The Chicago Cubs rode three long-balls and a dominant start from Eddie Butler to a 3-2 series-opening victory over the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night.
Making his first start as a member of the Chicago Cubs, Eddie Butler showed no signs of nerves, taking the ball in the heart of enemy territory. The right-hander tossed six scoreless frames, allowing just a pair of infield singles, helping put an end to the St. Louis Cardinals’ six-game winning streak.
Butler (1-0, 0.00) walked three batters in the first two-plus innings, but settled into a nice rhythm, striking out five. He mixed speeds well, with his fastball reaching 95 mph – the first Chicago starter to accomplish that this season.
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The stuff is clearly there for Butler to be successful at this level. It will ultimately come down to his ability to locate pitches and effectively mix in his off-speed stuff, but this first look was promising, to say the least.
Chicago (18-17) wasted no time in getting Butler an early cushion. His battery mate Willson Contreras got things started in the top of the second. The Cubs catcher drove a 1-1 pitch from Mike Leake to the opposite field, giving Chicago a 1-0 lead.
In his next at-bat, Contreras delivered again. He squared up another pitch from Leake, depositing the ball into the left-field seats, pushing the Cubs’ lead to 2-0.
St. Louis (19-15) put two men on with two away in the seventh, but Contreras threw behind Dexter Fowler, ending the inning and preserving the Cubs’ lead. Wade Davis pitched the ninth, nailing down another successful save, despite a late scare.
On a dropped third strike, Contreras fired a ball down to Anthony Rizzo at first. The throw glanced off Rizzo’s glove, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move into scoring position. Thankfully, Davis struck out Matt Adams to end the threat and preserve the win.
Insurance runs and bench players stepping up
Just moments before first pitch, the Cubs made a lineup change. Kris Bryant was removed due to a stomach illness, giving way to Jon Jay in right. Jay himself left in the early innings with back spasms, which led to Tommy La Stella entering the game.
In the seventh, La Stella delivered. The infielder hooked a pitch down the right-field line for his first blast of the season. Although C.J. Edwards Jr. later gave that run back in the bottom of the inning, La Stella’s performance still stood out.
La Stella and Contreras both delivered a pair of extra-base hits in the win.
Chicago (18-17) and St. Louis (19-15) continue the weekend series Saturday night.
Jon Lester (1-1, 3.27) battles Carlos Martinez (2-3, 3.86) in an Opening Night rematch. First pitch is at 3:05 p.m. CT Saturday afternoon at Busch Stadium. Manager Joe Maddon now sits at 999 career managerial wins entering the second game of the series.