It took a number of key hits and some ninth inning drama to end the losing ways. After having done nearly everything possible in the first two games of the series with no reward, the Chicago Cubs finally got the monkey off their backs Wednesday night.
Jon Lester (2-2, 4.04) provided the veteran leadership and willed the Cubs to the 6-5 victory over the surging St. Louis Cardinals.
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With the Cardinals (20-7) having won eight straight entering the night, the Cubs (14-12) turned to their ace in hopes to stop the bleeding from a four-game losing streak.
The Chicago Cubs offense picked up where it left off the last two games by getting on the board early. Kris Bryant opened the scoring with a lazy single off Cardinals starter Lance Lynn (1-3, 3.82). Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro followed with an RBI single of his own to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. Cub hitters made Lynn earn each out running his pitch count up and pulling out a couple of two-out hits as well.
This series wouldn’t be complete without an eventful start to the game. Before the first inning was in the books, both ball clubs fell victim to a lost challenge. Dexter Fowler was caught watching on the pickoff attempt. Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon was quick up the steps to alert the umpires. After a lengthy look, Fowler was confirmed out.
An inning later, the Cardinals would finally push across a run. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina continued to be a thorn is the Cubs side as he drove in a run with an RBI double. The hometown excitement would be short-lived however.
With one out in the 3rd, Anthony Rizzo patiently waited back on a breaking ball and drove the ball deep into the Missouri night. Rizzo, who has been terrorizing pitchers so far this season would add an additional two RBI’s in the fifth driving his average after the game to a sizzling .341.
Nightmares from the previous two outings began to creep in once again as the game reached the sixth. After watching Jorge Soler strike out on a number of pitches that appeared to be outside according to Pitch-trax, Maddon was given the night off early. Visibly frustrated with the strike zone, Maddon made his thoughts known.
In the bottom half of the inning, nursing yet another three-run lead, the Cardinals made their push. Molina and Pete Kozma provided RBI singles shrinking the lead to just one. Lester, showed signs of fatigue, gutted it out to preserve the lead for the north-siders.
After Soler added an insurance run the top half of the eighth, Cardinals pinch-hitter Kolten Wong drove in a run to narrow the Cubs lead to one again. Chicago reliever Pedro Strop induced a much-needed 6-3 double play to end the St. Louis threat.
Hector Rondon, looking to contribute in a meaningful spot lead off the bottom of the ninth by giving but a single to Bourjos. Soon after, he would advance to third on a heads-up piece of running on a ground out to first. After walking Matt Holliday, Rondon struck out the all-time single season strikeout king Mark Reynolds.
With the victory, the Chicago Cubs snapped their four-game losing streak. For the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals, the loss ended an impressive eight-game winning streak which had propelled them to the best start in modern franchise history.
What stood out:
Jon Lester (2-2, 4.04 ERA) is beginning to settle into the role of ace for this team. After a rocky start to his Cubs career, the veteran left-hander has now only given up one earned run in his last two starts. His command has been better and he is allowing his teammates to get outs for him. With the struggles in the 6th inning, it was nice to see Lester come back out in the 7th to save an inning for a bullpen that has been heavily taxed so far this season.
Anthony Rizzo continues to hit the ball. He collected two more hits tonight and drove in three of the team’s six runs.
Kris Bryant is taking what opposing teams will give him. Although the young slugger had two strikeouts, he still reached base twice, scored twice and picked up an RBI.
Tomorrow the Cubs look to even the series and get out of St. Louis on a high note. The Chicago Cubs will send out right-hander Jake Arrieta (3-2, 3.82 ERA), looking to improve on a shaky start last time out. The Cardinals will counter with ace John Lackey (1-1, 3.69 ERA).
First pitch is scheduled for 12:45pm at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.