The Cardinals came into Saturday looking to set the franchise record for consecutive wins after sweeping Friday’s doubleheader in Chicago. Jon Lester got the start for the Redbirds and struggled a bit through five innings, yielding four runs (three earned) on eight hits and three walks but striking out six. The Cardinals’ defense came up huge with four double plays that limited the Cubs’ scoring opportunities, one of which was wild enough to fit the storyline of the winning streak. Adrian Sampson started for the Cubs and gave up just two runs in six innings, but the Cardinals’ offense piled on against Chicago’s bullpen, notching six more runs to lift the Cardinals to an 8-5 win that made history.
Tommy Edman struck out swinging over a changeup on the outside corner to open the game. Paul Goldschmidt turned on an inside sinker and lined out to left. Tyler O’Neill got jammed on an inside sinker and blooped it to right where Ian Happ made a sliding catch to sit the Cardinals down in order.
Wilson Contreras rolled a fastball back to Lester who threw to first for the out. Frank Schwindel hit a sinker on the screws to left but straight at O’Neill for out number two. Ian Happ went down on three pitches, reaching for a changeup well off the outside corner of the plate.
Nolan Arenado led off the second and popped out to David Bote at second, after which Yadier Molina skied a 2-2 sinker to right for the second out. Harrison Bader sat on the outside sinker in a 3-2 count and launched it into the seats in right-center to give the Cards a 1-0 lead. Lars Nootbaar saw eight pitches before skying a changeup to left for the final out.
Patrick Wisdom worked a full count but struck out swinging over a changeup at the knees. Matt Duffy pulled a 2-2 cutter to O’Neill, who lost the ball in the sun and couldn’t make the catch, putting Duffy into second with a double. Bote drew a seven-pitch walk to bring up Trayce Thompson, who grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Paul DeJong was called out on a 1-2 sinker that caught the outside corner of the plate. Lester rolled over an outside sinker and pulled it to second for the second out and Edman grounded a changeup into the shift, sitting the Cardinals down quietly.
Sergio Alcantara smoked a low fastball through the left side of the infield for a leadoff single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Sampson. Contreras got a fastball up in the zone and drilled it into left-center for an RBI double, tying the game at 1-1.
Schwindel tipped an elevated 2-2 fastball back to Yadi, who cradled the ball between his leg and his arm for the second out of the inning. Happ then lined a belt-high sinker to center for a base hit, scoring Contreras to put the Cubs up 2-1. Bader threw home on the play, allowing Happ to move to second. Wisdom walked on four pitches, bringing up Duffy who grounded into the Cardinals’ second 6-4-3 double play in as many innings.
Goldschmidt went after a fastball up and in and lined it to Wisdom for the first out. O’Neill got all of an inside fastball, hitting it out of Wrigley even though it was going into the Chicago wind. With the game then tied 2-2, Arenado popped out to center on a 3-2 sinker. Yadi closed the top of the frame, grounding a sinker to short for the final out.
Bote drove a low 1-2 changeup to left for a single. Thompson struck out looking at a 1-2 four-seamer on the inside corner. Alcantara topped a changeup softly to Edman and beat the throw for an infield hit to put two on. Sampson laid down a bunt to Arenado, who bobbled the ball on the transfer as he looked to throw to third, allowing Sampson to reach on an E5 and load the bases. Contreras then singled to center, scoring Bote to give the Cubs another lead at 3-2. Schwindel, with the bases still loaded, popped out to Edman at second for the second out. Happ then worked a seven-pitch walk, bringing Alcantara home to stretch the Cubs’ lead to 4-2. Wisdom followed and grounded out to Edman, ending the Cubs’ threat.
Bader opened the fifth with an infield single to Duffy at third. Nootbaar struck out on six pitches, swinging over a changeup at the knees. DeJong grounded another ball to Duffy, who threw to first for the out since Bader stole second before the play. A wild pitch to Lester then moved Bader to third, but Lester struck out to strand him there.
Duffy led off with a long single to left on a fastball from Lester that dipped below 86 mph. Bote went down looking at a fastball off the outside corner for a generous strike three. Thompson then grounded into a fielder’s choice and Alcantara struck out on a foul tip, leaving Duffy on first. The medical team came out to check on Lester during Alcantara’s at-bat, but Lester apparently made a good enough case to Mike Shildt to finish the inning.
