I'm glad they're allowing fireworks at Wrigley this year, aren't you?
With the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field tonight, there was always a good chance of a slugfest, even with Jake Arrieta and Michael Wacha on the mound. And that's pretty much what we got as the Cubs rode a a major-league postseason record six home runs to beat the Cardinals, 8-6 and take a 2 games to 1 lead in the best-of-five National League Division Series. All eight of the Cubs runs came by a home run.
Kyle Schwarber gave the Cubs an early 1-0 lead as he hit an opposite field home run into the left field basket in the second inning. But Jake Arrieta wasn't the same Arrieta we'd seen the entire second half of the season as he struggled with command. After walking the first two batters of the fourth inning, Arrieta left a slider up in the zone and Jhonny Peralta hammered it off the left field ivy. (Personally, I was sure it was going out for a three-run home run.) The Cardinals then took the lead on a Tommy Pham ground out and the Cubs trailed 2-1 after 3 and a half innings.
But Starlin Castro evened the game up in the bottom of the fourth when he hammered one deep to the center field bleachers. The Cubs would then take the lead in the fifth when Cardinals manager Mike Matheny left starter Michael Wacha in one batter too many and Kris Bryant made him pay by launching a two-run blast into the right field bleachers.
Or did Matheny leave Wacha in one batter too long? Because he then went to the pen and brought in Kevin Siegrist to face Anthony Rizzo, and Rizzo crushed the ball over the right field wall for back-to-back home runs.
With the score 5-2 and Arrieta on the mound, it looked like the game was over. But as I said, Arrieta wasn't his normal self and Jason Heyward smashed a two-run home run in the top of the sixth to get the Cards to within a run. Arrieta allowed one more base runner befoire he exited for Clayton Richard, who got a huge grounder back to the mound to preserve the lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, Jorge Soler struck again. The Cardinals have yet to retire Soler in this series and in the sixth inning, he greeted Adam Wainwright with a first pitch two-run blast to left center to give the Cubs a three-run lead again at 7-4. Soler has now reached base his first nine times at the plate in the postseason, which breaks the previous record of five. One day, Cardinals fans will speak of Soler the same way we speak of Will Clark: as an unstoppable force of nature.
The Cardinals made one last attempt to get back in the game in the seventh when an single and an error by Javier Baez put two on and brought Heyward up to the plate as the tying run. But while Heyward hit the ball hard off Travis Wood, he hit it right at the left fielder Schwarber for the third out.
Dexter Fowler would add a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth to make it 8-4.
With two out in the ninth, Stephen Piscotty got the Cardinals to within two runs when he got one up in the wind off of Hector Rondon and hit a two-run home run to make it 8-6. But Rondon got the next batter, Matt Holliday, to hit a weak grounder to Castro at second base to end the game.
There was some bad news in this game as Addison Russell exited with a tight hamstring after running out a triple. His replacement, Baez, had two singles but also made that error. Let's hope Russell is OK and if he isn't, that Javy can step up.
So that's where we stand. The Cubs just need to win one of the next two games to advance to the NLCS for the first time since 2003. The win was also the Cubs' 100th win of the season, which is the first time the Cubs have won that many games, regular and postseason combined, since 1945.
Things look good. Smile. But there is still work to be done and this isn't over.
Jason Hammel will pitch for the Cubs tomorrow night. Let's hope he ends the series tomorrow.