I’m not going to lie. During yesterday’s game, after Matt Carpenter led off the game for the Cardinals with a home run, I was throwing my hat and swearing. A lot.
I was instantly equating this series with 2007 and 2008: the Cubs’ big hitters are doing nothing but strike out and ground into double plays, and they’re going to be swept.
Then I calmed down and reminded myself that the 2015 Cubs team is nothing like those teams. And this team is relentless.
Sure enough, the very next inning, the Cubs fought back. And it started with a little bit of small ball.
After a throwing error, Austin Jackson found himself on second base, and then stole third easily. Miguel Montero walked with Kyle Hendricks batting behind him. It looked like Joe Maddon’s decision to bat the pitcher eighth had backfired in this instance.
But Hendricks put down a good bunt, scoring Jackson and forcing a throwing error from Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia.
Maddon called for another safety squeeze with Addison Russell at the plate, and it worked once again. Dexter Fowler followed with a run-scoring infield hit.
And then Jorge Soler provided an exclamation point on the inning with a home run to center. It was a thing of beauty.
I wasn’t shocked to see the squeeze plays. Maddon had said he had his team working on bunts and fielding. Clearly the work paid off, at least so far.
With the Cubs holding on for the victory, they earned a huge split in St. Louis. I know I’d never count this Cubs team out, but down 0-2 would have been pretty tough to sugar-coat.
The series shifts to Wrigley Field, and the Cubs have Jake Arrieta on the mound for Game 3.
No. 1 star: Jorge Soler
With lefty Jaime Garcia on the mound for the Cardinals, Jorge Soler got the start in right field. And boy did that look like a managerial stroke of genius.
Soler was absolutely locked in at the plate. He went 2-for-2 with the home run, two RBIs and two walks.
Loving what I’m seeing from him right now. If he could continue to stay hot in the playoffs, that would be a big boost for an offense that is trying to march through slumps from Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
Heading into the game, I was worried that Kyle Hendricks would have a let-down game. But he basically did just what the Cubs needed.
After surrendering the lead-off home run, he settled down. Hendricks did give up back-to-back homers in the 5th and then was quickly pulled. His line: 4.2 innings, four hits, three runs and seven strikeouts.
Travis Wood took over and really put in a huge performance. He tossed 2.1 scoreless innings and gave up only one hit.
Trevor Cahill in the 8th??? Trevor Cahill in the 8th!!!
With a three-run lead heading into the 8th inning, Joe Maddon called Trevor Cahill’s name to face the top of the Cardinals’ order.
Cahill has definitely been great for the Cubs down the stretch, but I was still surprised to see him used in this situation. You probably can’t go to Pedro Strop, due to his struggles against the Cardinals this year. But I was surprised we didn’t see Justin Grimm.
The move worked to perfection, however, as Cahill mowed down the Cardinals 1-2-3, striking out both Matt Carpenter and Stephen Piscotty. Very cool moment.
What a pickup Cahill has turned out to be.
* The Cardinals announced that starter Jaime Garcia was suffering from a stomach virus. Seemed like an odd thing to announce, even if it was true, given that Garcia had given up five runs.
* Even though Lance Lynn pitched last night, the Cardinals may still use him as the Game 4 starter, tweets Jesse Rogers.
* Jed Hoyer said yesterday that the Cubs would “love” to have Dexter Fowler back next year, writes Paul Sullivan. Fowler will be a free agent after this year, and I’d definitely be in favor of the Cubs bringing him back.