The Cubs did what they had to do this weekend, take three of four from the Cardinals, in order to stay close to playoff contention.
And they did so Sunday in their third straight win over St. Louis, 7-2, largely on the back of center fielder Cody Bellinger. Bellinger smacked a two-run homer and drove in a third run with a sacrifice fly. More on Bellinger later, here are the game details from a perfectly gorgeous summer afternoon at Wrigley Field, no rain anywhere in sight.
After a scoreless first inning by Jameson Taillon, the Cubs got to work thanks to an error by Cardinals starter Jordan Montgomery on a ground ball hit by Ian Happ.
That was Bellinger’s 14th of the season.
Taillon breezed through the second and third innings, and the bottom of the third is where the Cubs put this game away. Patrick Wisdom started things with a walk, then stole second. One out later, Seiya Suzuki also walked and Ian Happ’s single loaded the bases for Bellinger [VIDEO].
You could tell by the expression on Bellinger’s face that he just missed hitting another home run. But the sac fly was good for a 3-0 Cubs lead. Suzuki moved up to third, where he scored on this single by Dansby Swanson [VIDEO].
Suzuki and Happ both scored on Gomes’ double to make it 6-0, and Trey Mancini then got in on the fun with an RBI double [VIDEO].
Taillon continued to breeze through the fourth and fifth innings before running out of gas and allowing four hits in the sixth. He came within one out of finishing that inning for a quality start, but it still was a very good outing, with just one run charged to him in 5⅔ innings, with six strikeouts. Over Taillon’s last three starts, he has lowered his season ERA from 6.93 to 5.75, but over those last three: 19x innings, four walks and 13 strikeouts, and four earned runs for a 1.86 ERA. If Taillon can keep that up, and the Cubs can fix what’s been wrong lately with Drew Smyly and Marcus Stroman... well then, perhaps a long winning streak could follow.
The Cubs didn’t do much offensively after the third-inning explosion, with just two hits (double by Nico Hoerner, single by Swanson) and Miguel Amaya being hit by a pitch the only baserunners. But Michael Rucker wrapped up the Cardinals sixth with only the one run, charged to Taillon. Anthony Kay allowed another run in the eighth, and Javier Assad finished things off. Here’s the final out [VIDEO].
Back to Bellinger: He is almost certainly going to be N.L. Player of the Week. Last seven games: .464/.467/.750 (13-for-28), two doubles, two home runs, nine RBI. He sure looks a lot like the guy who was N.L. MVP in 2019. He’s also got a pretty good chance of being named N.L. Player of the Month for July — so far this month: .457/.487/.771 (32-for-70) with four doubles, six home runs, 19 RBI and 17 runs scored.
Now why wouldn’t you want that on your team, especially since he just turned 28 — a year younger than Ian Happ, who the Cubs just gave a contract extension. Bellinger has significant postseason experience, plays Gold Glove defense and his offense helped win this series. Trading him now would send the wrong message to the fanbase on a number of counts, including the fact that this Cubs team doesn’t have much star power. They need that to help sell tickets and get ratings for their TV channel. And yes, that matters.
Don’t tell me that the Cubs could trade Bellinger and then sign him again in the offseason. That almost never happens. The only two players I can remember doing that in recent years were Aroldis Chapman, returning to the Yankees after the trade to the Cubs in 2016, and the Cubs trading Jason Hammel to the A’s, then re-signing him before 2015.
Make a commitment, Jed Hoyer and Tom Ricketts. This team needs guys like Bellinger, you took a chance on him this year and it’s paid off. Plus, this team is still in contention both for a division title (6½ games back) and a possible wild-card berth (5½ games behind).
It’s too early to give up on that, especially with the team playing better right now and everyone healthy (well, except for poor Nick Madrigal, who suffered another setback while on rehab assignment).
Repeat after me: “As always, we await developments.”
The Cubs will have Monday off, and can certainly use that after a long 10-game homestand. They’ll face the White Sox on the South Side in a two-game series Tuesday and Wednesday evening. Kyle Hendricks will start the series opener against Michael Kopech for the Sox. Game time Tuesday is 7:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network, and also on NBC Sports Chicago with the Sox announcers.