Since Nolan Arenado chose to become a father this week, the Cardinals were without one of their big boppers for today’s series finale at Wrigley Field. Fortunately, Paul Goldschmidt was back in the lineup after a day off, and he single-handedly out-slugged the entire Cubs lineup.
Goldy finished the day 3-for-5 with two home runs and five RBI, raising his league-leading batting average to .339 and taking the NL RBI lead with 105.
Dakota Hudson, who was more or less fighting for his spot in the rotation, went seven strong innings to fend off the Cubs. With Jack Flaherty one week away and Jake Woodford having just pitched six shutout innings against these same Cubs, we’ll see if Hudson starts against the Reds next week.
Lars Nootbaar led off against Marcus Stroman and hit a 100 mph ground ball to the right side, but it went directly to Patrick Wisdom for an easy out. Brendan Donovan and Paul Goldschmidt drew back-to-back walks, which set up red-hot Corey Dickerson with a runner in scoring position. He wasted no time, slapping a knee-high sinker from Stroman into left field for an RBI single, scoring Donovan and making it 1-0 St. Louis in the first. With that hit, he set a franchise record for consecutive at-bats with a hit, with nine straight knocks.
Nolan Gorman followed and also attacked early, poking a seeing-eye single up the middle. His base hit scored Goldschmidt to make it 2-0 St. Louis. Dickerson went first to third on the hit.
O’Neill then wacked a sacrifice fly to deep-ish right field, scoring Dickerson to give St. Louis an early 3-0 lead, much like Chicago had last night.
Tommy Edman — playing third base today because Nolan Arenado is going to be a dad — singled to left field, and immediately stole second base afterwards (his 25th steal of the season). Paul DeJong half-swung at a Stroman sinker and chopped a slow ground ball to Wisdom at first base to end the Cardinals’ half of the first inning.
Zach McKinstry led off for the Cubs and flew out to the warning track in left field. Nico Hoerner grounded out to Paul Goldschmidt at first base. Seiya Suzuki hit a shallow fly ball into right field, and Brendan Donovan made a nice sliding catch to get Hudson out of the inning after 12 pitches.
Andrew Knizner led off the second inning with a sharp double over the head of center fielder Nelson Velazquez. Nootbaar followed by pulling a single down the first base line that Wisdom dove for but could not come up with cleanly, as Knizner moved to third. But with runners on the corners and nobody out, St. Louis ran themselves out of the inning.
Donovan hit a ground ball to Wisdom at first base, and despite the Cubs conceding the run and trying for the double play, Knizner stayed put at third base. Wisdom threw to second for the force out, but the return throw back to first was not in time to get Donovan.
(I understand Knizner waiting with the ball hit to first base, but as soon as Wisdom turns and throws back towards second base, Knizner needs to be on the move, in my opinion)
With one out, Stroman struck out Goldschmidt, with Donovan on the move trying to steal second base. P.J. Higgins raised his arm to throw down to second, but immediately noticed Knizner already breaking for home plate. Higgins alertly turned and threw to third base instead, catching Knizner in a rundown. The Cardinals’ catcher was tagged out to end the top of the second. St. Louis started the inning strong, but got nothing out of that first and third with no outs situation.
Ian Happ led off the bottom of the second inning with a double to left-center field. Franmil Reyes followed with a high bouncing ground ball to Edman at third base. Edman rushed the throw and tossed it into the St. Louis dugout, which meant Happ was awarded home plate (scoring the Cubs’ first run) and Reyes advanced to second base. It was the sixth-straight game the Cardinals made an error.
Higgins grounded out to DeJong at shortstop for the first out. Wisdom hit a soft ground ball a few feet in front of the plate, and Knizner jumped on it and threw to first for the second out out. Velazquez drew a two-out walk, and immediately stole second base to set up Christopher Morel with the tying run in scoring position. Morel hit a rocket directly at Edman, who had it but saw it pop out of his glove. Edman picked it up and fired a throw to Goldschmidt, who stretched so far to his right that he was basically laying down and still kept his foot on the bag to get St. Louis out of the inning with a two-run lead. The NL Gold Glove award at first base, as well as the NL MVP, are both locked up.
Dickerson led off the third inning and singled up the middle on the second pitch he saw, making him 19 for his last 37, and 10 for his last 10 — extending his franchise record. Gorman hit behind him and hammered a ball to the wall in left field, where Happ jumped at the wall and caught the ball in the ivy, robbing him of extra bases. O’Neill flew out to right field for out number two and Edman grounded out to second base for out number three.
McKinstry led off the third inning against Hudson with a base knock to right field. Hoerner grounded out to Goldschmidt at first unassisted, with McKinstry moving to second. A Suzuki single to center field moved McKinstry to third base, with Happ coming up. Happ singled to right field for his second hit off Hudson in the game, scoring McKinstry and getting Chicago back within one run. Franmil Reyes, the criminal who hit Albert Pujols, grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and get Hudson out of a sticky situation.
DeJong grounded out to start the inning, followed by a Knizner base hit to left field. Nootbaar followed with his second hit of the day — a 110 mph ground ball into right field.
