Cubs record: 11-3, 1st NL Central (3.5 games up, pending result of Pittsburgh vs. San Diego)
W: Jason Hammel
L: Jaime Garcia
SV: Hector Rondon
MVP: Jason Hammel
The Chicago Cubs were able to corral the Big Bad Cardinals for the second game in a row behind a strong effort from Jason Hammel on the mound and at the plate.
After the Cardinals struck first on an RBI triple by Yadier Molina in the second, things got going for the Cubs in the top of the fourth. Jorge Soler accepted a free pass from Jaime Garcia before Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero smacked singles to load the bases with one out. After Addison Russell struck out, Hammel came through with a two-run single, which wound up being all the Cubs would need and all they would get.
Hammel exited the game after six innings, allowing one run and tallying six strikeouts, five hits, and no walks. Adam Warren pitched the bottom of the seventh and walked two, but got out of it without allowing a run. Travis Wood started the bottom of the eighth by giving up a single to Matt Carpenter before being pulled for Pedro Strop, who came in and started slinging some nasty splitters and sliders to strike out two to get out of a jam. In the bottom of the ninth, Hector Rondon gave up a lead-off single to Molina before retiring the side and securing the win.
Everything Jason Hammel. Other than that, the Cubs discipline at the plate shined yet again. Garcia only lasted five innings after the Cubs forced him to throw 98 pitches, which got the Cardinals bullpen working despite only giving up two runs. The Cubs didn’t plate another player, but they are so good at working deep counts and forcing opposing pitchers to rack up their pitch counts that they continuously set themselves up for offensive success, even if it doesn’t materialize. With plate discipline like this, that positive trend should continue all season long.
It was only one play, but Jorge Soler still looks extremely uncomfortable in left field. On the Molina triple that scored Randall Grichuk, Soler misread the ball badly and took a terrible route. He ended up colliding with the fence and awkwardly reaching out for the ball before tumbling to the ground and defaulting to Fowler, who threw it back in. There’s plenty of time for Soler to figure it out, but it might not be pretty for quite a while.
Several of the Cubs hitters continued to slump at the plate. Heyward hit the ball really well, but had nothing to show for it as he finished 0-4 on the night. Anthony Rizzo continued to struggle as well, going 0-3 with a walk. Jorge Soler is in danger of having his batting average dip below the Mendoza line as he didn’t put a ball in play all night and struck out three times. Addison Russell had a rough night too, going 0-4. The Cubs were able to win and the offense is going to be ferocious when these guys turn it around, but hopefully that day comes soon.
The rivalry against the Redbirds continues tomorrow at 12:45 pm CT as the Cubs look to finish the sweep at Busch Stadium. Kyle Hendricks takes the ball for Chicago and tries to win his second game of the year. With two earned runs and five strikeouts in each of his last two starts and only one walk allowed on the season, his consistency could prove key to the Cubs leaving town with a third win. They’ll face Carlos Martinez, who is 2-0 on the season with worse numbers than Hendricks (don’t you love the win stat?). With a 3.46 ERA, four walks, and 11 strikeouts, the Cubs should be able to do some damage if they are patient at the plate. In his previous starts this season, the Cardinals have scored 14 and 12 runs, but here’s hoping that Hendricks ends that streak tomorrow afternoon in St. Louis.