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Cubs Walk 9 and Molina Gets 3 out of the 4 Cards’ Hits in 2-1 Cardinal Victory

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Cubs starter Cole Hamels was scratched from today’s scheduled start with shoulder fatigue. In his place, the Cubs started Alec Mills, who only had 4 career MLB starts going into this game. Mills has been in professional baseball since 2012 when he was drafted in the 22nd round by the Royals. The Cubs exercised a fourth minor league option on the 27-year old righthander this year, and the Cards’ only prior experience with him was 4 relief innings over 2 games pitched last year.

Mills confounded the Cards’ batters with his slow pitches all afternoon, including a 68-mph looping curveball. But after only 4.2 IP, 80 pitches and 2 hits allowed, Cubs manager Joe Maddon pulled Mills to turn the game over to his bullpen, which had let him down all year. Mike Shildt also pulled Michael Wacha from the game early, but that was because the Cubs hit the ball extremely hard off of him. Wacha walked 2, only struck out 1 in 4 IP, and his defense helped him out by turning double plays in each of the first 3 innings he pitched. The best you can say for Wacha this afternoon was that he did make a couple of good pitches inside that jammed batters.

The Cubs outhit the Cardinals 9-4 this afternoon, with Yadier Molina logging 3 out of the 4 hits. He got what turned out to be the game-winning hit after being hit in the groin witha foul ball. The Cubs’ pitching staff also beat the Cards’ staff in strikeouts 11 to 4. The difference was the free passes issued by the Cubs bullpen. Cubs’ relievers (of which there were a whopping 8) walked 7 in 4.1 total IP, to only 2 walks from the Cards’ relievers in 5 IP. If it were not for the walks, the Cards almost certainly would not have won the game, as they batted a preposterous 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left 12 men on base. they will have to get that corrected going forward, but will enjoy the win for the rest of the day before getting after it tomorrow.

After Dexter Fowler grounded out to 2nd to start the game, Alec Mills hit Tommy Edman on the right foot with a changeup in the dirt. Paul Goldschmidt struck out swinging at an elevated fastball. Ozuna popped a low sweeping curveball to 1st base in foul territory to strand Edman at 1st base. Anthony Rizzo worked a 3-2 walk to lead off the bottom of the 1st. Nicholas Castellanos lined a hanging changeup to DeJong at short. DeJong then fired to 1st base to double Rizzo off. Rizzo shuffled too far towards 2nd base and had no way to get back in time. Kris Bryant flied a high 3-2 fastball (the 9th pitch of the at-bat) to the track in right-center, but it was caught by Bader to end the inning.

Yadier Molina poked an outside fastball through the right side for a base hit to start the top of the 2nd. The ball was not hit very far at all from where Rizzo was stationed at first base, but he could not move to even attempt to field it. Paul DeJong struck out swinging at an outside fastball that was outside of the zone. Harrison Bader struck out swinging at a looping 79-mph slider to end the inning. Kyle Schwarber crushed (111.5-mph exit velocity) a 2-2 fastball that hit the base of the ivy in right-center for a double. When he hit it, I initially thought it was going to leave the park. Wacha jammed Willson Contreras with an inside fastball, and Contreras grounded out softly to short to move Schwarber to 3rd base. With David Bote at the plate, the infield was not playing in. Bote squibbed an inside fastball to the right side, forcing Edman to move to his left to try to get it. But the ball bounced off of the heel of his glove and he couldn’t make the play. Schwarber was not running on contact, and didn’t break for home until Edman dropped the ball. Edman did have to move a bit to make the attempt, but the scorer charged him with a fielding error. Schwarber scored to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead, and Bote safely reached first base. Jason Heyward sharply grounded a low fastball through the right side for a base hit to right to move Bote to 3rd. Nico Hoerner grounded an 0-2 inside fastball up the middle, but DeJong handled it, stepped on the bag and made a strong throw to 1st to nip Hoerner for a 6-3 double play to prevent any further damage.

