CHICAGO -- Welcome home, Jose Quintana. Kyle Schwarber smacked a game-tying solo home run and Willson Contreras hit a tiebreaking two-run shot to back Quintana in his Cubs home debut, posting a 5-3 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday night to move the Cubs into a tie for first place
CHICAGO -- Welcome home, Jose Quintana. Kyle Schwarber smacked a game-tying solo home run and Willson Contreras hit a tiebreaking two-run shot to back Quintana in his Cubs home debut, posting a 5-3 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday night to move the Cubs into a tie for first place in the National League Central.
"We haven't had a run [until now]," manager Joe Maddon said of the Cubs, who are five games over .500 for the first time this year. "We've not run at all in the first half, we've been walking the whole first half. We finally get on a little bit of a mini-run now, and that coincides with the other team not doing as well. Bully for us."
The Cubs now have won eight of their nine games since the All-Star break, and the main reason has been the pitching with the starters combining for a 2.41 ERA and seven quality starts in that stretch. It's the first time the defending World Series champs have been in first since June 6.
The Cardinals finished their 10-game road trip with four wins despite leading in nine of the games. They now sit 4 1/2 games back in the division.
"We're putting up some good, good games against some good teams," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It's just that something is not letting us finish it, one way or another, whether it's enough offense or enough pitching and defense. But there's enough to be seen that the rest of this league knows that this team is for real. We are just missing that one good run of things falling into place."
Making his first start at Wrigley since he was acquired from the White Sox on July 13, Quintana struck out seven over six innings and scattered five hits, including home runs by Randal Grichuk and Paul DeJong. Quintana, who warmed up to music from his native Colombia, admitted he was a little excited about his first home game for the Cubs. Maddon saw that -- and that the left-hander was able to regain his composure quickly.
"I thought he was too quick with all of his actions and the pitches weren't going where he wanted them to," Maddon said of Quintana's early innings. "He wasn't as sharp as he was in Baltimore [when he struck out 12 over seven innings] but he was good. That's who he is -- he's so good in his delivery."
Said Contreras: "He's really good, especially when he has that conviction with every single pitch."
Grichuk hit his third home run in as many games in the second inning, a two-run shot, but the Cubs tied the game in the third when Jason Heyward hit an RBI double and scored on Kristopher Bryant's RBI single. The two teams then exchanged home runs as DeJong connected with two outs in the St. Louis fourth and Schwarber tied it at 3 with a 400-foot shot to right with one out in the Chicago half.
Grichuk and DeJong combined to go 9-for-23 with nine RBIs and seven runs in the series.
"Those guys are putting together really tough at-bats and coming up big for us, especially at a time when we need them the most," Matt Carpenter said. "We have some guys that aren't afraid of big games, aren't afraid of coming here and playing the Cubs at Wrigley Field and putting together tough at-bats against some really good pitching."
Bryant doubled to lead off the sixth and Contreras followed with his 15th home run. All of the runs came off Michael Wacha, and the homers by Schwarber and Contreras were the first by a 3-4-5 hitter against the right-hander this season.
"There's a big difference since the first half," Contreras said of the Cubs' vibe. "I think the All-Star break, we reset our minds and now we come to the clubhouse with high energy and high expectations. Now we want to win every single game."
Wade Davis pitched the ninth for his 20th save in as many chances.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Glovework: The Cubs defense got off to a shaky start in the Cardinals' first when Matt Carpenter reached on an error by second baseman Javier Baez, who couldn't get his glove on the ball. Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, then robbed Tommy Pham of a potential extra-base hit with a leaping one-handed catch at the warning track in right field. One out later, Jedd Gyorko lined a double to left and Carpenter tried to score but was out at the plate on a perfect 7-6-2 relay. The Cardinals now have had a runner thrown out at home 14 times this year, fifth most among Major League teams.
"You have an opportunity with two outs to try and make something happen," Matheny said. "They had to have a perfect relay, which they did, and a great throw home."
Backstop: Contreras stymied the Cardinals again in the second. The Cardinals had take a 2-0 lead on Grichuk's homer and had a runner at first. Wacha bunted but Contreras threw to second, starting a 2-6-4 double play to end the inning. His throw to second was clocked at 89 mph, the hardest tracked throw by a catcher this year, according to Statcast™.
"I tried to throw quick, more than throw hard," Contreras said. "The ball was literally right in front of me. I never had a doubt of throwing to second base."
"Today I said I was going to play in honor of my country. We've been having a tough time and I just wanted to do the best for Venezuela. We're here, but our minds after the game go back to Venezuela and our families. ... We have to be able to grow up in a country where you can think of your future and your son's [future] and your kids, and that's something we don't have right now. That's it. I was playing for my country today." -- Contreras, who wore Venezuelan flag sleeves on both arms for the first time Sunday night, and kissed his forearms after his homer
"Everything is feeling good. Stuff wasn't quite where I wanted it to be, but good enough to perform better than I did." -- Wacha, on bouncing back after throwing a career-high 119 pitches in his previous start
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Contreras' blast was his 15th, and the Cubs now have four players with 15 or more home runs this season. Entering Sunday, only the Orioles, Reds and Nationals had at least four players with 15 home runs each.
Luke Voit replaced Carpenter at first base in the middle of the second after Carpenter had to be removed from the game due to right quadriceps tightness. Carpenter said the issue likely stemmed from his run around the bases in the first inning, but he's optimistic he'll be back on the field Monday. More >>
Cardinals: The Cardinals will close out the month of July with a seven-game homestand that begins with the first of three games against the Rockies on Monday. First pitch is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. CT. Mike Leake, who is 1-6 with a 5.04 ERA over his last 10 appearances, is slated to start against Colorado's Antonio Senzatela. Preview >>
Cubs:Kyle Hendricks will open the Cubs' Interleague series on Monday against the crosstown White Sox. The right-hander has been sidelined with inflammation in his right hand and will be making his first start since June 4. First pitch was scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT from Wrigley Field. Preview >>
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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.