Cubs Strike First but Can’t Hold Off Cardinals, Magic Number Stays at 3

The Chicago Cubs (92-52) came out fast tonight powered by a mammoth lead-off home run to dead-center field in the first inning by Dexter Fowler. It was his second home run in two nights for the Cubs and a great sign that he may be getting back in the swing of things after going 20 games without a home run.

The Cubs kept the pressure on in the top of the second inning. Ben Zobrist drew a walk and Addison Russell followed with a line shot into the left field corner. It was a double and Zobrist, hustling from first, scored on the play to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. Jason Hammel, up next, singled and Dexter Fowler then drew a walk with two outs to load the bases. Next thing you know, Mike Matheny pulled Jaime Garcia. It felt like the inevitable win was underway.

The Cardinals got out of the inning after Alex Reyes, who replaced Garcia, struck out Kris Bryant. That seemed to give the Cardinals some momentum and they kept fighting back, scoring two runs in the bottom of the second off a two-out, two-run home run by Aledmys Diaz. That tied the score 2-2. They then got another two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, again via the home run. This time it was Brandon Moss with a two-run shot giving them the lead for good.

The Cubs couldn’t take advantage of their early offensive burst and they lose this one by the score of 4-2 (Box Score).

The Cubs offense, which started out hot tonight, was silenced after Matheny went to the bullpen. They managed only one hit after the second inning, a Kris Bryant single with two outs in the top of the sixth inning. They still managed plenty of baserunners due to drawing eight walks. They finished the night 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Jason Hammel (14-9, 3.60 ERA) pitched a good, not great, game. It was the two long balls that ultimately did him in.

Stats that matter

  • Hammel got beat by the long ball (again) – 4R, 6H, 2BB, 9Ks, 2HR
  • The Cubs managed only one hit the final 7 1/3 innings.

Bottom line

The Cubs really looked like they had this one completely under control early. Man, how the tides can quickly change. It seemed like maybe Matheny was overreacting when he pulled Garcia so early but that move really changed the game for the Cardinals. Their bullpen was great. You have to tip your hat.

Tomorrow will be another day.

Next up

The Cubs will close out the three-game series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium tomorrow afternoon at 12:45 PM CT. Jon Lester will take the mound in the hope of trimming the Cubs magic number to 1.

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