Critical catcher's interference highlights Cubs' loss to Cardinals

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by - Senior Writer -
Cole Hamels produced a quality start, but a lack of run support led to a losing decision for the lefty. (Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Cole Hamels produced a quality start, but a lack of run support led to a losing decision for the lefty. (Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — Clinging to a one-game lead in the National League Central entering Saturday's contest versus the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs wasted no time in taking the lead, as they went up 1-0 in the bottom of the first. However, St. Louis starter Miles Mikolas settled down after that and pitched a gem to keep the Cardinals' playoff chances alive. Providing ace Cole Hamels with virtually no run support, the Cubs left nine men stranded and fell by a final score of 2-1 at Wrigley Field in the penultimate game of the regular season.

Lazy defense by Cardinals second baseman Yairo Munoz contributed to the Cubs scoring their lone run of the ballgame. With a runner on first and two outs in the bottom of the first, Munoz attempted to catch a high popup off the bat of Javier Baez but did not watch the ball all the way into his glove. Blundering the catch, Munoz committed a fielding error that enabled Ben Zobrist, who took off from first base upon contact, to score.

Not fazed by the mistake made by his Cardinals compatriot, Mikolas went on to manufacture a spectacular eight-inning outing, in which he gave up five hits and zero walks and struck out six. Hamels, on the other hand, struggled with his command at times, hitting two batters and walking two others. However, he was stellar for most of his start, fanning eight and allowing just two hits in seven innings of work.

Of all things, catcher's interference incited the Cardinals. Cubs backstop Victor Caratini was called for catcher's interference during Matt Carpenter's at-bat that led off the fourth. Hamels issued a walk in the ensuing plate appearance, and Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong followed that up with an RBI single to left that ushered Carpenter in to score.

Chicago had an opportunity to retake the lead in the bottom half of the fourth, but, with runners on first and second and one out, Kris Bryant lined out to third as part of a double play, with Anthony Rizzo getting doubled off at second base. Hamels proceeded to hand St. Louis the lead in the next frame, as he hit the leadoff man with a pitch and walked the next batter. With two outs, Carpenter came up big with a two-out RBI base knock to center that scored the speedy Harrison Bader from second.

The Cubs failed to push a runner into scoring position the rest of the way, as Mikolas continued to deal on Chicago's hitters. Hamels and Cubs relievers Steve Cishek and Jesse Chavez teamed up to shut the Cardinals' offense down in the second half of the ballgame, but the Cardinals were able to hang onto their lead, nonetheless. Hamels dropped to 4-3 with the loss, and Mikolas improved to 18-4 with the win. Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez attained his fifth save in the close call in the Windy City.

With just eight combined hits, the National League Central duel certainly was not a barn burner. Despite tallying only three hits, the Cardinals (88-73) pulled out a 2-1 win over the Cubs (94-67) to remain alive in the hunt for a wild card. As for the Cubs, at the time of their loss, they sported a half-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers (93-67) in the division.

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