"Go Cubs Go" played over the loudspeakers at London Stadium Saturday evening (local London time) as the Cubs cruised to a 9-1 victory over the rival St. Louis Cardinals. Justin Steele pitched another gem, going six innings and only allowing one run on five hits and striking out eight. Those eight strikeouts were a season-high for the left-hander.
Steele did not have to deal with much pressure as the Cubs spotted him runs early off longtime foe Adam Wainwright. The 18-year veteran faced the Cubs for the 58th time in his career (49th start) and was greeted with seven runs on 11 hits in just 3+ innings of work.
Ian Happ homered off him twice and Christopher Morel, Nick Madrigal and Mike Tauchman recorded RBI hits against Wainwright. A man who was so good for so long, saw his ERA on the season swell to 6.56. Danbsy Swanson added a two-run shot off Cardinals reliever Drew VerHagen for good measure late to put the final nail in the coffin.
Steele, on the other hand, had a no-hitter going into the fifth before Jordan Walker singled to start the frame. The only Cardinals run came on an RBI single by Paul Goldschmidt in the sixth. While he did have a two-on, nobody out situation after the Goldschmidt knock, Steele struck out Willson Contreras, Walker and Dylan Carlson consecutively. No more runs crossed the plate after that as the bullpen took care of the rest.
London Series showdown feels much bigger than a typical midseason Cubs-Cardinals battle
In the books and standings, it was just a regular season game in June. Emotionally, it felt so much bigger than that. For those watching the game on FOX, the crowd was audibly into it for both teams. 54,662 people were in attendance at London Stadium, with plenty of Cubs blue and Cardinals red scattered about. Every hit, strikeout, play in the field was met with a thundering cheer like a postseason game. There is also no doubt that any game involving a historic rivalry like the Cubs and Cardinals brings out those intense feelings that are unlike an ordinary game.
Last season the Cubs played in the Field of Dreams game, and this felt different. Not better or worse per se, but different. This weekend is being played on the other side of the world in a unique culture at a behemoth of a stadium that was part of the 2012 Olympics. Hearing both "The Star Spangled Banner" and "God Save the King" while both the American and British flags were being presented was a unique experience for the teams involved.
It was a special first day in London for the Cubs, and they hope they can take the finale on Sunday before heading back home to close out the first half.