The Cubs keep giving the St. Louis Cardinals headaches in this final weekend meeting, with two extra inning games that have made manager Mike Matheny go deep into his bullpen and his bench.
It was Carlos Beltran’s ninth inning home run (30th) off Cubs closer Carlos Marmol that rescued the Cardinals from another loss, and a 10th inning double by Jon Jay off rookie Jaye Chapman (0-1) that pushed across the eventual winning run in the 5-4 final.
But the Cardinals stranded 13 runners before it was over.
“We’ve been in both games. Win or lose, you don’t make it easy on anyone,” Sveum said.
“Especially when you’re playing contenders,” starter Travis Wood said. “You’re trying to knock teams out of the playoffs and trying not to lose 100 games.”
The close games are giving Sveum and the front office a better measuring stick than a spring training environment offers.
“You’re evaluating how they handle situations–men on base with less than two outs, game-winning situations, two outs and two strikes,” Sveum said. “When it’s all said and done in September and October with everything on the line, you want players you can trust, so it’s nice to see guys in these situations.”
Marmol, who had 19 straight saves before Saturday, said the attitude of the young players is another measure of potential.
“We have a lot of good young players and they’re playing hard, and that’s what the front office wants to see,” he said. “We’re playing hard and don’t quit.”
Marmol hadn’t blown a save since April 24, also against the Cardinals, and hadn’t allowed a home run since the All-Star break.
It was only his third blown save of the season.
Sveum used six relievers after Wood worked five innings, with the bullpen posting a 2.85 ERA (19 runs/60 innings) since Sept. 6.
NOTES: Three of the Cubs victories on the home stand have gone to rookie pitchers getting their first major league victories. They include Chris Rusin on Sept. 14 against Pittsburgh, Jeff Beliveau on Sept. 16 against Pittsburgh and Alberto Cabrera Friday against St. Louis.
The Cubs have had six pitchers record their first career victories this season, including Rafael Dolis (April 23 against St. Louis), Scott Maine (now with Cleveland, who won on June 26 against the New York Mets) and Brooks Raley (Aug. 18 against Cincinnati).
–Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina left the game during his ninth inning at-bat when he suffered lower back spasms.
–Second baseman Darwin Barney’s errorless game streak reached 137, now within four of tying the major league record. Sveum believes first baseman Anthony Rizzo also will become a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman. “The key to defense is not panicking and being able to slow the game down,” he said of Barney and Rizzo. “I call it the `no heart rate’ [ability.]”