A Tip of the Recap – 5/24 (Cubs 12, Cardinals 3)
Cubs Record: 30-14, 1st Place NL Central
W: Jason Hammel
L: Michael Wacha
SV: Are you kidding, it was a nine-run game
MVP: Jason Hammel
The Cubs put up a six-spot in the top of the 1st and never looked back. Jason Hammel held the Cards to only one run on four hits, striking out four and walking three in 7.1 innings of work. It appears that the big righty’s renewed focus on physical fitness is paying off, as he now has an ERA of 2.17 through nine starts. Seeing the offense bust out for a dozen runs was a welcome sight that was made even better by good performances from Jorge Soler and Addison Russell.
Jason Heyward was back in the lineup, which was a nice psychological boost. He wasn’t able to pick up a hit and was the only starter who didn’t get at least one knock, but having him patrolling right field again was nice.
Ben Zobrist continued his torrid stretch with a walk, a double, and two runs scored and is now up to .338 on the season. For the month of May, Zo is slashing .410/.500/.667 with a .488 wOBA and 211 wRC+, all of which is incredible. His 2.6 WAR is 5th in MLB and is already half a game higher than his total from last season. Even if his season ended today, Zobrist has been worth the contract the Cubs offered him.
There was also this slick play from Justin Grimm, who went between the legs to snag an Aledmys Diaz grounder and end the 8th inning. It’s a good thing he won’t be getting an at-bat in Wednesday’s game, since he’d probably have to wear a pitch for showing off like that.
Clayton Richard came on in the 9th and was unable to close out the game. He allowed two runs on three hits and was removed with two outs after hitting Brandon Moss with a pitch. The game was obviously never in question, but Maddon made the call for Trevor Cahill, who struck Eric Fryer out on three pitches to end the game.
It wasn’t ugly if you’re a Cubs fan, but the Cardinals’ outfield defense was less than stellar. Their routes to balls in the gaps were less than ideal and it almost seemed that they were tired and/or disinterested.
The final score was a little ugly as well, though beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Speaking of, there weren’t too many eyes beholding the final outs of Tuesday’s blowout. That’s probably why the response to Maddon’s challenge, and the subsequent overturning, of a close play at first base in the top of the 9th inning was not quite as loud as one might have expected. Russell beat the throw from Kolten Wong and would eventually go on to score on a Matt Szczur triple.
The Cubs and Cards will square off at 12:45 pm (CT) Wednesday in the rubber game of the series. The Cubs have not won on getaway day in St. Louis since July of 2011 (h/t Matt Trueblood), but they have not lost in Jake Arrieta’s last 22 starts. Something’s gotta give. Trying to stop the streak will be hard-throwing Carlos Martinez, who beat the Cubs back on April 20 with a solid performance.