Unfriendly Confines: Bryant injured as Cubs lose home finale, get swept by Cardinals

by - Senior Writer -
Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was forced to exit Sunday's game after spraining his right ankle. (Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was forced to exit Sunday's game after spraining his right ankle. (Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — On a symbolically dreary afternoon at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs (82-74) coughed up a lead in the ninth inning for the second day in a row and lost their sixth straight contest because of it. Falling 3-2 to the St. Louis Cardinals (89-67) on Sunday, the Cubs lost by one run for the fifth consecutive game and were officially eliminated from contention in the National League Central race. Yu Darvish remained red-hot on the mound and struck out 12, becoming the first-ever Cubs pitcher to tally 11 or more strikeouts in three consecutive outings. However, likely due to the Cubs' recent bullpen woes, Darvish remained in to pitch the ninth inning and wound up receiving the losing decision.

Light rain fell throughout the game, which served as the Cubs' home finale. Longtime Cubs organist Gary Pressy, who is set to retire at the conclusion of the Cubs' 2019 slate, entertained the Bleacher Bums for what might have been the final time in his 33-year career. Appropriately, Pressy threw out the ceremonial first pitch and also sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch. Unfortunately for Pressy, the Cubs were unable to hang on to their late 2-1 advantage, with the Redbirds plating two runs in the top of the ninth en route to securing a 4-game sweep at the Friendly Confines. Starting hurler Miles Mikolas fared well for the Cardinals, as he gave up just two runs in 7 2/3 innings pitched.

Although the matchup between the division foes teemed with playoff tension, an injury suffered by the Cubs' Kris Bryant overshadowed the action. As a result of the wet conditions, Bryant slipped off the first-base bag while attempting to beat out a throw on a groundout. After rolling his right ankle while falling to the ground, Bryant, who has also been battling an injury to his right knee for quite some time, was in visible pain while being helped off the field. Ian Happ replaced Bryant at third base, and the Cubs later announced that Bryant had suffered a sprained ankle, with the X-rays on the ankle coming back negative. The third-inning play on which Bryant was hurt resulted in an inning-ending double play.

Thanks to a pair of blatant blunders by the Cardinals, the Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. With men on first and second and one out, Kyle Schwarber skied a routine fly ball to deep left-center, but miscommunication between St. Louis outfielders Harrison Bader and Marcell Ozuna culminated in the ball falling in for a single that loaded the bases. Soon afterward, a rare defensive mistake suffered by veteran Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina put the Cubs on the scoreboard, as a passed ball allowed Nicholas Castellanos to score from third. The Cardinals collected two consecutive outs after that, though, thus limiting the Cubs to one run in the opening frame.

One of the few mistakes made by Darvish on the afternoon came on a leadoff home run hit by Paul DeJong in the top of the third. Going yard for the second day in a row, DeJong crushed a fastball 437 feet out of the park and onto Waveland Avenue. Castellanos regained the Cubs' lead with a leadoff jack of his own in the bottom of the sixth. Marking his career-high 27th homer of the season, Castellanos powered a 409-footer into the seats, putting the Cubs up 2-1. Javier Baez entered as a pinch runner with the Cubs seeking an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Baez replaced Anthony Rizzo, who nursed an ankle ailment throughout the series and fittingly received a standing ovation from the fans when being removed from the game.

Baez ended up at third base, but a lineout by Schwarber left runners at the corners stranded. The Cardinals scored two runs in the top of the ninth in their 9-8 victory on Saturday, and they broke the Cubs' hearts yet again by achieving the same feat in Sunday's series finale. Albert Almora Jr. entered between innings to play center field for the Cubs, and he was thrust into the limelight right away, as Jose Martinez led off the bottom of the ninth with a triple hit to deep center field. Making a valiant effort, Almora nearly caught the deep drive, but it caromed off his glove for a pivotal 3-bagger. The speedy Tyler O'Neill pinch ran for Martinez and scored on an ensuing sacrifice fly from Dexter Fowler.

Darvish continued to pitch after giving up the lead, and Tommy Edman singled off him and then stole second. Next, Paul Goldschmidt hammered a double past third base and into the left-field corner, thereby scoring Edman and handing the Cardinals their first lead of the afternoon. At that point, Darvish was finally taken out, which led to Cubs reliever Pedro Strop finishing off the top of the ninth. Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller finished off the game, though, as the Cubs were unable to manufacture any runs in the bottom of the ninth. In the near future, the Cardinals and the Cubs will face off in a 3-game series at Busch Stadium to cap off the regular season. Although the Cubs, who became just the second team in MLB history to lose by one run in every contest of a 4-game series at home, have no shot at winning the division, they are still clinging to life in the wild-card race. As for the Cardinals, they clinched a playoff berth by way of the 3-2 win and are closing in on clinching the division.

St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs
Sep 22, 2019 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
St. Louis (89-67) 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 7 0
Chicago (82-74) 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 9 0
W: Tyler Webb (2-1) L: Yu Darvish (6-8) S: Andrew Miller (6)

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