Cubs lose marathon to Cardinals on another walk-off

by - Senior Writer -
Javier Baez's inability to make a play on the defensive end overshadowed his clutch home run. (Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)
Javier Baez's inability to make a play on the defensive end overshadowed his clutch home run. (Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

ST. LOUIS — Ominous clouds and a couple of brief rain delays did not put a damper on a hard-fought National League Central duel in St. Louis on Sunday night. In a contest that lasted until nearly 1:00 AM local time in St. Louis, the Cardinals topped the Cubs 4-3 in 14 innings as part of the second straight extra-innings game of the series. Winning via a two-run home run by former Cub and current Cardinal Dexter Fowler, marking his first career walk-off, the Cardinals earned a series sweep, providing Chicago with its fifth straight loss.

Cardinals third baseman Jedd Gyorko had an interesting start to the night, suffering a significant blunder right off the bat and hitting a critical home run soon afterward. In the top of the first, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, who batted leadoff on the night, smacked a single to right-center, which was followed up by a single from left fielder Kyle Schwarber. On Schwarber's hit, Gyorko made a throwing error, allowing the runners to advance. Thereafter, Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo brought Contreras in to score on a sacrifice fly.

In the midst of two rain delays, Gyorko made up for his error with a game-tying homer in the second inning. A 376-footer to left, the lined shot was hit so hard that it ricocheted off the wall beyond left field and back onto the field. However, Chicago retook the lead on a solo shot by third baseman Kris Bryant to lead off the fourth.

With a 433-footer into the upper deck beyond left field off Cardinals starter Michael Wacha, Bryant harkened back to the bombs frequently hit to left by former Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire at the old Busch Stadium. Good for his fourth long ball of 2018, the home run by Bryant provided the Cubs with a 2-1 lead.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, wasted several potential scoring opportunities. For example, in the bottom of the first, with men on first and second with no outs, center fielder Harrison Bader attempted to steal third on Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. Gunned down by a mile, Bader killed all of St. Louis's momentum and set up the ensuing inning-ending double play.

St. Louis was able to take advantage after Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester was yanked from the ballgame, though. Taken out after giving up six hits and four walks in 5.1 innings on the hill, Lester was pulled once he walked Gyorko with one out in the sixth. Steve Cishek, Lester's replacement, struck out the first batter whom he faced, but he was then taken for a triple by Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, who hit the walk-off homer against the Cubs on Saturday.

While it was scored as a triple, the play could have easily been recorded as an error on behalf of Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward. Attempting a fairly unneccary forward slide on an attempt at catching the low, arcing fly ball by Wong in right, Heyward blatantly missed the baseball for a very rare mistake by the perennial Gold-Glove recipient.

Offense became hard to come by in the proceeding innings, with neither club experiencing much success with the bats. The Cubs boasted runners on first and third with two outs in the 12th but were unable to score. However, with two outs in the top of the 14th, Cubs infielder Javier Baez, the only Cub to collect multiple hits on the night, crushed his ninth homer of the year by taking Cardinals reliever Mike Mayers 411 feet to deep center, putting the Cubs ahead 3-2.

The Cardinals did not go away quietly, though. One day after giving up the losing homer to Wong, Cubs reliever Luke Farrell was given a chance to redeem himself in the bottom of the 14th, but he failed to do so. With two outs and nobody on, Bader hit a shot up the middle that Baez was somehow able to corral into his glove at shortstop. But the hard-hit ball was too much for Baez to handle in the brief window of time that he had to throw Bader out, so a misthrow enabled Bader to reach safely on an infield single.

Thereafter, in a seven-pitch at-bat, Fowler, with his lone hit of the three-game series, jacked a two-run bomb just over the wall in right that narrowly missed the outreached glove of Heyward. The hard-fought at-bat culminated in the second consecutive walk-off home run in extra innings for the Cardinals to top the Cubs, and it provided Farrell (1-2, 7.94) with his second straight losing decision.

With the 4-3 loss to the Cardinals (20-12), the Cubs (16-15) fell to 3.5 games behind the Cards in the NL Central and saw their losing streak grow to five games, just a week after they experienced a five-game winning streak. The loss also marked the first defeat experienced by the Cubs in their last seven games in which Lester started against a divisional opponent and the first loss in the last five starts by Lester against the Cardinals.

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