St. Louis struggles with loss

Posted: Monday, June 24, 2002

CHICAGO -- On a night when Darryl Kile was supposed to be on the mound, the St. Louis Cardinals mourned their lost teammate and honored him at the same time just by taking the field.

''It was tough. Darryl is such a big part. When he doesn't play, he is on the bench,'' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

''We missed him. He says things during the game. It was very difficult. It's going to be difficult. It should be difficult because he was very special.''

Kile's No. 57 was everywhere at Wrigley. On the umps' hats. On the message board in center field. In the St. Louis dugout where two of his jerseys hung by the runway door. On the Cardinals' shirt sleeves.

And, most certainly, on his teammates' minds. Their emotional burden obvious, the Cardinals lacked the concentration Sunday night that helped them take over first place in the NL Central, losing 8-3 to the Chicago Cubs.

The Cardinals committed two errors and appeared to be going through the motions, one day after Kile's shocking death.

''We gave it everything. ... If we hadn't played, we would have had huge regrets,'' La Russa said. ''We came out and tried our best and we got beat.

''It is very possible that everyone has a place for Darryl and can still concentrate on competing and winning the game,'' he said.

''I thought we did it. ...He was a teammate. He's going to be missed every day, probably for the rest of our lives.''

Jason Simontacchi (5-1) took the mound, trying to become the first St. Louis rookie starter since Allen Watson in 1993 to win his first six decisions. He lasted only four innings, while the Cubs got strong pitching from Kerry Wood (7-5) and homers from Alex Gonzalez and Moises Alou.

''Jason missed a couple of spots and they hit a couple of home runs and that happens in baseball, no matter what the circumstance is,'' La Russa said.

The game had an eerie feel from the outset. Organ music that usually fills the neighborhood park during batting practice and between innings was silent. The only P.A. announcements were to inform the 37,647 fans of lineups and player changes. Flags were at half-staff.

''There was a lot of silence out there between innings,'' Gonzalez said. ''You could tell the normal play of the game was a little different today.''

Even Sammy Sosa, who usually incites the fans by sprinting to his position in right field like a runaway halfback before the first pitch, was subdued, jogging to shallow right to start the game.

''Everybody on both sides was thinking about it,'' Sosa said. ''It was hard to get enthusiastic because all of our feelings were going out to the Cardinals family.''

Gonzalez had a solo shot in the second and Alou hit a two-run homer in the third. Fred McGriff added a sacrifice fly and RBI single for the Cubs.

Wood (7-5) allowed just five hits -- including Albert Pujols' two-run homer -- in eight innings to get his first win in more than three weeks. His last victory came May 30 at Pittsburgh. Wood struck out four and walked three.

Wood admitted that Kile was on his mind.

''In the first inning, it crossed my mind. It was his night to pitch and here I am walking out and picking up the baseball and he's not with us anymore,'' Wood said.

''It just didn't seem right to have to think about baseball and go out and play baseball It's hard to be competitive in a situation like that and stay competitive.''

Notes: A moment of silence was observed before the first pitch. ... The seventh-inning stretch sing-a-long was also canceled and replaced by a more stately organ version of ''Take Me Out to the Ball Game,'' although some fans still sang the words. ... Simontacchi allowed four runs and seven hits.

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