The Cubs looked like they were in good shape to extend their winning streak to seven games Friday night in St. Louis. Then a 9th inning rally by the Cardinals put their narrow one-run lead in extreme peril. Luckily for Chicago, Mike Tauchman was patrolling center field and made an unbelievable defensive play that preserved the victory and may have saved the season.
Hayden Wesneski was called up from Iowa to serve as the opener Friday night and leadoff hitter Lars Nootbar hit an opposite-field solo home run to give the home team a 1-0 advantage. Drew Smyly took over in the 3rd inning and Nootbar cranked his second solo shot to right field.
St. Louis starter Jordan Montgomery worked around some early baserunners and kept the North Siders off the board through the first four frames. Patrick Wisdom, now sans mustache, cut the deficit in half with his own solo dinger in the top of the 5th inning.
The Cubs got something going on Montgomery in the 6th as a double, a walk, and a hit by pitch loaded the bases for Dansby Swanson with one out. Swanson hit a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Seiya Suzuki to tie the game 2-2. Two batters later, Trey Mancini ripped the go-ahead single to left field but Cody Bellinger was thrown out at the plate trying to score a second run.
Smyly pitched well and kept the Cardinals down 3-2 into the 7th inning. Julian Merryweather followed and also kept the home team in check into the 8th. Chicago had a golden chance to add insurance in the top of the 9th getting the first two runners on with nobody out but catcher Miguel Amaya‘s bunt attempt was too hard and turned into a double play that killed the rally.
That missed opportunity seemed like it was going to be a huge in the bottom of the frame when Willson Contreras and Tyler O’Neill hit consecutive singles off of closer Adbert Alzolay to put two on with nobody out. Brendan Donovan hit a ground ball to second base that Nico Hoerner slickly fired to Swanson to begin a 4-6-3 twin-killing.
Alzolay wasn’t out of danger yet as he faced pinch-hitter Alec Burleson with Contreras on third and two outs. After taking a very close 0-2 pitch for a ball, Burleson cracked a fastball deep to center field. Tauchman, who had just entered that inning, raced back to the wall, jumped up and reached over the fence to pull back what would’ve been a walk-off home run. (Box score)
HOLY COW!! MIKE TAUCHMAN!
CUBS WIN! pic.twitter.com/K7nFdwZ8im
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 29, 2023
Tauchman made the home run robbery look almost routine and got a great jump on the ball to get to the wall with plenty of time to make his leap.
Why the Cubs Won
They got a nice performance from all of their pitchers and really outstanding defense the whole game, especially in the final inning.
Stats That Matter
- Very nice bounce-back outing by Smyly: 4.1 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 6 K, and 1 BB.
- Ian Happ drew two walks and doubled.
- Bellinger was the only other Cub to reach base more than once Friday.
With everything surrounding the trade deadline, this was a very important game for the Cubs to win. They are now over .500 for the first time since May and are putting a lot of pressure on the front office to buy at the deadline. If Burleson’s fly ball had landed over the fence it would’ve been a heart-breaking loss and may very well have given Jed Hoyer and Co. some doubts. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about that.