With the Blackhawks hopelessly at the mercy of Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, anyone who flipped channels to check out the Cubs/Cardinals game got a consolation prize. What’s the best remedy for a second-straight disappointing first round Blackhawks exit? A Joe Mather walk-off single, of course.
Matt Garza started and pitched well enough to win, but his guys provided him with only one run of support over his seven innings of two-run work. The 2-1 Cardinals lead held until the home half of the 9th, when hard-throwing closer Jason Motte went ahead 0-2 on Mather with two outs and runners at second and third. Mather worked the count even and then slapped a single up the middle, easily scoring both runners for the walk-off win.
Sure, an April win for a 5-12 team with fifth-place expectations isn’t much, but I’m willing to call a walk-off a walk-off. Last night was fun to watch. Even bad teams–and the Cubs have proven over 17 games to be seriously bad–can be fun to watch. The blown save, Motte’s first of the year, should also be a cause for concern in St. Louis. They blew 26 saves last year, good for second most in the bigs, behind only the Nationals. Yeah, they still managed to win the World Series, but teams that give away ninth inning leads usually don’t. Especially teams that no longer have Albert Pujols.
Tonight, Jeff Samardzija will start as the Cubs look for the win in game two, which would mean their first series win of the young season. Samardzija was brilliant in his first start of the year, but has regressed steadily in each of his last two. He comes in at 2-1 with an ERA of 5.71. He’s opposition is Adam Wainwright, who’s struggled mightily after missing all of 2011 due to Tommy John surgery. Wainwright is 0-3 with an ERA of 9.88. His velocity has been down and his off-speed pitches have been erratic, and the power-starved Cubs lineup would like nothing more than to repeat their April 13th outburst against him, where they scored eight runs and knocked the former Cy Young winner out after three innings.
It seems like the perfect storm for Cubs success. A two game winning steak is something to brag about when you’re this bad.