Early on, this was shaping up to be another one of those sad-sack recap games, or maybe even a one-liner. Alec Mills got himself pounded, allowing five runs including three homers without finishing the third inning, and the Cubs entered the fourth trailing 5-0. (Not only that, the first two innings took an hour. Can’t wait for the pitch clock.)
But the Cubs mounted a stirring five-run comeback in the fourth without a home run, and then the bullpen threw lockdown relief — 7⅓ innings, two hits, two walks, nine strikeouts — and a single by Willson Contreras drove in Nelson Velázquez with what turned out to be the winning run in the 10th, and the Cubs had a satisfying 6-5 win over the Cardinals. That completed a series win, their first road series win since they took back-to-back sets in San Diego and Arizona last month.
Let’s set the scene in the top of the fourth, with the Cubs down 5-0. We’re going to call this the Adrian Sampson Inning. No, he wasn’t in the game, but Marquee put him on to speak to him from the dugout. Normally, I don’t really care for these but Sampson was not only cogent in his remarks, but Boog and JD got him involved in calling some of the action, one of the better dugout interviews I’ve heard. You’ll hear some of this in the highlights below, if you didn’t see the game.
Nico Hoerner and Yan Gomes began the fourth with singles, and Alfonso Rivas made it 5-1 [VIDEO].
David Bote followed with a single, loading the bases. One out later, Rafael Ortega doubled in a pair of runs to make it 5-3 [VIDEO].
Bote stopped at third, but both runners scored on a single by Willson Contreras that tied the game [VIDEO].
That’s a lot of good hitting there, five runs scoring with only one extra-base hit (Ortega’s double) and in that inning, the Cubs went 4-for-5 with RISP. That’s... excellent.
And that’s where it stayed while Matt Swarmer, Chris Martin, Rowan Wick, Mychal Givens and David Robertson shut down the Cardinals offense. Outstanding work, and the reason Swarmer’s in the pen — this was originally supposed to be his start — is that after his struggles starting, the team wanted to take a look at him in relief. Early returns are good. Swarmer’s basically a two-pitch pitcher, four-seamer and slider, and that sort of thing plays well in relief, particularly since that slider is really good. I’d like to see more of him in higher-leverage relief situations now.
The Cardinals might have taken the lead — and maybe won the game — if not for a fantastic catch by Ian Happ with a runner on first and two out in the seventh. Here, have a look [VIDEO].
Really nice sliding catch in LF corner by Ian Happ to rob Goldschmidt of a hit, ending the 7th and preserving a 5-5 tie.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 26, 2022
Happ entered today with 4 DRS in left this season: https://t.co/SKuR37jGNb
Four defensive runs saved (DRS) is really good for this stage of the season. That’s for those of you who don’t think Happ is a good left fielder. He most certainly is.
The game went to extras, and Velázquez, who had struck out to end the ninth, was the Manfred man. Contreras, on an 0-2 pitch, singled to right, scoring Velázquez with the lead run [VIDEO].
One out later, Patrick Wisdom doubled and Hoerner was intentionally passed to load the bases. The strategy worked when Gomes hit into an inning-ending double play.
So it was up to Robertson, who had recorded the final out of the ninth, to finish things off. Tommy Edman was St. Louis’ Manfred man. Robertson got Brendan Donovan on a called third strike that Donovan was convinced was ball four — he started trotting to first.
Pitch six was not ball four, Brendan:
Robertson then got Paul Goldschmidt to ground out, with Edman taking third.
And then he finished it off by striking out Nolan Arenado on a nasty cutter [VIDEO].
Beating the Cardinals is always great, no matter where the teams are in the standings. The Cubs have now played the top two teams in the NL Central — the Cardinals and Brewers — absolutely even this year, 4-4 vs. St. Louis and 5-5 vs. Milwaukee. Too bad they couldn’t do the same against other teams.
They are going to have to figure out what to do with Mills, though. He’s just looked awful in most of his outings, and has allowed seven home runs in 17⅓ innings this year. Yikes.
The Cubs will surely have a happy flight to Chicago this evening and enjoy an off day Monday. They’ll reconvene at Wrigley Field Tuesday evening to begin a three-game series against the Reds. Keegan Thompson will start the series opener against Luis Castillo. Game time Tuesday is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.