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Chicago Cubs Recap: Late rally is for naught as Cardinals walk-off

Apr 2, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Dexter Fowler (25) scores on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Matt Carpenter (not pictured) during the third inning of opening night against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 2, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Dexter Fowler (25) scores on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Matt Carpenter (not pictured) during the third inning of opening night against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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A game-tying three-run home run in the top of the ninth was erased quickly as the St. Louis Cardinals topped the Chicago Cubs 4-3 on Opening Night.

After Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras tied the game in the top of the ninth with a three-run blast, the tide seemed to be turning in favor of the visitors.

But as quickly as the Cubs seized momentum, they lost it. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk delivered a game-winning, walk-off single to give his team a dramatic 4-3 win on Opening Night.

With one out in the frame, pinch-hitter Jose Martinez narrowly missed a walk-off homer, settling instead of a double. Following an intentional walk – the first zero-pitch IBB ever – to Yadier Molina and another base-on-balls to Wong, Grichuk delivered the deciding blow off Cubs’ lefty Mike Montgomery.

Cubs starter Jon Lester (0-1) pitched into the sixth, but, due to a high pitch count, Maddon came with the hook. The Chicago ace scattered seven hits, walking two. He constantly danced in and out of trouble, surrendering just the one run.

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Former Cub Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the third with a base hit. The next batter, Aledmys Diaz, grounded a ball toward second base. The Chicago second baseman, Javier Baez, lost the ball in signage behind home plate, allowing Fowler to race around to third.

With men on the corners, Matt Carpenter drove a ball to right field, plenty deep enough to allow Fowler to score the first run of the ballgame.

In the bottom of the eighth, St. Louis added on when Grichuk took Pedro Strop deep on a two-run, opposite-field homer to make it 3-0.

Martinez masterful for the Cardinals

Carl Edwards Jr. inherited a pair of runners in the sixth and, after loading the bases, induced an inning-ending double play against St. Louis starter Carlos Martinez, closing the book on Lester.

The Cardinals’ right-hander was nothing short of masterful in front of the third-largest regular season crowd ever at Busch Stadium. Martinez (1-0) pitched into the eighth, striking out 10. He did not walk a single batter, keeping the entire Cubs lineup off-balance the entire night.

He departed with one out in the eighth, leaving men at first and second. St. Louis closer Seung-Hwan Oh entered to face leadoff hitter Kyle Schwarber. The young slugger drew a walk to load the bases, bringing up reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant.

Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs /

Chicago Cubs

Oh won the battle against Bryant, inducing a pop-out to shallow right, capping an 0-for-4 night. Anthony Rizzo got jammed on an inside pitch, flying out to Stephen Piscotty down the right-field line, ending the Cubs’ eighth-inning threat.

What Stood Out

Lester had pitched almost exclusively to David Ross in his first two seasons with the Cubs. However, with Ross’ retirement, he’ll now have to adjust to a new receiver.

For much of the night, the veteran and catcher Willson Contreras looked out-of-sync, crossing up signals. Lester was visibly frustrated by the end of his start, although that can likely be chalked up to the St. Louis offense squaring him up fairly regularly.

Cubs’ Player of the Game

If you pick up the box score for this game in tomorrow’s morning paper, you’ll breeze right past Jason Heyward‘s name. Yet, if not for his all-out hustle on an infield grounder in the top of the ninth, Contreras’ game-tying homer is for naught.

Chopping a ball down the first-base line, Heyward raced toward first, sliding into the bag headfirst ahead of Matt Carpenter on a play that was initially ruled an infield single. This set up the eventual-game tying homer.

If Heyward fails to reach and Contreras still homered, the game likely ends 3-2 in favor of the Cardinals. Despite his rough spring and personal struggles since joining the Cubs, Heyward continues to put his team first – without exception.

Next: Lester's leadership built on both success and hardship

What’s Next

Chicago (0-1) and St. Louis (1-0) continue the series Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. With a 7:15 p.m. CT first pitch, Jake Arrieta will oppose Adam Wainwright.

670 AM The Score will carry the radio call and CSN Chicago has the TV broadcast.

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