The Cardinals felt pretty good about playing the Cubs this year after going 6-4 in Chicago against the North-Siders in 2016…Then on Sunday the Redbirds wrapped up a 1-8 season at Wrigley.
As troubling as that mark is, what makes it more bothersome is that the Cards had a chance to really make some hay against Chicago. As was the case most of the season, they weren’t able to take advantage of opportunities. Here’s a recap of this year’s games at the no-so-friendly confines…
June 2, 3-2 loss. Key plays: The Cardinals scored single runs in each of the first two innings, but the Cubs were able to tie it with single tallies off Lance Lynn in the third and sixth. The Cardinals put runners at first and second in the top of the eighth and Matt Carpenter struck out swinging against Carl Edwards Jr., then after Edwards issued a walk to load the bases Pedro Strop struck out Yadier Molina on a 2-2 pitch. In the bottom of the eighth, Anthony Rizzo led off with a double against Trevor Rosenthal, Ben Zobrist moved Rizzo to third with a groundout, and Jason Heyward’s sacrifice fly put Chicago ahead by the final score of 3-2.
June 3, 5-3 loss. Key plays: The Cardinals took the lead again with two in the first inning. They had runners at second and third with one out in the second, but Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham grounded out. Mike Leake carried a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh, but allowed a pair of one-out singles before getting a strikeout. Then Leake hit Jon Jay, and with two outs Kyle Schwarber hit a first-pitch grand slam to make it 5-3, the final score.
June 4, 7-6 loss. Key plays: After spotting Chicago a run, the Cardinals took a multi-run advantage AGAIN, for the third time in the series, by scoring four in the fourth, three of those on a Stephen Piscotty home run. In the bottom of the fourth, Michael Wacha got the first two outs on four pitches, but then the wheels came off. A walk to Miguel Montero. A single by Addison Russell. An RBI-single by Albert Almora, and an error by Piscotty that allowed Russell to score. Another walk and then a three-run homer by Ian Happ, all off Wacha. The Cardinals actually tied it AGAIN with a pair of sixth-inning RBI groundouts, but a Jon Jay RBI single eventually gave Chicago a 7-6 lead and win.
July 22, 3-2 loss. Key plays: A sensational pitching duel between Adam Wainwright and Jon Lester went to the eighth inning scoreless and Paul DeJong and Randal Grichuk hit back to back homers for a 2-0 Redbird lead. In the bottom of the eighth, Wainwright allows a Jay single sandwiched between a lineout and a strikeout. Zobrist doubles to right center to make it a 2-1 game and Mike Matheny replaces Wainwright with Matt Bowman, who allows an RBI hit to Kris Bryant. Anthony Rizzo completes the two-out rally with an RBI double to left center…while Fowler was playing on the warning track…off Brett Cecil that makes it 3-2, the final score. One of the worst losses (and that’s saying something) of this Cardinal season.
July 23, 5-3 loss. Key plays: The Cards score first again with a two-run homer from Grichuk in the second, but again Wacha can’t stand prosperity. Chicago comes back with two in the bottom of the third, on two-out RBI hits by Jason Heyward and Bryant. DeJong and Schwarber trade fourth-inning homers, tying the game at three. Willson Contreras hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth to give Chicago a 5-3 lead. The Redbirds barely sniffed opportunity again, and for a fifth time lost a game they led at Wrigley.
September 15, 8-2 loss. Key plays: Again (ho hum) the Cardinals took a lead on a Pham first-inning home run. Carlos Martinez set down the first thirteen Cubs before Bryant tied the game with a one out homer in the fourth inning. In the fifth, the Cardinals put runners at first and second with two out when home plate umpire Jordan Baker called a 2-2 pitch to Carlos Martinez…clearly a strike…ball three. Martinez proceeded to lift a base hit to right center to give the Cardinals the lead. Cubs starter John Lackey and catcher Contreras go nuts and get thrown out of the game, but the Cardinals don’t take advantage. Matt Carpenter struck out to end the inning. Everything unraveled for Martinez in the sixth, as the Cubs piled up six runs on six hits and two walks, making it 8-2 and the final.
September 16, 4-1 loss. Key plays: This one was just dominated by Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who allowed one run in 7.2 innings. Wacha pitched well but not well enough. This was the most impressive Cubs win over the Cards at Wrigley in 2017.
September 17, 4-3 loss. Key plays: Again the Cubs took the lead with two in the third and two in the fourth. The Cardinals missed several opportunities, with Molina hitting into an inning ending double play with the bases loaded in the fourth. Fowler tied the game with a three-run homer in the sixth, but after the homer Molina and Kolten Wong reached second and third and Randal Grichuk struck out. Heyward singled a run home in the seventh, but the Cards had one more chance, loading the bases in the eighth for Carpenter to strike out for the fourth time.
So, the Redbirds went 1-8 at Wrigley, and were in position to win seven of those games. By the way, Wacha made three starts at Wrigley, going 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA, with the ‘Birds losing 7-6, 5-3 and 4-1. That’s the story of the 2017 Cardinals. Whether it was being let down by the bullpen, failing to display proper fundamentals and play adequate defense, or provide big, timely hits, it was always something in Chicago.
If the Cardinals are going to compete with the Cubs for the division in 2018, they need to compete with them on a head-to-head basis first.