After losing six straight, a successful sweep at Wrigley (and over a rival like the St. Louis Cardinals, no less) was exactly what the defending champs needed. This was the first time that the Cubs swept the Cardinals at Wrigley Field since 2006.
But, of course, nothing ever comes easy to a struggling team. Though they ended the weekend with three wins, the Cubs only led for a grand total of six innings.
They trailed in all three games, yet found a way to win all three, finding some truth in the words engraved within their 2016 championship rings : “We Never Quit.”
Dexter Fowler followed his ceremonial return with a lead-off blast into the right field bleachers to put the Cardinals ahead in the opening game. Cards’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz singled the next inning, advanced to second on a wild pitch by John Lackey, and then scored on an RBI single by Magneuris Sierra. That was all the Cubs pitching staff would allow.
Kris Bryant got the Cubs on the board in the third inning with a two-out solo shot that just snuck over the fence. Then, in the sixth inning, with two men on and one out, Jason Heyward skied a deep fly ball to right center field. Right fielder Stephen Piscotty couldn’t find the ball in the sun, and it landed a few feet away from him on the warning track. Anthony Rizzo scored from second and the Cubbies had tied the game.
The Cardinals’ defense hindered them again in the bottom of the eighth, when Rizzo lined a rocket into left field, hit hard but also close enough to Sierra that he should’ve made the catch easily. He took an extremely inefficient route and Rizzo’s liner found its way over his extended glove. Rizzo took third on Ben Zobrist‘s groundout and scored on Heyward’s sac fly to deep center, giving the Cubs a lead they would not relinquish.
Wade Davis converted his eleventh consecutive save opportunity to start the season, and the Cubs put an end to their losing streak.
Javy Baez, starting at short, homered to lead off the third inning, but that was all the offense that the Cubs could muster until the seventh inning.
Having one hit in his last 24 at-bats, Schwarber had been dropped to the ninth spot in the batting order. He had struck out and grounded out earlier in the game. But this time, he got a pitch that he liked from Mike Leake, and slammed it into the left-center stands. The Cubs took a 5-3 lead from Schwarber’s grand slam, and never looked back en route to clinching the series win.
The Cubs finally saw themselves in front first when Ian Happ barely snuck a home run around the foul pole in deep right. The top prospect was 4-for-12 this series, snapping an 0-for-12 finish to the month of May.
This excitement was short-lived, however, as the very next inning saw Stephen Piscotty clobber a three-run homer. Hendricks couldn’t stop the bleeding, and allowed a few more hits, surrendering another run on Paul DeJong‘s RBI single up the middle.
But then, in the bottom half of the fourth, the Cubs responded. With two outs and runners on first and second, Maddon ended Hendricks’s night and pinch hit Albert Almora for him. Almora came through in the clutch, driving a liner into right and scoring one. Stephen Piscotty, however, failed to make yet another routine play, allowing the ball to roll under his glove. Almora made it to third and two runs scored.
Schwarber then walked, setting up Happ for his second home run of the day, this one adding three runs to the Cubs’ total.
Hendricks’s early exit required five innings of extra work from the bullpen. Justin Grimm had a solid fifth, but Hector Rondon‘s inning was a different story; the Cardinals immediately put traffic on the bases with a single and a walk. Both base-runners advanced on a wild pitch from Rondon, and both then scored on an RBI groundout from Paul DeJong and a double from Aledmys Diaz, tying the game and putting the go-ahead run in scoring position.
Pedro Strop saved Rondon’s nightmarish outing by getting out of the sixth and instigating three straight groundouts for a clean seventh. With two outs in the bottom half of the same inning and two men on, the Cubs — yet again — received a clutch performance, this time from pinch-hitter extraordinaire Jon Jay, who singled home Anthony Rizzo to put the Cubs ahead 7-6. Koji Uehara got the save, giving Wade Davis a day of rest, and the sweep was complete.
Eddie Butler will be on the mound tonight at 7:05 as the Cubs welcome the 24-31 Miami Marlins in for a three game set at Wrigley.