The Cubs beat the Cardinals 7-2 Friday night in St. Louis, and as BCBer elgato said to me: "We'll look back on this game in two years."
We will indeed, or maybe even sooner, because so much of the Cubs' future brought this win to a team that isn't going anywhere now... but might be, much more quickly than any of us might have thought.
What more can be said about Jorge Soler? He became the first Cub to homer three times in his first three major-league games since... Javier Baez. And that was only a few weeks ago! Soler's first home run, in the seventh inning off Shelby Miller, tied the game 2-2, and then he absolutely demolished a Pat Neshek pitch with Baez on base in the eighth, 442 feet, one of the longest big-league homers by anyone this year, to give the Cubs a 6-2 lead after Baez had smacked a double into the left-center field gap to score the runs that had broken the tie.
That was only the fourth home run Neshek, who is having a fine season in which he made the All-Star team, has allowed all year in 56 innings.
Earlier in the game Luis Valbuena had homered for the Cubs' first run and in the ninth, Arismendy Alcantara continued the rookie home-run parade with his sixth to complete the Cubs' scoring for the evening.
None of that comeback might have been possible if not for an outstanding evening of pitching from ... well, I'm going to say it, my favorite, rookie Kyle Hendricks . It was the first time Hendricks was facing a team he'd faced before and you could tell in the first inning that the Cardinals had done their homework. Four of the first five hitters reached base, three on solid singles and the Cardinals had a quick 2-0 lead.
But you know what? Hendricks appeared to make adjustments on the fly. After Jhonny Peralta singled in the Cardinals' second run, Hendricks retired 14 straight and gave up only two more hits from the second through the sixth inning. After throwing 22 pitches in that rough first frame, Hendricks threw just 67 pitches in the remaining five innings he worked, a very efficient outing. He struck out three, which isn't a lot, but then he's not really a strikeout pitcher. He is, however, a very impressive big-league pitcher, dominating so far just as he had at every minor-league level.
Neil Ramirez was the "win" beneficiary when the Cubs broke the tie in the top of the eighth, and between Ramirez, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm, they threw three shutout innings, allowing just three singles and striking out seven.
Seven strikeouts, and therein lies another story of this game. You'll look at Grimm's boxscore line and wonder how he struck out four batters while throwing one inning, and that's because one of the hitters Grimm K'd, pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso, reached first base on a wild pitch by Grimm, who then struck out the side to finish the game -- the last one on a gorgeous pitch on the outside corner to Kolten Wong. He thus became the second pitcher to have a 4-K inning this year (Zack Greinke did it July 25, in the third inning, against the Giants).
The last Cubs pitcher to strike out four batters in an inning was... ready for this? Jason Berken. Of all people. It happened in the second inning September 20, 2012 at Wrigley Field against the Reds in the best game Berken pitched for the Cubs (six shutout innings).
It's the 73rd such inning in major-league history and Grimm is the seventh Cub to do it. I'll have another article later this morning with some details of the other six.
That was a very, very, very impressive performance by the Cubs, and especially by several players (Soler, Baez, Hendricks) who are going to be an important part of the club going forward. And, even better, it happened against the Cardinals.
I'm sure you'd like to see all the home runs again, so here they are. Valbuena:
Soler's second (man, this one's impressive):
And, just so we don't leave him out, Alcantara:
As always, GIFs courtesy BCBer ubercubsfan.
Keep it up, Cubs. That one was a lot of fun. The Cubs will have two chances to knock the Cardinals out of playoff contention Saturday, in a split doubleheader. Game 1 at 1:15 CT features Felix Doubront making his Cubs debut against Justin Masterson; Game 2 at 7:15 CT will have Tsuyoshi Wada pitching against Cardinals rookie Marco Gonzales.
Can't wait for more Soler and Baez. This is getting exciting. Truly.