Cubs Record: 10-3 (1st Place NL Central)
W: John Lackey (3-0, 3.66)
L: Mike Leake (0-2, 5.71)
MVP: John Lackey: 7 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 11 K
So the Cubs were back at the horror factory known as Busch Stadium for the first time since winning Game 2 of the NLDS. As you may be aware, the Cubs knocked the Redbirds out of the playoffs last season. Then the North Siders swiped both John Lackey and Jason Heyward from the Lou in free agency. As expected, Heyward got a cascade of boos all night. Lackey seemed to take less heat but got a smattering of his own boos. Both Lackey and Cards starter, noted Cub-killer Mike Leake, dominated the early innings of the game. The Cubs finally broke through with a solo shot from Dexter Fowler in the sixth, then tacked on three more in the 7th after a Cardinal error and a series of base hits. Finally, the Cubs added another run on a Kris Bryant hit in the 8th. Travis Wood, Pedro Strop, and Trevor Cahill finished up the 5-0 Cubs victory.
John Lackey was dominant tonight against his old team, throwing seven shutout innings and allowing only five runners. Each start has gotten progressively better than the one before it. Tonight’s line was sparkling: 7 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 11 K. The only jam he faced was in the fifth with runners on 2nd and 3rd and only one out. He struck out Leake, who’s a good hitter for a pitcher, and then super-annoying Matt Carpenter to escape the inning.
Dexter Fowler was the offensive star for the Cubs tonight, going 2-for-5 with a double and a home run and several other hard-hit balls. Dex also had a couple of nice running catches, including the final out of the game. When Fowler came back to the Cubs I was happy but I never expected this. He has been the Cubs’ best hitter so far this season and continues to play very solid defense.
Jason Heyward was 0-for-4 from the plate in his return to St. Louis, but his defense deserves a shout out. Heyward made two great diving catches in tonight’s game, the first of which in the first brought on a chorus of ill will in the 1st inning. It’s gotten to the point with Heyward that these catches seem routine, though that is definitely not the case. He also hit a couple of hard shots right at Cardinals defenders or it would have been an even better comeback game for him.
Cubs fans know the term Best Fans in Baseball as more of a term of derision than a complement. Tonight Cardinals fans did not disappoint those who make fun of their media-driven praise. They booed Heyward heavily on his return, but I thought they were too classy for that sort of thing. They even booed him after his incredible catches, but I thought they always applauded great plays by the other team. Finally, they left the game in droves when the Cubs went up big. I thought they all stuck it out to the bitter end. The fact is that the BFIB are just like every other team’s fans. Despite what ESPN and others may tell you, they are no better or worse. Glad tonight helped prove that to a national audience.
In the fifth inning of today’s game, the Cardinals attempted a suicide squeeze with Leake. The pitcher missed the bunt but Kolten Wong was able to escape a very badly executed rundown and make it back to third. Luckily Lackey was able to escape the inning with no damage done, but I’m sure Kris Bryant and Miguel Montero want that one back.
Jason Hammel (1-0, 0.75) looks to continue his hot start against former flu victim Jamie Garcia (1-0, 2.40) on Tuesday night. Same time, hopefully same result as tonight’s game. It always feels good to pick up a W in St. Louis.