Chicago Cubs Score and Recap (5/23/21): Cubs 2, Cardinals 1 – Báez Provides Fireworks in Extras as Cubs Take Series from Cards

Other than a terrible strike zone and a David Ross ejection, there wasn’t much to write home about in this game for the Cubs until extra innings. Thankfully, they outlasted the Cards in what had been a scoreless affair through nine and Javier Báez provided just enough offense for the Cubs in the 10th as he obliterated a hanging slider from Alex Reyes to give the Cubs a 2-1 win in St. Louis.

As noted, the offense was basically non-existent against longtime Cubs nemesis Adam Wainwright, who threw eight innings of one-hit ball to stifle an offense that has been cooking for weeks. Granted, Wainwright had just a teensy-weensy bit of help from home plate ump Erich Bacchus, who sent Cubs skipper to the clubhouse early (with a gifted bottle of vino for his trouble, I hope). Regardless, there were no offensive highlights until the blast in the 10th.

On the pitching side, Zach Davies and five Cubs relievers managed to keep the Cardinals off the “real” scoreboard, thanks mainly to a Houdini-esque escape from a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the 7th that made even El Mago proud. Ryan Tepera entered with men on first and second, then fielded a bunt from Wainwright and threw to David Bote at third to get the lead runner. Except he didn’t.

The throw beat the runner and Bote held the bag and actually tagged the runner, but the third base ump missed both calls despite a clear view of the play. That meant Tepera had to wriggle out of a no-out, bases-loaded jam with an effort that included a pop-out from Cub-killer Paul Goldschmidt and then a strikeout of Nolan Arenado.

After the Báez blast, Craig Kimbrel, who had secured the last out in the bottom of the 9th, worked a mostly uneventful 10th. He did let up an unearned Manfred run and nailed Willson Contreras on the arm with a 99 mph heater before striking out Justin Williams to end the game and pick up the win in relief. (Box score)

Why the Cubs Won

The Cubs’ pitching was about as good as it could possibly be and Báez provided the dramatic fireworks in the top of the 10th.

Key Moment

It’s hard to not choose the Báez game-winning blast, but if Tepera hadn’t gotten out of the jam in the bottom of the 7th, the bomb would have been a moot point.

Stats That Matter

  • Wainwright had 31 pitches called for strikes tonight, the most by any starting pitcher in baseball this year. Coincidence? Think not.
  • If you don’t count the Manfred run in the 10th (which I certainly don’t), the Cubs bullpen hasn’t given up a run in eight games now.
  • Cubs pitchers struck out seven and walked six in this one, but only gave up six hits. Either way, it’s a shutout in my book.
  • Báez now has 11 home runs and 32 RBI on the season to go along with his 59 strikeouts and five walks. Why Reyes threw that ball in the zone is mind-boggling.

Bottom Line

The Cubs took two of three from the NL Central-leading Cards and now sit just two games behind them in the standings. With an off day tomorrow and three winnable games in Pittsburgh, there’s no reason to think the Cubs’ hot May won’t continue right on into Memorial Day Weekend.

On Deck

The Cubs get a much-needed day off Monday before heading to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates for a three-game mid-week set. Jake Arrieta will be on the mound for the opener on Tuesday, where he should face old pal Trevor Cahill. Game time is 5:35pm CT and can be seen on Marquee or heard on 670 The Score.

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