A struggling Kyle Schwarber blasted a game-winning grand slam to lift the Chicago Cubs to a big win over the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday afternoon.
In a trend that has emanated throughout the first two months, the Chicago Cubs’ offense was largely quiet Saturday afternoon. That is, until Kyle Schwarber changed everything in the bottom of the seventh.
With the bases-loaded and right-handed starter Mike Leake still on the mound, Mike Matheny opted to stick with his starter. That decision quickly bit him on the hind quarters, after Schwarber blasted a go-ahead grand slam to the seats in left to give the Cubs a 5-3 advantage.
One day earlier, Joe Maddon pinch-hit for Schwarber in a big spot. But on Saturday, it was the Cubs outfielder who earned his stripes. With the homer, he also bailed out starter Jon Lester, who was on the hook for the loss.
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Early on, it’s safe to say the home plate umpire and Lester had some disagreements. After a walk to Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham singled. Another walk, this one to Stephen Piscotty, loaded the bases with nobody out.
To be fair, there were several ‘questionable’ calls – not only against Lester, but his opposing number, Mike Leake, as well.
Chicago (27-27) got a run back in the bottom of the third when Javier Baez took Leake deep to center for his ninth homer of the year. The solo shot accounted for Chicago’s only run against the NL ERA leader.
Leake kept the Cubs’ offense off-balance into the seventh, when the wheels finally came off. Chicago’s four-run seventh proved to be the difference in the ballgame, erasing six innings of quality work from the right-hander.
What Stood Out
Apart from Schwarber’s blast, one moment looms large for the Cubs in this victory.
In the top of the fifth, with Tommy Pham on first, the St. Louis outfielder repeatedly took a 20-plus foot leadoff from first base. Anthony Rizzo was practically begging for Lester to throw over.
And he did.
Lester allowed three earned in six innings of work. The southpaw struck out four and walked a trio of batters in the contest.
Chicago and St. Louis (26-27) wrap up their weekend series Sunday night.
First pitch is a bit earlier than normal, at 6:35 p.m. CT. David Ross joins the Sunday Night Baseball team with the call on ESPN.