Suzuki blasts two homers in Cubs loss to Cards
Matt Kartozian - USA Today Sports

Suzuki blasts two homers in Cubs loss to Cards

by - Senior Writer -

MESA—Some history was made on Monday as the St. Louis Cubs came to Sloan Park for the first time ever. Although not a typical Spring Training game, this was game one of a brief two-game exhibition Series that will take both the Cubs and Cardinals into the regular season.

This is something that many teams have done over the past four seasons, but to see it happen for two teams in two different Spring Leagues is not something that tends to happen. Although the stats from this game won't matter, anytime the Cubs and Cardinals match up, the stakes are a bit higher as both teams hate each other no matter the situation.

Behind four strong innings from Jordan Wicks on the mound, the Cubs were backed by a pair of Seiya Suzuki homers as his impressive Spring continued. Both homers were solo shots as the Cardinals got the last laugh with five unanswered runs to pick up the 6-3 victory.

After his start today, Wicks locked down a spot in the Cubs rotation. He struck out four Cardinals in four innings, allowing just one run. His ERA for the spring will finish at 2.53, as he was one of the more consistent starters all Spring.

Opposing him was left-hander Steven Matz, who was also in a battle for a spot on his team's rotation. Matz pitched into the fifth, allowing three runs before the bullpen took over to keep the Cubs' offense at bay. Despite a great outing from Wicks, things didn't come easy. A two-out walk followed by a Nolen Arenado double had the Cardinals in business in the first, only to come away empty-handed.

The same can't be said for the Cubs, as Suzuki unloaded on Matz in the first for his fifth homer of the Spring, putting the Cubs in front 1-0.

Considering Suzuki's final two months last season, he was on a mission to prove that wasn't a fluke and has shown all Spring he is as dialed in as ever. Singles from Cody Bellinger and Christopher Morel followed that homer, only to have an inning-ending double play kill the threat.

Like in the first, Wicks ran into a bit of trouble in the second with Dylan Carlson leading things off with a walk ahead of the Ivan Herrera single to set the Cardinals offense up again. This time, they cashed in with Masyn Winn, who added an RBI single to tie things up 1-1 before Wicks escaped the inning without further damage. Quick strike offense was the theme for the Cubs early on, with Nico Hoerner leading off the second with a triple and them coming around to score on the Michael Busch sacrifice fly.

The Cubs then kept the pressure on in each of the next two innings, only to come away empty-handed. It's okay for that to happen during spring, but you can't leave runs on the board during the regular season. Still holding their 2-1 lead in the fifth, it was time for Suzuki to come through again as he took Matz deep for the second time to push the Cubs lead to 3-1.

With his six homers, Suzuki will finish near the top of the Spring leaderboard and will enter 2024 as arguably the team's most important player.

Through five innings the combination of Wicks and Drew Smyly were sharp as both limited the Cardinals damage. Then came the top half of the sixth when the Cubs bullpen struggled to get things going. Jose Cuas started the struggles in the sixth as the one-out single from Arenado was followed up by the Willson Contreras blast, and just like that, it was a 3-3 game.

One inning later, Hector Neris continued his struggles as his nightmare Spring continued. Neris ran into trouble immediately, allowing leadoff hits to Jordan Walker and Winn before the Brendan Donovan RBI groundout gave the Cardinals the lead for good, 4-3. St. Louis was just getting started in that seventh, with Pedro Pages using an RBI double to push the lead to 5-3, while the RJ Yeager single capped off the three-run seventh with the Cardinals now in front 6-3.

Playing from behind late is never ideal, but as the Cubs have shown so much this Spring, they are fine coming from behind. They were hoping an eighth-inning single from Miles Mastrobuoni would be the hit that started things off, but he was unable to score to keep things 6-3. Going a bit further, that single was the Cubs' final baserunner of the night for the Cubs as the Cardinals took game one of this two-game set 6-3.

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