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Starlin Castro error opens door to big inning in loss to Cards

The Cardinals' JJay steals second as Cubs shortstop StarlCastro applies late tag fifth inning Saturday.  |  Tom Gannam~AP

The Cardinals' Jon Jay steals second as Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro applies the late tag in the fifth inning Saturday. | Tom Gannam~AP

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Updated: May 16, 2012 8:26AM

ST. LOUIS — It might not sound fair, but it all starts with Starlin Castro.

Everything the Cubs are trying to do long term. Everything they’re trying to build.

And on Saturday, everything that went right offensively and everything that went wrong in the fourth inning of a 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Yeah, it all kind of started with an error,’’ Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the first of Castro’s two throwing errors, a high throw on Matt Holliday’s grounder to short. Then with one out, Cubs starter Chris Volstad (0-1) gave up four consecutive hits en route to a four-run fourth for the Cardinals.

“He was pitching pretty good,’’ Sveum said. “I don’t know if that got him off kilter a little bit.’’

The Cubs could muster just one run out of two scoring chances the rest of the way, both created by Castro. He had a run-scoring single in the sixth and a one-out double in the eighth.

Castro entered the day leading the majors in stolen bases. He’s the team’s leading hitter (.371) and had the Cubs’ only hit with men in scoring position Saturday.

But his two errors underscored a continuing story line in the 22-year-old’s development and provided a reminder of the work in progress that defines him and his team.

“Those are mistakes that you can work them out and you can get better at those,’’ Sveum said. “It’s not something that’s a major thing, but those are the things that unfortunately we’re still probably going to see a little bit of.’’

They seemed pretty major to Castro, who was visibly upset after the first play and admittedly might have allowed it to affect him on a similar throw he made the next inning.

“It’s very frustrating because I’ve been working hard, a lot, in the Dominican [before spring training] and here,’’ he said. “That kind of thing [isn’t] supposed to happen. Everybody makes an error, but I’ve been working too hard.

“If it happens one time, [OK], but two times, that can’t happen again.’’

Sveum said Castro has looked much better in the field, but he has a long way to go. And as he goes, so go the Cubs in many ways.

That’s how important his position is to the ongoing efforts to lift the Cubs’ poor fielding of recent years to a competitive level, never mind a championship level.

That was easy for Castro and the Cubs to envision as they watched the Cardinals accept their 2011 World Series rings in a pregame ceremony Saturday.

“It’s pretty good energy for me,’’ Castro said, “because that’s what I want to be one day, on this team —win the World Series. That makes me more aggressive and more [motivated] to work even harder.’’

The Cardinals, by the way, weren’t an especially good fielding team most of last season. But history suggests a pretty strong correlation between good fielding and championships.

Before last season, the previous six World Series champions were among the top five fielding teams in their league.

Volstad didn’t blame his fourth-inning sequence on the aftershocks of Castro’s error, pointing out that he retired the next batter.

“He’s doing a great job,’’ Volstad said. “There’s no worries there. He’s got a powerful arm, and it’s going to happen.’’

But even Castro knows that if the ring ceremony he and his teammates witnessed is going to happen for the Cubs, he has to be a leading player.

That’s why he works so hard and takes mistakes so hard.

And when he saw the ring new Cubs coach Dave McKay received for being on the Cardinals’ staff last year, it might have hit home that much harder.

“It’s a pretty good ring,’’ he said. “There’s going to be one with the Cubs. That’s going to be a good one.’’

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