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Late Heroics Lift Cards 6-4 over Cubs

In case you didn’t know, Paul DeJong loves hitting at Wrigley.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Erin Hooley

The Cardinals resumed their three-game set in Chicago against the Cubs on Tuesday, as Jack Flaherty took the mound against Jameson Taillon in the second game of the series. Taillon was run out of the game after just two and two-thirds innings, being responsible for four earned runs on five hits and two walks. Dansby Swanson haunted Flaherty, knocking in three of the Cubs’ four runs while tallying three extra-base hits. Flaherty, fortunately, was able to generate ground balls for double plays in high-leverage situations, as Swanson’s three runs were all he surrendered despite giving up seven hits and five walks over five innings.

The Cubs would continue to work the Cardinals’ pitchers, who were forced into 14+ three-ball counts throughout the course of the game. Andre Pallante would give up a game-tying solo shot in the sixth, but otherwise, the Cards’ bullpen kept Chicago scoreless. Cubs’ relief pitcher Javier Assad somewhat stole the show, opening the fourth inning and pitching scoreless into the ninth, eating crucial innings for a tired Cubs bullpen. Despite his efforts, he surrendered a go-ahead home run to Paul DeJong and an RBI double to Andrew Knizner for the insurance run as the Cards’ ninth-inning heroics secured them a 6-4 win.

1st Inning

Lars Nootbaar opened the evening with a bullet of a line drive to center that Cody Bellinger caught while fighting a setting sun. Paul Goldschmidt swung under a 2-2 fastball with nasty arm-side action from Taillon for the second out. Nolan Gorman, looking to turn on an inside pitch early in his at-bat, managed instead to sit back on an outside fastball and poked it three rows deep in the left-field bleachers for a two-out home run.

Nolan Arenado, back in the lineup after a late scratch Monday night, struck out chasing a cutter that dove out of the zone to send the game to the bottom of the first with a 1-0 Cardinals lead.

Nick Madrigal led off the back half of the frame with a single, turning on a fastball up and in to float it into shallow left field. Dansby Swanson watched a first-pitch slider go into the dirt before driving a 1-0 fastball down the right field line for an RBI double that tied the game at 1-1.

Ian Happ walked on five pitches, three of which weren’t competitive as Flaherty struggled to find the zone. Andrew Knizner slowed the game down with a mound visit before facing Bellinger, who grounded out to a diving Goldschmidt but moved both runners to second and third. Seiya Suzuki put together a patient plate appearance, drawing a walk to load the bases with one out. Eric Hosmer then topped a first-pitch curveball, skipping it to Gorman for a 4-6-3 double play that ended a 22-pitch first inning for Flaherty.

2nd Inning

Taillon attacked Willson Contreras low and away to begin the second, striking him out on four pitches that nibbled around the edge of the zone. Brendan Donovan golfed at a 2-2 curveball below the zone, chopping it to third for the second out of the inning. Paul DeJong extended the frame, all but throwing his bat at a cutter on the edge of the other batter’s box for a soft single. Dylan Carlson stranded him, however, as he struck out looking at a front-door curveball that was perfectly placed low and away on the corner of the zone.

Flaherty, looking to settle into the game, retired Matt Mervis on a soft groundout to Arenado. He then worked Christopher Morel in on the hands, striking him out on four pitches. Miguel Amaya rolled another grounder to Arenado, putting the Cubs down without a threat in the second.

3rd Inning

Knizner rolled over an outside cutter, grounding out to third to begin the frame. Nootbaar turned on an inside cutter and launched a no-doubter into the seats in right-center to put the Redbird back on top at 2-1.

Goldschmidt got under a 2-1 sinker and floated it for a single, just out of reach of a diving Swanson ranging back into shallow center. Gorman followed with a strikeout, swinging over a curveball in near his front foot. Arenado eked out a single as Swanson made a nice sliding stop up the middle but couldn’t complete the throw to second for the force out. Contreras, with runners on first and second and two outs, worked a seven-pitch walk to load the bases. With a full count, a stubborn Donovan took a very close curveball near the inside edge of the plate and got the call, notching an RBI walk, extending the Cards’ lead to 3-1, and ending Taillon’s night at 69 pitches over just two and two-thirds innings. Julian Merryweather replaced Taillon, and promptly issued another bases-loaded walk to DeJong to stretch the Cardinals’ lead to 4-1. Carlson got a hanging slider up in the zone but grounded it to first, ending a long top of the third for the Cubs.

Back at the top of the Cubs’ lineup, Madrigal singled on a fastball from Flaherty, who may have been easing up to find his control. Swanson worked a patient seven-pitch at-bat before dropping his bat to a fastball just above the knees and putting it into the chain-link basket in right for a two-run shot.

With the deficit closed to 4-3, Happ rolled a curveball to second for an easy out. Bellinger, now with one away, patiently walked on five pitches to put the tying run on base. Suzuki cut and missed on a 3-2 slider low and away and Knizner, expecting Bellinger to run on the pitch, threw him out easily at second for a double play.

4th Inning

Javier Assad took the bump for Chicago in the fourth and retired Knizner on a groundout to third. Nootbaar tried to sneak a bunt down, but it went straight back to Assad who made an easy throw to first for the second out. Goldschmidt got a good pitch to hit but couldn’t square it up, grounding out softly to second to put St. Louis down in order.

