Cubs blow late lead, lose to Cards on walk-off home run in extras
Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo swatted his third home run of the week on Saturday. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Cubs blow late lead, lose to Cards on walk-off home run in extras

by - Senior Writer -

ST. LOUIS — Entering Saturday's contest against the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs closer Brandon Morrow was a perfect seven of seven on save attempts. But, with the Cubs leading 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth, Morrow gave up a game-tying two-run double to Marcell Ozuna that sent the game into extra innings, where the Cubs lost in walk-off fashion.

The Cubs (16-14) used two solo home runs to gain breathing room over the Cardinals (19-12) with a late 6-4 lead at Busch Stadium, but, in the end, the Cardinals' bullpen outperformed the Cubs' bullpen to provide the Redbirds with the victory. While both squads produced four-run innings early in the contest, the late-inning offensive drama made all the difference, with the clutch Cardinals pulling off a come-from-behind victory at home. With just his second home run of the season, Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong skied a walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th against Cubs reliever Luke Farrell to give the Cards an 8-6 win in what proved to be a classic, drama-filled National League Central duel.

Starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood Tyler Chatwood, another hurler taking part in his first year donning a Cubs uniform, has been incredibly anomalous to start the 2018 slate. Struggling with his command at times, Chatwood has been plagued by walks and the occasional disastrous inning. On the other hand, entering Saturday's matchup, Chatwood had accrued 27 strikeouts in 28.1 innings pitched and had given up over two runs only once. Fitting that theme of contradiction, Chatwood's start on Saturday was an up-and-down affair that culminated in one atrocious inning.

The Cubs' four-run inning came in the second, when they utilized plenty of small ball en route to taking an early hold on the ballgame. Facing off against third-year Cardinals starter Luke Weaver, the Cubs chased the young, struggling starter from the game after just four innings. Weaver gave up four of his five hits in the second inning, as the Cubs used three straight shallow singles in the inning's first three at-bats to incite a run.

Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber hustled home for the first run on a dribbler hit by second baseman Javier Baez onto the infield grass. Then, with men on second and third, the Cubs were able to successfully execute a safety squeeze for their second run. Chatwood laid down a perfect bunt that died in front of home plate, and shortstop Addison Russell slid headfirst, narrowly beating the tag. Originally called out, Russell was ruled safe after a challenge by Cubs skipper Joe Maddon.

Later in the inning, Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo, who accrued two hits apiece on the day, came up with RBI singles to put the Cubs on top by a score of 4-0. The Cardinals nearly produced a two-out rally in the bottom half of the inning, but Russell's spectacular diving stop and pitch to second base for an inning-ending force out ended the threat.

Once again, a video review was needed to overturn a call involving Russell, with the runner ruled safe at second upon first assessment. Following Maddon's second challenge of the inning, the call was overturned, saving a run for the Cubs. The Cardinals were not denied in the fourth frame, though, coming up with four runs to even the score.

Chatwood loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batsman to start the bottom of the fourth. Thereafter, pinch hitter Greg Garcia provided the Cardinals with their first run on a sacrifice fly that brought in former Cub Dexter Fowler. Next, Russell saw his luck run out on an error in which he dropped a throw from first baseman Anthony Rizzo, thereby enabling the Cardinals to score their second run.

The ensuing at-bat saw Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter come up with a critical double that scored two. Yet again, a defensive blunder by the Cubs aided the Cards, as Schwarber gaffed in a futile attempt at catching Carpenter's double in the air and then misplayed the ball after it landed.

Following a leadoff walk in the fifth, Chatwood, who certainly did not benefit from the fourth-inning blunders committed by the Chicago position players, was pulled from the contest, finishing with five strikeouts and just three hits to his name. But the five walks and four runs that he gave up ultimately doomed his start.

The Cubs quickly regained the lead in the sixth inning, as Baez golfed a home run to left off Cardinals reliever Ryan Sheriff. Earning him his NL-leading 28th RBI of the season, the home run (Baez's eighth of 2018), featured one of the more impressive home-run swings of El Mago's career.

In the bottom of the sixth, Schwarber produced a rather unorthodox highlight himself, making up for his mishap from earlier in the contest. Falling down due to a cleat malfunction while peering up at a fly ball, Schwarber somehow got to his feet in time to make the catch.

Schwarber's play helped the Cubs maintain their lead, which grew in the seventh on Rizzo's third home run of the week. Off to a hot start this May, Rizzo, who had just one homer at the conclusion of April, lofted a curveball from Cardinals reliever Matt Bowman down the right-field line. The 387-footer provided Chicago with a two-run advantage that it relinquished in the ninth.

Morrow, who was aiming to collect his eighth save, walked the leadoff man in the ninth, and, two at-bats later, gave up a single to put men on first and second. Then, Ozuna crushed a double to left that enabled both runners to score, knotting the game up at six.

The Cubs had the opportunity to retake the lead in extra innings, with Jason Heyward advancing to third with two outs in the 10th. However, a great play by Carpenter to catch a liner to third ushered in the bottom half of the 10th, when Wong clubbed his second home run of the season to give St. Louis the 8-6 win.

Farrell, who walked a batter before giving up the two-run bomb to Wong, garnered the loss to become 1-1, while Cardinals reliever Tyler Lyons improved to 1-0 by receiving the win. The Cardinals moved to 2.5 games ahead of the Cubs in the standings, doing so in a ballgame that saw them amass more runs than hits.

With just seven hits in a 10-inning game, the Cardinals took advantage of the Cubs' bevy of defensive and pitching mistakes to down the North Siders for the second consecutive game. After putting together their first five-game win streak of the season last week, the Cubs have now lost four in a row and will aim to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of their divisional foes tomorrow night.

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