September 20, 2015

Cubs smell a Windy City sweep after holding off Cardinals last inning rally

CHICAGO--WRIGLEY FIELD--A ninth inning rally by the St. Louis Cardinals was not enough to overcome the pennant fever of the Chicago Cubs, the Northsiders holding on for a 5-4 win in the Windy City.

Trevor Cahill (1-3) claimed the win after replacing Cubs' starter Travis Wood's early exit (2 2/3 innings). Wood had pitched in relief a couple days earlier, but Chicago manager had decided to start him anyway.

Cahill pitched 3 1/3 innings, which usually isn't enough for a pitching win, however, his contribution amounted to more innings worked than any of the eight pitchers Maddon called upon over the course of the game.

A tight strike zone, which plagued the Cardinals' previous game starter, Lance Lynn, seemed to hinder what otherwise appeared to be a strong performance by Saturday's losing pitcher, Michael Wacha (16-6). Once the outside black of the plate and knee-level pitches weren't called, Wacha eventually had to throw more up and over the heart, leading to some early offense for the Cubs.

The St. Louis offense, on the other hand, looked flat, contributing to a low-level performance by the MLB's most successful team to date.

To the Cubs' credit, they took care of business, taking full advantage of any perceived umpiring shortfalls and club possibly losing focus due to the fact they are on the cusp of locking up a playoff berth.

A home run in the ninth inning, a two-run shot by Matt Carpenter, and an RBI single by Yadier Molina, may have set a better tone for St. Louis despite the loss, to take into today's series' finale. 

For the Cardinals the afternoon ended with a second loss in as many days to one of the hottest teams in baseball and the knowledge that the San Francisco Giants lost to help St. Louis secure the playoff spot.

The N.L. Central standings now tighten even more, the Cardinals' division lead withering to a four-game lead over the Pirates and five-game lead over the Cubs. The Cubs do have the Pirates in their sights, only one game behind the Wild Card claim.

The Cardinals and Cubs complete their series at Wrigley Field today, the Cubs going for a sweep that would give them all available momentum. The Cardinals will struggle to avoid the sweep and get some type of foothold from which to maintain their MLB best record, which would in turn give them home field advantage throughout the NLCS.