Photo is credited to Getty Images.
This week, National League Central rivals clashed in the Gateway City, as the Cardinals hosted the Cubs for a three-game series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. By taking two of three, the Cubs find themselves one more win or one Cardinals loss away from officially being crowned champions of the National League Central.
Game One: Cubs 4, Cardinals 1 — WP: Kyle Hendricks (15-7) LP: Mike Leake (9-10) SV: Aroldis Chapman (34)
Although Jeremy Hazelbaker put the kibosh on a game that seemed destined for the record books, Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs were winners on Monday night, knocking off the Cardinals, 4-1.
Hendricks, captain of the National League ERA leaderboard, held the Cardinals hitless through eight dominant innings, as he used his deceptive offspeed pitches to keep the St. Louis sluggers off balance throughout the course of the evening. It was on an 0-2 changeup in the bottom of the ninth inning when, with nobody out, Hazelbaker rocketed his twelfth home run of the season to right field, ending Hendricks’ no-hit bid and the shutout, although the long ball served the Cardinals little avail beyond that.
As for Chicago’s four runs — which were all tallied off Cardinals starter Mike Leake — two were credited to leadoff batter Dexter Fowler, who slammed a two-run homer in the fifth. Ben Zobirst and Anthony Rizzo drove in runs, too; Zobrist homered, and Rizzo scorched an RBI hit.
Game Two: Cardinals 4, Cubs 2 — WP: Alex Reyes (2-1) LP: Jason Hammel (14-9) SV: Kevin Siegrist (2)
A pair of two-run homers off Cubs starter Jason Hammel proved to be enough for St. Louis on Tuesday, as the Cardinals picked up a win in the middle game of the three-game series, 4-2.
Shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who started on Tuesday for the first time since suffering a broken thumb in late July, parked a two-run homer in left field to tie the ballgame at two following a first-inning long ball from Dexter Fowler and RBI double off the bat of Addison Russell in top of the frame. Brandon Moss, in the midst of a 1-for-41 stretch as he entered play Tuesday, swatted a two-run blast of his own in the sixth to put the Cardinals ahead for good.
After the Cubs put two early runs on the board against Cardinals hurler Jaime Garcia, Garcia was pulled from the game with two outs in the second in favor of Alex Reyes, who picked up the second win of his career by logging 4.1 scoreless innings, despite the fact he walked six batters and was caught in bases-loaded jams on two different occasions.
Game Three: Cubs 7, Cardinals 0 — WP: Jon Lester (17-4) LP: Carlos Martinez (14-8
An outing of excellence effortlessly turned in by Cubs starter Jon Lester allowed Chicago to take two of three games in their series with the Cardinals, including the rubber game in a Wednesday matinee matchup at Busch Stadium by a 7-0 final score.
Lester breezed through eight splendid innings, during which the burly left-handed hurler punched out eight batters and prohibited any baserunners beyond first base. Lester was supported with seven runs, including a two-run bomb off the bat of his batterymate, David Ross, two home runs from his first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, and Lester even helped his own cause with an RBI single in the third inning to begin the fine offensive day for the North Siders.
Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez was charged for four earned runs on eight hits through six innings and administered 99 pitches — 72 strikes — and whiffed nine batters in the process, although, due to Lester’s performance, the four-run deficit he allowed the Cubs to build on the Cardinals was too much to overcome.