The Chicago Cubs continued their dominance of the National League when they came to Busch Stadium and took the first two games of the series against their NL Central rivals on Monday and Tuesday. Improving their record to 11-3, the Cubs won decisively against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night 5-0, and sneaked past the Cards again on Tuesday night 2-1.
Chicago entered Wednesday afternoon’s game atop the Central Division, 3.5 games ahead of the second place Cincinnati Reds. Coming off of an impressive 100-win season, St. Louis is off to a slow start in 2016. The Cardinals’ record of 7-7 prior to Wednesday’s game tied them for third place in the division with the Pittsburgh Pirates, four games behind the Cubs. The Milwaukee Brewers (6-8) are in last place.
Hoping to lock-up a clean sweep at Busch for Chicago, Kyle Hendricks came into the game with a 1-1 record for the Cubs. Carlos Martinez was the starting pitcher for the Cardinals, entering the game with a 2-0 record.
Martinez faced Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo in the bottom of the first with two outs and a runner on first. Thanks to an amazing catch by Randal Grichuk, the two-run homer turned into the third out, temporarily preserving the shut-out. While Rizzo would continue to have an impressive day at the plate, that 2-run homer would have been really helpful.
After Hendricks struck out Matt Carpenter, Stephen Piscotty reached second base after his grounder bounced off of Chicago third baseman Tommy La Stella. Matt Holliday was up next and hit one over the fence that no one in blue had a chance to prevent. After two more runs in the bottom of the 2nd, St. Louis had an early 4-0 lead over Chicago.
When Rizzo was up for his second at bat, he cleared the fence once again, and this time Grichuk was nowhere near it. The single homer put the Cubs on the board, and the score remained 4-1 for several innings. For those watching the game in real-time, the score was 4-1 for over four hours, as a 3:20 rain delay kicked in during the bottom of the 7th. The fans at Busch Stadium began to clear out, and only a fraction of them remained to see the Cubs start a comeback late in the game.
In the top of the 8th, Rizzo stepped up to the plate for the Cubs once again, both figuratively and literally, registering another RBI off of a single to right field. Rizzo was thrown out at second as Kris Bryant hit a grounder that allowed former Cardinal Jason Hayward to score a run and reduce the Cardinals’ lead to 4-3.
It proved too little, too late, however, as the Cardinals managed to register another run in the bottom of the 8th. In the top of the 9th, the Cubs would need two runs against one of the hottest closers in the League, Trevor Rosenthal.
The final three outs weren’t pretty for Chicago, as Rosenthal struck out the side, handing the Cubs their first loss in Busch Stadium in 2016. While two of them only pitched one out each, the Cubs sent five different men to the mound on Wednesday, collectively giving up four earned runs on nine hits. After 5.1 innings, Hendricks was given his second loss of the season, now 1-2. For St. Louis, Rosenthal earned his fourth save of the season, and Martinez improved his record to 3-0.
The next game for St. Louis is on Friday in San Diego as the Cardinals visit the Padres. The Cubs travel to Cincinnati to begin a four-game series against the Reds tomorrow. They return to Wrigley Field on April 26 to begin a series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
[Photo credit Christian Petersen/Getty Images]