Tough day for Scales as Cubs fall in ninth
Outfielder gets bad break on homer; Dempster shines
ST. LOUIS -- Bobby Scales sat in front of one of the laptop computers in the visitor's clubhouse, watching a clip from Saturday's game. He kept hitting the rewind button. The result was the same.
Scales tipped Brendan Ryan's home run over the left-field fence in the fifth and the St. Louis shortstop delivered a tie-breaking RBI single in the ninth to lift the Cardinals to a 2-1 victory Saturday over the Cubs. It was the second straight walk-off win for St. Louis, and 20th time Chicago has lost in the opposition's last at-bat.
The Cardinals' magic number to clinch the National League Central is now four. The only good news for the Cubs is that St. Louis won't be able to do it Sunday night in the series finale.
Give Scales an assist on Ryan's homer. Ryan launched the ball to left to lead off the fifth, and Scales, playing the outfield out of necessity, leaped at the eight-foot-high fence. The ball hit his glove and bounced into the bullpen. The official measurement was 383 feet, but Scales tipped it just to the right of the 375-foot mark on the outfield wall.
"I caught the ball," Scales said. "The fence jarred it loose. That's all there is to it, really. The fence jarred it loose. What are you going to do?"
Lou Piniella recalled a ball hitting Jose Canseco on the head and bouncing over a fence. The Cubs manager also didn't fault Scales for his effort, just execution.
"He's trying so hard, he's playing a little out of control," Piniella said of Scales, who is in the big leagues for the first time after toiling 10-plus seasons in the Minors. "What are you going to do? This young man played the infield in the Minor Leagues all year."
Scales started fewer than 10 games in the outfield at Triple-A Iowa this season and is a second baseman by trade. The Cubs are short-handed because of injuries to Alfonso Soriano (left knee), Milton Bradley (left knee), Reed Johnson (fractured foot) and Sam Fuld (sore wrist).
"That's not an excuse," Scales said. "I played enough outfield, particularly left field, in my career to not make the mistakes I've made the last two days. It's unacceptable, there's no excuse for it and I just have to play better."
As soon as Scales made contact with the fence, he said he felt two "hits." One was the ball hitting his glove, and the second was him hitting the fence.
"I knew when I looked up after I hit the fence and didn't see it, it was going to be bad," Scales said. "I looked over my left shoulder and the ball was in the bullpen."
"I was watching Scales," Ryan said, "and he kept going and kept going and kept going, and the next thing I knew he got a glove on it, and I couldn't tell what happened. I kind of sped up for a second, and then I saw it in the bullpen. Totally shocked. I guess it got an assist but either way, I'll take it."
Scales came close to slamming his glove on the field.
"I was hot," Scales said. "You've got two pitchers out there dueling. Ryan [Dempster] was phenomenal. ... To not make a play for him like that, it makes you sick."
The pitching was stellar as Dempster and Chris Carpenter matched up over eight innings. Neither got a decision.
"[Carpenter] was on his game for sure, and I just tried to match him," Dempster said. "Unfortunately, I gave up the home run there that Bobby almost made an unbelievable play on. We fought at the end there and came back and tied it. I know what the feeling is like when you walk off and win the game. It's not fun to sit there and watch them have that much fun."
Scales' adventures in left continued with two outs in the seventh as he tried to snare Carpenter's ball down the line, but he overran it and fell in the dirt. Carpenter doubled but didn't score.
The Cubs tied the game in the ninth against Ryan Franklin. Pinch-runner Fuld reached third on Geovany Soto's single and scored on Jeff Baker's sacrifice fly.
Ryan Ludwick singled to lead off the Cardinals' ninth against Carlos Marmol, but was forced at second on Mark DeRosa's bunt. The Cubs had a chance at a double play on the ball, but Ryan Theriot's throw to first couldn't get DeRosa. Yadier Molina singled to left, advancing DeRosa to third, and he scored the game-winner on Ryan's hit.
"I made a couple mistakes," Marmol said. "[Ryan] was aggressive. I made a mistake -- it was a slider down the middle. He got a ground ball, base hit."
The Cubs had chances. They had the leadoff man on base in three of the first five innings, and had at least one baserunner in each of the first five innings. But they hit into four inning-ending double plays, and Derrek Lee left the bases loaded in the fifth.
"The biggest thing we stress with each other," Dempster said, "is we're not in the position we wish we were in, but you play for pride and go out there and play to compete and give it the best you can and try to finish as strong as you can, and make it hard for whoever you're playing to win the game and try to win as many as you can."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.