Cubs take series opener against Cardinals at Wrigley, 6-5


May 2, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Luis Valbuena (24) and center fielder Emilio Bonifacio (64) celebrate scoring in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

On a day more fitting for the Chicago Bears than the Chicago Cubs weather-wise, it was Chicago’s first baseman slugger who sent the hometown faithful home happy. On Red Grange bobblehead day at Wrigley Field, Anthony Rizzo went deep and helped the Cubs (10-17) hold on for a 6-5 victory over the visiting St. Louis Cardinals (15-15).

As usual, it wasn’t easy.

On a day eerily similar to the 100th birthday celebration, this time the Cubs bullpen was able to get the job done late. On April 23, the Cubs let a late three-run lead slip away in a 7-5 loss to the Diamondbacks. It was a 6-3 lead for the Cubs entering the top of the eighth today, but reliever Justin Grimm allowed a walk followed by a two-run home run to Jhonny Peralta that made it 6-5. Outfielder Justin Ruggiano pulled up with a hamstring injury on April 23 on a late fly ball that cost the Cubs the lead and ended up on the disabled list. Today, it was outfielder Ryan Sweeney who seemed to hurt his hamstring chasing down a long fly off the bat of Allen Craig. This time, though, Sweeney made the catch.

Brian Schlitter finished the eighth and Hector Rondon pitched the ninth for his second save of the year.

In 1933, Red Grange made the hit that saved an NFL title for the Bears at Wrigley Field. 81 years later it was Rizzo, whom teammates have newly nicknamed “Bear” for his sleeping habits, who got the game-winning hit – a solo home run to right in the sixth that gave the Cubs a 6-3 lead. It was Rizzo’s fifth home run of the year. Rizzo reached base eight straight times, going back to the Cubs’ 9-4 win in Cincinnati on Wednesday, before being retired in the eighth.

Combine that with Wellington Castillo’s three doubles – or “triple-double” as Jim Deshaies called it – and the Cubs offense battered around Cardinals pitching all day. They ended the day with 12 hits total.

Cubs starter Travis Wood (2-3) went seven innings – only one of which was troublesome, the third. The Cardinals scored two runs in the third to tie the game at two. After that, Wood only surrendered an unearned run to earn the win. Cards starter Adam Wainwright had been unbeaten in his 11 prior starts at Wrigley Field, going 6-0. Today wasn’t his day though – he yielded six earned runs on 10 hits in just five innings of work – and he dropped to 5-2 on the year, meaning he won’t become the big league’s first six-game winner of the year.

It was the Cubs’ second win in a row – they will try to make it a season-high three in a row tomorrow afternoon when they send Jake Arrieta to the mound for the first time in 2014. If they can do so they will have their first series victory of the season, as well.