cubs threatened in the fifth, putting runners on second and third with one out.  But never fear, Carlos Martinez fielded Lester's stupid bunt and nailed Chris Coghlan at home to prevent the bad guys from scoring.  Dexter Fowler, who has somehow come back down to earth of late, lined out to first to end the threat.

The Cardinals also struck second, in the sixth.  Brandon Moss destroyed the relevant target, accomplishing his mission and hitting a solo home run.

Cardinals lead, 2-0.

The rejoicing was short-lived, though.  The Cubs scored in the bottom of the sixth, and it sounded something like this:

Bryant with the single, run boys run

Rizzo didn't get hit, he hit one

Zobrist in the breadpen, givin' up Ks

Addy Russell foulin' out. Yay!

[Musical Interlude]

When Heyward hit the next pitch, well he knew he'd grounded out

But he ran so hard and fast that somehow he beat it out

Coghlan went oppo even though it was a change

And Bryant and that Rizzo, well they scored to tie the game

And David Ross, that washed-up Cubbie catcher squared to tap

Carlos threw it hard, but pulled the Grinder off the sack

So, Heyward also scored, and the Cubs lead (shudder) 3-2.

Frustrating things happened next.  Jedd Gyorko hit a single off Travis Wood, but Grandpa Ross picked him off in the epitome of the TOOTBLAN (for the uninitiated, Thrown Out On The Bases Like A Nincompoop (that's an acronym, not an initialism!)) Then Greg Garcia struck out.  The seventh was all but over for the good guys.

But even the very wise cannot see all ends, and something happened next that Joe Maddon had not foreseen.  For the lead has a will of its own, and it sought a new owner, fleeing the Cubs.  And it happened that a forgotten member of the Cardinals - once revered, now despised where his name is even known - had just returned from a chance journey to Memphis.  And Mike Matheny, the much maligned, said to himself, "Martinez can't bat for himself.  I already left him in too long and he gave up all those runs!" And he looked about the dugout, and lo, there was the journeyman.  And Matheny said, "Lo!  In the dugout there!  What is thy name?"  And the journeyman said, "I am Randal of House Grichuk."  And Mike said, "Go forth and bat for mine pitcher."  And Randal said, "Ok LOL I'll grip it and rip it Mikey baby, LOL God bless."  And behold, Randal launched the evil sphere out of the accursed halls of Lord Wrigley at a great speed, obliterating the Small Bears' lead.

And then, lo, Matt Carpenter hit a single.  And then, Stephen Piscotty unleashed all his pent-up frustration from his recent slump onto the sphere, hitting a mighty double.  But behold, Matt Carpenter got the windmill move from the third base coach where he should have been held up.  And some Cub executed a mighty cutoff throw, and Matt Carpenter was out by a full ten steps, completing a second TOOTBLAN in the same inning.  And the lead's will was frustrated, but so was Joe Maddon's.  Nobody leads, 3-3.

Joe Smith (ok that's a real name) and Matt Bowman came out and held down the tie in the eighth.

Human Garbage and Seung Hwan Oh held down the tie again in the ninth.  Human Garbage threw fast and only threw 3 pitches, but Oh threw nasty and isn't... well, human garbage.  I really love watching Oh pitch.

The tenth inning strolled in like this was a damn cricket match and we're just planning on hanging around all week.  Mike Montgomery pitched for the Bears.  And oh hey, something bad happened because GUESS WHAT WE'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO STILL BE PLAYING BASEBALL.  Two outs occurred.  Then, Matt Holliday dove out of the way of a (totally unintentional I'm sure, but still irritating) beanball, but took it in the right hand despite his best efforts.  It looked really, really painful and he came out of the game.  UGGGGGHHHHHHHH.  And all for naught, as Moss struck out for the third time tonight.

Then, Oh came back out for another inning, inexplicably.  Zach Duke warming, Alex Reyes not.  But he got through it, only putting two on base, so, uh.  Good on you, Mike.

