Cardinals solve Wrigley again
The St. Louis Cardinals have a lot to accomplish if they want to return to Chicago in two weeks for a rematch of last year’s NL Division Series. They would have to qualify for one of the wild-card spots, then win the single-elimination playoff game.
If they do, the Cardinals may be the one club that won’t be fazed by Wrigley Field and the Cubs.
Yadier Molina drove in four runs, Stephen Piscotty homered and the Cardinals boosted their playoff hopes by getting to Jason Hammel early in a 10-4 rout of Chicago on Saturday.
Randal Grichuk added three RBIs and Jhonny Peralta had three hits and scored three runs for the Cardinals, who stopped a twogame skid and moved into a tie with San Francisco for the final NL wild-card spot pending the Giants’ game at San Diego.
“It’s been a difficult year for us, up and down, but we got a good win and a lot of base hits,” said Molina, who extended his hitting streak to 10 games. “Hopefully, we can continue it.”
Hammel (15-10) allowed six runs and six hits while getting just seven outs, hurting his bid for a postseason rotation spot. A day after clinching the NL’s best record, the Cubs were denied their 99th win and a record 57th at Wrigley Field.
Dexter Fowler finished a home run shy of the cycle, Ben Zobrist had a two-run triple and Willson Contreras homered in the ninth for the Cubs, who are 3-6 at home against St. Louis and 53-17 against other teams.
“They’re obviously the best team in the league,” Molina said. “We respect that. But at the same time we come here thinking about winning.”
Alex Reyes (4-1) needed 115 pitches to get through five innings. But the rookie settled down after a tough start and allowed three runs and six hits with six strikeouts.
Hours after Friday’s win, the Cubs clinched home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs when Washington lost to Pittsburgh. Manager Joe Maddon was watching on TV and declared it “another checkmark” for their season.
They remained two wins shy of another goal — 100 wins — thanks to Hammel’s struggles.
The right-hander’s solid previous outing renewed talk he could supplant John Lackey as the No. 4 playoff starter. But Hammel saw his ERA rise from 3.56 to 3.83 after Maddon’s early hook.
Molina had a two-run double and Grichuk a tworun single in the first. An inning later, Piscotty crushed Hammel’s slider 450 feet onto Waveland Avenue for a solo homer. Hammel was lifted after giving up two more hits in the third.
Molina added a two-run single for his third hit in a three-run seventh against Hector Rondon. Piscotty’s third hit in the eighth off Rob Zastryzny scored another run.
Reyes had his 11 1/3-inning scoreless streak snapped in Chicago’s tworun first, and Fowler’s RBI double an inning later made it 5-3. But Reyes allowed just two hits over his final three innings.
“When you have 71 pitches after three (innings), you typically got a lot more on you than the three runs they had,” Cardinals manager Mike Mathney said. “He just did a nice job of managing the innings.”
Maddon cleared his bench in the late innings as Chicago’s four-game winning streak ended. The Cubs fell to 9-9 against St. Louis.
“They would be very tough,” Maddon said of a potential playoff matchup. “They’re very good offensively. They can match up out of the bullpen. They do a lot of things.”