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Cardinals 6, Cubs 3: An ejection, then a bullpen meltdown

Those two things were not related, but eventually the latter lead to the Cubs and Cardinals splitting their doubleheader.

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

I suppose the first thing you want to talk about from the Cubs’ 6-3 loss to the Cardinals in Saturday’s doubleheader nightcap is the ejection of Javier Baez in the fifth inning.

Here’s the situation: runners on first and second, two out, the Cubs trailing 1-0. Baez was called out on strikes on a check swing.

From Javy:

Here’s some video from the play and more from Javy.

Joe Maddon on all of this:

I have to say, I think both men are correct here. This umpiring crew has had two inexperienced umpires — Will Little and Ben May — all weekend. There have been some questionable ball-and-strike calls most of this series (in general, this crew hasn’t been very good) and the request to ask for help from the first-base umpire isn’t unreasonable. (For the record, I think Javy did swing on the pitch.)

Now, does Baez get to the ball that Yairo Munoz hits in the eighth inning that drove in the Cardinals’ third run that tied the game? Maybe. That’s likely what Maddon was alluding to in his “could’ve led to the loss of the game” comment.

On the other hand, none of that would have changed the massive bullpen meltdown in the ninth inning. The Cubs had put together a nice three-run rally in the sixth, helped along by an error by Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong, with RBI from Tommy La Stella (bases-loaded walk on which the crowd was really loud), Anthony Rizzo (single) and Kris Bryant (fielder’s choice).

And with Mike Montgomery putting together his best start since June, this one went into the late innings with the Cubs seemingly poised for victory, leading 3-1 heading to the seventh. Montgomery’s effort was helped along by this terrific catch [VIDEO] by Albert Almora Jr. to end the fourth.

Matt Carpenter made it 3-2 with two out in the seventh off Randy Rosario. I mean, I might have almost put Carpenter on base intentionally, he’s hit so many home runs recently. That’s six straight games with a homer for Carpenter and eight total homers in that span. Yikes.

The Cardinals again pushed a two-out run across the plate in the eighth off Pedro Strop, and then there was the disastrous ninth. Justin Wilson began the inning, likely because two of the first three hitters (Carpenter and Kolten Wong) were lefthanded. Unfortunately, Wilson went back to what hurt him most last year — walks. He walked Carpenter and Harrison Bader, then Brandon Hyde (or whoever was running things with Joe ejected) brought in Steve Cishek to face Wong.

Cishek’s been quite reliable, and he did get Wong, who was attempting to bunt the runners along, to hit into a force play. But then a double, an intentional walk and another double scored three runs, and even though Dillon Maples then looked pretty good in striking out Dexter Fowler and Munoz, the damage was considerable, a three-run ninth, and the Cubs went down fairly meekly in the ninth, ending the game with a double play.

Hey, it happens. The Cubs bullpen has been so good this year that it’s somewhat shocking when they fail. They will, over time, have more successes than failures, I think.

Beyond Montgomery’s excellent outing (and the extra rest no doubt helped him, he hadn’t thrown in 10 days), another good thing from this game was Anthony Rizzo’s continued resurgence in the leadoff spot:

Rizzo has been a revelation since moving to the leadoff spot. Some numbers:

Rizzo is 13-for-24 with five doubles, one triple, seven walks and one hit by pitch in seven games since moving to the leadoff spot for a .636 on-base percentage. Rizzo has reached base safely to start the first in six consecutive games. Rizzo is the first Cubs player to reach base safely eight times in a doubleheader since Ivan DeJesus on July 7, 1979 against the Astros.

You can’t argue with results like that. The Cubs are 5-2 since Rizzo moved to the leadoff spot, not that he’s the only reason for those wins, but since this appears to be working, I’d expect Joe to continue to pencil Rizzo into the leadoff spot in the order for the foreseeable future.

Walk watch: The Cubs drew seven walks in this game, giving them 381 for the season. That’s 3.93 walks per game, a pace for 636 for the season.

Final thoughts on Game 1: Despite all the walks, I thought Tyler Chatwood made some progress. The double play he got to get out of the fifth inning was a gem, and maybe that helps give him more confidence going forward.

So the teams have split the first four games of this long series and the Cubs find themselves exactly where they were in the N.L. Central standings when it began, 2½ games ahead of the Brewers, who defeated the Dodgers Saturday afternoon. They lead the Brewers by four games in the loss column.

The Cubs go for the series win in Sunday’s series finale at 1:20 p.m. CT. Jose Quintana starts for the Cubs and Miles Mikolas goes for the Cardinals. TV coverage Sunday is via ABC7 Chicago. And yes, for the fourth day in a row, there’s still a chance of scattered showers.