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Cubs 12, Cardinals 3: Eight-run eighth!

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The Cubs broke open a close game in the late innings.

Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Well now, that’s a way to make a statement to your biggest rivals.

The Cubs and Cardinals played a close, back-and-forth game for seven innings and then the Cubs pounded four St. Louis relievers for eight runs in the eighth inning and crushed the Cards 12-3. It was the biggest inning for a Cubs team in St. Louis since they scored nine in the sixth inning June 8, 1986, on their way to a 14-2 win.

Perhaps best of all, the 12 runs were scored with the benefit of just one home run — and that came on the first pitch of the game!

That was courtesy of Joc Pederson [VIDEO].

That ball didn’t look like it was going this far off the bat:

It was Joc’s first home run since April 7 (!), and he is now hitting 396/.433/.528 (21-for-53) in May.

Kyle Hendricks, looking again like the Kyle we’ve known for several years, got outs on weak contact in the second inning after some line drives in the first. The Cardinals tied it up in the third (unearned, thanks in part to an error by David Bote), but Joc gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead on a sac fly to the warning track in the fifth [VIDEO].

Once again, the Cardinals pushed across a single run in the sixth to tie the game 2-2.

The Cubs took the lead again in the top of the seventh. Nico Hoerner singled and was sacrificed to second by Hendricks.

Then a pitch got away from Yadier Molina [VIDEO].

Nolan Arenado has won eight Gold Gloves at third base. That was the first of two errors he made in this game.

The Cubs weren’t done in this inning. Pederson followed with a walk and Kris Bryant doubled him in [VIDEO].

That ball hit the base of the wall. Unfortunately, Bryant was stranded and the Cardinals picked up a run in the last of the seventh thanks in part to an uncharacteristic error by Anthony Rizzo — three errors in this game by two players who have combined for 12 Gold Gloves. Tommy Nance had to finish up the inning for Hendricks, who finished with 6x innings, three runs (one earned) and dropped his season ERA more than half a run, from 5.27 to 4.74.

So it’s 4-3 Cubs heading to the eighth and I’m making mental notes of what would come later (hmmm... Andrew Chafin in the eighth, Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, has worked pretty well so far...), and then the Cubs exploded offensively.

Ian Happ singled and Bote walked. Nico then hit a ground ball to Arenado which looked like it could be a double play... but Arenado booted it for his second error. That loaded the bases with nobody out. Eric Sogard, batting for Nance, singled to make it 5-3 and after Pederson popped up, KB walked to make it 6-3. Another bases-loaded walk, this one to Willson Contreras, gave the Cubs a four-run lead. As you’ll hear from Pat Hughes on the video clip below, the Cardinals have issued 12 bases-loaded walks this year.

Anthony Rizzo was next, and he didn’t walk [VIDEO].

Two runs scored to make it 9-3, but Contreras was thrown out at the plate. It’s not unreasonable to take that sort of chance when you’re up by six runs.

But the Cubs weren’t done. Javier Báez made it 10-3 [VIDEO].

Ian Happ doubled, sending Báez to third, and Bote brought them both in [VIDEO].

Bote was thrown out trying to take second — so two of the three outs were on the bases and the Cubs still scored eight runs. All told, there were three walks, four singles and two doubles from the 11 Cubs that batted in the inning, really, really nice to see a varied offense that didn’t just rely on the long ball.

Dan Winkler and Brad Wieck finished up uneventfully, retiring six of the seven batters they faced, and the Cubs had won the first game of the series. In doing so they moved to within two games of the Cardinals in the NL Central. They also matched a season high by going two games over .500 at 23-21 — they hadn’t been two games over since they were 3-1 on April 5. The Brewers lost Friday night so the Cubs, in second place, lead third-place Milwaukee by two games. The Cubs also went ahead of St. Louis in run differential for 2021. The Cubs entered Friday at +7 and the Cardinals at +20, but the nine-run blowout puts the Cubs at +16, the Cardinals at +11.

Also: The 12-run outburst put the Cubs in fourth place in the NL in runs, behind the Dodgers, Reds and Braves.

One last note: Three Cubs were hit by Carlos Martinez, the second-most Cubs hit in a game this year. None of them, in my view, were intentional; Martinez just didn’t have command.

The Cubs will go for two in a row over the Cardinals Saturday evening in St. Louis. Adbert Alzolay will start for the Cubs and Miles Mikolas will go for the Cardinals. Game time is 6:15 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Fox-TV (regional — coverage map).