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Cardinals 4, Cubs 2: Farewell to Wrigley for 2021

And not the way we had hoped it would end.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

No matter what, I will always have a good time at Wrigley Field. It has been my home away from home for the summer for almost all my life, and it’ll always be the most beautiful place on Earth.

Yes, even when the Cubs baseball is not so good, as it’s been most of the time since the selloff, and as it was in the late innings of Sunday’s game, when the Cubs blew yet another late lead and lost to the Cardinals 4-2. It was St. Louis’ 16th straight win and the Cubs are going to play them again next weekend in St. Louis, yikes. At least they’ll likely have wrapped up a postseason spot by then.

This game started out well in gloriously beautiful late-summer weather, sunshine, temps in the upper 70s and the wind blowing out.

Keegan Thompson, again likely pitch-limited, had a good outing. He made just one mistake and Paul Goldschmidt hit the second-longest home run at Wrigley this year:

(The longest was by Anthony Alford of the Pirates on September 3, off Alec Mills, five feet longer.)

Still, Thompson threw well and struck out seven, a career high. He mixed his pitches well and if I had to choose one of him and Justin Steele for next year’s rotation, I’d choose Thompson. I don’t think Steele has a good enough pitch mix to start. Anyway, we shall see.

The Cubs took the lead in the fourth. Willson Contreras led off with a walk and was singled to second by Matt Duffy. One out later, Sergio Alcántara drove Willson in [VIDEO].

The double bounced into the seats so Duffy was stopped at third, but he scored the second run of the inning on a sac fly by David Bote [VIDEO].

Adbert Alzolay took over for Thompson in the top of the fourth and threw three good innings, allowing just one hit and one walk. After he allowed a two-out single in the seventh, he was removed and got a nice ovation. I still think Adbert has a shot at the rotation, but he could also be useful as a reliever next year.

Scott Effross replaced Alzolay and hit Goldschmidt, but then retired Tyler O’Neill on a ground ball to end the top of the seventh. The Cubs put two runners on base with singles in the bottom of the inning, but could not score.

Could the Cubs pen get six outs without giving up any runs?

Sorry, nope. Rowan Wick got two quick outs but then served up a long home run ball to Harrison Bader which caused some commotion in the left-field bleachers. A friend of mine was going after the ball which, unfortunately, hit him in the face. Fortunately, paramedics were nearby. I talked to him after the game and he says he’s fine, though his nose looked a bit swollen. Good guy who just wasn’t quite in the right place for that one. He did get the baseball, though.

So now it’s tied 2-2. The Cubs got a two-out walk in the bottom of the eighth but could not score.

Codi Heuer, who had a rough outing Saturday, was called on for the ninth and ... was not good. A walk and a bunt single put runners on first and second, and another bunt sacrificed the runners into scoring position.

I’m going to interrupt this description to say that watching the Cardinals should show every single one of you how good fundamental baseball should be played. They take advantage of every situation, every miscue by the other team and don’t make mistakes. What they are doing, the Cubs should emulate — every bit of it. It’s why they’re going to the postseason and have won 16 in a row.

Anyway, Goldschmidt was intentionally passed to load the bases. O’Neill was the next hitter. And Heuer uncorked a wild pitch, scoring a run and giving the Cardinals the lead. Then he got O’Neill to hit a comebacker, but in trying to flip it to the plate for a tag play, Heuer fumbled it (what is this, a Bears game?) and had to settle for an out at first with a second run scoring.

Heuer finally got out of the inning, after another intentional pass, with a strikeout. Heuer has talent and threw well when he first came to the Cubs, but... he’s going to have to do better with fundamentals — there’s that word again.

All right, bottom of the ninth, likely the final inning at Wrigley for 2021, and ... could the Cubs come back?

Austin Romine drew a one-out walk. That’s good! Rafael Ortega also walked, so now the tying runs are on base and Frank Schwindel is due up. Could the legend of Schwindel pull out a game for the Cubs?

With a 1-0 count on Frank the Tank, this happened [VIDEO].

There’s a lot to unpack here. Schwindel’s popup got blown by the wind from foul territory into fair territory and Nolan Arenado couldn’t handle it, and it dropped untouched. You’ll see in the video that the umpires didn’t signal “infield fly” until the very last second, but they did indeed do that.

Now, the rule book says that means “infield fly, if fair.” It was fair, so in that case the batter is out. The runners can then advance at their own risk — but! At that point the force is off, since the batter is out. Thus the call made on the St. Louis broadcast, linked above, that it’s a double play, was wrong. The runners have to be tagged, and they weren’t. So when the umpires placed Romine and Ortega at second and third, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt went ballistic and was eventually tossed.

The only reasonable point I think I could see Shildt making is that the “infield fly, if fair” signal was made late. But it was made, and in my view the rule was properly applied.

That definitely comes under the category of “If you watch baseball long enough, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.” I definitely had never seen that one before.

So the Cubs had the tying run in scoring position, now with two out, and the winning run at the plate in Ian Happ.

But Happ struck out and the game was over, the Cubs’ sixth straight loss.

Announced attendance was 26,547 and so for the season paid attendance at Wrigley Field was 1,978,934. I’ll have more to say about attendance tomorrow.

No matter how bad the Cubs season is, it’s always sad to say goodbye to the ballpark until next spring. It’s 190 days until the 2022 Wrigley home opener, April 4, also against the Cardinals. It’ll go by faster than you might think.

In the meantime, six more games remain in the 2021 Cubs season. They’ll have Monday off and begin a three-game series in Pittsburgh Tuesday evening. Alec Mills will start for the Cubs and Mitch Keller is the scheduled starter for the Pirates. Game time Tuesday is 5:35 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.