Photo is credited to Getty Images.
On the north side of Chicago this weekend, Wrigley Field served as the venue for a three-game series between the Cardinals and Cubs, the teams’ final meeting of the regular season.
With two losses over the weekend to the Cubs, the Cardinals find themselves a half-game out of the second National League Wild Card spot, held by the Giants, and a game out of the first spot that’s captained by the Mets. The Cardinals have seven games remaining on their slate, while the Mets and Giants both have six lined up.
Game One: Cubs 5, Cardinals 0 — WP: Jake Arrieta (18-7) LP: Mike Leake (9-11)
Four first-inning runs and one of Jake Arrieta’s best starts of the second half ignited the Cubs’ engine for a 5-0 win over the Cardinals on Friday to kick off the clubs’ three-game series at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs got to Cardinals starter Mike Leake for four tallies in the game’s opening frame, which featured a walk, two wild pitches, and four hits. Arrieta, in contrast, seemingly suffered no control or command issues like his counterpart, as Arrieta logged seven shutout innings and punched out ten Cardinals.
After throwing 99 pitches, Arrieta was removed from the game to begin the eighth inning in favor of Pedro Strop, who was making his first appearance since suffering a left meniscus tear in early August. Strop issued a walk and struck out a batter in what was his first inning in over a month.
Game Two: Cardinals 10, Cubs 4 — WP: Alex Reyes (4-1) LP: Jason Hammel (15-10)
A day after being shut down by Jake Arrieta and the Cubs’ bullpen, the Cardinals erupted for ten runs in the series’ second game, evening the series at a game apiece with a 10-4 victory on Saturday at Wrigley Field.
Similar to the Cubs and opposing hurler Mike Leake on Friday, the Cardinals plated four runs in the top of the first off Cubs starter Jason Hammel, who saw his earned run average balloon to 3.83 by allowing six runs before pulled with one out in the third inning.
Cardinals starter Alex Reyes actually saw his ERA rise, too, as the Cubs managed three runs off the young right-hander through five innings; nevertheless, his 1.58 mark through 40 big-league frames — including four starts — is not a metric that would cause heads to shake in negative response.
The Cardinals received a big four-RBI day from catcher Yadier Molina, who, by going 3-for-4 on Saturday, was batting an even .300 entering Sunday’s rubber game.
Game Three: Cubs 3, Cardinals 1 — WP: Jon Lester (19-4) LP: Carlos Martinez (15-9) SV: Aroldis Chapman (36)
For the second time in less than two weeks, Jon Lester and Carlos Martinez squared off in the rubber game of a three-game series between the Cubs and Cardinals. And for the second time in two weeks, Lester and the Cubs came away winners, as Chicago, offensively supported by catchers David Ross and Wilson Contreras and shortstop Addison Russel, took Sunday night’s matchup at Wrigley Field, 3-1.
Lester, who pitched eight scoreless innings against Martinez and the Cardinals on September 14, was tagged for just a run by the Cardinals in his otherwise blemish-free outing, one that lowered his ERA from 2.36 to 2.28.
In the batter’s box, the Cubs saw Ross delight the Wrigley Field faithful with his tenth home run of the season, a 413-foot blast that broke a scoreless tie in the fifth frame. Ross announced earlier this year that this season is his last, and the 39-year-old backstop is making the most of his limited opportunities, especially so in the power department, as, for the first time since 2007, Ross’ home run count is represented by a double-digit number.
The Cubs went on to score the eventual game-winning run in the sixth inning on Russel’s 94th run batted in of the year and got an insurance tally from Contreras, who picked up his 33rd.
As for Martinez, recipient of his ninth loss in 24 decisions this season, his nineteenth quality start of the year for the Cardinals proved to be too little of an effort, despite dealing with a baserunner in five of his six frames yet only surrendering a couple of runs.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will return to Busch Stadium in St. Louis to begin their final homestand of the regular season with a four-game date against the Reds. The Cardinals currently sit a half-game out of the National League’s second Wild Card spot and have to take advantage of the struggling Reds before the half-game deficit becomes insurmountable.
Cubs: By picking up their 99th win on Sunday, the 100-win plateau is definitely on the Cubs’ radar as the regular season dwindles down, and the team will look to achieve and surpass the feat as they play four games at PNC Park with the Pirates over the week.