ST. LOUIS — This team, man. This team!
Just when I had my head down at Busch Stadium thinking sad thoughts about losing the season-opening series to the Cardinals, the Cubs come up with one of their patented crazy rallies and beat their division rivals 6-4, taking two of three in a playoff-intensity type of series.
The big blow was Kyle Schwarber’s three-run homer, and of course you’d like to see it again!
Say hello to my LITTLE FRIEND. pic.twitter.com/FinXciykBY— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 6, 2017
That came after Matt Szczur began the inning by striking out and reaching base on one of the weirdest dropped third strikes you’ll ever see:
File this under things you’ve never seen before … pic.twitter.com/zgr3eT8HP8— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) April 6, 2017
Poor Yadi. Where was that baseball again?
After that, Jon Jay walked and Schwarber smashed the ball out of the yard, and I mean way out of the yard:
Kyle Schwarber absolutely crushes a HR to give the @Cubs the lead. pic.twitter.com/iIQ3233QK6— Daren Willman (@darenw) April 6, 2017
The Cubs tacked on an insurance run when Kris Bryant walked — the first time he’d been on base this year — and that was followed by a single by Anthony Rizzo sending Bryant to third. One out later, Addison Russell dribbled a little grounder that pitcher Miguel Socolovich picked up, but Socolovich had no play other than first base and Bryant scored.
All this came after John Lackey had what we might call “the typical Lackey first inning,” though some of it wasn’t his fault. Lackey seems to have starts like this often, where he’s shaky out of the box and then settles down. A play that was ruled an error by Ben Zobrist when he couldn’t hang on to the ball on a potential double play helped open up the inning for the Cardinals, who took a 3-0 lead. I don’t know. You look at the play yourself and tell me [VIDEO].
The Cardinals batted around and had a 3-0 lead and Lance Lynn was setting down Cubs hitters. The Cubs had only one hit through the first four innings, a single by Lackey. Lackey singled again in the fifth — the fifth multihit game of his career — and that helped lead to the Cubs’ first run. Jason Heyward had singled earlier in the inning, and he went to second on Lackey’s single and scored on a single by Jay. Jay got nice applause from the Cardinals fans who remembered the six good years he gave them. (Not on that hit, though.) This was Jay’s first start of the year and he made the most of hit, going 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.
The Cubs’ other run happened in the sixth. Rizzo led off with a double, went to third on an infield out and scored on another infield out.
Once the Cubs had their rally and two-run lead, it was up to the pen. Lackey managed to get through six innings decently enough. Hector Rondon threw a vintage Hector inning in the seventh, 1-2-3 on just seven pitches. That’s a really good sign, I think.
Pedro Strop started the eighth and was lifted for Carl Edwards Jr. with two runners on base and only one out. The second runner reached when Strop dropped a throw from Javier Baez, who had made a good stop on a ground ball headed to right field.
CJ did his job, striking out Randal Grichuk and Jedd Gyorko. I can see CJ becoming Joe’s principal setup man by the end of this season.
And then it was Wade Davis time in the ninth. Davis had done a good job Tuesday night posting his first save of the season, but Kolten Wong smashed a long double to center field leading off the ninth. But Davis got Stephen Piscotty to ground out, with Wong taking third. Then he struck out Dexter Fowler -- who struck out five times in 13 at-bats in this series.
That left it to Aledmys Diaz, and on Davis’ 23rd pitch Diaz lofted a lazy fly ball to Heyward in right and the Cubs had the game and the series.
Attendance was announced as 44,039 but there were maybe 30,000 in the house on a bright sunny day that was quite chilly if you weren’t in the sun (I was, and it felt pretty pleasant). More than half the crowd was Cubs fans, as you probably heard when Schwarber hit the home run.
Wow, three games into the 2017 season and I already feel drained. The Cardinals are a very good team, but the Cubs always, always seem to find ways to win. Two of three from these guys is a very satisfying result.
The Cubs move on to Milwaukee for a three-game set with the Brewers beginning Friday night. As you might have heard earlier, Jake Arrieta will throw the Sunday game with Jon Lester moving to Monday so that the Cubs can have two lefties face the Dodgers next week. To start off Friday night, Brett Anderson will face Jimmy Nelson.
Games and series like these remind me how much I love baseball. You too, I’d think.