October 14, 2015

Cardinals hopes to reach NLCS dashed by surging Cubs

CHICAGO--WRIGLEY FIELD--The Chicago Cubs forced a power shift if the baseball world Tuesday night by longballing the St. Louis Cardinals right out of the NLDS, taking the game 8-6 and the series, 3-1.

Again the Cubs went yard multiple times, in this clincher, thrice to the tune of five runs worth of production, the exact amount needed to best the Cards' four.

St. Louis jumped to an early lead off the hot bat of rookie, Stephen Piscotty, who lashed a two-run homer on the fourth pitch of the game, Matt Carpenter scoring ahead of him.

The Cubs, who normally answer all the Cardinals' scoring in their very next at-bats, waited an inning this time, when in the bottom of the second inning with two outs, Cubs' starter Jason Hammel (no decision) singled to center field off of Cardinals' starter, John Lackey (no decision) for an RBI and halving the St. Louis lead at 2-1.

Lackey, a bit upset over giving up a single to an opposing pitcher, lost focus and served up a three-run homer to Cubs' shortstop, Javier Baez, who may have found the only way to make up his miscues defensively since replacing injured starter Addison Russell. Baez's blast doubled the Cards score, the Cubs lead now 4-2.

The Cardinals battled back in the sixth inning when Tony Cruz poked an RBI double down the right field line. Pinch-hitter, Brandon Moss then delivered an RBI single to right field, the Cards tying it up at 4-apiece. On the same play, however, Cruz was sent around third to home by Cardinals' third base coach, Jose Oquendo, Cruz getting gunned down and close play.

For a fleeting moment, it appeared as if St. Louis reliever, Kevin Siegrist would prevent the Cubs from their usual immediate answer of scoring, but with two out, Siegrist threw a mistake pitch to Anthony Rizzo on an 0-2 count, meant as a waste to the outside, off the plate to see if Rizzo would chase. The pitch, however, caught far too much of the plate and Rizzo blasted it over the right field wall to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead.

The next inning, Kyle Schwarber bombed a solo shot over 400 feet to right field for an insurance run, making it 6-0.

From that point on it was the Wrigley Field crowd taking over with intense volume, a hunger for victory that goes back about six generations, decade after decade of failure, more than a century's worth.

Of course, the NLDS does not propel a team into the World Series, and getting there breaks the drought.

Whether or not the curse of the goat is truly broken depends on whether the Cubs can make their way through the NLCS against either the New York Mets or Los Angeles Dodgers (their series tied at 2-apiece). Game #5 of that NLDS plays Thursday night in L.A.