After Wacha struck out looking to lead off the top of the 3rd, Fowler walked. Edman lined a low-and-away fastball to left. Schwarber was not sure how far it was going to carry, and it ended up going over his head, landing on the track and one-hopping the wall for a double to move Fowler to 3rd. Goldschmidt flied a low-and-away curveball to center, but it was too shallow to test Heyward’s arm. Ozuna flied a curveball to left to strand the runners. After Mills struck out to lead off the bottom of the 3rd, Rizzo sliced an inside cutter for a base hit into left field just inside the line. Rizzo just barely jogged to 1st base. Castellanos ripped a low-and-in fastball through the hole to left for a base hit to move Rizzo to 2nd. Bryant lined a hanging changeup for a base hit to left towards the line to load the bases. Rizzo didn’t score because he can’t run. But Wacha would escape the jam again by inducing Schwarber to ground a high-and-outside changeup to 2nd for a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play.

Mills retired the Cards in order in the top of the 4th on 3 groundouts. Wacha retired the first 2 Cubs on groundouts. With the count 2-2 on Heyward, Heyward fouled a high 2-2 changeup right into Molina’s groin. He went down instantly and play paused for a few minutes while he composed himself. Heyward worked a 3-2 walk. Nico Hoerner sharply grounded a middle-in fastball to DeJong at short, but the ball took his glove off. DeJong recovered, stuck with it, and fired to first from a long distance. Hoerner was initially called safe, but the Cards challenged the play, and on review, it was clear that the throw beat Hoerner by a step and the inning was over.

After Bader struck out swinging at a slider about 2 feet outside to lead off the 5th, Rangel Ravelo pinch hit for Wacha. The slow stuff by Mills is confounding the Cards hitters, as Ravelo also struck out on a low-and-away slider that was nowhere near the plate. Fowler worked a 3-2 walk. Mills had only allowed 2 hits at this point, and had only thrown 80 pitches. But Joe Maddon decided to go to his bullpen and bring out lefty Kyle Ryan to pitch to Edman and make him bat right-handed. I don’t understand it, but it’s not my concern. It worked out for the Cubs, as Edman squibbed an inside fastball for a grounder to 2nd to end the inning. Shildt chose Ryan Helsley to come out and pitch the top of the 5th to bridge the gap to the later innings. Helsley blew pinch-hitter Ian Happ away with a high-and-outside 99-mph fastball for the 1st out. Rizzo softly lined a fastball to left for the 2nd out. Castellanos smoked an inside 100-mph fastball to the gap in right-center. Fowler raced over and jumped for it, but he missed and the ball bounced off of the base of the ivy for a double. Fortunately, Bryant accidentally half-swung at an inside cutter and grounded it to 1st base to end the inning.

Righty David Phelps came out to pitch the top of the 6th in the #1 spot, with Happ staying in the game at 1st base in the #9 spot. Goldschmidt walked on 4 pitches to lead off the inning. Ozuna walked on 5 pitches, with the last pitch looking like it should have been called a strike on the corner. I did not, however, check Brooks Baseball to see if the box on television was accurate. That was it for Phelps, and Maddon brought in righty Steve Cishek to pitch to Carpenter. This time the umpire gave Cishek some questionable calls at the lower end of the strike zone, but did not punch Carpenter out on a 1-2 pitch similar to other pitches he had called strikes. Cishek ended up walking Carpenter on a low fastball to load the bases with nobody out. Molina then grounded a 2-2 inside fastball up the middle for a base hit to score both Goldschmidt and Ozuna to give the Cards a 2-1 lead and move Carpenter to 2nd base.

DeJong popped a low-and-in fastball to 1st base for the 1st out. Bader flied a slider to right for the 2nd out. After Matt Wieters was announced as the pinch-hitter for Helsley, Maddon brought in lefty Brad Wieck to pitch to him and force him to bat right-handed. Wieters grounded into a 6-4 force to end the inning. Tyler Webb came out and got Schwarber to line out to left to start the 6th. Shildt immediately went to John Brebbia for the rest of the inning. Contreras popped a first-pitch slider to 1st, then Bote popped a 1-2 slider to 1st in foul territory to end the inning.

To lead off the top of the 7th, Fowler struck out looking at a fastball that looked like it was off the plate outside by a little bit. After Edman lined out to right, Maddon made a double switch to bring in Ben Zobrist to play 2B in the #1 spot and righty Tyler Chatwood in the #6 spot to pitch to Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt tapped an outside cutter back to the mound to end the inning. Heyward sliced an inside slider for a bloop that dropped in front of Ozuna for a base hit. Ozuna was playing deep, did not get a good read on it, and unsurprisingly did not dive for it to give himself a chance. Hoerner blooped an inside fastball to right-center. Fowler tried to make a sliding catch, but it dropped for a base hit to move Heyward to 2nd base. Happ flied out to Bader in center for the first out. Zobrist lined a 2-2 slider to Bader in left-center. Castellanos walked on 4 straight sliders to load the bases for Bryant. Bryant smoked a high fastball to left, but Ozuna caught it at the track to end the inning.

