Jose Quintana, ladies and gentlemen.
The Cardinals’ newest member of the rotation was brilliant over six innings, yielding just one run on a single hit over six innings while striking out seven Cubs in a huge win Thursday evening.
Quintana had only completed six innings five times this season over his 20 starts, but he did it Thursday night with room to spare (86 pitches). Pair that with a clutch three-run homer from Tyler O’Neill in the seventh, and the Cardinals found themselves winners of their fourth consecutive game.
With the win, the Cardinals moved into a tie with Milwaukee for first place in the NL Central. It was a fun one, and here’s how it went down:
Making his Cardinals debut, Jose Quintana got both Christohper Morel and Willson Contreras to hit soft ground balls back to him for outs one and two. But he made a mistake to Patrick Wisdom, and the Cubs’ third baseman hit a 422 tank job to Freese’s Lawn in center field to make it 1-0 Cubs in the first. The homer was Wisdom’s 20th — his second consecutive 20 homer season. Quintana struck out Suzuki to end the inning and keep the damage at one run.
Carlson led off for the Cardinals and struck out swinging against Sean Newcomb. Tommy Edman — who did not start the first game of the doubleheader — grounded out to second base. Paul Goldschmidt singled to left with two outs for the Cardinals’ first knock of the night, and Nolan Arenado followed it with a prodigious, towering home run into Big Mac Land to put the Cardinals back up, 2-1. Nolan’s homer was his 21st of the season, and it traveled 428 feet. Albert Pujols popped out to first baseman Frank Schwindel to end the first inning.
Quintana worked a scoreless second inning on 11 pitches. Nico Hoerner grounded out to Albert Pujols, who flipped to Quintana at first for the out. Nelson Velazquez flew out to Lars Nootbaar in right field. Frank Schwindel struck out swinging on a curveball at the knees.
Tyler O’Neill led off the second inning for the Cardinals and muscled a ball to deep right field, but Suzuki made the catch on the warning track. Paul DeJong followed with a double off the left field wall, giving Yadier Molina an opportunity with a runner in scoring position. Molina grounded out to Madrigal at second base, with DeJong advancing to third. Nootbaar flew out to Morel in center field to end the inning, stranding DeJong.
Quintana struck out all three Cubs he saw in the top of the third. P.J. Higgins, Madrigal, and Morel all went down on strikes.
Carlson grounded out to first base for out number one. Edman reached on an infield single — a high chopper to shortstop. Goldschmidt followed with a base hit to center field, moving Edman to second. But Arenado grounded into an unlucky 1-4-3 double play to end the inning, with the ball deflecting off of Newcomb’s glove directly to Madrigal at second, who stepped on the bag and fired to first to end the inning.
Newcomb’s final line: 3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 K (56 pitches)
Contreras led off the top of the fourth and grounded out to DeJong at shortstop. Wisdom swung at the first pitch he saw and flew out to Nootbaar in right field, and Suzuki followed him by hitting the ball to basically the exact same spot to Nootbaar again. Following Widsom’s first-inning homer, Quintana set down 10 consecutive Cubs through the fourth inning.
Right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. took the mound in the third inning, as Newcomb hasn’t been stretched out to pitch more than 3-4 innings yet.
Pujols popped out to Wisdom at third base. O’Neill was hit by a changeup that got away from Leiter, and DeJong drew an eight-pitch walk to set up Molina with two runners on. On the second pitch he saw, Yadi grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. That’s back-to-back innings the Cardinals had two runners on with one out and grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Hoerner struck out swinging for the first out of the fifth inning, and then Velazquez drew a seven-pitch walk to break up Quintana’s streak of 11 consecutive batters retired. Moments later Schwindel grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play started by DeJong at shortstop.
Nootbaar struck out for the first out in the bottom of the fifth. Carlson drew a one-out walk. Edman flew out to Velazquez in left field for out number two. With two down, Goldschmidt reached on a throwing error by Hoerner. Arenado drew a walk to extend the inning and load the bases for Albert Pujols. Pujols ripped a first pitch curveball to third base, and Wisdom was able to snag it and step on the bag for a force out to end the inning.
For those keeping track at home, that’s seven runners left on base during the 3rd-5th innings.
Cardinals took a 2-1 lead into the sixth.
Higgins flew out to O’Neill in left field leading off the sixth inning, but Madrigal drew a one-out walk as the potential tying run. But Morel struck out swinging and Contreras grounded out to shortstop to end the inning. It was only the sixth time in 21 starts this season that Quintana completed six innings.
