Arrieta pitches gem as Cubs top Cardinals


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Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward (22) hits a one run single off of St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) during the fourth inning at Busch Stadium
Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward (22) hits a one run single off of St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) during the fourth inning at Busch Stadium

ST. LOUIS -- With no white signs working against their favor tonight, the Chicago Cubs took care of business against the St. Louis Cardinals to earn their first win of the 2017 season. It certainly helped matters for the Cubs that starting pitcher Jake Arrieta got the nod on hill, as he has a history of pitching remarkably well against the rival Cardinals. Tuesday night was no exception, as Arrieta pitched a gem and led the Cubs to a 2-1 victory.

Striking out six in six innings pitched, Arrieta was dominant, allowing no earned runs to cross the plate and giving up only four hits. Entering the second game of the three-game series at Busch Stadium, Arrieta boasted an impressive 1.85 ERA in his career against St. Louis, the second-best ERA versus the Cardinals in Major League history.

Tonight, Arrieta threw smoke from the start, blazing through the St. Louis batting order until former Cub Dexter Fowler collected a single in the bottom of the fourth inning. Arrieta's only blemish on the night occurred in the fifth, an inning that saw the Cardinals benefit from yet another error by Javier Baez. Though this time the aforementioned sign played no role in it, Baez blundered in the field with a costly throw on an infield single that allowed Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty to score.

Thankfully for Baez, the Cubs already sported a lead prior to his defensive mishap, as Chicago was able to bring two runs home in the fourth inning. For the most part, Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright was just as solid as Arrieta, but a pittance of bad pitches in the fourth ultimately cost St. Louis the game.

With one out in the top half of the fourth, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell drove a double into the gap between right and center, placing a Chicago runner in scoring position for the first time. After walking catcher Willson Contreras, Wainwright gave up a single to right fielder Jason Heyward, a former Cardinal, to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.

Thereafter, Wainwright faced off against Baez, who was looking for redemption after his unfortunate error in the season opener. Facing the pressure of having runners on the corners and a double play situation at hand, Baez was clearly not fazed, as he laid down the perfect sacrifice bunt to bring Contreras home and put the Cubs up 2-0.

It appeared that Wainwright was coming unglued once he faced the 2-0 deficit with a 1-1 Arrieta at the plate, specifically when he comically threw a ball directly into the dirt that rocketed toward the backstop and allowed the Cubs' runners to advance. However, Wainwright settled down and struck out the next two batters, including Arrieta, to end the inning and placate the St. Louis faithful for the time being.

Leading 2-1 with two outs in the sixth, Arrieta began to struggle, allowing the next two batters to reach base via singles and soon after enabling them to take second and third with a wild pitch of his own. Following a walk that loaded the bases for the threatening Cards, Arrieta composed himself and forced St. Louis right fielder Randal Grichuk into an inning-ending popup.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Cardinals were mere inches from tying the game, but young outfielder Albert Almora kept the Cubs' lead intact with the first home run robbery of his career. With Cubs reliever Koji Uehara on the mound facing known Cubs killer Matt Adams, Adams drove Uehara to deep center, but Almora was able to snag the ball with a perfectly-timed leap at the wall.

The Cubs' relief pitching held steady from then on out, with Pedro Strop going three up, three down in the eighth and closer Wade Davis earning his first Chicago save with a quality outing in the bottom of the ninth that set the Cubs' 2-1 victory over the Cardinals in stone.

Arrieta earned the win in his first start of 2017, while Wainwright was given the loss. Despite suffering from two errors and the second consecutive hitless performance from reigning MVP Kris Bryant, the Cubs were able to win by way of five valuable hits, limiting the Cardinals to four hits by four different batters and coming up with clutch defensive plays when it mattered most.

The Cubs (1-1) and the Cardinals (1-1) will do battle in the series finale at Busch Stadium tomorrow afternoon in a game set to commence at 12:45 PM CST. Making his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn will square off against former Cardinals ace John Lackey of the Cubs in the rubber match of the National League Central duel.

Notes

*Almora's home run-robbing catch was not only the first such catch of his MLB career; it was also the first such catch by a Cub in over a year, as Chicago did not rob any home runs in 2016.

*Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter went 0-4 tonight and remains without a hit (0-27) in his MLB career against former TCU Horned Frogs teammate Jake Arrieta.






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