Photo is credited to Getty Images.
For the first time since one knocked the other out of the postseason party last October, the Cubs and Cardinals met at Busch Stadium for three of their nineteen scheduled meetings this year.
Game One: Cubs 5, Cardinals 0 — WP: John Lackey (3-0) LP: Mike Leake (0-2)
Entering Monday’s game, the Cardinals and Cubs boasted the highest run totals in the game, respectively scoring 85 and 71 runs through their first twelve games of the season. During Monday’s matchup, however, pitching would reign for well over half of the ballgame.
Mike Leake got the nod for the Cardinals and set the tone early, striking out three Cubs through the first three innings. Oh, but his counterpart — former Cardinal John Lackey — was just as sharp, setting down four Cardinals by way of the K through three frames.
The Cardinals put together a chance to score in the fifth, setting up a second and third scenario with one out and Leake at the plate. Leake squared to sacrifice during his at-bat, prompting the runner on third, Kolten Wong, to break toward the plate. Leake missed, and Cubs catcher Miguel Montero caught Wong in a sticky situation. Montero made a throw to third, but Bryant was off the bag. The shortstop, Addison Russell, did not get over to third quick enough to cover the throw, and Wong dove back to third safely. The missed opportunity to record an out did not come back to bite the Cubs, though, as Leake and Matt Carpenter struck out to end the inning.
If momentum really does shift, it certainly did toward the Cubs after the fifth inning, when the Cardinals failed to score. Center fielder Dexter Fowler, who doubled off of Leake in the first inning, homered to lead off the sixth inning for the first run of the ballgame — the only run Lackey would need, but not the only run he’d get.
The Cubs got back-to-back singles from Kris Bryant and Montero to open their half of the seventh, setting the stage for left fielder Jorge Soler. Soler hit a groundball to shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who bobbled the ball and was charged with an error. In an effort to record the out on Soler, Diaz fired toward first, airmailing the ball over Brandon Moss’s head, allowing Bryant to score, Montero to take third, and Soler to take second. Diaz was charged with his second error on the throw, his fourth and fifth defensive miscues of the season.
Addison Russell hit a sacrifice fly next to bring in Montero, and Lackey helped his own cause with a single to plate Matt Szczur, who pinch-ran for Soler. With a four-run lead now to his credit, Lackey’s stellar outing came to a close after the seventh inning. Lackey finished the night with 91 pitches, eleven strikeouts, and allowed just four hits.
Chicago added an insurance run in the eighth off of Tyler Lyons. Bryant singled to drive in Ben Zobrist, who doubled to lead off the inning. The Cubs took a 5-0 lead and looked to Travis Wood, Pedro Strop, and Trevor Cahill to secure their tenth victory of the year and the third for Lackey, a task the three completed with ease.
-Prior to the game, the Cardinals activated shortstop Ruben Tejada off the 15-day disabled list and optioned utility infielder Greg Garcia to Triple-A Memphis.
-With his win, John Lackey became the sixteenth pitcher in major-league history to beat all 30 teams.
Game Two: Cubs 2, Cardinals 1 — WP: Jason Hammel (2-1) LP: Jaime Garcia (1-1) SV: Hector Rondon (3)
The second game of the series was another low-scoring affair between the heaviest run producers in the sport thus far in the season and, like the series’ first game, pitching would reign — even more so given the final score.
The Cardinals built a chance to score in the second inning, receiving two consecutive base hits from first baseman Matt Adams and center fielder Randal Grichuk. With Yadier Molina at the plate, Adams, who was on second, broke for third before Cubs starter Jason Hammel was in his delivery. Hammel caught Adams and trapped the first baseman in a rundown before working with third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Addison Russell to record an out Adams, the first out of the inning. Molina, with only one runner on now, tripled off the top of the left-field wall, scoring Grichuk and giving the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead.
Jaime Garcia, who was starting for the first time since shutting out the Milwaukee Brewers on one hit, was not particularly sharp in this outing, walking the leadoff batter in the first two innings. The Cubs didn’t capitalize on Garcia’s issues until the fourth inning, however, after Jorge Soler walked with one out preceding back-to-back singles from Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero. Russell struck out next, bringing in the pitcher Hammel. Hammel, a career .139 hitter with seventeen RBIs in 274 at-bats entering Tuesday, promptly singled. Montero and Zobrist each scored, creating a 2-1 advantage for Chicago.
