St. Louis Cardinals showed more energy in Game Two against the Cubs at Wrigley Field Saturday vs. Friday night's game. After a rain delay in Washington DC - game and flight out - the Cardinals arrived in Chicago late Thursday night. And it showed against a rested Cubs team as they had Thursday off.
No matter the circumstances, no matter where either team sits in the standings. The Cardinals-Cubs play tough ball like it's the last game of the season to decide who takes the division. They fuel the fire for fans and "bragging rights" in a very intense rivalry.
Cardinals Michael Wacha, second start coming off the "IL" (knee tendinitis) faced Cubs Yu Darvish. Both starters gave up six hits and logged four strikeouts. Wacha (5 IP) gave up four earned runs, Darvish (4 IP) five. Even though, Wacha helped his own cause from the plate.
Wacha did give up runs, but got two back facing Darvish. In the third, he slugged out a double to left. Then, in the fourth, added his second hit for a bases-loaded 2 RBI single into left center to give the Cardinals a 4-1 lead.
Former Cardinals Daniel Descalso hitting lead-off. He takes Wacha's first inning-first pitch for a triple on an error by CF Dexter Fowler. Kris Bryant followed with a single up the center for a RBI. Cubs on the board first. But, RF Jose Martinez closes the first for Wacha with a throw of perfection to 3B Matt Carpenter for the tag on Bryant and final out.
CARDINALS JOSE MARTINEZ FACES DARVISH
Top of the order in the second, J Martinez takes the first pitch served up and sends a missile (440' center) out of the park for a solo shot, his first home run at Wrigley Field, to tie the game. In the fourth, he slugged out a ground-rule double to deep right. He adds his second run for his day with Wacha's RBI.
With no DH in the National League, and not sure what role J Martinez would be able to play for Cardinals with a crowded outfield. They extended J Martinez contract two years to keep him with the team. Whatever the capacity.
Many fans considered him gone after the 2018 season. Fortunately, the Cardinals were thinking 'outside the box' unlike some Cardinals fans. Why? Simply because of his strong offensive ability. Even though the Cardinals are outfield heavy, with manager Mike Shildt at the helm, he has found ways to get Martinez in the line-up. Either in the starting line-up or pinch-hitting. And for J Martinez, it really doesn't matter, as long as he can help the team. He may not be the strongest of fielders. However, he certainly showed his arm in yesterday's game spot on. Fact: He connects with his bat more times than not. And, he is a motivator for his team members.
Since making his debut with the Cardinals September 2016, J Martinez has not been under a .300 BA. This season he is holding a .364 BA thus far. In his four seasons, he has a career total of 33 HR/146 RBI.
HINDSIGHT ALWAYS 20/20, BUT...
After the fourth and the Cardinals holding a 5-1 lead, Wacha back for his fifth. With two runners on, one out, Kyle Schwarber was issued an IBB to load the bases. Schwarber had grounded out in his previous at-bat, but career hitting facing Wacha, he held a .300 BA/3-10/2 HR/4 RBI. The threat was there. However, I felt if Wacha was able to contain Brewers hot hitter Christian Yelich at Miller Park with no IBB issued to him. Take the chance facing Schwarber. He connects, still Cardinals would remain in the lead.
However, I never receive a conference call, so Wacha faces Cubs catcher Taylor Davis. This was Davis' fourth game, back-up to Willson Contreras, and 0-11/1 BB this season. On the flipside, in the past two seasons, minimal at-bats, he holds a career, .315 BA. So the capability was there. Now, full bags. Wacha serves up an 89 mph cutter first pitch and Davis sends it out of Wrigley Field for his first career home run for a Grand Slam to tie the game.
Yes, hindsight is 20/20. In my opinion, Shildt holds his pitchers to face all hitters. Why the change of heart with Wacha facing Schwarber. Here, nor there, decision of 'logic' but, damage was done. Baseball decisions at times is like a crap-shoot. Some you win, some you lose.
CUBS JAVIER BAEZ AND BULLPEN SEAL THE DEAL.
Cardinals John Brebbia was handed the loss yesterday. In the eighth, top-of-the-order Javier Baez connected for a solo home run (11), 2-2 count a 95 mph fastball off the tip of his bat, to give the Cubs their 6-5 lead. Brebbia went on to get his three outs with two strikeouts.
Baez, whom I hold a lot of respect for and knew this kid would be a player-plus all around. Who, in his early career, some Cubs fans were wanting to trade! Go figure. This season, he holds a current .318 BA with a .462 in May.
Cubs reliever Pedro Strop to close with two strikeouts and a groundout, he earns his fourth save.
CARDINALS-CUBS FINAL GAME THREE
The Cardinals have not been swept this season. They look to Adam Wainwright (3-2/3.73 ERA) to produce a solid outing against Cubs LHP Jose Quintana (3-1/3.48 ERA) to keep Chicago fans brooms in the closet.
The last Wainwright pitched at Wrigley Field was September 18, 2018. He was handed the loss in his 5 IP/1 HR/4 ER to close his season as the Cubs got the 8-4 win. In his 13 year career, he is 15-10/3.72 ERA in a total of 36 game starts. On the road this season, he is 1-1/4.41 ERA. He comes into Wrigley Field with back-to-back wins with his last being on the road against the Washington Nationals. He went 6.1 IP with only spending 80 pitches. Wainwright looks to turn another solid outing tonight.
Quintana is getting more comfortable on the mound this season with the Cubs. An acquisition with the White Sox mid-July 2017. His three wins this season, two of those were at home where holds a 1.29 ERA this season. In his six starts, three of those he has gone deep into the games seven innings each. Last season, Quintana was 1-3/4.74 ERA giving up 2 HR/10 ER off 21 hits in his total 19 IP facing the Cardinals.
The Cardinals will need to find a way, to get to him again, tonight for a win. His last outing he gave up 2 HR/3 ER on only five hits allowed in his 5.1 IP, only logging 2 SO. He received a no-decision against the Arizona Diamondbacks. However that was on the road with the Cubs grabbing the 6-5 win in that matchup.
For me, yesterday's Cardinals loss was more disappointing than Game One with a 4-0 shutout. Even after the Grand Slam, they weren't able to covert opportunities to put runs on the board.
The Cubs have won the series ~ but have no sweep yet.
SUNDAY NIGHT BASEBALL ~ FIRST PITCH: 6:05 (CST) ESPN
Tonight ~ New Day, New Game for the Cardinals to remain in first place in the NL Central Division. Cubs now sit a half game back. And to leave Wrigley Field to return home still at the top would be a high note of this series for the Cardinals.
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