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Game 32 Recap: Cardinals sweep fourth-place team

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The Cards win another walk-off thriller, this time in 14 innings.

Chicago Cubs v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Last game, Kolten Wong supplied the walkoff homer to push the Cardinals past the Cubs. This game, Dexter Fowler did. Michael Wacha and Jon Lester faced off to start things for the NL Central rivals, but both were gone long before the game was settled. When it was, the Cardinals came out on top 4-3 over the Cubs, for a three-game series sweep.

Tommy Pham sat out tonight, with a tight right groin that has left Pham describing himself as “at 70%.” Harrison Bader started in his place, and (I guess) since Pham’s been leading off lately and Bader was subbing for Pham, Bader got to hit leadoff. Also, Francisco Pena got the start at catcher, despite Carson Kelly having arrived in time to play, because (per Mike Matheny before the game) Pena had already prepped for the Cubs lineup and Kelly hadn’t. Frankly, that makes perfect sense to me. Matt Carpenter got the night off, with Jedd Gyorko at third and Kolten Wong at second. Other than that, the normal starters started and everybody hit about where you’d expect.

The Cubs struck right away in the top of the first, thanks to a Willson Contreras hit and a Gyorko error, which put Contreras in position for Anthony Rizzo to hit a sac fly making it 1-0 Cubs. But Wacha limited the damage to one run. At that point, a brief rain delay gave us all a chance to do dishes and that kind of thing without missing much baseball. Hooray for pop-up storms.

The Cardinals struck back in the bottom of the second when Gyorko redeemed himself with a solo tater off Lester. The next two Cards reached, but the two-on-one-out rally was quashed when Pena grounded into a double play.

The teams traded zeroes in the third, and that inning was followed by another (slightly longer) rain delay. Immediately upon resumption of play, Kris Bryant hit a solo homer off Wacha to make it 2-1 Cubs. It’s hard to remember to just tip your cap to hitters sometimes instead of blaming your team’s pitcher, but:

If a guy is going to hit a homer on a 94 mph fastball inside and off the plate, I mean, good job, guy.

The Birdos had a good shot to pull level (or more) in the bottom of the fourth, when Gyorko doubled and Wong singled and (with Gyorko holding at third) took second on the throw. The Cubs elected to walk Pena to load the bases with two out, and pitch to Wacha. Lester took the count to 3-1. He then threw what should, or at the most generous we should say easily could, have been ball four. But it was called a strike, and on a 3-2 count Wacha flied out harmlessly to right to end the inning.

The fifth was again defined by zeroes on either end. Wacha got one out in the top of the sixth, but then gave up a double to Addison Russell and gave way to Luke Gregerson, who kept the Cubs from cashing in the baserunner. And then in the bottom of the inning, the Cards pulled level:

Lester got one out but walked Gyorko and was then pulled, which brought former Cardinal Steve Cishek into the game. Cishek got one guy out, but Wong scorched a liner into right. Other former Cardinals Jason Heyward could have played it for a single and preserved the lead, but he went for the out and just whiffed on it (the announcers tried to blame the lights, but I don’t buy it given the low angle of the line drive; sometimes guys just mess up). The ball went all the way to the wall, Gyorko scored easily from first, and Wong was credited with a triple. 2-2 game. After Pena was hit with a pitch, Pham came on to hit for the pitcher but made a quick out. Still, it was good to get the tie.

(It was less good that Matheny burned Greg Garcia, who was announced to hit and then pulled back in favor of Pham when Maddon countered with lefty Steve Wilson. That kind of thing is usually fine, but with a short bench... eh.)

Neither team threatened in the seventh. The Cardinals did in the eighth, as Joe Maddon (who is not nearly the tactical genius some treat him as) left a tiring Carl Edwards in to try to finish a second inning, and was rewarded with two walks and only one out. But Brian Duensing got Wong and Pena to end the threat and keep it tied.

That brought it to the top of the ninth, still tied, and — yup — it was Greg Holland time. And hey! It was fine. He got a 1-2-3 inning, with a strikeout in there, and only took like eight pitches to do it. Neat! I’m sure this means he’ll be immediately judged ready to close games again, even though it really shouldn’t mean that, but the pen was thin tonight and beggars can’t be choosers. Good job, Greg Holland.

Sometime around the bottom of the ninth, what with all the rain delays and pitching changes and so on, my couch became uncommonly comfortable. The Cardinals didn’t score — I’m confident of that — and the game went to extra innings. And then the couch became really comfortable, and I’ll be back with you in a minute.

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When I rejoined the action, I learned that in the top of the 14th (good move, comfy couch, I’d never have made it), with Mike Mayers heroically pitching his third inning of the night, Javy Baez hit a solo homer off him to take the lead for the Cubs. Maddon turned to Luke Farrell — a.k.a. the guy who gave up Wong’s walk-off dinger last night — for the save, and he got the first two guys.

Then Harrison Bader singled to keep the game alive. And then:

Ha! Cardinals win again, would you believe it, 4-3 in 14. Fun!

UPDATE — So it looks like Baez may have stared at the Cards’ dugout while rounding first, and then he definitely patted himself on the back while rounding third. I want to emphasize that not only am I not opposed to those things, I think they’re fun and encourage them. But by doing so, he opened himself up to my relentless mockery for airmailing what would have been a game-ending throw to get Bader in the top of the 14th (was it a tough play, yes, but shut up). LITTLE QUICK ON THE BACK-PATTING THERE EH JAVY???

UPDATE #2 — wow: