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Two’s a streak! Contreras torments former club as Cardinals hand Cubs 3-1 loss at Wrigley

Fly the L, baby.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals slugged their way to victory on Sunday afternoon, improving their record in series finales this season to 7-4. However, Monday night was not a series finale, and St. Louis was 4-20 in all other games heading into tonight’s rivalry tilt with the Chicago Cubs.

With a chance to string two wins together for the first time since April 11-12, here are how the starting lineups shaped up for both squads:

Cardinals (Arenado was scratched right before first pitch with “neck stiffness”):

  1. Lars Nootbaar, RF
  2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  3. Nolan Gorman, 3B
  4. Willson Contreras, DH
  5. Brendan Donovan, LF
  6. Paul DeJong, SS
  7. Dylan Carlson, CF
  8. Tommy Edman, 2B
  9. Andrew Knizner, C

Miles Mikolas - SP

And for the Cubs:

  1. Nico Hoerner, 2B
  2. Dansby Swanson, SS
  3. Ian Happ, LF
  4. Cody Bellinger, CF
  5. Seiya Suzuki, RF
  6. Trey Mancini, DH
  7. Matt Mervis, 1B
  8. Patrick Wisdom, 3B
  9. Tucker Barnhart, C

Marcus Stroman - SP

With a game time temperature of 48 degrees and winds whipping at 10-15 mph, it was a brisk evening for baseball on the north side of Chicago Monday night. Both offenses showed that, with the two teams playing to a 1-1 tie through the first five innings.

However, Willson Contreras came through with a big RBI double in the sixth, and the St. Louis bullpen gave up one hit over the final 4.2 innings, knocking off the Cubs at Wrigley in the series opener.

The Cardinals have officially gotten the monkey off their back and won a series opener. Here’s how it went down:

1st Inning

The Cardinals were set down in order in the top of the first. Nootbaar flew out to center field, Goldschmidt struck out whiffing at a slider, and Gorman flew out to left field.

After Mikolas got Hoerner to ground out and Swanson to strike out in the bottom of the first, Happ and Bellinger reached with back-to-back base hits. But Mikolas battled back and struck out Suzuki with a 2-2 slider to escape the jam and keep this game scoreless going into the second.

2nd Inning

In his first at-bat back at Wrigley, Willson Contreras got a standing ovation as well as a mixed chorus of boos and cheers. He then singled up the middle leading off the inning, and the boos quickly drowned out the cheers. Contreras egged the crowd on, asking for more.

Donovan followed with a ground ball single into center field of his own, moving Contreras to third with nobody out. DeJong was unable to drive him in with his soft line drive out to shallow right, but Dylan Carlson served a 1-0 sinker from Stroman into left field for a base hit, his 12th RBI of the season, and the Cardinals’ first run of the game.

The Cardinals were unable to capitalize further, as both Edman and Knizner struck out, stranding both runners.

Mikolas struck out Mancini leading off the bottom of the second, and then walked rookie Matt Mervis with one out — this was also the first career walk for Mervis, playing in his fourth game. Wisdom followed with a base hit to center, with big Mervis rumbling into second base and throwing on the breaks.

But the Cardinals once again avoided danger, with Barnhart striking out and Hoerner’s line drive finding the glove of Nootbaar in right field, ending the second inning.

3rd Inning

Stroman disposed of the Cardinals 1-3 hitters on nine pitches in the top of the third. Nootbaar flew out to center field, Goldschmidt grounded out, and Gorman lined out to Swanson at short.

Like his counterpart, Mikolas worked through the heart of Chicago’s order with relative ease in the third. Swanson grounded out to short, Happ was called out on strikes on a pitch several inches outside (everything was a strike to CB Bucknor), and Bellinger struck out swinging at a fastball in the dirt.

4th Inning

Another efficient inning from Stroman, getting the Cardinals 1-2-3 on 12 pitches. Contreras’ 118 mph (!!) ground ball was snagged by Swanson after a dive, and then the new Cubs’ shortstop popped up and made the throw to first in time for the out. Donovan grounded out to first base for the second out, and DeJong struck out swinging.

Mikolas one-upped Stroman in the bottom half of the inning, working a 1-2-3 of his own on just eight pitches. Suzuki swung at the first pitch he saw and hit a ground ball right back to Mikolas, who tossed over to first for an out. Mancini saw two pitches and flew out to Nootbaar, and Mervis struck out looking.

5th Inning

The pitchers’ duel continued into the fifth. Stroman retired Carlson (flyout), Edman (groundout), and Knizner (strikeout) in order, making that 11 consecutive batters he’d sat down since the Carlson RBI single in the second.

Mikolas handed out back-to-back walks to the bottom two hitters in the Cubs’ order to start the fifth. With two on and no outs, Hoerner grounded into a force play at second, with DeJong flipping to Edman for the first out of the inning.

But because leadoff walks always score (that is the rule), Swanson made Mikolas pay with a line drive double down the left field line and off the side wall, scoring Wisdom to tie the game, 1-1. Had Hoerner not pulled up limping coming into third base, he would have also scored and the Cubs would’ve had a 2-1 lead.

Chicago pulled Hoerner and pinch-ran Madrigal at third, which becomes important in just a moment. While the Cubs made a swap at third, the Cardinals made a swap on the mound, with Genesis Cabrera entering the game to face the switch-hitting Happ. Mikolas’ pitch count was approaching approaching 100, and Oli Marmol did not want Mikolas facing two left-handed hitters a third time around.

After a nine pitch battle that included three fouls balls, Happ drew a walk to load the bases back up for Bellinger. With one out, the former NL MVP hit a fly ball into shallow center field, and Madrigal — who just entered the game as a pinch runner — decided to test Donovan in left field. Donovan made the catch and made a dead accurate one-hop throw to home plate, beating Madrigal by at least six feet. Knizner applied the tag for the inning-ending double play, keeping the game tied, 1-1.

Mikolas’ final line: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K’s (96 pitches)

6th Inning

Nootbaar drew a leadoff walk off of Stroman (the first walk allowed by Stroman on the night), but Goldschmidt — one day after bopping three homers — struck out on three pitches for the second time against Stroman. Gorman popped out to shallow center field for out number two, and then Contreras almost homered over the ivy in dead center field.

Instead, Stroman’s 2-2 slider wacked up against the ivy, to the surprise of Bellinger, who took a few steps from his spot in center field and watched the ball fly thinking it was long gone. The wind may have knocked it down, but it still went for an RBI double, putting St. Louis back ahead, 2-1. Contreras raised his hands in the air again, reveling in the hate from Cubs fans.

(Leadoff walks always score, I’ll say it again)

Stroman stuck with it and got Donovan to fly out to right field to end the top of the sixth, with the Cardinals back ahead, 2-1.

Cabrera returned for the bottom of the sixth after finishing the fifth (with an assist from Donovan). Suzuki led off and hit a bouncer to Gorman at third, but his throw across the diamond skipped wide left and Goldschmidt was unable to stretch and made the play. E5 on Gorman to start the bottom of the sixth.

Cabby bounced back to strike out Mancini and get Mervis to pop out on the infield, but then issued a two-out walk to Wisdom. Rather than letting Barnhart hit, the Cubs pinch-hit rookie right-handed hitting catcher Miguel Amaya. To counter that move, Oli Marmol went to the bullpen and brought in Jordan Hicks with two outs.

Hicks, who had walked five batters in his last three appearances, struck out Amaya on three pitches to send this game to the seventh, with the Cardinals leading by one.

Stroman’s final line: 6 P, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K’s (89 pitches)

7th Inning

Paul DeJong led off the seventh and greeted Brad Boxberger — the Cubs’ second pitcher of the day — with a double to left field. Carlson struck out swinging, and Edman — noticably batting righty against a right-handed pitcher — flew out to center field. Knizner flew out to right field, and the leadoff double never left second base.

Hicks returned for the bottom of the seventh, and got Madrigal to ground out to shortstop on the first pitch of the inning. He walked Swanson with one out, but struck out Happ with a 101 mph fastball up and out of the zone and got Bellinger to ground out to end the seventh.

8th Inning

Michael Fulmer entered the game in the eighth, the third Cubs pitcher of the night. Nootbaar worked the count full and then drew a leadoff walk — his second walk of the game. Goldschmidt got ahead of Fulmer 3-1, and then lifted a fat, cream puff center cut cutter into left field for out number one — just missed it. In a 3-1 count, Gorman took ball four on the inside that was called strike two by CB Bucknor. But in a full count a second later, he singled to right, moving Nootbaar to third.

With runners on the corners and one out Contreras hit a ground ball to Wisdom at third that should have been an inning-ending double play. However, Wisdom first turned his body to throw home, and then thought better of it. He was able to get the out at second, but that indecision cost the Cubs a double play, and Contreras beat the return throw to first. Nootbaar scored, and St. Louis led took a 3-1 lead. Donovan flew out to left field to end the top half of the eighth.

Sitting at 17 pitches, Hicks returned for the eighth, trying to bridge the gap to Helsley in the bottom of the ninth. Suzuki hit first, and completely shattered his bat on an 89 mph slider from Hicks. All he was able to do was force a soft line drive towards DeJong for the first out. Hicks got Mancini to ground out for out number two.

A bit surprisingly, Marmol went to the mound and pulled Hicks, and brought in Helsley with two outs and the big swinging rookie Mervis at the plate. Hicks looked good in this appearance, but the Cardinals apparently did not want to stretch Hicks out past 25 pitches.

Helsley was tasked with recording four outs and securing the Cardinals second consecutive win — something they had not done in nearly a month. Mervis popped up a 102 mph fastball from Helsley, flying out to Nootbaar in shallow right field to end the inning.

9th Inning

Julian Merryweather pitched the ninth for Chicago, striking out DeJong and Carlson, before an Edman ground out (he hit right-handed again against a righty).

Helsley stomped back out to the mound for the ninth. He got Hosmer to hit a chopper back towards the mound, but it went over his head and directly to DeJong at short, who made the throw over for the first out. Amaya popped out to Gorman at third for out number two, and Madrigal grounded right back to Helsley to end it. Ballgame.

FINAL: St. Louis 3, Chicago 1

Up Next

The Cardinals (12-24) will not only go for their third series win of the season tomorrow, but also their first three-game winning streak of the season. Jack Flaherty (2-4, 6.29 ERA) will throw for St. Louis, as he tries to rebound from the worst start of his professional career. Former Pirate and Yankee Jameson Taillon (0-2, 5.29 ERA) will start for the Cubs (17-18).

First pitch is set for 6:40 p.m. once again.

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