I made the trip. I do a lot of planning of trips I never make and thought a lot about ways to get to Pittsburgh, didn’t find a way to make it work. St. Louis just lined up perfectly – mid afternoon game, so I could easily leave in the morning and get back almost the same day. I had nothing to do Sunday so I could just crash (and I mostly did, which is why you’re reading this Monday.) It was cheaper to buy a ticket and pay for gas for 500 miles than to go to Wrigley, all it took was doing a monotonous task for a long period of time. That’s my skill set!
Busch Stadium III is a nice play to see a baseball game. I really liked how the skyline sat beyond the stadium, looking nice and making it feel part of the city. The views of the field were great from the 200 level I was on. The concourses were spacious and had plenty of places to hang out away from your seats before the game. There’s far too many fan prompts to cheer – not quite as bad as the Chicago Bulls but not far off – and it was rare the fans actually started doing things on their own. The stadium was about 10-15% Cubs fans, who did try starting their own chants at times. The first time they tried, the stadium operations clue immediately disrupted them with music. It was kind of hilarious. Everyone was friendly and there was no real tension between fans, but a lot of high fiving of similarly dressed strangers after the game. Someday there will be a Cubs/Brewers game in Milwaukee and that’ll be a bit amazing. I’d definitely go back to this stadium another time.
This was a great game, one that didn’t feel completely safe even up five runs. Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill were dominant, but it felt like they had to be. The Cubs could do very little outside that one really big inning, and the Cardinals chipped away at the lead and threatened until the end. No Cubs game against the Cardinals ever feels comfortable and being a postseason game (down 1-0!) just ratcheted it up. They played it like a postseason game too – the two relievers were up and ready to come in earlier, and I’d guess Maddon wished he did make the move a few batters earlier even though Hendricks was just striking out everyone.
Jorge Soler finally was the Jorge Soler everyone was projected coming out of spring training. The home run was massive, putting an exclamation point on an half inning where the Cubs did everything right and the Cardinals seemed to do everything wrong. It was the later plate appearances which impressed me more, where Soler laid off some very close pitches to draw a couple of walks. He had that command of the strike zone last season, but lost it and was just getting beat by pitches low and away for months. It’d be easy to go right back to that after a lot of time on the bench, and it’s a big advantage for the Cubs if he can find that old form.
Everyone leaving the stadium was doing the series math: the Cubs stealing this game means it’s 1-1 going into an Arrieta start, which feels almost like 2-1 already. That’d give the Cubs two chances to win one game. They just had two chances and won one game. This could be a pivotal win.
Tsuyoshi Wada getting cut from the team was the only real news story of the off day. I thought it was very strange, but none of the beat writers had anything to say about except what was in the press release. Wada was a disappointment and wasn’t going to be brought back, but those kind of guys are usually dumped all at once after the World Series. There’s no advantage into putting Taylor Teagarden on the 40 man – he’s also a guy who’ll be cut right after the season. I think he’d have to be on the 40 man to be added to the postseason roster, but there’s no sign any of the catchers are hurt and need a replacement. There’s seems to be some story with Wada that isn’t being told – he was only used once when he was called up again, not even used on the days where the Cubs were unloading the entire bullpen – but who knows if has to do with the move. Teagarden got dropped off the roster for a short time because of lack of space, maybe getting him back on the 40 man now gets him an extra payday for being a good organizational solider? It probably doesn’t matter, but it’s strange.
Monday’s 5pm start is a bizarre time for a Cubs home game. Shadows! Arrieta really didn’t need the help, but thanks national TV.