Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Game of the Day (9/23/14)

Cubs 4, Cardinals 3 (10). A couple of promising youngsters started this one, with Chicago's Kyle Hendricks facing St. Louis's Shelby Miller.

Hendricks allowed a Matt Carpenter single in the top of the first, but erased him on a double play; Anthony Rizzo also singled in the bottom of the inning, but Miller struck out the other three Cubs he faced. Hendricks was perfect in the top of the second, and the Cubs took the game's first lead when Luis Valbuena walked and Welington Castillo hit a two-run homer.

Randal Grichuk led off the third with a double, and made it to third base before being left there. In the bottom of the third, Rizzo once again hit a two-out single that was wasted by the strikeouts of three of his teammates. Neither starter allowed a baserunner in the fourth, and Hendricks kept them clear in the fifth as well. Chicago then added a run to its lead when Matt Szczur homered. A Hendricks single and a Javier Baez walk chased Miller from the mound, and Tyler Lyons relieved and retired the next two hitters, stranding the runners.

The Cardinals rallied in the top of the sixth. Oscar Taveras and Carpenter opened the inning with singles, and Taveras made it to third when Arismendy Alcantara misplayed Carpenter's hit. Jon Jay followed with an RBI groundout, and Matt Holliday tied the game with a two-run homer. Justin Grimm replaced Hendricks and yielded singles to Matt Adams and Yadier Molina, but recovered to leave them both on.

Seth Maness worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth. Neil Ramirez worked around a Carpenter single in the seventh, and Maness gave up a pinch single to Ryan Kalish and nothing else in the bottom of the inning. Holliday led off the eighth with a double against Pedro Strop, and moved to third on a one-out wild pitch, but a strikeout and a groundout left him there. Jorge Soler hit a one-out double against Carmelo Martinez in the bottom of the inning, but after Valbuena was intentionally walked, Martinez got through the next two hitters to end the threat.

Hector Rondon and Pat Neshek swapped spotless ninths to send the game to extras, and Zac Rosscup set the Cards down in order in the top of the tenth. Neshek remained in the game for the bottom of the inning and allowed a one-out double to Rizzo. A groundout moved the runner to third; Valbuena was then intentionally walked and took second on defensive indifference, and Castillo singled to bring Rizzo home with the game winner.

There are a few ways to look at this game. You can call it a preview of NL Central matchups to come, given that it started with two pitchers who will probably see each other again. You can examine the performance of the young players (Alcantara and Baez combined on an 0 for 9 with 7 strikeouts). You can always just look for unusual stuff (Szczur hit his second career homer, Hendricks had his third big league hit, and Baez took a walk).

Or you can simply say that a pretty mediocre Cubs team beat the first-place Cardinals, dropping them to within a game of the hard-charging Pirates in the division race. And if you're a Cubs fan, you can enjoy that a little.

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