Cubs pour it on late, wallop Cardinals in opener of season series


by - Senior Writer -
Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS – An eight-run explosion in the top of the eighth resulted in the Chicago Cubs (23-21) pulling away from the St. Louis Cardinals (25-19) in the first meeting of the season between the National League Central archrivals. The contest was also the Cubs' first appearance at Busch Stadium since 2019, as all of the 2020 Cubs-Cardinals clashes took place at Wrigley Field due to scheduling changes pertaining to the Cardinals' COVID-19 issues. The game opened with a bang, as Joc Pederson went yard on the very first pitch, and ended with the Cubs winning 12-3.

Carlos Martinez threw a cutter over the plate for the opening pitch, and Pederson drove it out to right-center for a 409-foot blast. From there, a pitching duel between Martinez and Kyle Hendricks took place, with the next baserunner not coming until the bottom of the third. It was then that Edmundo Sosa reached on an infield single, which was accompanied by David Bote committing a throwing error to first that allowed Sosa to take second. Bote's errant throw was the first of four total errors in a game not exactly teeming with stellar defense. With two outs in the third, Tommy Edman scored Sosa with a bloop RBI double that a sliding Ian Happ nearly caught in shallow center.

The next inning saw Martinez experience command issues with two outs, as he grazed Anthony Rizzo's kneecap with a pitch, walked Javy Baez and plunked Happ on the ankle. Martinez escaped the bases-loaded jam by forcing Bote to ground out. A leadoff double by Nico Hoerner led to the Cubs going in front in the fifth. Hendricks then advanced Hoerner to third with a sacrifice bunt, and Pederson plated Hoerner with a sacrifice fly. Martinez then beaned Kris Bryant in the side with a pitch before drawing a fielder's choice groundout from Willson Contreras. In the bottom of the fourth, Happ tracked down a fly ball hit to deep center by Paul Goldschmidt and caught it in the air.

Double play groundouts ended both the bottom of the fifth and the top of the sixth. Nolan Arenado fielded a Bote grounder, stepped on third and fired a spectacular throw to first for the inning-ending double play in the sixth. Longtime Cub killer Matt Carpenter pinch hit for Martinez to lead off the home half of the sixth and smacked a single. Following a base knock by Dylan Carlson that advanced Carpenter to third, Goldschmidt drove Carpenter in via an RBI double. Nolan Arenado was then intentionally walked to load the bases with one away, and Yadier Molina followed that by fouling out. Hendricks got out of the inning when Harrison Bader grounded out with the bases juiced.

Ryan Helsley was taken for two runs in the top of the seventh. Hoerner led off with a single and once again reached second on a successful sacrifice bunt by Hendricks. A pitch in the dirt from Helsley resulted in Hoerner taking off for third. Molina fired a high throw to Arenado after corralling the wild pitch, and Hoerner, who did not realize at first that the throw was off the mark, was able to score thanks to what was interestingly scored as a fielding error by Arenado. Pederson was at the plate when Hoerner scored the go-ahead run, and he tacked on an insurance run after drawing a walk and scoring on an RBI double by Bryant that one-hopped the wall in right-center.

Sosa hit a one-out single in the seventh and reached second due to a wild pitch. Rizzo then committed a rare error, as the first baseman dropped the ball while attempting to pull it out his glove after fielding a grounder. The blunder at first base prevented what should have been an inning-ending putout from coming to fruition, and Hendricks was then relieved by Tommy Nance, who allowed Carlson to hit an RBI single. Sosa scored as a result of Carlson's two-out knock, trimming the Cubs' lead down to one. That slim advantage grew exponentially in the ensuing inning, though, with the North Siders tagging the Redbirds for eight runs on six hits and three walks.

Kodi Whitley toed the rubber to begin the eighth and gave up a leadoff single to Happ and next walked Bote. Arenado then suffered an uncharacteristic mistake on defense, as he got ahead of himself when planning to tab a force out at third while fielding a dribbler hit by Bote and dropped the ball. Arenado's second fielding error of the evening led to Tyler Webb coming in to pitch, and he was taken for an RBI single off the bat of Eric Sogard, which scored Happ. After Pederson fouled out, Webb forced home Bote by walking Bryant.

Seth Elledge took the mound at that point and walked Contreras, pushing Hoerner across. The back-to-back bases-loaded walked set the stage for Rizzo to drive home Sogard and Bryant with a two-run double hit down the right field line. Rizzo reached third on the throw to the plate and proceeded to score on an RBI single by Baez. Happ doubled after that, which advanced Baez to third, and Bote drove Happ and Baez home with a single. The marathon of a half-inning ended with Bote getting tagged out attempting to stretch the single into a double. The Cardinals failed to put a runner in scoring position the rest of the way, and the Cubs opened the three-game series with a demonstrative 12-3 victory.

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