Cubs add three runs late to earn revenge against Cardinals
|Saturday, July 22, 2017, 7:01 PM- -|
CHICAGO – One day after suffering through what was definitely their worst eighth inning of the season, the Chicago Cubs avenged themselves against the divisional foe St. Louis Cardinals by producing what was perhaps their best eighth inning of the season. Scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth to defeat the Cardinals 3-2, the Cubs came out on top in a matchup that featured a stellar pitching duel and plenty of late-game excitement.
Groundouts and strikeouts were aplenty in the early portion of the contest, with a triple by Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward serving as the only offensive excitement. Coming with two outs, Heyward's three-bagger was fruitless, as the inning ended after an out in the ensuing at-bat. A pitching duel in every sense of the cliché, today's matchup saw veteran Cubs starter Jon Lester and veteran Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright turn back the clock, looking like the elite aces of old.
However, both pitchers suffered from the same cruel fate late in the game, with the 35-year-old Wainwright and the 33-year-old Lester likely being left in the game for too long and suffering the consequences of it. Through seven innings, aside from the Heyward triple, Wainwright faced practically no threats from the Cubs' hitters, with the North Siders accruing a measly two hits during that span.
The Cubs did catch a break that they were unable to convert into runs during the bottom half of the seventh, though, as the Cardinals committed two defensive gaffes that enabled Chicago left fielder Kyle Schwarber to reach second base. Schwarber got on base because St. Louis third baseman Jedd Gyorko was unable to corral a liner hit in his direction, which was scored as an error. Thereafter, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina made a mistake, which is a rarity for him, on a passed ball that pushed Schwarber to second. But, yet again, the Cubs were unable to convert with two outs and a man in scoring position, as an inning-ending popout soon followed.
While Chicago was unable to take advantage of a scoring opportunity in the seventh, the same cannot be said about St. Louis in the eighth. Taking a 2-0 lead on a pair of solo home runs, the Cardinals were finally able to experience success against Lester. Nearing 90 pitches at the start of the inning, Lester made his first mistake of the frame in the opening at-bat, plunking Molina to put a runner on first with no outs. The lefty lucked out when the succeeding plate appearance resulted in a 6-4-3 double play. However, Lester was unable to escape the inning unscathed, as he proceeded to give up back-to-back homers to shortstop Paul DeJong and right fielder Randal Grichuk, respectively.
Interestingly enough, prior to the eighth-inning long balls, Wainwright was the lone batter to earn a hit off of Lester, as he accrued a single in the sixth. Despite the home runs, Lester still finished with a superb stat line of three hits, zero walks and 10 strikeouts in eight innings, throwing 97 pitches, including 66 strikes, in all. Wainwright finished with similar statistics, but the circumstances under which he departed were far less positive than they were for Lester.
A day after suffering from an eighth-inning comeback by the Cardinals, the Cubs put together one of their own. Although it was far less impressive than the nine-run explosion by St. Louis on Friday, Chicago still produced one of its best late-inning performances of the season, chasing Wainwright from the game and scoring three runs to take a one-run lead into the ninth inning.
With two outs and merely a runner on first, it appeared as if Wainwright was going shut down the Cubs once again in the eighth inning before veteran second baseman Ben Zobrist smacked a double to center field that scored former Cardinals and current Cubs outfielder Jon Jay from first. Having thrown 107 pitches at that point, Wainwright was relieved of his duties on the hill and replaced by Matt Bowman, who lasted only one at-bat. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant collected a single to shallow left-center off of Bowman that brought Zobrist home, knotting the game up at two runs apiece.
Bryant, who went 2-4 at the dish, was the lone batter for either team to garner multiple hits on the afternoon, and he also garnered the winning run, crossing the plate on a double to center by Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Fowler pounced on the ball in center field and threw a laser to the plate in an attempt at outing Bryant, but Molina was unable to control the throw, allowing Bryant to slide in safely and give the Cubs a 3-2 advantage. Providing Rizzo with his 62nd RBI of the season, the winning hit came off of Cardinals reliever Brett Cecil, who had only just entered the game.
The Cubs could have potentially scored more runs in the eighth, with catcher Willson Contreras getting intentionally walked to put runners on first and second, but Contreras was tagged out on a double steal attempt soon afterward. Fitting with the theme of his recent performances, Cubs closer Wade Davis made it rather interesting en route to accruing his 19th save of the year. After outing the first two batters, Davis walked Cardinals center fielder Dexter Fowler, a former Cub, and then walked Gyorko to place the tying run in scoring position. Davis was able to collect himself, though, and struck Molina out swinging to end the game and make the Cubs' come-from-behind 3-2 win official.
Lasting only two hours and 34 minutes, Saturday's National League Central clash flew by, due in large part to the superior pitching put on display through the first seven innings. Chicago amassed six hits, with four of them coming in the eighth, while St. Louis collected three. Thanks to his team's offensive rally, which occurred after his collapse in the top of the eighth, Lester received the win on the day to move to 7-6 overall. Bowman, who was responsible for putting the winning run on base, took the loss, falling to 2-4. With the win, the Cubs (50-46) are now a half of a game out of first place in the NL Central, and the Cardinals (47-50), are four games back. The rubber match of the three-game series at Wrigley Field will commence tomorrow night, with the first pitch set for 7:00 PM CST.