In the top of the eleventh, the game decided it was a test match and that we would in fact only play for...  five days.  Cool.  Montgomery came out for some more Russian Roulette. Yadi singled to lead off the inning.  Somebody got out, then Gyorko walked.  Then Mike decided he needed a pinch runner, and the following conversation occurred:

Mike:  I need somebody that can steal a damn base!  HAZELBAKER!
David Bell:  We, uh, we just put him in for Holliday, sir.
Mike:  No, it's not a holiday!  I need somebody faster than Yadi to steal bases!
David:  OK, Mike, but Hazelbaker is, um, indisposed, sir.
Mike:  Don't we have somebody that can steal?
David:  We have one man who has experience stealing, and he hasn't been played in this game....

So Mike Leake came in to pinch-run.  Somebody struck out, then Leake and Garcia advanced on a wild pitch.  Then Wong, pinch hitting for Oh, walked to load the bases.  Then, a man who looked suspiciously like Matt Carpenter struck out to end the %#$@ing threat.  Boo.

At this point, Zach Duke came in to pitch for the Cardinals.  Broxton and Reyes remained on the bullpen bench.  Duke struggled a bit, giving up a single to Wilson Contreras and a complete bullshit squib infield hit to Jorge Soler.  BROXTON BEGAN TO WARM IN THE BULLPEN WHILE THE MOST TALENTED PITCHER IN THE CARDINALS ORGANIZATION BY PURE STUFF REMAINED SITTING ON THE BENCH.  AT THIS POINT, YOUR NORMALLY EASYGOING AUTHOR BEGAN TO GET QUITE UPSET.  Honestly, I've given Mike Matheny the benefit of the doubt for a long time.  And I try not to get too invested in individual games.  But here you have a tied game in extra innings and two equally rested righthanded relievers remaining, one immensely talented, throwing over 100 mph with two truly excellent out pitches; the other old, washed up, struggling to hit 95 with a straight fastball and nothing else to challenge batters with.  AND YOU TAKE THE WASHED UP OLDIE BECAUSE HE IS A FORMER CLOSER, APPARENTLY.  THERE IS NO POSSIBLE DEFENSIBLE RATIONALE FOR THIS DECISION.

So of course, lefty Zach Duke loaded the bases as I ranted to myself, one out, and Mike left him in TO FACE RH MONSTER, LEFTY MASHER KRIS BRYANT.  And of course he struck him out, because what else would he do?  And lo and behold, Anthony Rizzo, professional plunkee, stepped in.  I'm pretty invested at this point, and I want somebody pitching that kind of scares Rizzo into maybe being a little more honest with hanging into the strike zone.  But no, Mike leaves Duke in, who hovers around 90 mph with his fastball.  So he tackles the impossible task of throwing strikes to Rizzo, who literally covers over half of the strike zone with his literal right arm and its giant pad, and he of course walks him on five pitches.

EDIT:  CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE.

Post Game

This was the MLB PLUS game of the night, featuring statcast and nerds who don't pay attention to the game.  I love advanced metrics and all that good stuff - I've learned a lot here at Viva El Birdos and it has enhanced my appreciation of the game greatly! - but hot damn these guys were dull, and they totally blew by several big events because they were totally absorbed in one dumb thing or another.  I'm talking dingers!  and other scoring events!  Sabermetrics deserves better mass media standard bearers than whoever those guys were, or maybe they need better media coaching.  Either way, it was not an enjoyable broadcast experience in my humble opinion.

It was frustrating to watch a roleplayer like Zach Duke get totally overmatched in the twelfth while your second-lowest-leverage guy warms and your most talented pitcher in the system just sits there, scratching his ass.  But such was my fate tonight.

Next up:  Tomorrow afternoon, Wainwright vs. Arrieta.  We're still right in it for the wild card, so there's that!  The playoffs are incredibly random, and we're in the hunt.  Hopefully we can stop the bleeding tomorrow.