Hosmer, jumping on the first pitch for the second time in as many at-bats, scored a hit this time with a single to center. Mervis, after working the count full, fouled off two more pitches and struck out looking at a fastball on the outer half of the plate. Morel then ended the inning, grounding into a smooth 6-4-3 double play.

5th Inning

Gorman took two balls to open the fifth, then fouled off four pitches before taking two more balls for a leadoff walk. He was erased, however, after Arenado rolled a fastball straight to second for a 4-6-3 double play. Contreras ripped a 3-1 sinker to third at 110 mph, but Madrigal made a phenomenal diving stop to rob the hit and close the top of the frame.

Flaherty jammed Amaya in on the hands, but Amaya found grass in right for a leadoff bloop single. Madrigal grounded a slider to Arenado, who initiated the Cardinals’ fourth double play of the evening. Swanson continued to be a thorn in Flaherty’s side, driving a first-pitch slider to the left field wall for his third extra-base hit. Happ and Bellinger then drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. Andre Pallante had just started warming before Bellinger’s plate appearance, so it was do-or-die for Flaherty against Suzuki, who got ahead 2-1 in the count but ultimately flew out to the warning track in left to leave the bases jam-packed with Cubs.

6th Inning

Assad remained on the mound for his third inning of work and got Donovan with a popout to third. DeJong followed suit with his own popout to second. Carlson tried to put down a bunt, but he dropped it in front of Assad who quickly threw to first to end a short, six-pitch frame.

Pallante relieved Flaherty in the sixth and retired Hosmer, who broke his first-pitch trend and instead struck out after a ten-pitch at-bat. Mervis got a very hittable fastball but tapped it back to Pallantes for out number two. Morel caught a slider that sat in the middle of the zone and knocked it out to left-center, tying the game once again at 4-4.

Amaya reached way out for an outside slider and nearly muscled another bloop single down the left field line, but Donovan charged it and made an impressive diving catch to take away the hit and close the sixth.

7th Inning

Knizner opened the seventh with a hard-hit grounder down the third baseline for a double. Nootbaar, starting with a 1-0 count since Assad came set before he was in the box, managed a three-pitch walk. The promising inning never came to fruition, though, as Goldschmidt grounded into a double play and Gorman broke his bat on a popout to third.

Madrigal got hit by a 2-2 curveball that slipped away from Pallante to begin the bottom of the frame (biased take for sure, but it looked to me like he definitely leaned into it). Swanson worked back from an 0-2 count and grounded a 3-2 curveball to DeJong, whose only play was to first as Madrigal was running on the pitch. Happ walked on five pitches, putting runners on first and second for Bellinger, who softly grounded a high fastball to Gorman. Gorman fielded it and stepped on second, securing the only out he could have gotten on the play and leaving runners at the corners with two away. The Cardinals then opted for Chris Stratton to face Suzuki, and Stratton walked him to load the bases for Hosmer, who struck out looking at a 1-2 fastball that caught the outside corner, stranding the bases loaded for the Cubs for the third time in the game.

8th Inning

Assad remained in the game for his fifth inning of relief at just 43 pitches and retired Arenado on a first-pitch popup. Two pitches later, Contreras grounded out to third. Donovan got a hold of a fastball up in the zone but lined it to a sliding Happ in left for the final out.

Mervis popped a lazy fly ball to center for a flyout to open the bottom of the eighth. Morel singled as Carlson took a bad first step on the fly ball and couldn't make up the ground to make the catch. Amaya followed with a backward K, seeing 11 pitches before Stratton dropped a curveball into the zone for the strikeout. Morel swiped second on the final pitch, bringing up Madrigal with the go-ahead run in scoring position. Madrigal hit a soft chopper to Arenado and Morel ran right into the tag at third to end the Cubs’ threat.

9th Inning

Assad was back at it again in the ninth but finally made a mistake, hanging a cutter that DeJong tattooed into the left-field bleachers to give the Cardinals a 5-4 lead in the ninth.

The Cards weren’t done there, however, as Carlson hit a rocket off the ivy in dead center. Bellinger went for the catch against the wall but missed it, allowing Carlson to easily take third for a triple with no outs. Knizner then blooped another cutter into no-man’s-land on the right field line that Suzuki misplayed, giving Knizner an RBI double to put the Cardinals up 6-4.

Nootbaar got ahead 3-0 but struck out on a deceptive 3-2 curveball. Michael Rucker finally relieved Assad and struck out Goldschmidt with a 3-2 cutter down and away. Gorman came up and hit a first-pitch fastball straight at Happ in left to send the game to the bottom of the ninth.

Giovanny Gallegos came in for the save attempt and got Swanson with a flyout to center field. Happ got under a 3-2 fastball at the top of the zone, popping it up to Arenado for the second out. Bellinger then lined out center, securing a 6-4 victory for the Cardinals.

St. Louis improved to 13-24 with the win and secured a series win against the Cubs. They’ll go for the sweep Wednesday evening at 6:40 PM CT, with Jordan Montgomery facing off against Justin Steele.

Normally, I’d leave the recap there, but this tidbit was just too good not to share: