Cubs drop Cardinals, decrease their magic number to two

by - Senior Writer -
Chicago Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks pitched a gem to help lead his team to victory. (Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks pitched a gem to help lead his team to victory. (Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — Racing out to a 2-0 start, the Chicago Cubs led from start to finish in a pivotal win at home over the St. Louis Cardinals. Bringing their magic number in the National League Central down to two games, the Cubs were sparked by a solid start from pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who improved to 14-11 via an eight-inning outing, in which he gave up just two runs. Defeating the rival Cardinals 8-4, the Cubs added multiple insurance runs late in the contest to win comfortably.

Veteran Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright started on the mound and did not fare particularly well in what might have been his final start of the year. Wainwright allowed the first three batters of the bottom of the first to reach safely, with an RBI single from Anthony Rizzo driving home leadoff man Daniel Murphy. Murphy set the tone with a hard-fought plate appearance that resulted in a single to begin the inning. He went 2-3 at the plate on the day.

A few at-bats later, Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong suffered a fielding error on a dribbler hit by Jason Heyward. Ben Zobrist scurried home to score on the play. He would have likely scored even if Wong had not suffered the error, but the gaffe certainly helped matters for Chicago. The Cardinals could have potentially cut into their two-run deficit in the third, but Hendricks forced two flyouts to escape a jam, in which the Cardinals had runners on second and third with one out.

Third baseman Kris Bryant returned to the lineup for the Cubs on Friday after missing a few games due to injury. Squelching any doubts concerning his health, Bryant drilled a 448-foot no-doubter to straightaway center field during the fourth frame. Bryant's 13th and longest home run of the year put the Cubs up 3-0. Wainwright gave up one more run before departing after the the fifth inning. Murphy smacked a one-out double in the bottom of the fifth, and, following a bunt single from Zobrist that advanced him to third, he was scored on a sacrifice fly by Rizzo, who boasts 99 RBI on the season.

Although he struck out seven, Wainwright gave up four runs on five hits and one walk en route to picking up the loss and falling to 2-4 in a season marred by injury for the right-hander. Hendricks experienced a hiccup in the sixth, as he gave up two runs to give the Cardinals some life. Matt Carpenter was hit by a Hendricks pitch with one out, which was followed by a José Martínez double. A Paul DeJong groundout and a Marcell Ozuna single in consecutive at-bats drove in one run apiece to make the score 4-2.

The Cardinals gave up four combined runs in the seventh and eighth innings to essentially do themselves in. Hendricks scored the fifth run of the ballgame for the Cubs after drawing a leadoff walk in the seventh. Hendricks reached third on an ensuing throwing error by Cardinals third baseman Jedd Gyorko and was then plated on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Murphy.

Gyorko committed another error an inning later. With runners on first and second and one out, Gyorko made a bad throw on a potential double-play ball after getting the out at third, thereby advancing two runners into scoring position. Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks proceeded to walk two batters in a row to force home a run. Following a pitching change, Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. tallied a pair of RBI with a two-out base knock to right, increasing Chicago's lead to six.

A light rain fell for most of the second half of Friday's ballgame, which likely contributed to the shoddy defense on display. The Cardinals and the Cubs both suffered three errors on the afternoon, with a couple of Cubs blunders resulting in St. Louis manufacturing two essentially meaningless runs in the ninth. A throwing error by Bryant in left field led to pinch hitter Tyler O'Neill attaining an RBI single a few at-bats afterward. O'Neill later scored when Chicago shortstop Javier Baez let a routine grounder roll right through his legs.

Cubs reliever Jorge de la Rosa remained composed, however, and struck out the final batter of the game on three straight pitches to finish off the 8-4 Chicago victory. Improving to 94-66 with two games remaining on their regular-season schedule, the Cubs increased their lead over the second-place Milwaukee Brewers, who stand at 92-67 with three games to play. As for the 87-73 Cardinals, they suffered a critical loss to prevent them from gaining any ground in their chase for a wild card.

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