Aside from my wifi cutting out in the third inning for about an hour, this game went about as smoothly as you could’ve hoped against the second-best team from Chicago.
Jordan Montgomery pitched a scoreless game into the seventh inning, Jordan Hicks put out a small fire to keep his line intact, and Tyler O’Neill showed off his wheels in a ho-hum 8-0 Cardinals win.
With the victory, St. Louis now leads the NL Central by 6.5 games, pending Milwaukee’s results against Arizona. They trail the New York Mets by eight games in the chase for a first-round playoff bye.
Making his sixth start as a Cardinal, Jordan Montgomery got into a little trouble during the opening frame. Nick Madrigal led off with a ground ball base hit up the middle and into center field. Seiya Suzuki followed with a soft grounder in the same spot that barely made it out of the infield, but it went for another hit, moving Madrigal to third. Franmil Reyes, Chicago’s 265-pound DH, chopped a ground ball to Nolan Arenado at third base. Nolan snagged it on a short hop and threw home, with his throw gliding just over the shoulder of Madrigal to Yadier Molina at home. Madrigal was tagged out, preventing a first-inning run. Montgomery struck out Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner back-to-back to end the top of the first.
Lars Nootbaar led off and grounded out to second base, but Brendan Donovan and Paul Goldschmidt drew back-to-back walks with one out. Arenado chopped a ball in the dead zone between third base and the mound, but Christopher Morel made the ball throwing him out at first. Both runners advanced. With two outs and two runners in scoring position, Tyler O’Neill scorched a base hit into left field to score them both and make it 2-0 St. Louis in the first.
Corey Dickerson followed O’Neill’s single to left with a single to right, which let the thick Canadian advance to third base. Nolan Gorman struck out swinging to end the first inning.
Montgomery got the Cubs to go down 1-2-3 in the second. Nelson Velazquez popped out to first base, P.J. Higgins was called out on strikes, and Yan Gomes grounded out to Arenado at third base.
Molina led off the second inning with a ground rule double down the left field line, his sixth of the season. Tommy Edman followed by flipping a single into left field, but Molina was held at third base. Unfortunately, St. Louis wasn’t able to capitalize on the first and third, no outs situation. Nootbaar took a big hack at a 3-1 fastball and flew out to shallow right field, so Molina could not tag. Donovan grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to help Sampson escape the jam.
Montgomery walked Morel on four pitches to lead off the inning. Madrigal stepped in and pushed a perfect bunt down the first base line for a base hit, advancing Morel to second. Suzuki grounded into a force out at second, which set up Reyes with runners on the corner and only one out. Montgomery walked Reyes to load the bases with one out, but was able to get Happ to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to escape the bases-loaded jam.
The heart of the Cardinals order went down in order in the bottom of the third. Goldschmidt grounded out to second base, Arenado struck out swinging, and O’Neill grounded out to shortstop.
Hoerner led off the fourth and grounded out to first base. Velazquez reached on an infield single with one out, but both Higgins and Gomes grounded out, leaving him out there to end the top of the fourth.
St. Louis did not reach base in the fourth inning, with Dickerson grounding out to third, Gorman striking out for the second time, and Molina grounding out to shortstop.
Montgomery left an 0-2 fastball over the fat part of the plate to Morel leading off the fifth, but the Cubs’ third baseman flew out to right field. Madrigal grounded out to Arenado at third. Suzuki hit a clean single to left field with two outs, and Reyes grounded into a force out to end the inning, with Arenado going to second base rather than first.
For the third straight inning, the Cardinals were retired in order by Sampson. Edman flew out to Velazquez in center field, Nootbaar grounded out to third base, and Donovan struck out swinging.
Sampson’s final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K’s (101 pitches)
After throwing over 30 pitches in the first inning, Sampson was able to gut out five innings on 101 pitches (so 71 over his final four frames).
The Cardinals’ lefty kept shoving in the sixth, working a 1-2-3 inning on 10 pitches. Happ flew out to left field, Hoerner flew out to right field, and Velazquez was rung up on a changeup at the knees.
