For the third time in just over a week, the Chicago Cubs played witness to a club clinching a berth in the 2013 postseason.
The St. Louis Cardinals clinched their first National League Central title under manager Mike Matheny – and their first since 2009 - with a 7-0 blowout win over Chicago at Busch Stadium Friday night. A pair of home runs and a barrage of base hits made short work of the Cubs, who could lose 95 games with a loss on either Saturday or Sunday against the Cards.
St. Louis (95-65) set the tone for the night early on after catched Yadier Molina drove in two with an RBI double against southpaw Travis Wood in the bottom of the first. Center fielder Jon Jay followed with an RBI single that made it 3-0 in favor of the Redbirds after an inning of play.
A solo shot by David Freese added a run in the bottom of the third inning and the Cardinals tacked on two more runs in the fourth, breaking the game wide open at 6-0. Matt Holliday blasted a solo shot in the sixth inning that added an insurance run against the Chicago bullpen. Throughout the first six innings, St. Louis had at least two baserunners or a home run – a sign of an offense that is firing on all cylinders heading into next week’s playoffs.
Wood, who broke the 200-inning barrier on the season, left early as planned, tossing just one inning, allowing three earned runs while walking two and striking out one. Brooks Raley came on in relief, tossing three innings and allowing three runs. Several other Cubs relievers came on, putting in work in the blowout affair, pitching semi-effectively after the sixth inning.
His counterpart, Lance Lynn, put the finishing touches on another sterling campaign for St. Louis, with six shutout innings against Chicago (66-94) in which he notched nine strikeouts. Lynn notched 15 wins this season and will likely see significant time when the postseason begins next season.
Of the six base hits notched by Cubs hitters, Starlin Castro accounted for three of them – a positive sign for both the young shortstop and the organization moving forward into next season. Castro is hitting .280 (7-for-25) over the past seven days and has seen a notable increase in his production since the organization told him to simply be himself at the plate after a dreadful 2013 campaign.
Saturday’s game was moved to 3:15 p.m.due to the threat of inclement weather. St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright will oppose Edwin Jackson of the Cubs. You can still catch the action on WGN for the final time this season, with Sunday’s season finale on CSN Chicago.