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Cardinals 8, Cubs 6: The home runs give, and the home runs take away

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A pair of late-inning homers gave the Cubs the lead, but they could not keep it.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

This one started out well.

And then pitching and defense deserted the Chicago Cubs.

And then... Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo sent baseballs out of Busch Stadium in front of their largest crowd of the year so far to give the Cubs a two-run lead, and those appeared to be the difference in this game.

And then... Brandon Morrow came on in the ninth inning for the save, but this was not his day. A walk and a single put runners on first and second with one out and Marcell Ozuna doubled them both in to tie the game and send it to extras. Not only was it Morrow’s first blown save as a Cub, those were the first runs he’d allowed this season.

In the top of the 10th, Jason Heyward singled with one out, went to second on a dropped third strike and to third on a wild pitch. Victor Caratini hit a line drive that appeared headed to the left-field corner, but Matt Carpenter caught it to end the inning.

Luke Farrell then entered the game and allowed a single and a long home run by Kolten Wong, and the Cardinals beat the Cubs 8-6 in 10 innings. The loss extended the Cubs’ losing streak to four.

Let’s unpack the rest of this long, unsatisfying game.

Three singles, by Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell and Heyward loaded the bases in the top of the second inning. A groundout by Baez made it 1-0 Cubs, and that brought up pitcher Tyler Chatwood:

Russell made a terrific slide to get around the tag and was called out, but you can clearly see in that video that he was safe. Often, you hear about the “definitive angle” used on reviews, and MLB has begun to put links to that video. Here’s the “definitive angle” for that particular play [VIDEO].

That made the score 2-0, and singles by Ben Zobrist and Rizzo scored two more runs.

4-0 in the second inning — this is a good thing!

The Cubs won another challenge in the bottom of the inning when Cardinals pitcher Luke Weaver had singled after Wong was hit by a pitch. That put runners on first and second with two out. Harrison Bader hit a ground ball to Russell, who flipped backhanded to Baez:

Again, it’s pretty clear that the throw beat Weaver to the base. It was reminiscent of a similar play at Wrigley Field a couple of years ago that actually ended a game against the Cardinals.

Chatwood, unfortunately, could not take advantage of these plays. As usual, walks were what got him into trouble. In the fourth, he walked Dexter Fowler and Paul DeJong and then hit Wong for the second time — oddly, even with all the walks Chatwood has issued this year, those were his first two HPBs of the season.

That loaded the bases and brought up pinch-hitter Greg Garcia, batting for Weaver:

That scored a run, but it was a nicely-made catch by Heyward, who was starting in center field for just the second time this season. A rare throwing error by Rizzo and a double by Carpenter tied the game 4-4 after four.

When Chatwood walked Yadier Molina to lead off the bottom of the fifth, Joe Maddon had seen enough and lifted him. That gives Chatwood 27 walks in 32x innings this season, 7.4 per nine innings. That’s the most walks of any pitcher in baseball this year and the walk rate is the highest for any qualified pitcher — by nearly one full walk per nine innings, the next worst is Lucas Giolito of the White Sox at 6.5. The next worst National League pitcher in walk rate is Clayton Richard at 4.8.

This has got to change; Chatwood’s been reasonably lucky in most of his starts because he’s not giving up a lot of hits. The three hits he allowed Saturday give him 23 hits allowed, 6.3 per nine innings. That’s actually the ninth-best hit rate in the National League among qualified pitchers. But it’s way too many walks, and that means his outings are too short, averaging just 5.4 innings per start.

Anyway... Mike Montgomery entered and retired the next three Cardinals to end the inning, one of them on this terrific catch by Schwarber [VIDEO], and then with one out in the sixth, it was Javy time!

That was actually a pretty good pitcher’s pitch, but Javy reached down and got it and hit a laser beam into the left-field seats to make it 5-4 Cubs.

With one out in the bottom of the sixth, it was Schwarber Adventure Time again. This time, he looked like he was backing up to catch Carpenter’s fly ball easily, but he tripped and his right shoe looked like it ripped apart, but he caught the ball anyway. I wish I could post video of this, but none was available at the time I wrote this recap. After a short delay to get Kyle a new shoe, the game continued.

In the seventh with one out, it was Rizzo’s turn:

That homer, Rizzo’s third in the last four games and fourth of the season, made it 6-4. Rizzo, as you know, has been off to a horribly slow start and spent some time on the DL with back issues, but there are signs he might be about to take off on one of his patented hot streaks. Since May 1: .353/.353/.882 (6-for-17) with those three home runs and only one strikeout. Granted, that’s just four games, but you gotta start somewhere, right?

Pedro Strop, whose career in Busch Stadium prior to Saturday we probably shouldn’t talk about, threw two scoreless innings, allowing a harmless single, and Carl Edwards Jr. threw a 1-2-3 eighth with a pair of strikeouts. CJ has now faced 56 batters this year and struck out 25 of them, which translates to 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings. That’s the sixth-best K rate in the major leagues this year for any pitcher who’s thrown more than three innings.

That’s about the end of the good stuff. The bullpen lost this game, and those kinds of things are going to happen. It’s unusual because the pen has in general been very good this year. I suspect if Eddie Butler is ready to come off the disabled list (he’s eligible now), he’ll return soon and Farrell will head back to Iowa. If Butler isn’t ready, it’s possible Farrell goes back to Triple-A anyway and someone else — maybe Dillon Maples, who’s striking out more than two per inning at Iowa? — will be in the pen soon.

So, the Cubs will try to salvage one game in this three-game series Sunday night, in their first ESPN Sunday Night Baseball appearance of 2017. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and Michael Wacha for the Cardinals. Game time Sunday is 7 p.m. CT. And lastly, I would like to remind the Cubs of their record in these two road uniforms:

Blue alt: 3-7
Road gray: 5-1

Please, Cubs. Wear the road grays on Sunday. (Yes, I know it doesn’t really matter which uniform the team wears. Still.)