Cubs waste early lead, lose to Cardinals


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Jason Hammel earned the loss after giving up two costly home runs on Tuesday.
Jason Hammel earned the loss after giving up two costly home runs on Tuesday.

ST. LOUIS -- Entering Tuesday’s clash with the second-place St. Louis Cardinals (76-68), the Chicago Cubs’ magic number for clinching the National League Central title stood at three games. However, the Cardinals prevented the Cubs from gaining any additional ground by hitting two home runs off of Cubs starter Jason Hammel and winning 4-2.

Hammel lost his second consecutive game on Tuesday night, dropping to 14-9 overall, after giving up a pair of two-run homers. Despite collecting an impressive nine strikeouts in only 5.2 innings on the mound, Hammel was simply not good enough. On the other side of the spectrum, Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia struggled early and was pulled after a mere 1.2 innings on the bump, a decision that proved to be wise for St. Louis manager Mike Matheny.

Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler led off the game with a home run, his 12th of the season. A shot to straightaway center, Fowler’s homer placed the Cardinals into an early 1-0 deficit. In the ensuing inning, that deficit increased, as Cubs shortstop Addison Russell accrued his 91st RBI of the season by driving in second baseman Ben Zobrist with a double to left. Zobrist was walked to start the top of the second. Garcia did not make it out of the inning, and the Cubs suffered because of it.

With only four hits in the game, the Cubs were impotent at the plate following the second inning. Although Chicago drew eight walks, hitting was hard to come by for the North Siders. Alex Reyes, Garcia’s replacement on the hill, earned the win after pitching 4.1 innings of one-hit ball and is now 2-1 overall.

Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz hit his 15th home run of the year in the bottom of the second, a two-run bomb to left that scored left fielder Brandon Moss. Moss reciprocated Diaz’s round-tripper with one of his own in the sixth, hitting a two-run homer that brought home catcher Yadier Molina and gave the Cardinals a 4-2 lead that they would not relinquish. Diaz was 2-2 in the game, and Adams was 2-3.

The rubber match of this hotly contested series will commence tomorrow afternoon, with the Cubs (92-52) looking to move one step closer to winning their first divisional title since 2008.



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