You could tell this wasn’t going to be Mike Montgomery’s night when he allowed four baserunners, three via hits, in the first two innings. No runs scored for the Cardinals, thanks in part to a double play, but this didn’t seem sustainable.
It wasn’t. MiMo wound up allowing 12 hits in five innings, three of them to the extremely annoying Yadier Molina, and the Cubs dropped the first game of the series 5-2.
After Montgomery got out of those first two innings without allowing a run, Anthony Rizzo gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead [VIDEO].
Rizzo’s 14th of the year was his second in three at-bats, including the game-winner Thursday at Wrigley Field. He does tend to hit home runs in bunches, so perhaps this is a sign that his homer drought really is over.
That lead lasted about five minutes. Molina doubled, and then Paul DeJong hit a ball that Jason Heyward had in his glove momentarily. It bounced out of the glove; Heyward appeared to possibly be able to grab it with his bare hand, but the ball hit off the wall before J-Hey could corral it. By the time that happened, a Cardinals run scored and DeJong wound up on third.
Jose Martinez singled in DeJong to give the Cardinals the lead. We’re only through three innings here and Montgomery has already allowed seven hits. I think you can see this isn’t optimal.
The Cardinals pushed across three more runs in the fourth on four more hits, including another double by Molina. One more hit in the fifth completed that 12-hit (plus a walk) outing for Montgomery, who left for a pinch-hitter after five innings and 93 pitches.
Javier Baez got one of those runs back in the sixth with his 20th homer of the year [VIDEO].
First #Cubs player to reach 20 HR— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 28, 2018
The Cubs rank 10th in the National League with 109 home runs after finishing third in 2017, just one short of the league lead. Not that smashing home runs is necessarily the answer to offense — the Cubs still lead the N.L. in runs this year by a significant margin — but it would be nice, maybe, to have a few more long balls, preferably with runners on base.
The bullpen attempted to keep things close. Randy Rosario threw a scoreless sixth and then Alec Mills made his Cubs debut and looked pretty good doing it. His previous MLB experience was three not-so-great outings for the 2016 Royals, but he retired all six hitters he faced Friday night, two by strikeout, and threw 19 strikes in 27 pitches. Mills goes back to Iowa when Cole Hamels is activated, but this good outing maybe means Mills joins the Iowa Shuttle of relievers for the rest of the year.
Joe Maddon had some words you don’t often hear for this loss:
#Cubs Maddon called Friday's game "innocuous." He's 1st manager I've covered to use that description. Can't imagine Don Zimmer saying that— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 28, 2018
#Cubs Maddon had hoped for more after Thursday's dramatic win over D-backs. "I'm watching from the side, nothing was happening really good or awful both sides. It was just a vanilla kind of game that we didn't win"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 28, 2018
Joe’s good at summing things up like that. That’s pretty much the takeaway from this one, a dull defeat. Hopefully, things go better Saturday.
Unfortunately, the Brewers defeated the Giants for the second straight night, so the Cubs’ lead in the N.L. Central was cut to 1½ games.
Saturday afternoon at 3:05 p.m. CT, the Cubs and Cardinals play again. Jose Quintana will start for the Cubs and Miles Mikolas goes for St. Louis. TV coverage Saturday will be via NBC Sports Chicago (and also a national broadcast on FS1, no blackouts).