Today's matchup: John Lackey (13-8, 3.77 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 3.45 xFIP) versus Cubs lefty Travis Wood (8-11, 4.72 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 4.52 xFIP)
Well, here's something that hasn't happened much lately. The Cardinals pulled out a comeback win after getting behind big and early. Comebacks are fun, except for that part when you're way behind and everything looks grey and bleak and pointless and why-the-heck-am-i-still-watching-this. Comebacks, of course, are why we still watch when Our Guys are down 5 to zip in the 2nd and the win expectancy is at 10%. Soak it in, folks. Revel in it. Baseball.
The reason a comeback was needed at all is because Mr. Lackey just didn't quite have it early on today. He was able to escape a bases loaded one out jam in the 1st, but wasn't as fortunate in the 2nd.
After letting the first two batters reach, Lackey compounded his troubles by fielding a sac bunt by Wood, then making a high throw to first well over Wong, covering first. Because, of course, staring first baseman Daniel Descalso was coming in on the bunt (don't be silly, of course he was)*. That's right, starting first baseman Daniel Descalso, because the Cardinals (had) no infield bench. Anyway, the errant throw gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Chris Coghlan's single drove home two more for an early 3-0 deficit. Lackey got Javier Baez to ground into a double play, but had trouble nailing down that final out. Starlin Castro reached on a single, then Luis Valbuena took a changeup that probably caught a little too much of the plate out over the right field wall for a 5-0 Cubs advantage.
*Edited to reflect reality.
After the two tough innings, Lackey was able to handle the next four innings without much trouble. His line: 6 1/3 IP, 9 H, 5 R (2 ER), 1 BB, 6 K, 96 pitches
Meanwhile, the Cardinals offense wasn't able to muster much against Wood until the 4th, when Matt Holliday ripped a home run to deep right center.
In the 5th, Kolten Wong followed Holliday's example and mashed a lead off homer of his own into the right field bullpen. Aloha means goodbye. Doubles by Matt Carpenter and noted clutch hitter Matt Holliday drove in two more, cutting the Cubs lead to 5-4 and turning this snoozefest into something much more interesting.
LOOGY Randy Choate relieved Lackey in the 7th, striking out lefty Valbuena. Unfortunately, Lefty One Out GuY was left in to try to get a second out, and against a
righty no less. He promptly give up a dinger to Arismendy Alcantara, giving the Cubs an insurance run and a 6-4 lead. Edit: Alcantara is a switch hitter, but better so far as a righty (102 vs. 68 wRC+ split so far in his young career). Thanks cpebbles.
Despite the tack-on run in the top of the inning, the Cardinals tied it up in 7th. The Cardinals turned a Grinder walk, a Holliplunk, and back to back singles from Jhonny Peralta and Yadier Molina into 2 runs.
Wong was removed in the 8th, after going back on a high pop up, tumbling backwards, and knocking his head on the ground. He was replaced by Pete Kozma, just back up from Memphis today. Early word appears to be good news:
Per Matheny; @KoltenWong is sore but no signs of concussion. #STLCards— Jim Hayes (@TheCatOnFox) August 31, 2014
The 8th inning started off with Pete Kozma going all Kozmania with a leadoff double to left, a harbinger of good things. Good things like Descalso getting down what was meant to be a sac bunt, but beating out the throw at first. Good things like noted gas station favorite Matt Holliday's utterly clutch two out, two run scoring single. Ghood thhings like Jhonny Peralta's follow up single to score Carpenter and give the Good Guys a 9-6 lead.
Trevor Rosenthal wrapped up the 9th and everyone breathed a contented sigh of relief.
As of this rambling, the Giants are thrashing the Brewers 14-3 in the 8th. Barring an epic, historic comeback by the Brew Crew, the Cardinals will be tied for first place in the NL Central. Seriously. First place.
Tomorrow it's the Pirates Gerrit Cole and our own Lance Lynn in a rematch of last Tuesday's game. You know the one. It involved Ike Davis and a lot of bullpen questions. First pitch at 1:15 Central.