At 20-6 and riding an eight game win streak, the Cardinals entered Wednesday off to their best start in franchise history. This season, they were the first team to win 20 games in a season, when they won 7-4 on Tuesday night.
Over the course of the first two games of the series, the Cubs blew a five-run, four-run, and three-run lead at some point during the game. And the Cardinals aimed to keep the hot streak rolling.
But all good things, as the famous quote says, must come to an end.
The Cardinals winning streak ended, as they lost 6-5 to the Cubs in what was still a hard fought game that came down to the very end.
It was a battle of top National League pitchers on Wednesday night; Lance Lynn (1-2, 3.07) for the Cardinals, and Jon Lester (1-2, 4.71) for the Cubs, who entered the game on a four game losing streak dating back to last week. Lester has been touted as the biggest acquisition the Cubs made during the offseason (as well as naming Joe Maddon their new manager), and entering Wednesday, he had a…
Lynn started off the game allowing a base hit to Dexter Fowler. During the following at-bat, which was with Chris Coghlan at the plate, Lynn was able to pick-off Fowler, and the subsequent challenge by the Cubs proved unsuccessful. Coghlan then walked, to bring up Anthony Rizzo, who grounded to the first baseman Mark Reynolds. Third baseman Kris Bryant, with two outs and a runner on second, capitalized with a base hit to center, scoring Fowler, giving the Cubs the 1-0 lead.
Jorge Soler then singled putting runners on the corners with two outs, and Starlin Castro followed with a hit off of Matt Carpenter’s glove, as the score was now 2-0 Cubs. Lynn struck out David Ross to finally get out of the inning.
To lead-off the bottom of the first was Peter Bourjos, who would hit a single. Carpenter, who hit a three-run home run Tuesday night, stepped up to the plate next. Bourjos soon got caught stealing during the at-bat, but Carpenter was walked, still putting a runner on base regardless. After a ground out by Matt Holliday, Reynolds would fly out to left to end the inning.
Lynn had a much better second, pitching a 1-2-3 shutout inning. Lester started the bottom of the second by pitching to shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who grounded out. Jason Heyward then hit an infield single (ruled an error). Yadier Molina was up to bat next, and he hit an RBI double down to the right field wall, and Heyward, with his speed, would score from first, making it a 2-1 game, as Pete Kozma and Lynn both could not get on base, the latter being struck out, as the game headed to the third.
Coghlan led off the third with a shallow pop-out to first base. But Rizzo, who already homered once in this series, homered once again with a big shot to right field, to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead, and his 13th RBI of the season. Lynn responded with his third strikeout of the game, and a ground-out following that ended the top of the third, but not before the Cubs tacked on another run.
With two outs in the bottom of the third, Holliday was issued a walk by Lester, which was Holliday’s 21st of the season. Reynolds stepped up to the plate but would strikeout, ending the inning.
Just like the prior inning, Lynn would pitch a 1-2-3 shutout fourth inning, as the Cubs would lead 3-1 as the bottom of the fourth got underway.
To start the bottom of the fourth, Peralta crushed a ball over the left field wall to cut the Cubs lead to 3-2. Measured at 437 feet, it was his third career home run against Lester. That would be all the Cardinals would get during the bottom of the inning. Addison Russell kicked off the top of the fifth with a ground-rule double, extending his hitting streak to nine games. Russell would advance to third after an out, bringing up Coghlan with one out. Coghlan, in a hard fought at-bat, would walk.
Rizzo would then hit a two run double to give the Cubs a 5-2 lead over the Cardinals, with one out, as Bryant would be up. Lynn then recorded his fourth strikeout of the night on Bryant, followed by a strikeout of Jorge Soler.
In the bottom of the fifth, Lester shut down the Cardinals in a 1-2-3 series, as the game would go into the sixth inning with a score of 5-2 Cubs.
All night long, the strike zone would vary for both teams. And in the top of the sixth inning, Cubs manager Joe Maddon had enough, and after arguing in the home plate umpire’s face, he would be ejected. Lynn would record his sixth strikeout in the inning as well, while the game remained 5-2 Cubs.
With two outs and one runner on base (following a Peralta single), Heyward hit an infield single off the glove of Lester, who was over 80 pitches at this point in the game. Molina stepped up to the plate, with the chance to tie it, as the Busch Stadium crowd started to get excited, with “Yadi” chants being heard, and he hit a bloop single, his second hit of the night, scoring Peralta as they cut the Cubs lead to 5-3.
Kozma followed that hit by Molina with a base hit of his own, scoring Heyward, making it a one run game, with the pinch-hitter for Lynn being Matt Adams, with runners on second and third. Adams struck out, but despite that, the game was now 5-4 heading into the seventh inning.
The final line of the evening for Lynn: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K.
Randy Choate, throwing 14 total pitches in the last week, entered in relief for Lynn. And Choate pitched a 1-2-3 shutout seventh inning, which was capped off by getting the Cubs best player of the evening, Rizzo, to ground out.
Lester remained in the game through the bottom of the seventh, even as his pitch count reached over 100. After getting Bourjos and Carpenter out, Holliday would hit a ground-rule double to left field to put the tying runner on for Reynolds, but unfortunately, he struck out.
As the eighth inning arrived, it was still a one-run game, 5-4 in favor of the Cubs. Matt Belisle entered in relief for Choate. Bryant led off the inning with a double, and Soler singled in Bryant to make it 6-4. Belisle then got Castro to hit into a double play, and Ross would fly-out to end the top half of the inning. For the Cardinals, with one out and Heyward on after a HBP, Molina was at the plate. Heyward advanced to second after a wild pitch, and Molina was walked on four straight pitches.
This brought up Kolten Wong, in for Kozma, and Wong then hit a pinch-hit single scoring Heyward, making it 6-5 Cubs. And with the final position player on the bench, manager Mike Matheny brought in Jon Jay. Jay, however, hit into an inning-ending double play.
Carlos Villanueva entered to pitch the ninth inning for the Cardinals. Villanueva issued a lead-off walk, but countered that by pitching a shutout inning regardless.
The bottom of the ninth featured the Cubs closer Hector Rondon entered to attempt to get the save. Bourjos would hit a lead-off single, bringing the winning run to the plate while the tying run was on first. Carpenter grounded out, but the quick burst of Bourjos would put him at third base with one out. Holliday was then intentionally walked, as Reynolds stepped up to bat, but Rondon to strike him out, which brought up Peralta, who would ground-out to end the game.
Lester improves to 2-2 on the season, while Lynn falls to 1-3, as Rondon gets his sixth save.
Despite the loss, St. Louis is still 20-7, and at the top of the National League. The Cubs improve to 14-12 on the season.
The series finale against the Cubs is tomorrow, as they will close out the home-stand.
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)