The Cubs came into Saturday’s game with a chance to take their second consecutive series, no mean feat given their efforts at the turn of the month. Early omens were not good, as the Cardinals jumped out to a big lead in the top of the 1st. Chicago didn’t sweat the early deficit and rallied back for what turned out to be a pretty comfortable win.
St. Louis greeted Jon Lester rather rudely in the opening frame. Paul DeJong walked and Paul Goldschmidt singled to put two men on with one out, then Marcell Ozuna took a swing at a 3-0 pitch and he connected on a three-run homer to center. Harrison Bader added a solo shot to make it 4-0 after a half inning.
The Cubs answered right back against Jack Flaherty as Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo‘s walks were sandwiched around a Kris Bryant double to load the bases with none out. Javy Báez hit a ground out and Willson Contreras singled to cut the lead to 4-2 after one.
In the 3rd, Rizzo singled and scored on Báez triple that was assisted by poor defense from Ozuna in left. The Cardinals retired the next three hitters to strand Javy at third, but the missed opportunity did not prove costly. Schwarber completed the first part of the comeback when he worked an 11-pitch at bat against Flaherty in the 4th that ended in a game-tying homer.
Lester pitched terrifically after that initial frame, giving up nothing the next five innings. The Cubs cracked the Cards bullpen in the 6th inning, when Jason Heyward singled and David Bote walked against John Brebbia to force him out of the game. John Gant relieved him and gave up a single to Albert Almora Jr. to load the bases with none out.
Victor Caratini came on to pinch hit for Lester and promptly delivered, slashing a bases-clearing double past Ozuna in left. Schwarber ripped a double to right to chase the Victory Carrot home and increase the advantage to 8-4.
St. Louis could do nothing against the trio of Kyle Ryan, Brandon Kintzler, and Tyler Chatwood the next three innings. The Cubs tacked on an Addison Russell sacrifice fly in the 7th to make the final 9-4. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
Lester buckled down after his rough start and kept his team in the game. The offense also did an excellent job forcing Flaherty out and punishing the Cardinals ‘pen.
Caratini’s double was a big moment, but I’m going to go with the bottom of the 1st. The Cubs bounced right back and forced the opposing starter to throw over 30 pitches. After losing their starter early Friday, the long inning put pressure on a taxed St. Louis relief corps.
Stats That Matter
- How good was Lester after the opening inning? He allowed just one hit the next five innings for a final line of 6 IP, 4 R, 5 H, 6 K, and 2 BB. He isn’t going to quit grinding after a little adversity.
- Schwarber is starting to come on the last week or so. He blistered his two extra-base hits Saturday, a very promising sign going forward.
- Almora had two hits as he tries to earn playing time in a suddenly crowded outfield picture.
The Cubs could have folded after falling behind immediately. Instead, they stayed after it and blew the Cardinals away. Chicago worked good at-bat after good at-bat all night and applied more pressure than the road team could handle.