CHICAGO – For the first time this season a full Wrigley Field, celebrities and Hall of Famers present. A first – and rather convenient – advantage. A little momentum after the rest day. Friday afternoon in Chicago had all the credentials for a resounding victory for a Cardinals team trying to catch up in NL Central and trying to get the season back on track.
And then, quickly and mercilessly, he didn’t.
St. Louis, bitten by defensive mistakes, hard contacts and a bullpen that leaked at just the wrong moments, saw the Cubs rattle off seven unanswered runs and score an 8-5 win in front of a packed crowd. It was Cards’ third defeat to its rival in four tries this young season, the ninth in their last 11 games and one that has given way to the Cubs and the Brewers, who are both turning and fighting at the top of the division.
From troublemakers to purveyors of excitement.
“Some days it doesn’t go right,” said manager Mike Shildt. “We played a great game the day before yesterday, so I don’t want to look too much in the rearview mirror, but we played a lot of clean baseball. … We did a lot of great things today. “
Four of the Chicago tracks either came due to play errors, or there were no close plays. Two on their own were emanated by Yadier Molina in the fifth – a pass and a quick shot to the third that flew into the left field – which ended the afternoon of holder Johan Oviedo, running smoothly so far.
With Sergio Alcántara leaning in third place, Molina tried to pull off another of his basic throws to catch the runner off guard. It’s something he and Nolan Arenado have practiced many times in the past. This time, however, Molina’s shot went wide, out of the glove of third base and into the outfield.
“I feel comfortable playing that game in the past, I just have to catch the ball,” Arenado said. “I think I’m just rushing the game too fast and trying to make things happen, but I have to get the ball. Period. “
And two more runs came in the seventh, on a tough game for Tommy Edman but a catch he may have been able to make with a clean course, after a potential out deflected by Paul Goldschmidt’s mitt to start the frame and set up the game by Joc Pederson – Win double on two points.
Call it an abnormal day for a club that prides itself on its defense – and feels its defense has held steady through the skate – but has seen a few too many days go wrong.
But those misadventures didn’t play a role in Anthony Rizzo’s 14-pitch serve against Daniel Ponce de Leon, crowned by a home run that equalized the game in the sixth. Neither the other homers impressed by Pederson and Willson Contreras. Already, the momentum had shifted from the new visitors to the 35,112 watching a baseball game in person.
Positive signs still abound, according to the club, with crisp defense – albeit not on display on Friday – some bright spots from individuals in need of a rebound and a pitcher like Oviedo executing a much better game plan, too. if his first major league win is still eluding him.
Prior to that fateful fifth, a good portion of which was not his doing, Oviedo had 50 pitches on its log – 36 of which were strikes.
“I always think I’ll get that win,” Oviedo said. “… But my plan at the end of the day is to help the team, get to five or six innings. When that “W” arrives I’ll be happy. My plan is to improve and keep working “.
Such bursts of positivity are why Shildt has maintained an ambitious demeanor over the recent slip, proclaiming Tuesday night that a hot stretch is just around the corner. The Cardinals responded with a win on Wednesday.
“Obviously, as I told you, if we didn’t play cleanly, if we didn’t play with effort or concentration [we’d be concerned] – but we are, “said Shildt.” We can’t say more. There are positives, but I recognize that it’s an end result game. “
Another source of pride was simply a single combined free pass issued by six Cardinals pitchers on Friday, a march ahead of Oviedo in the fifth.
But as baseball wanted, that runner eventually came to score as the first of the Cubs’ unanswered seven.