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Saturday, June 4, 2011
Pitching to Pujols doesn't end well

By Bruce Levine

ST. LOUIS -- Normally, walking the other team’s best hitter with the game on the line and a base open is a no-brainer. However, with two outs and nobody on in the 12th inning on Saturday, Cubs manager Mike Quade chose to have Jeff Samardzija pitch to Albert Pujols.

Pujols, who had already factored into all of the Cardinals runs, including hitting a fourth-inning home run and a sixth-inning RBI double, hit a walkoff home run on a low slider, extending the losing streak -- and the pain -- for the Cubs and their manager.

“It’s a lot for me to [decide to] walk somebody with nobody on and two out and start an opportunity for them,” Quade said.

Although Samardzija gave up the home run, Quade had gone to the mound before that to tell his pitcher, and catcher Geovany Soto, to be careful.

“You make decisions going into a series,” Quade said. “I wasn’t looking to avoid Albert at all costs. He made us pay today. We will see how it shapes up tomorrow. I’ll take the heat for pitching to Pujols.”

Samardzija, who had retired the first two batters in the 12th, felt he had made a good pitch on the 2-1 count to the Cardinals slugger. He said it was unnecessary for Quade to take the blame for the loss.

“He came out and we talked about it,” said Samardzija. “The [pitcher’s spot] was a couple of hitters away and we weren’t going to live down the middle of the plate with Pujols. We thought we made a couple of [good] pitches there, but then again, if a guy like that is hitting, whatever you think is a good pitch probably has to be better.”

Pujols’ has three home runs in the last two games against the Cubs.

The Cardinals bullpen retired the last 17 Cubs hitters after Carlos Pena's base hit with one out in the seventh. Pena also had a two-run homer in the Cubs’ four-run sixth inning.

“[Losing] does take a lot out of you,” Pena said. “Yes, it does. When you’re in there and fighting and at the end of the day you come up a little bit short.”

The fifth-place Cubs now trail the Cardinals by double digits in the NL Central, having lost seven of their last eight games and five straight.

Starting pitcher Randy Wells got a no decision, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing three hits and four runs.