These are the kinds of games when, looking back, you say: "Something happened this day to trigger something positive for the future of the franchise."
The Cubs beat the Cardinals 6-5 on a cloudy, sometimes-sprinkly afternoon when it appeared coming in that they might have no chance at all.
Adam Wainwright entered this game with a 25-inning scoreless streak. Boom! Three straight hits by Emilio Bonifacio (single), Luis Valbuena (double) and Anthony Rizzo (single) produced a pair of runs before there were any outs. That's impressive. And even though Starlin Castro hit into a double play to end the rally, you could sense the positive vibes around the Cubs. Travis Wood got touched up for a pair of runs to tie the game in the third inning, but a nice rally highlighted by a pair of walks and a two-run double by Welington Castillo (one of three two-base hits he had on the day) gave the Cubs the lead they never relinquished.
Never relinquished. That sounds good, doesn't it?
Rizzo gave the Cubs the run they'd need to win the game on a home run in the fifth inning, his fifth, a ball that looked like it would land foul and well short of the right-field wall when it was hit. But a stiff west-southwest wind blew the ball back fair, and into the party patio for a homer. The wind would also later blow some other baseballs back into play that would have landed in the seats.
Justin Grimm, who has been quite good this year... wasn't, today. He couldn't find the strike zone and walked Matt Carpenter leading off the eighth. Then Jhonny Peralta hit a fly ball that looked at first as if it would stay in the park... but that wind blew it just far enough to make it into the center-field basket to make the score 6-5, and I think we were all just waiting for the proverbial "other shoe" to drop. You know, the one where the Cubs bullpen blows the game and the Cardinals figure out a way to win.
But it didn't happen. Brian Schlitter came in and retired the last two hitters in the eighth after Grimm got Allen Craig to fly to center. Unfortunately, the out on Craig might have cost the Cubs the services of Ryan Sweeney, who appeared to pull a hamstring while running to make the catch. This is likely an aggravation of the injury Sweeney suffered running into the right-field wall at Mesa during spring training. He did not look good coming off the field and could be headed for a long stay on the disabled list. Here's some late news about his possible roster replacement:
#Cubs have to make roster move Saturday to make room for Arrieta. Will likely add a position player, too, possibly Chris Coghlan— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 2, 2014
I hope the Cubs add another outfielder, too, perhaps Matt Szczur. Coghlan is not on the 40-man roster, so someone would have to be removed. If Sweeney's injury is serious enough, he could go straight to the 60-day DL to make room.
Anyway, after all that Hector Rondon came in for just his second save opportunity of the year, after being made closer sort of by default. Rondon had an easy 1-2-3 inning; one of the outs was a foul popup caught by Valbuena that was blown back from a sure landing in the seats, and the final out, a line drive caught by Junior Lake, ended the game for Rondon's second save of the year (and just the Cubs' third of 2014, now tied with the White Sox for the fewest of any team).
Satisfying, just like the headline says. A game that could have gone the other way, but good performances by several Cubs in key situations preserved the win, and all of that has to give a huge confidence boost to the entire team, especially defeating a pitcher as good as Wainwright. It was only the fifth time in 24 career starts by Wainwright against the Cubs, that the Cubs had scored as many as six runs off him.
Impressive, and well done on all counts.
The chilly weather held both the in-house crowd (estimate: 17,000) and the announced crowd (28,160) down. The tickets-sold number is the smallest crowd for a Cardinals game on a Friday since June 30, 1995 -- almost 19 years ago.
So the Cubs once again have the chance to win a series by winning Saturday's game. Jake Arrieta is slated to make his season debut against the Cardinals' Michael Wacha. If the Cubs can play a game as complete as they did today... I like their chances.