Early lead for St. Louis? Check.
Come-from-behind rally to take a 3-2 lead? Check.
Putting the Cardinals away with a crooked number in the late innings? Check.
Almost all of those things happened in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader; all of them did at some point over the weekend. The Cubs nearly matched all of them Sunday and won by the same score, 7-2, taking the series from the Cardinals three games to two.
Matt Carpenter, who was on a home run streak (note the past tense!), started the game with a bunt single down the third-base line. Give the guy credit, he did that well. Yadier Molina followed with a double that bounced into the seats, temporarily depriving the Cardinals of a run, but a sac fly by Paul DeJong gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead. The Cardinals scored first in every game of the series — except the 7-2 Cubs win in Game 1 of the doubleheader.
After the sac fly, Quintana settled down, and got out of a bases-loaded jam in the second by striking out Molina.
Can I just say right here how satisfying it is to see Molina strike out in a situation like that?
Q did allow another run after a walk in the fourth inning that gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.
But then the Cubs came right back. Jason Heyward walked leading off the bottom of the fourth. One out later a double by Ian Happ scored J-Hey, and another out later a single by Willson Contreras tied the game at 2.
Happ helped the team out defensively with a nice snag of a long fly ball by DeJong in the fifth with a runner on first, and then Quintana induced a double-play ball to end that inning.
The game remained tied through the top of the sixth, and then with two out in the sixth, Kyle Schwarber untied it [VIDEO].
Kyle’s 19th of the year tied him with Javier Baez for the team lead and gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead. And:
Kyle Schwarber HR #Cubs pic.twitter.com/ie1iyHldvK— Al Yellon (@bleedcubbieblue) July 22, 2018
That’s a high launch angle for a ball on another day when the wind was howling out of the north at 17 miles per hour, a day that felt more like September than July. The ball landed in the first row in right-center; on another day it might have gone several rows deep.
Quintana had thrown 111 pitches through six innings, so it was a bit of a surprise to see him come out for the seventh, especially since Jesse Chavez had been warming up and appeared to be ready to come in. I figured Q was just in the game to face Carpenter, and the Cubs put together this unusual defensive alignment:
Kris Bryant, left center fielder #Cubs pic.twitter.com/FQAXxwubWf— Al Yellon (@bleedcubbieblue) July 22, 2018
That’s Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Happ and Heyward, from right to left in the photo, left to right in the outfield, and it left Addison Russell alone on the left side of the infield. Fortunately, Baez was positioned perfectly on the right side, and Carpenter grounded right to him.
So now Chavez is certainly coming in, correct? To face righthanded hitters Molina and DeJong?
Nope. Q stayed in, and got Molina to hit a line drive right to Schwarber and DeJong to hit an infield popup to Anthony Rizzo. 121 pitches — a lot, but if you look at his game logs from his last full year with the White Sox, 2016, he threw 110 or more pitches seven times in 32 starts. Maybe Joe’s been taking him out of games too early. Q threw seven strong innings, allowing two runs. He walked four, but two of those were intentional, and struck out six. Also:
Correction (since he came out for the 7th)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 22, 2018
José Quintana: 2.96 ERA over last 15 starts. #Cubs
That’s the Quintana the Cubs need for the last two months of the season.
The Cubs increased their lead by one in the last of the seventh. Russell walked, and one out later Rizzo was hit by a pitch. Bryant followed with an RBI single to make it 4-2.
Chavez finally came out to throw the eighth, and did so efficiently, posting a 1-2-3 inning on 16 pitches (11 strikes). That’s all good, but you don’t want to overuse him, either. I’d imagine he won’t be available Monday.
Then the Cubs put the game away in the last of the eighth on another one of those long-sequence offenses that didn’t require a single extra-base hit. Happ led off with a walk. One out later, four straight singles scored the three runs, with RBI by Contreras, pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr., and Rizzo, who went 2-for-3 in yet another productive day from the leadoff spot. Also, re: Rizzo:
Today: Anthony Rizzo's first "Rizzo" of the season (H, BB & HBP in same game); 16th of career; 17th including postseason (he had one in Game 7 of 2016 World Series) #Cubs— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 22, 2018
Also, Rizzo is now hitting .556/.658/.667 (15-for-27) since he moved to the leadoff spot in the batting order, with five doubles, a triple, eight walks and two HBP. That’s moved his overall season line to .262/.365/.427, and although he’s not hitting home runs, that’s outstanding production from the leadoff spot. The Cubs are 6-2 with him in the leadoff spot, and so I’d think he’ll stay there for a while. It might help further if Joe Maddon would put a position player batting ninth, so Rizzo might have some runners on when he comes up later in the game.
Randy Rosario was called on to throw the ninth. He’d been warming up even with the score 4-2, so it appeared Joe was going to use him as a closer regardless of the score. He allowed two one-out singles and Luke Farrell started loosening up, but Rosario retired Carpenter (ending that home-run streak!) and Molina to end it.
So the Cubs take three of five, and combined with the Brewers losing two of three to the Dodgers in Milwaukee, the Cubs gained a game on both the Brewers and Cardinals for their weekend’s work. They now lead Milwaukee by 3½ games and St. Louis by eight and again moved to a season-high 18 games over. 500. The team’s .592 winning percentage projects to a 96-win season.
The reason I was surprised Farrell was warming up in the ninth was this:
Farrell will start Monday for #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 22, 2018
This was pretty much expected, unless Farrell had been needed for long relief on this day, but that wasn’t necessary.
A word about the weather. I can’t recall a four-day stretch in July, ever, in Chicago of weather this dreary, temperatures way below normal, rain off and on, feeling more like late September. It poured, hard, for about 10 minutes at noon, but cleared out and there was no further rain Sunday. In the entire five-game series, only a couple of minutes Friday were played in anything harder than a drizzle. It’s supposed to be sunny and beautiful Monday. I’ll believe it when I see it.
The paid attendance announced for this five-game set totaled 204,468, with all but Sunday’s game (39,737) posting over 41,000. That’s an average of 40,894 for the five dates, and ticket prices were skyrocketing most of the weekend despite the lousy weather.
Monday, the Cubs begin a four-game set against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley. As noted above, Luke Farrell will start for the Cubs. Patrick Corbin will go for Arizona. Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage Monday will be on NBC Sports Chicago.