Quintana’s final line: 6 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K’s (86 pitches)
Right-hander Michael Rucker became the third Cubs pitcher of the evening in the sixth inning following two innings of relief from Leiter.
O’Neill led off the bottom of the sixth and ripped a 105 mph ground ball into the hole on the left side. Hoerner ranged to his right, slid, snagged the grounder, and fired a two-bouncer to first base to nab O’Neill by a step.
DeJong drew a one-out walk — his second of the game. Molina singled to left, which advanced DeJong to second base. But Nootbaar flew out to left field and Carlson grounded out to Madrigal at second base to strand both runners and the lead remained just one run heading into the seventh.
Jordan Hicks entered the game in the seventh, his 20th game of the season. Hicks handed out a leadoff walk to Wisdom. Suzuki walked behind him to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Hoerner then hit a soft ground ball to DeJong, who was able to flip to second base for the force out but that was all.
With runners on first and second, Hoerner took off for second base and stole it on a bang-bang play, giving Velazquez two runners in scoring position, representing the tying and go-ahead runs. With the infield in, Velazquez ripped a ground ball off the bare hand of Hicks, which then bounced to DeJong at shortstop. The tying run scored, Velazquez reached first on an infield single, and Hoerner stayed put at second.
With the go-ahead run at second base, Schwindel hit a ground ball to Arenado at third base, who ran to tag Hoerner advancing to third base before firing to first for an inning-ending, 5-3 double play. Nolan may have missed the tag, but Hoerner was called out of the baseline regardless, and St. Louis tightroped their way out of a mess giving up only one run.
Right-hander Kervin Castro took the mound for Chicago in the seventh — their fourth pitcher of the game. Edman greeted Castro with a line drive single to right field. With Goldschmidt batting, Edman stole second base — his 22nd steal of the season. With an open base, the Cubs refused to give Goldschmidt anything to hit, and walked him. That was the correct move, as Arenado stepped up to bat and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play started by Hoerner at shortstop. That erased Goldschmidt and Arenado, and left just Edman over at third base with two outs.
Marmol pinch-hit Nolan Gorman for Pujols with two outs and drew a walk, extending the inning to O’Neill. Our big Canadian fell behind 1-2, and then calmly hammered a hanging breaking ball from Castro 390 feet into the Cubs’ bullpen to give St. Louis a 5-2 lead in the seventh. DeJong struck out to end the seventh inning, but O’Neill’s dinger gave the Cardinals breathing room they hadn’t had all evening.
Genesis Cabrera replaced Hicks in the eighth and posted a scoreless inning on nine pitches. Higgins grounded out softly back to Cabrera, Madrigal flew out to Nootbaar in right, and Morel grounded right back to Cabrera.
Left-hander Matt Dermody — the 27th man for Thursday’s doubleheader — took the mound in the bottom of the eighth for the Cubs. He struck out Molina on three pitches, but Nootbaar worked the count full and then drew a one-out walk. Carlson singled to center field behind him, but caught Morel napping and stretched it into a hustle double — moving Nootbaar to third.
Edman doubled — his 18th of the season — off the left field wall, scoring both guys and giving the Cardinals a 7-2 lead in the 8th inning.
Goldschmidt hit a looping line drive to center field and was robbed by a diving Morel, forcing Edman back to second. The Cubs intentionally walked Arenado with two outs to bring up Brendan Donovan, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the top half of the inning after Pujols was pinch-hit for. Donovan ripped a line drive to the right side, but Madrigal leapt as high as his 5-foot-8 body would let him and snagged it, saving another run from scoring and ending the inning.
Marmol called on newly acquired right-hander Chris Stratton to finish the game. Stratton walked Contreras and Wisdom, but struck out Suzuki and then got Hoerner to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play to clinch the series sweep for St. Louis.
FINAL: Cardinals 7, Cubs 2
The Cardinals (57-48) welcome Matt Carpenter, Harrison Bader (who will not play), and the New York Yankees (70-36) into town for the first time since May of 2014. The Yankees currently hold an 11-game lead in the AL East, while the Cardinals are tied with the Milwaukee Brewers atop the NL Central.
AL All-Star Nestor Cortes (9-3, 2.53 ERA) will throw for the Bronx Bombers. He will be opposed by Dakota Hudson (6-6, 4.10 ERA), who pitched into the fifth inning during his last start against the Nationals, but was not efficient, throwing 83 pitches over 4.1 innings.
First pitch is set for 7:15 p.m.