The Cubs made another double switch to start the top of the 8th. Victor Caratini came out to play 1st base in the #6 spot and righty Rowan Wick came in to pitch in the #9 spot. After Ozuna grounded out to short, Carpenter worked a 3-2 walk after being behind in the count 0-2. Molina drove a 2-1 outside fastball to right field. There is virtually no foul territory out in the particular location where the ball was hit. Castellanos ran for the ball and stuck his glove out, but it bounced off of the webbing of his glove near the line against the wall and dropped for a hit. Molina ended up with a single to move Carpenter to 3rd base. Molina now has 3 out of the Cards’ 4 hits. DeJong walked on 4 pitches to load the bases. Bader struck out swinging at an elevated 2-2 fastball. Jose Martinez pinch hit for Brebbia and grounded a high fastball to short for a force at 2nd base to end the inning. Andrew Miller came out for the top of the 8th to pitch to Schwarber. This is the 3rd day in a row Miller is being used. Schwarber bunted a slider opposite the shift down the 3rd base line for which Carpenter had no possible play. But after the base hit, Contreras grounded a first-pitch fastball right to Edman for a 4-6-3 double play, the Cards’ 4th double play of the afternoon.

Caratini struck out on 3 pitches to end the inning.

The Cubs made yet another double switch for the top of the 9th. Jonathan Lucroy, normally a catcher, came in to play 1B in the #9 spot, and lefty Derek Holland came in to pitch in the #6 spot. Fowler worked a 3-2 walk, his 3rd of the afternoon, and the 8th walk of the afternoon allowed by the Cubs’ pitching staff. With the count 1-0 on Edman, Holland tried to pick Fowler off of 1st base and threw it away. The ball bounced off the sidewall in foul territory with Fowler moving to 2nd base. Lucroy is not normally a 1st baseman, and he looked like he was either out of position for the throw or not prepared for it, but Holland was charged with the error nonetheless. Edman had been showing bunt for some reason, and once Fowler reached 2nd base, he popped a bunt foul, but Contreras missed the sliding catch. Edman then struck out swinging at a slider in the dirt low-and-in. Maddon made yet another pitching change, this time bringing in righty Pedro Strop to pitch to Goldschmidt. This is the Cubs’ 9th pitcher of the afternoon. Goldschmidt worked a 3-2 walk on a low fastball that was very close. Ozuna struck out swinging at a slider in the dirt. Carpenter fell for the same 1-2 low slider and according to the 3rd base umpire, he failed to hold up. No replay was shown, so it was difficult for the audience to tell whether Carpenter went around. The Cards are now 1-11 with runners in scoring position and have left 12 men on base.

Miller came back out for the bottom of the 9th to pitch to the lefty Heyward, and initially got behind in the count 3-0. But Miller came back to get him to pop a 3-2 slider to short for the first out. Shildt then brought Carlos Martinez back out—also for the 3rd day in a row—to pitch to Hoerner. Hoerner popped a low-and-away slider to shallow left field, and DeJong alertly raced out to make the catch so Ozuna didn’t have to worry about it. Lefty Tony Kemp pinch hit for Lucroy and worked a 3-2 walk. With the count 1-0 on Zobrist, Martinez threw a low fastball that looked like it was below the zone, but the umpire called it a strike. The umpire then called a 2-1 changeup a strike that also looked like it could have been called a ball low. Zobrist then sharply grounded a hanging changeup towards the line at first, but Goldschmidt was guarding the line, knocked it down and stepped on the bag to end the game. Carlos picked up his 22nd save.

Odds and Ends

Although 6 is a serious number, it is not as good a number as 5 would be for the Cards, because 5 is what the magic number will be if the Brewers lose tonight to the Pirates in Milwaukee. The Pirates are starting LHP Steven Brault and the Brewers are going with RHP Chase Anderson. The Atlanta Braves will clinch the NL East tonight if they can beat the San Francisco Giants at home. They can also clinch if the Nationals lose to the Marlins.