Surging Cubs bullpen has major meltdown

ST. LOUIS -- That dam the Cubs bullpen was building to hold back opposing offenses burst at the seams Saturday when the St. Louis Cardinals scored 12 runs in the seventh inning to break open a scoreless game.

Over the previous nine games, the Cubs relievers had only given up four combined runs and the bullpen had been a major player in the team’s resurgence of late.

That successful run ended in dramatic fashion as the Cardinals did their damage with the help of seven doubles in the seventh. Four Cubs relievers saw action in the inning.

It all started innocently enough with an infield single from David Freese. James Russell came on to relieve Justin Germano and the rout was on. Russell gave up six runs on four hits and two walks, Manny Corpas gave up four runs without getting an out and Rafael Dolis gave up a pair of run-scoring doubles.

“You look at their lineup and you don’t see anything that extreme but that’s a tough lineup to get through with the switch hitters and the quality hitters they have,” manager Dale Sveum said. “That’s why five doubles were down the right-field line, two doubles were down the left-field line and [Lance] Berkman added another double late. That’s quality hitters that take that stuff away and they did a great job."

It actually wasn’t that long ago that the Cubs gave up a dozen runs in an inning. It happened July 30, 2010 at Colorado. The Cardinals tied a club record with their 12 runs in an inning, matching a franchise mark first set in 1926. The seven doubles in an inning tied a major league record set by the Boston Bees in 1936.

The six runs allowed by Russell were a career high. He had only given up 12 earned runs all season before the outing.

Going back to the start of 2011, Russell’s 2.31 ERA entering play Saturday was the second best ERA from a National league lefty reliever, behind the 1.57 mark from the Braves’ Eric O'Flaherty. In one night, Russell’s 2012 ERA went from 2.45 to 3.63.

“Russell has gone four months basically without a hiccup like that,” Sveum said. “Those things can happen. Unfortunately it was in a 0-0 game and it started out on an infield dribbler. We got an out on a bunt and after that we all witnessed some good hitting too.”