(Fun fact: as of Thursday afternoon, Lars Nootbaar’s average exit velocity of 91.3 mph was higher than Paul Goldschmidt’s, which is 91 mph)
Donovan hit a line drive above the head of McKinstry at second. He jumped for it as best he could, but the ball grazed off the tip of his mitt and wound up in right field for a single. Goldschmidt stepped into the box with the bases loaded and singled to right field, scoring Knizner and Noot to make it 5-2 St. Louis in the fourth. RBIs 101 and 102 tied him with Pete Alonso for the most in the National League.
Dickerson’s streak of consecutive hits was finally snapped when he hit a ground ball to Wisdom at first base, who threw home to Higgins to tag Donovan trying to score. Donovan was out, with Dickerson reaching at first base on the fielder’s choice. Gorman grounded out to second, stranding two runners.
Hudson struck out Higgins and Wisdom, and then got Velazquez to fly out to left field for a 1-2-3 bottom of the fourth.
O’Neill popped out to McKinstry in shallow center field, Edman reached on an infield single up the middle that McKinstry couldn’t get to in time, and DeJong flew out to right field. Knizner then hit a shot up the middle that McKinstry dove for before firing back over to first base for the third out, robbing Knizner of his third hit of the game.
Stroman’s final line: 5 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K (85 pitches)
Morel grounded out to third base, McKinstry flew out to right field, but Hoerner drew a two-out walk, which was his second free pass of the afternoon. Suzuki grounded out to second to end the fifth inning.
Left-hander Sean Newcomb entered in the sixth, replacing Stroman. He struck out Nootbaar for out number one and Brendan Donovan flew out to left field for the second out in the sixth. With two outs, Goldschmidt took an elevated 1-1 fastball 408 feet into the left-field bleachers for his 32nd home run of the year — which also put him in the lead in the NL with 103 RBI. Goldy’s dinger put St. Louis up 6-2 in the sixth. Dickerson struck out to end the Cardinals’ half of the frame.
A 1-2-3, seven-pitch inning for Hudson in the sixth. Happ flew out to left, Reyes struck out, and Higgins lined out to Edman at third.
Right-hander Michael Rucker replaced Sean Newcomb in the seventh inning for Chicago. Gorman flew out to Suzuki in right field for the first out. O’Neill hit a high fly ball to left field, but Happ once again robbed a Cardinal of extra bases up against the ivy with a leaping grab into the greenery. Edman hit a two-out triple down into the right field corner, but DeJong struck out right after. Paul is now 2-37 over his last 12 games.
Another 1-2-3 inning for Hudson in the seventh, this time on nine pitches. Wisdom struck out looking, followed by groundouts from both Velazquez and Morel.
Hudson’s final line: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K’s (97 pitches)
Venezuelan right-hander Kervin Castro became Chicago’s fourth pitcher of the game when he took the mound in the eighth inning. He made Knizner look silly on a 1-2 curveball, striking him out swinging to kick off the inning. Nootbaar followed with a groundout to second. Donovan singled to center with two outs — his second hit of the day — and then Paul Goldschmidt promptly stepped in and demolished a baseball 428 feet into center field for another home run.
Goldy’s 33rd homer of the season traveled over the bushes that sit on top of the ivy in center field, and gave St. Louis an 8-2 lead. That swing also counted for his 104th and 105th RBI of the season.
Dickerson followed Goldschmidt with a triple into right-center field — his third hit of the day and 11th over the past three games. Gorman struck out swinging for out number three.
After seven strong innings from Hudson, Packy Naughton took over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth for St. Louis. Packy struck out McKinstry, but gave up back-to-back singles to Hoerner and Suzuki. Happ hit a ground-rule double to right field into the basket on a bounce, scoring McKinstry and making it 8-3 St. Louis. With Franmil Reyes due up next, Oli Marmol pulled Naughton and brought in Jordan Hicks.
Hicks was able to get a weak popup from Reyes and then struck out Higgins to avoid any further damage and send this game to the ninth with the Cardinals up 8-3.
O’Neill popped out, Edman grounded out, and DeJong flew out to send the game to the bottom of the ninth, where Hicks was waiting to finish things off.
Rafael Ortega pinch-hit for Wisdom, and grounded out to Goldy at first base. Velazquez struck out looking at a knee-high 101 mph sinker. Morel grounded out to Edman at shortstop to end the game, and series.
FINAL: Cardinals 8, Cubs 3
The Cardinals (72-53) welcome the red-hot Atlanta Braves (78-48) to town starting Friday night. The Braves have won 14 of their last 16 games and are just 1.5 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East.
Rookie sensation Spencer Strider (7-4, 2.95 ERA) will go for the Braves. When he faced the Cardinals on July 7 he struck out 12, including recording every out via strikeout over the first three innings. Left-hander Jose Quintana, who has a 3.20 ERA since being acquired from the Pirates at the deadline, will start for St. Louis, as they try to pad their lead in the NL Central. They currently lead by six games in the Central, and are seven games behind the Mets for the first-round bye to the NLDS.
First pitch is set for 7:15 p.m.
Around the Central
Reds - Phillies - 6:05 p.m.
MLB Pickle #169 - X/9