Duel turns wacky in wild loss to Cards

Duel turns wacky in loss to Cards

CHICAGO -- The umpires made the right calls Friday. You just won't see Lou Piniella picking up home-plate umpire Larry Young's tab at the same downtown Chicago restaurant this weekend.

Preston Wilson hit a two-run homer with one out in the seventh inning to give the St. Louis Cardinals a 2-1 victory over Piniella and the Cubs in a game that tested one's knowledge of baseball rules.

The Chicago ninth inning was a mess. With one out, Mark DeRosa walked and was lifted for pinch-runner Ronny Cedeno. On a 3-2 count to Jacque Jones, Cedeno broke for second. Jones drew a walk -- but Cedeno apparently didn't know that and overslid the bag. He was tagged out by shortstop David Eckstein, much to his surprise.

"The call there was ball four," Young said. "The runner is entitled to second base, but that's it. [Cedeno] overslid the base and was tagged out."

If Cedeno had glanced back and seen that it was ball four, he wouldn't have slid. And if he was safe, the Cubs would've had runners at first and second.

"Next time, I'll look to home plate," Cedeno said. "I've got to run. I was asking the first-base umpire [Angel Hernandez] because he speaks Spanish, and I said, 'What did I do?' He said, 'You passed the base.' I said, 'So what? It's ball four.' I never had that happen before -- must be new rules."

"You can't overslide the bag," Piniella said. "What else can I tell you?"

Good thing Cubs Minor League instructor Bobby Dernier was in town Friday to give the players a refresher course on baserunning.

Piniella had won an earlier argument with Young in the seventh inning. The Cubs had runners at first and second with none out. Henry Blanco popped up a bunt, and catcher Yadier Molina collided with Blanco at home trying to catch the ball. The ball dropped, and Molina picked it up, tagged Blanco, and threw to Eckstein covering at second. He fired to third baseman Scott Rolen to get one runner, and Rolen threw to Adam Kennedy covering at first -- just in case -- for what could've been a 2-6-5-4 triple play.

The Cardinals thought the inning was over, as did all the red-dressed folks in the crowd of 38,955 at Wrigley Field, but Piniella argued there was only one out, not three. The umpires met, and called Blanco out on interference, sending the runners back to first and second. Starter Braden Looper (3-1) got out of trouble when he struck out both Cesar Izturis and pinch-hitter Daryle Ward. Let Young explain.

"The bunt play was interference by a batter/runner," Young said. "The runner, by virtue of him bunting the ball, he became the runner. As he did so, he started toward first base and then he backed up and hit the catcher. Therefore, that's interference by a batter/runner. The ball's dead. Whatever happened after that with the Keystone cop-type of thing was irrelevant."

"We were just exchanging pleasantries in the runway. They told me where their dinner reservations were and I told them where mine were. That's the end of it."
-- Lou Piniella, on his postgame exchange with the umpires

"The Blanco play, I don't even know," Piniella said. "I didn't know if [the ball] was in the guy's uniform or what it was. Both plays, they got right."

Maybe so, but Piniella didn't sound convinced of that in the hallway outside the umpire's locker room after the game. Was he displeased with the umpires?

"You've got to have some displeasure with the umpire once in a while," Piniella said. "Why not? They do their jobs and I try to do mine."

So, it was just an exchange of pleasantries?

"We were just exchanging pleasantries in the runway," Piniella said. "They told me where their dinner reservations were and I told them where mine were. That's the end of it."

They probably won't be at the same place.

"No, not tonight," Piniella said.

When asked after the game about Piniella's postgame comments, Young quipped, "It's always nice talking to Lou."

Young said they weren't going to file a report on the game because no one was ejected. There wasn't much of Piniella's profanity-laced tirade that's printable.

"Well, we've done that before," Young said. "I've known Lou 25 years, so we've done it before."

The Cubs also are repeating a trend that they'd like to correct. With Friday's loss, they're now 0-7 in games decided by one or two runs. Ted Lilly (1-2) deserved better. He held the Cardinals to four hits over seven innings, but one of those was Wilson's blast, his first, which sailed over the left-field bleachers onto Waveland Avenue. Lilly had walked Jim Edmonds to set up Wilson's homer.

"This is another one of those games where I felt like there wasn't much room for error," Lilly said. "It's fun pitching in those games where you know you have to be on top of your game. Unfortunately, I made a big mistake, and one of those was walking Edmonds. That kind of set the table."

The Cubs' only run came in the first on an RBI single by Aramis Ramirez, who has hit safely in all 12 games he's played.

"Once you come to the park and realize so-called bad things are not going to happen, you'd be amazed at the turnaround," Cubs outfielder Cliff Floyd said. "That's why you play 162 games. You have to make sure you keep your focus on the big picture, not the small picture."

The Cubs may be 6-10 and in last place in the National League Central, behind the Cardinals, but it's early.

"What's happened here in the past, I really don't care about," Floyd said. "What I care about is here, now, present. If we continue to get this type of pitching, and we continue to play with the intensity we have, good things are going to happen with this baseball team.

"I'm actually encouraged by what I see," he said. "I don't like our record, I don't think anybody does, but I'm encouraged by what I see. We're getting to a point where we're going to start winning some baseball games."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.