Cubs gonna Cub, amirite?
Marcus Stroman twirled an absolute gem over six innings, mystifying the Cardinals with his sinker/slider combo. But the bats woke up in the seventh to tie it up, and then Lars Nootbaar played hero against a rookie right-hander Erich Uelmen with a walk-off single to win it, 4-3.
Aside from having the most fun name in baseball, Nootbaar has always had a plus-hit tool to go along with a very strong arm in right field. If his recent play continues, he could become a serious difference maker down the stretch for St. Louis.
Miles Mikolas wasn’t great, but he gutted out 6+ innings of quality ball and the offense bailed him out in the final innings. With a win in the nightcap, the Cardinals could pull into a tie for first place in the Central.
Here’s how the first game of the doubleheader played out:
After Rafael Ortega popped out for the first out of the ballgame, Willson Contreras woke up the St. Louis crowd with a solo homer into the Cardinals’ bullpen in right field. Contreras’ 15th homer of the season came on an outside fastball, and left the bat at 106.2 mph.
Miles Mikolas struck out Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki back-to-back to end the bottom of the first inning with the Cubs leading, 1-0.
The Cardinals weren’t able to get the ball out of the infield in the first against Marcus Stroman. Dylan Carlson grounded out to third baseman Zach McKinstry, Nolan Gorman grounded out to first baseman Patrick Wisdom, and Goldschmidt popped out to Wisdom.
Mikolas worked a three up, three down top of the second. Nico Hoerner popped out to Goldy in foul territory, Wisdom struck out swinging, and McKinstry grounded out to second base.
St. Louis once again failed to get the ball out of the infield against Stroman in the bottom of the second inning. Nolan Arenado grounded out to David Bote at second, Paul DeJong struck out swinging, and Lars Nootbaar grounded right back to Stroman to end the second inning.
Nelson Velazquez flew out to Carlson in center for the first out in the top of the third and Bote grounded out to DeJong for out number two. Ortega jumped on a first-pitch curveball and drove it to left-center field for a two-out double, but he was stranded there when Contreras softly grounded out to DeJong for the final out in the top of the third.
Corey Dickerson struck out swinging leading off the bottom of the third. Andrew Knizner grounded out sharply to Hoerner at short for out number two, but Brendan Donovan broke up Stroman’s perfect game with a base hit up the middle on a 3-2 center-cut sinker. Carlson grounded out to a shifted Hoerner up the middle to end the third inning.
Stroman worked through the first three innings on 42 pitches.
Mikolas struck out Happ and Suzuki for the first two outs of the fourth, but Hoerner blooped a two-out, 0-2 fastball into right field for a base hit. Wisdom grounded into a 5-4 force play to end the inning, with Donovan firing to Gorman at second for the third out.
Gorman took one for a ride leading off the fourth inning, driving a Stroman sinker deep into the left-center field gap. However, Ortega covered a ton of ground and made a leaping grab up against the wall for the first out in the bottom of the fourth.
Goldschmidt grounded out to shortstop for the second out, and Arenado was called out on strikes to end the inning with the Cubs leading, 1-0.
McKinstry led off the fifth and hit what appeared to be a base hit into the gap between first and second, but Gorman laid out to snag it and then threw McKinstry out at first base. Velazquez drew a one-out walk, but Bote flew out to right field and Ortega flew out to left field to get Mikolas out of the inning.
DeJong struck out swinging for the first out in the bottom of the fifth. Nootbaar got ahead 3-1 in the count and then took ball four low, but home plate umpire Adam Hamari called it a strike to run the count full. A visibly frustrated Noot struck out swinging on the next pitch. Dickerson grounded out to second base to put a wrap on the fifth inning.
Contreras led off the sixth inning with a double that split the gap between Carlson and Dickerson, and two batters later Suzuki drove him in with an RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0 Cubbies.
With Hoerner batting next, the Cubs put Suzuki in motion and advanced to third base on another base hit by Hoerner. Suzuki scored a moment later courtesy of a Wisdom sacrifice fly, and the Cubs led by a field goal, 3-0. McKinstry flew out to left field to end the Cubs’ half of the sixth.
Stroman struck out Knizner on a two-strike slider that was essentially in the left-handed batter’s box for the first out. Donovan ripped a single up the middle for the Cardinals’ second hit of the afternoon — both of which belonged to him. Carlson grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and kill the inning, with the Cubs now leading 3-0.
