Cubs Record: 72-41 (1st Place NL Central)
W: Mike Montgomery (1-1, 4.76)
L: Zach Duke (0-1, 1.93)
MVP: Anthony Rizzo: 2-5, 3B, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB
The red-hot Cubs began a series with the evil empire…sorry, I mean the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field on Thursday night. Chicago came in with a 12 game lead over second place St. Louis and can bury the Cards with a series win. Jon Lester matched up with Carlos Martinez on a hot and steamy night at the Friendly Confines.
The Cardinals built an early 2-0 lead the first 5.5 innings on a Yadier Molina RBI single and a solo homer from Brandon Moss. Martinez was able to strand two Cubs runners on third in the first five innings. The game was starting to take on a frustrating feel for the Northsiders.
Then in the bottom of the 6th all hell broke loose. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo singled off Martinez to open the inning. Jason Heyward reached on an infield single to load the bases with two outs. On a full count Chris Coghlan asked for time, it was not granted, and a panicked Coghlan swung and lined the tying single to right. David Ross then channeled Jake Taylor and bunted for a hit, allowing the go-ahead run to score: 3-2 Cubs.
Randall Grichuk continued to be his annoying self against the Cubs. The Cards outfielder hit a homer off Travis Wood in the top of the 7th to tie the game at 3. Other than some amazing Javy Baez defense, both teams went quietly through the 8th and 9th innings. Addison Russell and Heyward were unable to bring home the winning run from second in the bottom of the 10th.
The game would be decided in the 11th inning, when the Cards loaded the bases in the top of the inning against Mike Montgomery. Montgomery was wild all inning, walking two of the three men on base. The former Mariner saved his nastiest stuff for Matt Carpenter, who struck out swinging to end the threat. The Cubs loaded the bases as well in the bottom half of the inning and Rizzo was able to coax a walk-off walk from Zach Duke to end the game at 4-3 Cubs.
All and all it was solid game for starter Jon Lester: 6IP, 2R, 5H, 6K, 1BB. After some bad luck with three well-placed singles in the 1st, Lester settled in. Other than one bad pitch to Moss, he was dominant the last 5 innings of his start.
David Ross had a great all-around great game on Thursday. In addition to his RBI bunt single, he also doubled to left center. He picked Jedd Gyorko off first base right before Grichuk hit that homer in the 7th. Rossy then tagged Carpenter out at home trying to score the go-ahead run in the same inning.
Coghlan started that relay play by throwing to Russell, who threw on to Ross. Coghlan’s single was the biggest play in the game and was also an amazing display of reflexes.
Willson Contreras, Jorge Soler, and Dexter Fowler worked good at-bats to load the bases for Rizzo, who demonstrated great patience allowing Duke to force in a run. Maybe the final pitch was a strike, but Tony sold it well.
Not to play a broken record from Cubs Twitter, but Jason Heyward’s struggles continue at the plate. He grounded into a double play with two men on in the 2nd inning. Then he grounded out in the 8th with a man on second. In the 10th he popped to second with two men on base. One of these days things will turn around for J-Hey. At least, I hope they will for the big right fielder.
In the top of the 10th inning, Montgomery hit Matt Holliday in the hand with a pitch. Holliday was clearly in immediate pain. After the game it was reported that the Cardinal outfielder has a fractured thumb. I don’t think there was any intent from Montgomery to hit Holliday. Still, with the Cards’ tendency to retaliate for such things, the Cubs should keep their heads up.
The Cubs go for their 11th straight win on Friday in game two of the series at 1:20 CT. It’s a battle of number one starters as Jake Arrieta (13-5, 2.59) goes against Adam Wainwright (9-6, 4.34). The Cardinals are on the ropes but they aren’t dead yet. Time for the Cubs to finish them off.