Bullpen Blows Early Lead, Cubs Fall to Cardinals 5-4

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May 8, 2013 by Ryan S

   Carlos Villanueva posted his first quality start since Apr. 23 and the Cubs put up four runs on 11 hits, but James Russell and the bullpen could not hold the lead late and fell to the St. Louis Cardinals five to four in Chicago.

   Villanueva gave up three earned runs over six and two-thirds innings and exited with a four to two lead in the seventh, when the always reliable southpaw James Russell entered the game.  However, Russell was doomed to allow the inherited runner from Villanueva score as well as allowing his first earned run of the season, yielding two hits over one-third of an inning.

   Recording his second blown save of the season, Russell left the game tied up at four after the seventh inning.  The Cubs, who failed to score after putting up three runs in the fourth inning, sent Michael Bowden in for the eighth inning.  Bowden allowed two hits and one earned run in the inning to put the Cardinals on top, five to four, which would be the final score.

   Some highlights of the game include yet another three-for-four day by Anthony Rizzo, who continues to tear it up after a slow start.  Rizzo is hitting 0.269 with nine homers, 25 RBI and a 0.903 OPS.  He has picked up this season where he left off last, emerging as a crucial player for the Cubs and one of the young members of their future core.

   In fact, the Cubs have won seven out of 14 in Rizzo’s last 14 games, in which he has hit 0.396 with eight doubles, three homers and a 1.184 OPS.  Prior to that, while he was hitting 0.192, the Cubs had crawled to just six wins in their first 20 games.  These kinds of numbers ultimately show the value that Rizzo brings to the club now, in addition to the value he will bring in future years (should he remain healthy at the major league level).

   Rizzo’s impact cannot be understated, especially when you consider that Cubs’ pitching has actually increased in ERA from 3.44 in the first 20 games to 4.25 in the past 14.   There’s no use in predicting what the Cubs’ record would be if the ERA had remained the same, but it stands to reason that with Rizzo’s added production, there may have been some additional wins.

   Also worth noting is that manager Dale Sveum once again replaced the starting pitcher with two outs in the sixth inning and nobody on base.  This time, it did not work out for the best, as Russell allowed the runs that would tie the game.

   This is particularly frustrating as Villanueva struck out the final batter that he faced, just as Travis Wood struck out the final two that he faced in Tuesday’s game.  I have not been able to speak to Sveum, but I genuinely want to know why he does what he does sometimes.

   And in one final note, two days after I quip that Sveum should use other relievers more and Carlos Marmol less, Bowden and Russell both allow runs in a come-from-behind loss to the Cardinals.  And guess who ends up with egg on their face?  This guy.  But I stick by my word; there are seven guys in the bullpen.  Everybody will have a bad day once in a while, it’s just unfortunate that they happened to both have one on the same day.

   So with this loss, the Cardinals improve to 21-12 and the Cubs fall to 13-21, but as always, go Cubs!

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