Mikolas and manager Oli Marmol were both nearly ejected with Velazquez batting in the seventh. With a 2-1 count, Hamari called time despite Mikolas already in his windup. The batter did not call time, and both Mikolas and Marmol were visibly — and verbally — angry at him. Neither Cardinal was ejected, and Velazquez eventually grounded out to shortstop.
The Cubs then put runners on the corners with one out courtesy of back-to-back singles from Bote and Ortega, the second of which was hit sharply at Gorman, who could not corral it as it ricocheted into right field. That was it for Mikolas, and Marmol opted to bring in James Naile — today’s 27th man for the doubleheader.
Contreras grounded back to Naile, who was able to get Bote in a rundown between home plate and third base and tag him out to prevent a run from scoring. Ortega advanced to third during the rundown, and Contreras went to second. Happ grounded out to Gorman at second base to end the inning, which also got Mikolas off the hook for both inherited runners.
Mikolas’ final line: 6.1 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K’s (101 pitches)
After Stroman silenced the Cardinals for six innings about as well as any pitcher all season long, the Redbirds jumped all over him in the seventh. Nolan Gorman jumped a first-pitch slider and hammered it to left field for his 12th homer of the season and his second opposite field homer of his career. That got the Cardinals on the board, 3-1.
Then, Paul Goldschmidt worked the count full and fouled off three straight pitches before connecting on a center-cut sinker, which he drove 420 feet into the left field seats for his 26th homer of the season. His homer left the bat at 108 mph, and cut the Cubs’ lead to 3-2.
Arenado wasn’t able to make it back-to-back-to-back homers, but he did pummel a low-outside slider from Stroman off the left field wall for a double on the first pitch he saw. Arenado’s double came off the bat at 109.4 mph — faster than Gorman or Goldschmidt’s homers. DeJong followed with a fly ball to center that allowed Arenado to tag to third base, and Nootbaar did his job with a sac fly to tie the game at three runs a piece.
David Ross went to the bullpen with the game tied, bringing in left-hander Brandon Hughes to face Dickerson. Marmol countered by pinch-hitting Tyler O’Neill. O’Neill ripped a line drive directly at Bote to end the inning.
Stroman’s final line: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 6 K’s (91 pitches)
Giovanny Gallegos entered the game in the eighth inning with the score knotted at 3-3. Suzuki reached to lead off the inning courtesy of a DeJong throwing error at shortstop. Hoerner flew out to Calrson in center for the first out, with Suzuki holding at first. Wisdom struck out swinging on a slider in the dirt for out number two. McKinstry popped out to Donovan in foul territory up against the netting for the Cubs’ third out.
Tommy Edman pinch-hit for Knizner leading off the eighth inning and popped out on the infield. Albert Pujols pinch-hit for Donovan against the lefty Hughes and was hit by a pitch as the potential go-ahead run, but Carlson flew out to right field and Gorman struck out swinging to strand him there.
Ryan Helsley took the mound in a tie game and struck out Velazquez on four pitches. Bote popped out to Goldschmidt on the infield for out number two, but Ortega put the stress on Helsley with a bloop single to center field with a 1-2 count. However, Contreras struck out swinging at a slider in the dirt to end the inning and give the Cardinals a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth.
Rookie right-hander Erich Uelmen entered the game in the bottom of the ninth, making his fourth career pitching appearance. He got Goldschmidt to ground out to shortstop for the first out, but walked Arenado and DeJong back-to-back, giving Nootbaar an opportunity to play hero. Nooty did just that, roping a 108 mph line drive into right field to score Arenado and send the fans home happy, as the Cardinals rallied to win 4-3.
Nootbaar is 9-21 over his last seven games, and has an RBI in five of those seven games. With Bader out of the picture and Carlson taking over in center full-time, it’s looking like the starting right field position is officially Noot’s to lose.
FINAL: Cardinals 4, Cubs 3
The Cardinals (56-48) will try to finish off the mid-week sweep of the Cubs (41-62) Thursday evening at Busch with a first-place tie atop the NL Central on the line. Former Cub Jose Quintana (3-5, 3.50 ERA) is set to make his Cardinals debut in the nightcap after being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates Monday evening. Opposing him will be Sean Newcomb (0-0, 11.57 ERA over 9.1 innings), who was recalled Thursday morning from Triple-A Iowa.
First pitch is set for 6:45 p.m.
Around the Central
Pirates 5, Brewers 4 - The Buccos walked off the Brewers for the second straight day, putting St. Louis in a position to tie Milwaukee with another win Thursday night.
MLB Pickle #148 - 5/9