September 9, 2015

Cubs threaten to sweep Cards after second win, cut Central lead some more

ST. LOUIS--BUSCH STADIUM--Chicago's Northsiders took game two of a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals last night in convincing fashion, with maybe a bit of a scare in the later innings.

Cardinals' starter Michael Wacha (15-5) could not put the breaks on the Cubs, who chased him after four innings, tallying a half-dozen hits and runs (all earned), including five plate-crossings courtesy of the long ball.

Chicago jumped on Wacha in the first inning, which is becoming a problem for St. Louis, not just Wacha, but early inning rallies in general. Anthony Rizzo lined one over the center field wall in the top of the first, a two-run shot, for a quick 2-0 lead.

The Cubs made it 3-0 in the second inning when Jason Hammel singled home Javier Baez. Starlin Castro capped off the crooked number with a shot over the wall in left-center field, bringing home Hammel and Austin Jackson, extending Chicago's early lead to 6-0.

Castro had another RBI in his bat, however, making it 7-0 in the top of the seventh when he doubled home Austin Jackson. Continuing the seventh inning rally, Rizzo singled home Castro to give the Cubs an 8-0 cushion.

Cubs' starter, Jason Hammel (8-6), would need the eight-run lead.

St. Louis put on a seventh inning rally that touched up Hammel for three earned runs. Hammel would finish his pitching duties with six innings or credit, allowing four hits, the three runs, walking four and striking out six.

Recently returning Randal Grichuk lit up Hammel for a two-run bomb to left field that got the Cardinals on the scoreboard, but still down five runs.

Chicago's Justin Grimm and Clayton Richard pitched an out each in relief, making way, in turn, for Pedro Strop.

Stephen Piscotty made things interesting for Cardinals' fans when he singled to center field, bringing home teammates Mark Reynolds and Jon Jay, cutting the Cubs lead in half, now at 8-4.

Cards' backup catcher, Tony Cruz, who had scored earlier in the seventh on the Grichuk homer, lined a single to left field, scoring Tommy Pham, bringing St. Louis within three runs before the rally finally stalled.

Cubs' relievers would shut down St. Louis from there, Francisco Rodney earning his eighth hold for his work in the eighth inning.

Chicago closer, Hector Rondon mopped up in the ninth to earn his 27th save.

The Cardinals attempt to bust up a series sweep for Chicago, as well as snap their three-game losing streak, today at Busch Stadium, before heading to Cincinnati for a three-game set with the Reds, then to Milwaukee for a four-gamer versus the Brewers.

The Cubs have pulled within six and a half games of the N. L. Central Division leading Cardinals, with Pittsburgh sandwiched between just four and a half games back.