Chicago Cubs eliminate Cardinals in NL Central with blowout win
By Jake Misener
Behind an offensive explosion, the Chicago Cubs eliminated the St. Louis Cardinals from contention in the race for the NL Central crown Monday night.
It’s hard to say what looked worse: the nachos Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell kicked to the ground while diving into the stands or the performance put up by the St. Louis Cardinals in Monday’s opener.
I think the nachos had a better performance, if I’m just being honest.
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Chicago (88-68) moved to 20 games over .500 for the first time this season after breaking out the lumber early. Before starter Jon Lester ever took the mound, the bats staked him to a four-run lead.
With the bases loaded, Russell took a pitch into the right field corner for a bases-clearing double against Luke Weaver. The Cubs weren’t done, though, as Jason Heyward followed with a gapper, scoring Russell and giving Chicago a 4-0 lead after half an inning.
In the top of the second, reigning National League MVP took Weaver deep for his 29th homer of the year. St. Louis (81-75) got a run back in the bottom of the inning via a Jedd Gyorko solo home run.
Tommy La Stella delivered a run-scoring single in the eighth tomake it a 9-2 ballgame. Jon Jay followed with his first hit of the night, extending the Cubs’ lead to 10-2 over their division rival.
Early and often
But if there was a theme to the Cubs’ offense early Monday it was laying it on thick. With a 5-1 lead in the top of the third, Javier Baez connected on a three-run shot. The blast marked Baez’s 23rd long-ball of the campaign, blowing things wide open.
Meanwhile, Lester battled. He didn’t have pinpoint control of his fastball, but he got the job done. He tossed six innings of one-run ball, doing what he needed to get his team a win. More importantly, the victory eliminated the Cardinals from National League Central contention and reduced the Cubs’ magic number down to one.
So, any combination of Milwaukee Brewers losses or Cubs wins in the next six days will give Chicago a second-straight division title.
Next: Lackey the odd man out on Cubs' postseason roster?
Chicago and St. Louis continue the four-game set Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. Jake Arrieta (14-9, 3.43) takes the ball for the Cubs against Carlos Martinez (12-11, 3.63).