The Redbirds went down in order in the sixth, as Edman grounded out to short, Goldschmidt grounded out to third, and O’Neill flew out to center.
Kwang Hyun Kim got a rare appearance in the sixth to face pinch hitter Austin Romine, who slapped a fastball past Arenado on a tough hop for a leadoff single. Contreras grounded into yet another double play, this one of the 5-4-3 variety. Schwindel then tapped a changeup out in front of the plate, which Yadi pounced on and threw to first for the last out.
Codi Heuer replaced Sampson on the mound and surrendered a double to Arenado, who made a great slide to avoid a tag at second. Yadi followed with a single on a high fastball, putting Cardinals at the corners. Bader rolled another fastball into left field, closing the deficit to 4-3 and placing runners on first and second. Nootbaar then singled on a soft liner to left, scoring Yadi to tie the game 4-4.
Scott Effross then relieved Heuer, who couldn’t record an out before getting pulled. DeJong, with runners on the corners again and no outs, skied a slider to deep center that easily scored Bader, putting the Cardinals ahead 5-4. Dylan Carlson pinch hit for KK and went down swinging under a high fastball. Edman then grounded out to short, ending a productive frame for the Cardinals’ offense.
T.J. McFarland came in to pitch the bottom of the seventh for the Cards and retired Happ on a groundout to Arenado. McFarland then walked Wisdom just to erase him on another 6-4-3 double play hit by Duffy to close the frame.
The Cubs double switched in the eighth, bringing in Rowan Wick to pitch and Rafael Ortega to play left. Goldschmidt drew a walk on four pitches below the zone. O’Neill went down waving at a 1-2 slider that broke off the plate. Arenado then grounded into a 5-4-3 double play, sending the game to the bottom of the eighth.
Bote took a sinker the other way into the right field corner and reached third for a leadoff triple. Thompson then walked to put runners on first and third. Alcantara struck out swinging over an inside sinker. The Cardinals then turned a double play that words would fail to describe adequately:
3-2-5-4-2-8-6 double play! pic.twitter.com/YtNDNW5ZLM— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 25, 2021
Tommy Nance relieved Wick in the ninth and got Molina with a flyout to the warning track in right. Bader rolled a sinker softly into left-center for a one-out double for his fourth hit and stole third during Nootbaar’s at-bat while the Cubs defense was sleeping. Nance struck Nootbaar out with a curveball in the dirt but the ball got away from Contreras, allowing Bader to score on a nifty slide for an insurance run to make it 6-4.
Nootbaar made it to first on the dropped third strike and scored with a no-doubt dinger from DeJong on a first-pitch fastball that blew the game wide open at 8-4. Matt Carpenter pinch hit for McFarland and went down swinging over a low slider. Edman then topped a slider to Schwindel for a groundout, leaving the Cardinals just three outs away from making history.
Luis Garcia came in close the game and retired Contreras with a groundout on a 3-2 sinker. Schwindel followed, tapping an 0-2 sinker back to Garcia for the second out. Happ got a 3-2 fastball down the pipe and homered to center, cutting the Cards’ lead to 8-5.
Wisdom then struck out looking at a sinker low and away as the Cardinals won a franchise-record 15th straight game with an 8-5 victory.
The Redbirds move to 86-69 with the win, cutting their magic number to three to clinch a playoff spot. The Cardinals will look to continue their historic streak with a sweep of the Cubs on Sunday. Jake Woodford is slated to duel Keegan Thompson with the first pitch scheduled for 1:20 PM CT.
Final Pitching Lines
Lester: 5 IP / 8 H / 4 R / 3 ER / 3 BB / 6 K / 0 HR
Kim (W, 7-7): 1 IP / 1 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 0 K / 0 HR
McFarland (H, 13): 2 IP / 1 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 2 BB / 1 K / 0 HR
Garcia: 1 IP / 1 H / 1 R / 1 ER / 0 BB / 1 K / 1 HR
Sampson: 6 IP / 3 H / 2 R / 2 ER / 0 BB / 4 K / 2 HR
Heuer (L, 7-3)(BS, 3): 0 IP / 4 H / 3 R / 3 ER / 0 BB / 0 K / 0 HR
Effross: 1 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 1 K / 0 HR
Wick: 1 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 1 BB / 1 K / 0 HR
Nance: 1 IP / 2 H / 3 R / 3 ER / 0 BB / 2 K / 1 HR