Chicago Cubs fail to seal the deal, magic number remains at one

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Jake Arrieta lasted just three innings and a costly first-inning error proved too much for the Chicago Cubs to overcome in a Tuesday loss in St. Louis.

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A three-run shot  off the bat of Jason Heyward and a solo blast from Ben Zobrist in the top of the eighth proved to be too little, too late for the Chicago Cubs. Entering the night hoping to clinch the National League Central, the celebration was postponed – at least for one more night.

Jake Arrieta and the defense got off to a shaky start as the St. Louis Cardinals rebounded to take the second game of this week’s four-game set by an 8-7 final.

Chicago (88-69) went quietly in the top of the first. In the bottom of the inning, St. Louis (82-75) hung a crooked number on the Cubs starter. But, of the three runs, only one was charged to Arrieta. Matt Carpenter, who entered Tuesday with just one career hit against him, cranked a solo home run to lead things off.

Cardinals get their blows in

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Shortstop Mike Freeman, starting in lieu of the injured Javier Baez, booted a ball later in the inning off the bat of Paul DeJong, allowing the second run to score. A Randal Grichuk triple plated the third and final tally of the inning and give the Cardinals a 3-0 edge.

The Cubs got a tally back in the top of the second on an RBI groundout off the bat of Kyle Schwarber, but the Redbirds put up two more in the second to take a 5-1 lead. Chicago added lone runs in both the third and fourth to pull within 5-3, but St. Louis battled back.

Paul DeJong doubled in a run in the fifth and Jed Gyorko blasted his 20th homer of the year in the seventh to make it 7-3. Randal Grichuk, a longtime Cubs killer (or at least it seems that way) followed with one of his own.

But, in typical Cubs’ fashion, Joe Maddon‘s club refused to go quietly into the night. Heyward and Zobrist each homered in the eighth, making it 8-7. Kris Bryant followed with a ground-rule double before Juan Nicasio set down Anthony Rizzo to end the top of the eighth and preserve the Cardinals’ slim advantage.

Arrieta struggles

On a pitch limit, Arrieta needed 35 to get through the top of the first. He threw just 67 on the night, but pitched only three innings. The right-hander allowed five runs (three earned) on six hits striking out four.

This effort, combined with Jon Lester‘s solid outing on Monday, further complicates the Cubs’ potential postseason rotation situation. Some had suggested Arrieta was the front-runner to start Game 1, but now that’s far from a sure thing.

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What’s Next

Chicago and St. Louis continue their four-game set on Wednesday at Busch Stadium.

John Lackey (11-11, 4.67) starts for the Cubs and Michael Wacha (12-8, 4.00) takes the ball for the Redbirds.