Cubs stay loose, even series at 1
st. louis— Theburdenof history and the desperation of the present may have unsettled a fan or two Saturday afternoon on the North Side of Chicago. The pressure of 1908 and the ruggedness of the St. Louis Cardinals may have impelled them to guzzle Old Styles less for the buzz than to quell nerves. The Cubs always lose this time of year, the Cardinals always win, and it was happening again. “It’s always the prerogative of a fan to worry,” CubsManager JoeMaddon said. “I absolutely believe in that. That’s what bar rooms are for.”
That is not, according to Maddon’s doctrine, what clubhouses are for. Maybe a different vintage of Cubs would tighten. Not this version. “I don’t vibrate at that frequency,” Maddon said. And so the Cubs arrived Saturday afternoon at Busch Stadium and discovered Maddon had made batting practice optional. Pregame, the sun-splashed diamond remained void of Cubs hitters. Any swings happened in the cage
Mets at Dodgers, Game 2
Last night, late
Royals at Astros, Game 3
Today, 4:10 p.m., MLB Network
Blue Jays at Rangers, Game 3
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down the tunnel from the dugout. Batting practice when you’re two losses from winter? Let someone else worry.
Taking aim at a 107-year-old droughtrequires audacity, andthe Cubs showed some in their 6-3 victory in Game 2 of the National League Division Series. The rivals are now even in the series at 1 and remain starkly different in approach. Three hours before the first pitch, Cardinals players trickled from the first base dugout and lined up at infield positions for orderly groundball practice. Their devotion to preparation could not account for a pitcher standing flatfooted in the infield grass and throwing their opponent back into the series.
The Cardinals’ vaunted fundamentals disintegrated Saturday afternoon in the second inning, when starting pitcher JaimeGarcia botched a sacrifice bunt roughly 16 different ways and the Cubs scored three times on plays that did not include a ball exiting the infield. They added another pair of runson Jorge Soler’s mammoth two-run homer off Garcia, one of four times Soler reached afte rMaddon inserted him in right field for Kyle Schwarber. The blast provided a large enough cushion for the Cubs to withstand the three solo home runs the Cardinals smashed off starter Kyle Hendricks.
The series will restart Monday at Wrigley Field, whose ivied walls will make their first postseason appearance since 2008. The Cubs now possess both home-field advantage and the right arm of Game 3 starter Jake Arrieta, who has gone 12-0 with a 0.39 ERA in his last 13 starts, including the shut out he tossed in the wild-card playin game. The Cardinals, meanwhile, used Game 4 starter Lance Lynn for aninning after Garcial eft after two innings with a stomach virus. Counting out the Cardinals in October is folly, but they are now climbing uphill.
They can blame only their own stunning sloppiness. Matt Carpenter staked them to an immediate lead with a leadoff home run, giving the Cubs a deficit to confront next to the fresh memories of getting shut out in Game 1. And then in the second, all hell broke loose.
Starlin Castro led off the inning with a single up the middle, a standard enough start. Austin Jackson rolled a potential double play to shortstop, but second baseman Kolten Wong lost his grip on the ball and tossed it into the dugout, pushing Jackson to second. Jackson would steal third base off Yadier Molina, and when Miguel Montero walked to put runners on the corners with one out, it seemed an inoppor tune moment for Maddon to have batted his pitcher eighth.
Trying to make the best of a bad situation, Kendricks deadened a bunt toward first base. Garcia scampered to field it. Jackson bolted home, seemingly a case of ill-advised aggression. Garcia couldhave flipped the ball home in plenty of time. Instead, he spun toward first. Realizing his mistake too late, Garcia twisted and glanced at Jackson crossing the plate.
Having corkscrewed his feet in an awkward position, Garcia turned back toward first and flung the ball with a stilted whip of his arm. The ball bounded into foul territory and deflected into shallow right field. The Cardinals had gifted the Cubs both a run and a rally.
With runners on second and third, sensing apprehension, Maddon remained aggressive. Addison Russell followed with another bunt, a perfect squeeze up the first base line that plated Montero and gave the Cubs their first lead of the series. Dexter Fowler’s chopper over the mound added another run.
The Cubs had scored three runs without hitting a ball into the outfield, andthen Solerdamnnear hit one off the Arch. He clobbered a hanging slider over the center field fence. Themassivegold chain around his neck bounced as he trotted around the bases.
The Cardinals tend not to don jewelry that resembles a bronzed fan belt, a superficial statement about their approach. Because the Cubs have a different style does not mean it can’t work for them, and Saturday their looseness delivered a victory. The Cardinals quaked. The Cubs rolled. When they get to Chicago, a party seven years in the making will be on. So will the series.
St. Louis center fielder JasonHeyward can only watch as Jorge Soler’s two-run homer lands out of his reach to cap Chicago’s five-run second.
MiguelMontero drives home the Cubs’ final run with a groundout in the third inning. All five Chicago runs in the second were unearned.