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Cubs 8, Cardinals 2: Where was this last weekend?

The Cubs denied the Cardinals a chance to increase their division lead.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

It might have been too little, too late, but the Cubs’ 8-2 win over the Cardinals Friday night was still satisfying.

Why? Well, first, it ended the team’s dreadful nine-game losing streak. Further, Cubs wins over the Cardinals are always satisfying, no matter where the two teams are in the league standings. And the win kept the Cardinals from clinching a tie for the N.L. Central title, though their magic number dropped to two when the Brewers also lost, and that fact is a summation of this season:

Give those teams credit. They kept winning and the Cubs didn’t. It’s really as simple as that.

Weird fact about this game:

... and lost four of the five.

There were some good things that gave hope for the future in Friday night’s win. First, Alec Mills laid further claim to a possible rotation spot in 2020. He threw strikes and changed speeds nicely, and allowed just one run in five innings while posting nine strikeouts, the latter figure a career high. And this isn’t just “any” September game — it was against a team desperately wanting to get better postseason position. Mills threw back-to-back games against the Cardinals in a playoff-type atmosphere and allowed just one run in 9⅔ innings while striking out 15.

If Mills really is a guy who can put together these kinds of starts in 2020 as a member of the rotation, that’s a pretty good trade for a guy who was a 22nd-round pick of the Royals in 2012. They got him for Donnie Dewees in 2017 — and now Dewees is back in the Cubs organization.

Mills had some help in the field from Albert Almora Jr., who has had a rough season. In the second inning, he took an extra-base hit away from Yadier Molina [VIDEO].

Not satisfied with that, two innings later AA stole a home run from Yadi [VIDEO].

Never mind the game situation or the Cubs’ place in the standings — that’s one of the best catches I have ever seen. And AA sold it, too. Watch his reaction right after the catch, at first it appears he’s unhappy about missing it — and then he flips the ball out of his glove into his bare hand. Nice theater!

The next hitter, Matt Carpenter, did homer off Mills to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.

Ian Happ got that run back for the Cubs in the bottom of the sixth [VIDEO].

And then the Cubs blew the game open in the seventh. Ben Zobrist led off with a walk, and one out later Willson Contreras singled. That brought up Happ again [VIDEO].

Happ’s ball landed just fair down the right-field line for a double. Zobrist scored to make it 2-1, and then Andrew Miller wild-pitched Contreras across the plate for the Cubs’ third run, with Happ taking third. Happ had three hits on the night.

Miller hit Victor Caratini with a pitch, and Nico Hoerner made it 4-1 [VIDEO].

Nice piece of hitting by Nico, going with the pitch and taking it to right-center. Hoerner had a pair of singles and has acquitted himself very well against big-league pitching. Len and JD noted on the broadcast that Nico won’t be going to the Arizona Fall League... what would be the point of that? He might have gotten 70 at-bats in the AFL, instead he’s gotten that many against major-league pitching in a pennant race. He still needs to work on some aspects of his game, and that might mean a stint in Triple-A in 2020, but he was certainly not overmatched this month.

With Caratini and Hoerner on base, Robel Garcia turned this one into a blowout [VIDEO].

Garcia’s fifth home run as a Cub made it 7-1, but even then the Cubs weren’t done. Tony Kemp doubled and Zobrist, batting for the second time in the inning, singled him in [VIDEO].

Zobrist had a nice night, with the single and two walks. I would not be opposed to inviting him back for another year.

The Cardinals scored a run off Kyle Ryan in the seventh, charged to him after he left the game, but after Rowan Wick loaded the bases by hitting Matt Carpenter, he ended the frame by getting Paul DeJong to fly to center.

Pedro Strop threw a scoreless eighth. Over his last few outings Pedro has finally begun to look like his old self. Perhaps his hamstring is at last 100 percent healthy. In September, Strop has a 1.13 ERA and 0.875 WHIP in 10 appearances covering 11 innings, with 11 strikeouts. That’s the Strop who’s been so effective over the last six-plus years with the Cubs. If he’s 100 percent, perhaps he, too, should be invited back for 2020. He’s meant a great deal to this franchise since his arrival on the scene.

And so, too, has WGN-TV, televising their final Cubs game after being the team’s TV home since 1948. I’ve said almost all I can say about WGN-TV in my five-part series that concluded Friday, but I do want to add a few more words about the station’s last telecast.

In addition to their usual first-class game coverage, WGN showed highlights and photos from their 72 seasons of Cubs television. Some of those, you saw in my series. Others I had not seen since they originally aired, decades ago. A lifetime’s worth of baseball memories came flooding back to me in one evening. The game lasted four hours, four minutes, pretty long for a nine-inning game even in this era of long games, but for once I didn’t care. I wanted to soak in as much WGN-TV as I could, cling to them being a part of my life as a Cubs fan for just as long as possible.

Here is the video the Cubs ran on the video boards at Wrigley Field last Saturday before the final WGN-TV broadcast from the North Side ballyard. It also aired as part of WGN’s coverage Friday:

Usually, I’ll turn off the TV after the game’s over, especially a long one like that. But Friday night, I wanted to savor WGN-TV and the Cubs together for just a few more minutes. If you are outside WGN-TV’s local market area in Chicago and were watching via MLB Extra Innings or you might not have seen this final video that WGN aired after the game. Some of the clips are the same as in the video above, but it’s worth watching both of them.

Yes, there’s probably a little dust in the room where you’re watching those videos. An important little piece of my life — yours too, probably — is now gone forever, but never, ever to be forgotten.

From the final part of my series on WGN-TV and the Cubs:

Len and JD will continue in 2020 and beyond as Cubs broadcasters on the Marquee Network, so the broadcasts will look and sound more or less the same.

But they won’t be on “Good Ol’ Channel 9.” And even though I know that everything changes over time and technological and other changes make this departure necessary, this makes me sad, after watching games on that channel for my entire lifetime.

Thank you again, WGN-TV, for all the wonderful baseball memories. So happy for you that your Cubs coverage concluded with a victory over the team’s biggest rival.

One last note on Friday’s baseball action:

The Cubs will continue to try to throw a wrench into the N.L. Central race — who knows, perhaps they can help force a tiebreaker game Monday! — Saturday evening at Busch Stadium. Cole Hamels will start for the Cubs and Adam Wainwright will go for the Cardinals. Game time is 6:15 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be on Fox (regional — coverage map).