Cubs throttle Cardinals, force tiebreaker with Brewers

by - Senior Writer -
The Cubs racked up 12 hits, six of which were of the extra-base variety, off Cardinals pitching. (Photo Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)
The Cubs racked up 12 hits, six of which were of the extra-base variety, off Cardinals pitching. (Photo Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — With the National League Central crown on the line, the Chicago Cubs (95-67) battled through early adversity to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals (88-74) fairly handily and force a tiebreaker with the Milwaukee Brewers (95-67). Winning 10-5 on Sunday, the Cubs fought back after falling down 2-0 in the first inning. Chicago benefited from a dominant bullpen performance, in which eight different relievers were used. A 4-4 showing at the plate by first baseman Anthony Rizzo certainly helped matters for the North Siders, too.

Mike Montgomery got the nod to start on the mound for the Cubs, but he did not remain in the game for very long. Pitching just 2.1 innings, Montgomery gave up two runs on five hits in the top of the first. Luckily for Montgomery and the Cubbies, young Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty was not any better while toeing the rubber, as he allowed four runs to score on four hits and three walks in 2.2 innings.

Despite having essentially nothing to play for but pride, the Cardinals, who were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday, jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Slugger Matt Carpenter led off the game with a double and was scored soon afterward on a Paul DeJong single. With two outs, Patrick Wisdom sharply hit a base knock to right-center. On the hit, Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward suffered a rare error, as he misplayed the ball on the wet grass and enabled a run to score.

Cubs infielder Javier Baez attempted to put the Cubs on the board by running through a stop sign at third base and trying to score on Rizzo's first hit of the day in the bottom of the first. However, Baez was thrown out to end the inning and ruin a scoring opportunity for Chicago. A few innings later, the Cubs put together a brilliant two-out rally to gain control of the game and make Baez's blunder a distant memory.

With two outs, Ben Zobrist smacked a triple into the right-field corner to score Daniel Murphy, who doubled in the previous at-bat. After that, Flaherty threw his second wild pitch of the game to usher home Zobrist.

Following a walk of Baez, Rizzo obtained his 100th RBI of the year with a double in the gap between right and center field that put the Cubs up 3-2. Rizzo was jubilant after giving the Cubs' their first lead of the game, as he pumped the Wrigley Field crowd up while standing at second base.

An intentional walk of Kris Bryant ensued, and Flaherty was pulled from the game. The pitching change did not pay off for St. Louis, as Heyward redeemed himself for his error with an RBI single that made the score 4-2. Cardinals pitcher Austin Gomber threw two innings in relief and was charged with four runs. In the fifth, the Cubs added to their lead with four more runs on four hits.

The Cubs started the bottom half of the fifth off with three straight hits, including back-to-back doubles by Rizzo and Bryant, respectively. Bryant's double to left scored two runs and gave the Cubs a four-run edge. Later in the inning, the Cubs tallied yet another clutch two-out hit, with catcher Willson Contreras jacking his first home run since August 1. The two-run bomb, which hit off a video board beyond left field, put the Cubs ahead by a score of 8-2.

Chicago reliever Carl Edwards Jr., who has struggled as of late, gave up a two-run single to Yairo Munoz in the sixth mere moments after throwing a wild pitch to put the base runners in scoring position. Edwards collected himself after that and got out of the inning without getting taken for any additional runs. During the bottom half of the sixth, for the second time in the game, the Cubs suffered outs in the first two plate appearances before putting together an impressive two-out rally.

Baez, who went 2-4 with three RBI, started it off with a double to deep right. Rizzo was walked after that, and Bryant then reached as a result of a blown defensive assignment by pitcher Dakota Hudson, who failed to cover first base in a timely fashion on a routine grounder. Hudson was charged with an error on the play and allowed another run to score soon afterward, as Albert Almora Jr. hit an infield single that could have easily been ruled an error on the third baseman. Defensive gaffes plagued the Cardinals throughout the three-game set.

The Cardinals were able to push one more run across, as Cubs reliever Steve Cishek hit a batter with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, but the Redbirds did not seriously threaten the Cubs late in the ballgame. With 11 hits, which was just one fewer than the number of hits attained by the Cubs on the day, the Cardinals were solid at the dish, but leaving 20 runners stranded and giving up six extra-base hits to the Cubs essentially did them in.

Taking two out of three from St. Louis in the series, the Cubs saw their regular season extended on Sunday. During the course of Chicago's 10-5 victory, Milwaukee beat the Detroit Tigers (64-98) 11-0. As a result of the wins by the Brewers and the Cubs on the originally scheduled final day of the regular season, a 163rd game will take place at Wrigley Field on Monday afternoon to determine the winner of the National League Central. The loser will enter the playoffs as a wild card and be relegated to taking part in a one-game playoff on Tuesday night.

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