Cubs record: 73-43, 1st NL Central, (12.0 games up)
W: Matt Bowman
L: Hector Rondon
S: Oh (11)
MVP: John Lackey
The Cubs closed out their four-game series with the Cardinals with a loss on Sunday night.
It was another night of “You go, we go” as Dexter Fowler lead off with a walk against Mike Leake in the bottom of the first. Kris Bryant advanced him with a single and Anthony Rizzo knocked him in with one of his own and the Cubs took a 1-0 lead. Ben Zobrist helped add more with a sacrifice fly to make it two runs in the 1st.
John Lackey took the mound for the Cubs and he was fantastic, shutting down St. Louis and getting out of jams in several instances. With base runners in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th innings, he would only yield one unearned run when Greg Garcia scored on a Ben Zobrist throwing error in the top of the 3rd. Other than that, Lackey allowed no other runs and put the Cubs in a great position to win the game. With two outs in the top of the 7th and two strikes on Randal Grichuk, Lackey had to come out of the game with an apparent injury. More on that later.
After the barrage in the first inning, the Cubs didn’t have another baserunner until the bottom of the 6th when Kris Bryant hit his first triple of the year with one out and Rizzo singled him home. In the bottom of the 7th, the Cubs loaded the bases with no outs, but couldn’t push the lead past 3-1.
In the bottom of the 8th, it was “Welcome back, Hector Rondon! I’ll be perfectly blunt: he was rusty. Pitching for the first time since August 2, Rondon gave up a leadoff single that got past Addison Russell and then Greg Garcia bunted for a single. Stephen Piscotty cleared the bases with a three-run, go-ahead bomb and Brandon Moss added another one with an opposite-field dinger that ended Rondon’s night.
Travis Wood came in and it was more of the same as the Cardinals plated another run, batting around in the inning and taking a decisive 6-3 lead.
The Cubs tried to make it interesting when Rizzo hit his first home run since July 20 to lead off the bottom of the 8th. Javy Baez singled with two outs, but Jason Heyward couldn’t get it done and he flew out to end the inning.
Aroldis Chapman went 1-2-3 in the top of the 9th, but the Cubs did the same in the bottom of the inning and it was over.
I think it’s safe to say that Lackey is finding his groove again as he put together great back-to-back starts, only allowing one earned run in each. It’s a welcome sight. With Lackey’s age, any regression could be “the end,” so his stretch of bad starts was more concerning to me, personally, than the other guys. However, it appears to have just been an aberration and Lackey is a guy who the Cubs should be able to trust moving forward.
Lackey was one strike away from ending his night with seven innings pitched, but he experienced some kind of discomfort and had to leave the game. Justin Grimm immediately struck Grichuk on one pitch, so there weren’t really any game implications. If Lackey is seriously hurt, though, the Cubs rotation could be in trouble. For what it’s worth, Lackey was arguing to stay in the game, so it might be nothing to worry about. Still, keep an eye on an update from the team tonight or tomorrow.
Oh, Hector, Hector, Hector. It’s hard to throw a lot of shade when he hasn’t pitched in almost two weeks, but Rondon was leaving pitches up in the zone and just didn’t have his best stuff tonight. Hopefully this was a one-off instance of him shaking off that rust from his downtime, otherwise the Cubs bullpen will be in serious trouble if he can’t pull it together.
The Cubs are off on Monday and will presumably spend the day preparing to get their teeth kicked in by former teammate Matt Garza on Tuesday afternoon at 12:20pm CT in the first game of a day-night doubleheader with the Brewers. Trevor Cahill will take the bump for the Cubs in his first start for the team this season and he will look to build upon his 3.07 ERA. Ernie will be watching in spirit — let’s play two!