Umpires take spotlight early in Cubs-Cardinals series

The Chicago Cubs are currently halfway through their four game series with the St. Louis Cardinals, with the teams splitting the first two games. Each of those two games has had a call made by an umpire that possibly changed the entire outcome of the game, and left some fans wondering what had just happened. Let’s take a look at each game.

Monday, June 17th – Cardinals 5, Cubs 2

Monday night’s game featured a highly anticipated pitching match up between Cardinals rookie wonder-boy Shelby Miller, and Cubs all-star hopeful Travis Wood. But let’s cut to the juicy stuff, shall we?

chicago cubs

Yadier Molina scores on a throwing error by Anthony Rizzo (Photo Credit: Chris Lee, AP)

In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Cardinals had runners on second and third with one out. Pete Kozma hit a ground ball to third, but Anthony Rizzo couldn’t complete the play at first base and the ball started to roll away from him. Rizzo, thinking that the runner on third (Yadier Molina) was trying to score, picked up the ball and rushed a throw to home plate that sailed over the head of Welington Castillo. Molina then charged to the plate, and appeared to be tagged out by Travis Wood as he was sliding toward the plate. Home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn called Molina safe, saying that he got his foot between Wood’s legs and onto home plate before the tag was applied. Wood was visibly upset by the call, players in the Cardinals dugout started laughing, and Cubs manager Dale Sveum was ejected after arguing the play.

Replays appear to show Molina sliding into Wood’s right foot and the tag applied before he touched the plate. Sveum definitely had a legitimate argument on the play, but there was no chance of it being overturned.

With that run the Cardinals now had a 3-0 lead and two runners on base, still with just the one out. The next batter hit a sacrifice fly to left field, and at the end of the inning the Cardinals lead 4-0.

Let’s play a game of pretend and say that Molina was called out on the play. In that case it would still be a 2-0 game, with two runners on and two outs. If the next batter still flew out to left field, then that would have been the third out of the inning. Those two runs would not have scored, and the Cubs would still be within range to tie the game or even take the lead. After all, it is much easier to try to make up a two run deficit.

If everything else happened exactly how it did, the Cubs still would have lost. But there is no arguing that players would have had a completely different mindset had they have been losing by only two runs.

Tuesday, June 18th – Cubs 4, Cardinals 2

In another good pitching match up the Cubs got to Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright early, scoring all four of their runs in the first inning. The frame saw the Cubs hit two doubles and back-to-back home runs by Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ransom, all of which happened with two outs.

Jeff Samardzija took the mound for the Cubs, and he did not disappoint. He went 8 1/3 innings, striking out six and giving up only two runs, and was backed up by some really good defense. The only real trouble he got in was in the ninth inning, where he allowed two consecutive singles after getting the lead-off batter out. Samardzija was replaced by closer Kevin Gregg, who didn’t make things easy for himself.

The first batter he faced hit an RBI single, which resulted in a two run lead with two runners on base. The next batter (David Freese) hit a ground ball to Darwin Barney, who tossed the ball to Starlin Castro for the first out. Cardinal Shane Robinson, who started the play on first base, went for a take-out slide at second base to disrupt Castro’s throw to first. His slide was successful (since Castro didn’t throw the ball to first), but he went out of the baseline to do so. Second base umpire Fieldin Curbreth busted Robinson for interference, resulting in the batter automatically called out at first and the third out of the inning. Ball game.

I’m not arguing the call. It was the correct call, and Curbreth made it. Simple as that. But what would have happened if the interference call hadn’t been made?

Well, there would only be two outs, and the Cardinals would have had two runners on base with a two run deficit. John Jay, who already had a hit in the game, would have been at the plate, and Kevin Gregg clearly didn’t have the same “stuff” he has had so far this year. Chances of St. Louis scoring at least one more run would probably have been pretty good. So really, Robinson’s slide probably saved Kevin Gregg from ruining his perfect save conversion percentage.

Note: Edwin Jackson is slated to start tonight in the third game of the series. Let’s see if he stays in his recent groove.


  1. chuckd says

    where is the mention of the umps calling time while the ball was still being thrown around in the 7th on Monday? The runners were moving and had to return to the base because some idiot umpire got ahead of himself. There is NO way you can call time while the ball is still in play and runners are on the move. This could have lead to more runs which you neglect to mention.

  2. Tom Morse says

    Robinson’s slide prevented Castro from throwing the ball and making an easy double play. Credit can’t be given to Robinson for saving Gregg’s save since the game would have been over after the easy double play conversion.

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