Cubs benefit from crucial Cardinals error, avoid getting swept

by - Senior Writer -
An error suffered on a ground ball hit by Jason Heyward ultimately led to a Cubs victory. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)
An error suffered on a ground ball hit by Jason Heyward ultimately led to a Cubs victory. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

ST. LOUIS — The 2018 St. Louis Cardinals have not fit the typical Cardinals mold. For example, defensive woes have plagued the Redbirds throughout this season, something that the characteristically buttoned-up franchise is certainly not known for. Leading the majors in errors, the Cardinals cost themselves a chance at a sweep of the rival Chicago Cubs on Sunday night by way of costly fifth-inning error.

Winning 5-2, the Cubs scored three runs as part of a two-out rally in the fifth inning that was incited by a fielding error committed by Cardinals second baseman Yairo Munoz. Helping matters for Chicago was a dominant performance by starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who improved to 7-9 with a winning decision after pitching seven innings of four-hit ball.

In the first two contests of the three-game set at Busch Stadium, both of which the Cubs lost, the home run proved to be the sole source of the Cubs' offensive production, as the North Siders manufactured a combined four runs on three separate homers. That theme held true early on in the series finale, with the Cubs tabbing two runs in the opening three innings on a pair of solo bombs.

The start of Sunday's affair was delayed for over an hour due to rain, but the Cubs were quick to the draw after play commenced. 10 pitches into the game, Cubs veteran Ben Zobrist smacked his seventh home run of the year to put Chicago ahead 1-0. Cardinals left fielder Marcell Ozuna answered with a shot of his own in the bottom half of the same inning. A few at-bats after catcher Yadier Molina hit a double, Ozuna drilled a two-run home run to left, thus providing St. Louis with a 2-1 advantage.

Not long afterward, in the top of the third, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo carried forth with the home-run bonanza by hammering a yard ball of his own. Serving as Rizzo's third home run in a span of four games, the 404-foot no-doubter to straightaway center field provided Rizzo, who has hit 180 long balls in his career, with sole possession of 12th place on the Cubs' all-time home-run leaderboard.

Tied 2-2 after the Rizzo round-tripper, the National League Central duel evolved from a power-hitting extravaganza to a small-ball showcase in the top of the fifth. Following a one-out single by Cubs third baseman David Bote, Cardinals starting pitcher John Gant was pulled from the game. Reliever Austin Gomber entered in Gant's wake. After a fielder's choice groundout from Rizzo, Gomber paved the way for the two-out rally by giving up a double to Zobrist.

With runners on second and third and two outs, Chicago right fielder Jason Heyward hit a grounder on the first-base side of the infield that Munoz was unable to cleanly field, thereby resulting in Heyward reaching base safely and Rizzo coming home to score. Ironically, Munoz made what was likely one of the top defensive plays of the Cardinals' season on the Rizzo groundout earlier in the inning, when he laid out for an impressive stop and subsequently pulled off a remarkable pitch play to get the force out at second base. In the at-bat following the error, second baseman Javier Baez gave the Cubs some breathing room with a two-run double down the left-field line.

Leading 5-2 after scoring three runs as a byproduct of Munoz's blunder, the Cubs breezed to a victory the rest of the way, with the Cardinals mustering just one hit in the second half of the ballgame. Fanning eight batters and getting charged with only two runs, Hendricks avoiding losing his second consecutive start. As for Gant, who pitched 4.1 innings, he received the loss for giving up three runs, two of which were earned. Gant now stands at 3-4 overall.

The Cardinals tallied five hits total, while the Cubs totaled 10 hits, including four by Zobrist, who went 4-5 and scored two runs in one of his best offensive performances of the season. Cubs relievers Carl Edwards, Jr., and Pedro Strop teamed up to close out the win for Chicago, with Edwards, Jr., attaining his 14th hold and Strop earning his fifth save. By way of the 5-2 triumph against the Cardinals (53-52), the Cubs (61-44) took one of three in their last scheduled trip to St. Louis this season. The two clubs will next meet in late September for a regular season-ending series at Wrigley Field.

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