Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011Posted: 5:45 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Follow @CSNMooney
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ST. LOUIS Randy Wells stepped off the mound and let the applause wash over Albert Pujols. As the noise grew louder, the St. Louis icon tipped his red helmet and wiped the sweat from his bald head.
While Cubs fans seem desperate for a total teardown, the Cardinals have been a model of stability and consistency. The anxiety in this city is about keeping it all together.
A big story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports section ran with the headline: Will sun set Sunday on Pujols era here? Sensing that this could be his last game before getting a megadeal somewhere else, the self-proclaimed best fans in baseball gave him a standing ovation in the first inning.
There were plenty of empty seats inside Busch Stadium. But with a late surge, the Cardinals could soon be selling playoff tickets.
After a 3-2 loss, the Cubs were content to dress their rookies in ridiculous outfits MC Hammer, Hannibal Lecter, short dresses for the long flight to San Diego.
Another comeback victory, combined with Atlanta losing in Washington, left the Cardinals (88-71) one game back in the wild-card race. With three left to play, they travel to Houston while the Braves head back to Atlanta to host the Phillies. If these really are the final days for Pujols in a St. Louis uniform, it should be entertaining.
Everybody respects Albert, Wells said. Its a nice moment for him. To be honest with you, I thought he was just getting his regular cheers. (Im) not going to sit there and say, Lets go. This is his town and he definitely deserves it.
Wells who grew up nearby in Belleville, Ill. understands the Cardinals culture. But it wasnt Pujols who went 0-for-4 on Sunday doing the damage this time. Late home runs by Yadier Molina and Rafael Furcal ruined another quality start from Wells.
Whatever playoffs hopes the Cubs had probably vanished during the first week of the season, when Wells and Andrew Cashner were ticketed for the disabled list. Wells went eight innings on Sunday, finishing his season at 7-6 with a 4.99 ERA.
I still feel like I came a long way, Wells said, from the injury to all the (garbage) that went on in between there. But I feel like I bounced back nicely. (Going) into spring training, I should feel pretty confident.
That wont stop the next general manager from targeting starting pitching this winter.
The Cubs seem prepared to say goodbye to Aramis Ramirez. Manager Mike Quade said its up to the third baseman to decide whether his quad feels good enough to play again this season, setting the odds at 5050.
The loss of Ramirez will create a huge hole in the middle of their lineup. First baseman Carlos Pena who had to answer questions about Pujols the day he reported to spring training is also nearing the end of his pillow contract.
Prince Fielder, Pena and Pujols will all play off each other this offseason.
I see him in a St. Louis uniform, Pena said. Its so hard to see him in a different uniform. But of course he has (almost) reached free agency, and I assume that he will explore the market.
He deserves to see whats out there, even though I know his heart is here in St. Louis. How could it not be? All the fans would love to see him back.
Jim Hendry made national headlines when he hugged Pujols at Wrigley Field earlier this season. But at this point, a megadeal doesnt seem to fit into the immediate plans at Clark and Addison.
Like Pujols, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa could become a free agent after this season.
He set the tempo in spring training, La Russa said. He talked about his free agency that day and then he refused to talk any more about it, (so he wouldnt) distract the club. Hes not going to allow any distractions. Hes part of a team thats in contention.
Were all very optimistic that a great organization, a great player, will figure a way to make it work.
They still have something to play for. Why leave now?
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.