Goldschmidt struck out and Arenado grounded out against new Cubs pitcher Javier Assad in the sixth inning, but O’Neill’s ground ball into the gap between third and short went for an infield single with two outs. O’Neill then swiped second base (his 11th) with Dickerson at the plate, and the aforementioned Dickerson drove him in seconds later with a looping base hit to right field. Dickerson’s RBI single gave St. Louis a 3-0 lead in the sixth. Gorman was called out on strikes to end the inning — his third punchout of the game and 91st in 80 games this season.
To his credit, the called third strike was up and out of the zone, and should have given him a 2-2 count. He showed good discipline to lay off a 1-2 ball, but instead earned the hat trick.
Higgins and Gomes greeted Montgomery with back-to-back base hits to start the seventh inning. Oli Marmol went to the bullpen and brought in Jordan Hicks with a three-run lead, after six-plus innings from Montgomery.
Montgomery’s final line: 6 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K’s (93 pitches)
The left-handed Zach McKinstry pinch-hit for Morel against Hicks, but struck out swinging on a devastating slider that cut back in on his hands. Hicks struck out the right-handed swinging Madrigal on the same exact slider, but Gomes stole second on the strikeout. It was his first steal of the season, and just the sixth in his 11-year career. With runners on second and third, Hicks threw a 2-2 slider into the left-handed batter’s box to Suzuki, and he defensively swung and tried to check his swing. Home plate umpire John Tumpane rang him up, making Suzuki Hicks’ third straight victim in the seventh.
St. Louis carried a 3-0 lead to the bottom of the seventh. Left-hander Sean Newcomb took over on the mound for Chicago in the bottom half of the inning and walked Molina on four pitches — his fifth walk of the season. Edman flew out to center field for the first out. Nootbaar stepped in to hit against the lefty and crushed a 3-1 fastball into the third row of seats in right-center field, giving St. Louis a 5-0 lead. It was Noot’s 11th homer of the season, and it flew 412 feet.
Albert Pujols pinch-hit for Donovan with one out, and Newcomb pitched around him. The lefty walked Pujols on four pitches, giving Goldschmidt a chance to hit with a runner on base. Goldy popped out on the infield for out number two, and Arenado flew out to left field to end the inning.
With a five-run lead, Marmol did not send Hicks back out for the eighth. Instead, mop-up man Chris Stratton took over. He worked a scoreless inning on 13 pitches. Reyes struck out looking, Happ grounded out to first, and Hoerner grounded out to third.
O’Neill grounded out to third base leading off the eigth. 28-year old rookie outfielder Ben DeLuzio pinch-hit for Dickerson against the lefty, and he drew a four-pitch walk (in his first ever at-bat). DeJong — who entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning — struck out for the second out. Molina singled to left, moving DeLuzio to second base. The base hit was Molina’s second of the day and his third time reaching base. Tommy Edman has been hot lately, and he kept it up with a three-run homer to make it 8-0 St. Louis.
Tommy’s 12th homer of the season traveled 381 feet and just snuck over the left field wall into the first row of seats. It left the bat at 105 mph.
Newcomb started off with a strike to Nootbaar, but then threw four straight balls to walk him and give Pujols another opportunity at No. 695. Pujols hit a ground ball down the third base line that looked like it may have been foul, but the home plate umpire called it fair and the inning ended with a 5-3 groundout, no Pujols homer, and an 8-0 Cardinal lead.
A Higgins strikeout was sandwiched between two flyouts for an easy 1-2-3 ninth inning for Stratton, as the Cardinals finished the shutout win and moved to a season-high 22 games over .500.
FINAL: Cardinals 8, Cubs 0
St. Louis (77-55) goes for the series win over Chicago (56-76) tomorrow night at Busch. Adam Wainwright (9-9, 3.09 ERA) will throw for the Cardinals. He was charged with a no-decision last time out after giving up two earned runs over 6.2 innings in an eventual 6-3 win over the Braves. Drew Smyly (5-7, 3.24 ERA), who Pujols took deep on August 22, will start for the Cubs. Pujols is expected to be in the lineup.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:15 p.m.
Around the Central
Arizona 2, Milwaukee 1 - BOT 6
Toronto 4, Pittsburgh 0
Cincinnati 3, Colorado 2
MLB Pickle #177 - 4/9