Cardinals beat Arrieta to complete sweep of Cubs


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<span style=Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki / USATODAY">
Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki / USATODAY

CHICAGO -- Through the first four innings on Wednesday, Chicago Cubs starter Jake Arrieta had avoided giving up any runs to the St. Louis Cardinals, despite giving up two doubles. The fifth inning saw Arrieta’s luck run out, however, as the Cards put two runs on the board and never relinquished the lead, defeating the Cubs 7-2 in the final matchup of a three-game sweep.

Marking the first time that the Cubs have been swept all season, the series also marked the first time that the Cubs have been swept at Wrigley Field by the Cardinals since 1988. Arrieta was not exactly his usual self on the afternoon, struggling to find the strike zone at times. Two walks and a single in between loaded the bases for the Cardinals in the top of the fifth, and a one-out groundout by right fielder Stephen Piscotty brought two runners home. It would have only scored one run, but a rare throwing error committed by Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist enabled another runner to cross home plate.

Down 2-0 entering the sixth inning, the Cubs relieved Arrieta, replacing him with Justin Grimm. Entering the game with an ERA of 6.04, it is no secret that Grimm has been shaky throughout the 2016 season. Grimm’s outing on Wednesday proved to be par for the course, as he faced only five batters but gave up a dismal four earned runs. With first baseman Matt Adams doubling to lead off the inning, Grimm was never able to regain control. A wild pitch then allowed Adams to advance to third, and he scored soon after on a grounder hit by catcher Yadier Molina.

The grounder to third brought with it a close play at home plate, but Adams was able to score before being tagged out. Unfortunately, Cubs catcher Miguel Montero was injured attempting to apply the tag and was forced to leave the game.

Two at-bats later, St. Louis second baseman Chris Carpenter doubled in the gap between right and center, scoring two and chasing Grimm from the game. Recent Cubs call-up C.J. Edwards then took the mound and fared no better than Grimm, giving up a home run to the first batter he faced. The homer to straight center was one of three hits for Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz on the afternoon.

If not for a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh by young Cubs catcher/phenom Willson Contreras, who only entered the game because of Montero’s injury, the Cubs would have been shut out for only the second time at home this season.

While Diaz himself boasted three hits, the entire Cubs lineup only accrued three hits themselves. Aside from the two-run shot given up to Contreras, Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha was magnificent, allowing only three hits and striking out five in 6.2 innings on the rubber. Wacha, who has been up and down this season, earned the win and moved to 3-7 for the year, perhaps showing signs of a return to elite form with his Wednesday performance. As for the Cubs, Arrieta was named the loser, moving to 11-2 overall.

Despite the sweep, the Cubs (47-23) still hold a 9.5 game lead over the Cardinals (38-33) in the National League Central. However, the sweep is a foreboding sign for the Cubs, who now must endure an 11-game road trip. Set to begin a four-game affair at the Miami Marlins (38-34) tomorrow night, the Cubs must avoid another letdown in order to maintain that comfortable divisional lead.

NOTES:
* The Cubs are now 0-5 in the final games of homestands this season ... have dropped three-straight games for just the second time this season (also, May 21-23).
* The Cubs averaged 41,306 fans during the six-game homestand, drawing over 41,000 fans in each contest (247,835 total).
* The Cubs allowed five runs in an inning for the second time this season (also, seven runs in the sixth inning, April 23 at Cincinnati) … allowed seven or more runs in a game for just the fifth time this season, the fewest in baseball (next is the Mets with eight games allowing at least seven runs).
* The Cubs are now 25-4 (.862) in games decided by five runs or more, tied for the fewest losses in baseball with San Francisco and Boston.
* Chris Coghlan (0-for-3, BB) was the first Cubs batter to reach base, walking in the fourth inning.
* Spencer Patton (2.0 IP, BB, 3 SO) tied a career-high with 2.0 innings pitched … was his first appearance with the Cubs since May 7 vs. Washington.
* Addison Russell (1-for-2, 2B, R) has gone 4-for-6 with two doubles in his last two games.
* Carl Edwards Jr. (1.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 3 SO) made his 2016 Cubs debut.
* Miguel Montero (right knee) left the game in the top of the sixth inning.

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