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Cardinals at Cubs recap: Lackey bests Lester, Cards win 6-0

The Cards and Cubs start a four-game series with a rainy Cards win.

A most handsome man.
A most handsome man.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

It's a sportswriterly truism that a baseball season is just one kind of streak after another. It's reductive but you can see why it's become an old chestnut.

And you can probably even more easily see that I'm going to connect it to the Cardinals: who, after having experienced their first real skid of the season last week--losing four games in a row to the White Sox and Padres--have now started a winning streak that, with their 6-0 win over the Cubs, has reached three games in a row.

The trick is to make the winning streaks longer and more frequent than the losing streaks, because if you can do that, then BOOM--John Lackey might be scowling his way through a World Series.

John Lackey

The Cards' resident sourpuss continued his fine form this season. As much as I dislike watching him frown and glare his way through games, I have to admit that he's pitched really well this year. In fact I have no reluctance in doing so, despite the construction of my previous sentence.

His stats:

  • 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K;
  • 26 batters faced, 105 pitches, 73 strikes, 11 swinging strikes
  • 9 GB, 9 FB, 3 LD

Lackey was his usual effective self, showing a really fine command of his fastball and his cutter, which pitches caused a lot of weak contact and four swings-and-misses each.

He wasn't perfect, of course. In the second he allowed a hard line-drive double off the ivy to Jorge Soler for the Cubs' first hit of the game, then unintentionally walked Dexter Fowler to reach the pitcher's spot with two outs.

That spot was occupied by Jon Lester, who in his life had never recorded a hit in a major-league baseball game: 0-for-71 coming into tonight's game. Even for someone who is truly a putrid hitter, that represents some incredible bad luck--a long streak of it, you might say. And unfortunately for Jon Lester's good friend John Lackey, that streak ended when Lester hit a comebacker that ricocheted off Lackey and bounced slowly to Jhonny Peralta. Safe everywhere. Standing ovation and wild applause for Lester!

Pretty cool, but Lackey was able to let's say finesse a strikeout of Addison Russell to end the inning:

I like to think Lackey earned that wide strike three with all the exasperation he directed at the ump.

Lackey also received some excellent defense behind him, especially in the crucial...

Sixth and Seventh Innings

Here's the scene as of the bottom of the sixth: game tied at zero, Jon Lester with a not-so-secret no-hitter going, lots of rain approaching. I personally felt a great sense of urgency to prevent then score runs. And for once the elder gods listened, because after the Cubs' all-stars Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant singled to put runners at the corners, Lackey then got a huge swinging strikeout of Miguel Montero.

First and third, one out, tie ballgame, and Starlin Castro at the plate--Kolten Wong, this is your scene.

Baseball is a truly beautiful game sometimes. End of inning, game still tied.

After Matt Carpenter started the seventh by striking out for the second time, Jhonny Peralta hit a hard grounder to third that Kris Bryant couldn't corral, and that was the end of Lester's no-hitter. Bryant's rough inning continued when Jason Heyward hit a double-play chopper to third that Bryant fielded but tossed wide to second--both runners safe.

Defense matters.

After Heyward stole second on Lester, Yadier Molina hit a sac fly to right field: 1-0 Cards. With Lester still in the game to face the lefty Wong, the lefty Wong then singled to plate Heyward. 2-0 Cards.

After Wong stole second--the Cards' third off Lester for the night--Mark Reynolds walked and Randal Grichuk struck out to end the top frame.

Before the rains came, Lackey pitched one final inning and received one final gift from his defense: another inning-ending double play, this time a 3-6 tag play that was perfectly executed and a delight to behold.

Rain Delay

From our man on the scene:

Conclusion to Game

For those who stayed up late enough to watch the game's resumption, well it was really fun: St. Louis plated four runs off old friend Edwin Jackson in the top of the ninth. Here's how:

  • Peralta walked;
  • Heyward struck out;
  • Molina singled on a fliner to right;
  • Wong singled on a liner to left;
  • Reynolds scored Peralta on sac fly to right, 3-0 Cards;
  • Grichuk and his silver sombrero doubled to left, scoring two, 5-0 Cards;
  • Peter Bourjos singled to score Grichuk, 6-0 Cards.

After the deluge of runs, Rosenthal sat down and Mitch Harris entered to pitch the ninth. Which he did with no mishaps.

Some additional notes:

  • Matt Carpenter stole a base off Lester in the top frame of the first, after spending the entirety of Jhonny Peralta's at-bat making it obvious that he was going to steal. I may soon tire of people psychoanalyzing Lester's difficulty with pick offs, but I'm still quite happy to watch the Cardinals dance their way to so many uncustomary steals.
  • Be sure to #VoteTsunami if ye be so inclined.
Obligatory WPA graph:

Source: FanGraphs

The four-game series continues with a really fun doubleheader at Wrigley tomorrow: game 1 begins at 12:20 pm, with the gorgeous xFIP master Tyler Lyons going against Jake Arrieta. Game 2 starts at 7:05 central, Tim Cooney versus righty Dallas Beeler.