St. Louis had two consecutive hits from the third and fourth men in their batting loop to begin the home half of the fourth, a single from Matt Holliday and a double from Adams. Grichuk popped out and brought Molina to the plate. Molina skied the Hammel delivery to right field, where three-time Gold Glove recipient Jason Heyward was playing. Like clockwork, Heyward jogged in to make the grab and kept a keen eye on the runner at third, Holliday. Holliday decided to test Heyward’s arm and tagged up to try and score the tying run. Heyward, on the other hand, had a different idea in mind. Heyward fired the ball toward Montero, propelling the ball one small bounce away from Montero. Montero received the ball and successfully made the tag on Holliday; it was a 9-2 double play to end the Cardinals’ fourth inning threat.
Contrary to his counterpart, whose night ended after five innings and 98 pitches, Hammel lasted six innings for the Cubs, allowing one run on five hits across 84 pitches. Hammel’s night gave way to Chicago’s bullpen, who, for the second straight night, entered the game and mowed through St. Louis’s lineup en route to a 2-1 victory.
-Before Tuesday’s game, the Cubs announced that Kyle Schwarber had successful surgery to repair his left ACL and LCL.
Game Three: Cardinals 5, Cubs 3 –WP: Carlos Martinez (3-0) LP: Kyle Hendricks (1-2) SV: Trevor Rosenthal (4)
The final game of the series featured a matchup between young right handers Carlos Martinez and Kyle Hendricks, each the fifth guy in their respective rotation.
Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward singled with one out in the first inning, Heyward’s first hit of the series. Anthony Rizzo stepped to the plate next and drove the Martinez delivery out to deep left-center field; the ball had two-run homer written all over it. Cardinals center fielder Randal Grichuk jumped up and caught the ball, however, keeping the game scoreless.
The Cardinals, too, got a hit with one out in the first inning, a double from Stephen Piscotty. Matt Holliday came up next and hit his third home run of the year, a two-run shot to give the Cardinals an early lead. Yadier Molina doubled to lead off the second inning, and Kolten Wong followed with a single. Hendricks threw a wild pitch, allowing Molina to score and Wong to take second. Wong stole third and later scored on an RBI single from Martinez to give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.
Martinez faced Rizzo again in the fourth inning, and Rizzo put it out of reach this time. His fourth home run of the year put Chicago on the board and cut the Cardinals’ lead to 4-1. The ballgame was interrupted in the middle of the seventh inning when the clouds above the stadium opened up and started pouring rain. The interruption lasted a whopping three hours and 21 minutes, longer than the time it ultimately took to play the game (two hours and 40 minutes).
The Cubs, still trailing 4-1, came out swinging in the eighth, as Dexter Fowler singled off of reliever Seung Hwan Oh. Heyward walked before Rizzo came to plate. Rizzo laced a single to right field, scoring Fowler. Kris Bryant grounded into a force out, allowing Heyward to cross the plate and cut the Cubs’ deficit to 4-3.
Grichuk took a one-out walk from Adam Warren in the eighth and took second on a throwing error by Warren, who was attempting to pick Grichuk off first. Molina shot a single to left, plating Grichuk and giving the Cardinals some insurance.
With a 5-3 lead, Trevor Rosenthal came out to pitch the ninth inning and retired Miguel Montero, Javier Baez, and Jorge Soler on strikeouts to preserve a win for the Cardinals.
-With the save on Wednesday, Trevor Rosenthal became the youngest pitcher in franchise history to notch 100 saves.
Cubs: The Cubs will commute to Cincinnati, Ohio to begin a four-game series with the Reds. The Cubs and Reds met at Wrigley Field the second week of the season, and the North Siders swept the three-game set.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will embark on their second trip of the year after finishing their first homestand on Wednesday. The Cardinals have a three-game series set to begin with the San Diego Padres this weekend.