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Cubs 9, Cardinals 1: A Happ-ening in old London Town

The Cubs left fielder had himself a game.

Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

LONDON — The Cubs seem to enjoy merrie olde England!

Ian Happ smashed two home runs and the Cubs put together a varied 14-hit attack against Cardinals pitching and crushed their ancient rivals 9-1 to open the 2023 MLB London Series.

After a scoreless first, Happ got right to work with this leadoff homer in the second [VIDEO].

After Dansby Swanson walked, Cody Bellinger hit into a double play. But the Cubs were not done in the second. Christopher Morel beat out an infield hit and advanced to third on another single by Yan Gomes. Nick Madrigal then made it 2-0 [VIDEO].

You can certainly hear how loud Cubs fans were in those clips. Cardinals fans were loud when their team was introduced, but remained mostly silent the rest of the day.

After Adam Wainwright retired the first two Cubs in the third, Happ did it again [VIDEO].

Happ’s sixth and seventh homers gave him the 11th multi-homer game of his career, and he is in 23rd place on the Cubs’ all-time list with 111 home runs. Next up? Willson Contreras, 117.

The Cubs weren’t done with their two-out rally in the third. Dansby Swanson followed Happ’s homer with a single, and Bellinger singled him to third. Morel’s RBI single made it 4-0 [VIDEO].

Bellinger took third on that hit and scored on another RBI single, this one by Gomes [VIDEO].

Morel tried to take third, but was thrown out to end the inning.

The Cubs got two more in the fourth. Madrigal led off with a double, and Mike Tauchman doubled him in [VIDEO].

That was it for Wainwright, who allowed 11 hits in three-plus innings. I have quite a bit of respect for Wainwright, who’s been a very good pitcher for a long time. But I’m guessing he wishes he’d retired after last year. He looks done.

Tauchman took third on a fly to right and then scored the Cubs’ seventh run on this infield grounder by Seiya Suzuki [VIDEO].

Nice slide by Tauchman on that play, avoiding the tag, and credit where it’s due, Tauchman has turned himself into a quality MLB player. How long will this last for him at age 32? Who knows, but the Cubs will certainly ride this while it lasts.

While all this was going on, Justin Steele was mowing down Cardinals hitters. He didn’t allow a hit through four innings, with the only baserunner a two-out walk in the second. The Cardinals finally broke through with a leadoff single in the fifth, and a double with two out moved the runner to third, but Steele got out of it with a fly to left. The Cardinals had begun to hit the ball hard, though, and the first three Cardinals got hits off Steele in the sixth, scoring a run on an RBI single by Nolan Arenado. Steele finished with a flourish, though, striking out the next three batters, including Dylan Carlson to end the inning. Here are Steele’s eight Ks [VIDEO].

That was a solid outing from Steele, six innings, five hits, one run and the eight strikeouts. He threw 89 pitches (58 strikes) and appears to have no ill effects from the forearm issue that put him on the IL for a couple of weeks. Here’s a breakdown of Steele’s start [VIDEO].

The Cubs went down pretty easily in the middle innings, but added two more runs in the ninth. Nico Hoerner led off by reaching on a throwing error, and two outs later Swanson made the score 9-1 [VIDEO].

The Cubs got good relief work from Julian Merryweather (scoreless seventh, one single, one walk), Michael Fulmer (scoreless eighth, one walk) and Anthony Kay (1-2-3 ninth). Here’s the final out [VIDEO].

I don’t know if they showed it on Fox’s broadcast, but yes they did play “Go Cubs Go” and there were MANY W flags in evidence:

The PA announcer, unfortunately, interrupted the song to give the game totals, which could have waited till the song was over. I’m not sure who the PA guy was, but he made two serious mistakes: 1) He said the game was going to the top of the seventh when it was the bottom of the sixth, and 2) When Trey Mancini entered to bat for Bellinger in the seventh, he announced “No. 36, Mark Leiter Jr.” Eventually he corrected himself.

The complaint department is closed up tight for this game, in which the Cubs showed both long-ball power and good long-sequence offense with singles and doubles. Then they also got good pitching, and didn’t have to go to Leiter or Adbert Alzolay, who have become an eighth- and ninth-inning tandem.

Here are a few more of the sights and sounds from around London Stadium:

The “beef brisket box” was really good, too, and a LOT of food, a good value. More:

The Cubs will wear road gray Sunday with the Cardinals wearing their home whites, I suppose in an attempt to create some different looks. A little fire when the teams entered the field:

That’s the first time “God Save The King” has ever been sung at a MLB game, because when the Yankees and Red Sox played in London in 2019, it was “God Save The Queen.”

Now, if you read the game preview you know I mentioned it might take some time for me to get back to where I’m staying to write this recap. I am traveling with my partner Miriam, who as some of you know requires a wheelchair to get around. She can walk short distances, but for a trip like this we rented a wheelchair. It worked just fine until both elevators (or “lifts” as they call them here) were not working to get to the train line we needed to take. A friendly local told us that the train line we were looking for was one platform over, and all we’d need to do is wait for the train on the close platform to come, it would open doors on both sides, and we could go straight through to where we needed to go. It worked perfectly. Thanks so much to you, friendly and helpful London native!

So, it’s an adventure being here, but one I wouldn’t trade for anything, especially with a win like this. And, with Marcus Stroman on the mound Sunday for the Cubs, they have a real chance of sweeping this brief two-game set. Jack Flaherty was supposed to start for the Cardinals, but he was scratched due to illness and Matthew Liberatore will start instead. Game time... you’ll have to get up early! ... is 9:10 a.m. CT. TV coverage is on ESPN.

Important site notes for Sunday’s BCB schedule.

Cub Tracks will post at 6 a.m. CT, an hour earlier than usual.

Heroes & Goats will follow at 7 a.m. CT.

Sunday’s game preview will run at 8 a.m. CT, a special time only an hour before game time.

It’ll be a busy morning here and I hope I can bring you another recap of a win later Sunday. Again, I expect it to be delayed probably two hours after the game ends.