Cubs Recap: Starlin Castro goes yard twice to lead the charge


33. Final. 8. 9. 3

Two home runs from Starlin Castro led the way as the Chicago Cubs downed the St. Louis Cardinals with an 8-3 win on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

With the game tied 3-3 after Dan Haren and Zac Rosscup ran into trouble, it was Castro, who, just months ago was the constant target of fans’ anger, who came up big.

The Chicago shortstop took a 1-0 pitch from Seth Maness and absolutely destroyed it, launching a two-run shot deep into the right-field seats, propelling the Cubs back ahead by a 5-3 margin.

Just when you thought he was done, he teed off on another Cardinals’ reliever, Steve Cishek in the next inning, this time a three-run shot, prompting a curtain call from the Wrigley faithful and tying a career-high with six runs batted in.

Chicago (86-61) moved within 1 1/2 games of the top Wild Card spot with the win, their fourth-straight, and within six of the first-place Cardinals with just two weeks left in the season.

Veteran starter Dan Haren, who did not factor into the decision, was on a short leash again Friday, lasting just 4 1/3 innings, allowing three runs – just one earned – on three hits. From there, half-a-dozen Chicago relievers shut the door on the Cardinals’ bats.

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The most promising aspect of the Cubs’ win, apart from the fact that it marks the club’s fourth-straight victory, is that the offense drew 11 walks on the afternoon, remarkable for a group that leads the league in strikeouts this season.

The Cubs opened the scoring in the top of the first against St. Louis starter Lance Lynn, who once again struggled against his NL Central foe, when Anthony Rizzo singled to score Kyle Schwarber, who walked earlier in the frame.

A Tommy La Stella double and Starlin Castro single pushed that edge to 3-0, an advantage that quickly disappeared when the Cardinals plated a pair of runs in the second before tying things up on a Tommy Pham bases-loaded walk in the top of the fifth.

What Stood Out:

Apart from Castro’s monster day at the dish, the teams got into it after longtime veteran Matt Holliday pinch-hit and was hit in the back of the head by a pitch by Haren, prompting his departure from the game.

Later in the contest, St. Louis reliever Matt Belisle uncorked a fastball behind Anthony Rizzo’s legs, prompting the Cubs’ first baseman to approach the mound. Belisle and manager Mike Matheny were both ejected from the contest.

What’s Next:

Chicago and St. Louis will continue their weekend series Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field with first pitch set for shortly after noon from the North Side of the Windy City.

It will be a bullpen day for the Cubs, who have not announced their starting pitcher of-yet, while Michael Wacha (16-5, 2.96) takes the ball for the Cardinals.

Next: Baseball still king in Chicago as football begins