Tied for first place atop the National League Central, the Cubs and Cardinals kicked off a three-game series Monday night at Busch Stadium. The looming trade deadline added even more intrigue to the crucial matchup as both teams look to fortify their rosters ahead of the season’s stretch run.
Things were quiet offensively through three innings of play before a two-out Javy Báez single scored Jason Heyward in the top of the 4th to put the Cubs on top 1-0. The Cardinals tied it up in the bottom half of the inning when Jose Martinez scored on a Yu Darvish wild pitch.
Things stayed that way until the bottom of the 6th inning, when noted Cubs killer Paul Goldschmidt launched the game-winning home run off of Darvish to put the Cardinals up 2-1.
Besides giving up the home run to Goldshmidt and the run-scoring wild pitch, Darvish turned in another excellent performance. He struck out nine Cardinal batters over six innings and did not give up a walk. He did take the loss, dropping to 3-5 on the season.
Why the Cubs lost
The Cubs left seven runners on base during the final four innings because they were unable to deliver a clutch hit against the Cardinals bullpen. Credit Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis relief corps for their impressive handling of several tight situations.
A single by Heyward, a double by Anthony Rizzo, and an intentional walk to Báez loaded the bases with two outs in the 6th inning. Wainwright was then pulled in favor of Giovanny Gallegos, who induced a fly ball from Kyle Schwarber to end the inning and preserve a 1-1 tie.
Stats That Matter
- Despite the outcome, Darvish’s performance capped off a really strong month. He struck out 36 batters in 30.2 July innings while giving up just two walks.
- Goldschmidt’s bomb was his seventh home run in his last eight games. Cub pitchers would be wise to tread lightly when pitching to him during the next two games.
- Kris Bryant‘s 0-for-4 night has him mired in a slump in which he has not reached base in his last 14 plate appearances. Ouch.
The Cubs fall out of first place for at least one night and drop to 2-5 on the road trip. If this team is going to win the Central, they will simply need to find a way to win more games on the road, especially against divisional rivals.