ST. LOUIS -- A few tweaks in the lineup, two badly timed St. Louis errors, some well-executed bunts and a monster home run by Jorge Soler in Game 2 on Saturday at Busch Stadium helped propel the Cubs to a 6-3 victory over the Cardinals and even the National League Division Series at 1-1.
Game 3 of the best-of-five series will be played Monday (6 p.m. ET on TBS) at Wrigley Field, and it will be the first postseason game there since Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS.
In the Wild Card era, when the Division Series is tied at 1-1, the winner of Game 3 has won 25 of 32 series. In the current 2-2-1 Division Series format, the road team that splits the first two games away from home has won the series 17 of 29 times.
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"You can't win a championship if you don't win on the road," said Carlos Villanueva, who threw two scoreless innings in relief for the Cardinals. "Obviously we wanted to go up there up 2-0, but in the same way they came here and won a game today, we have to go there and win a game. We'd rather have won two. At least you want to put yourself in the position that if you do have to come back here, we're playing for the [chance to advance] here at home."
Jake Arrieta, the 22-game winner who threw a shutout in the NL Wild Card Game against the Pirates on Wednesday, will square off against St. Louis' Michael Wacha in Game 3. Wrigleyville should be lively.
"We knew we had to get a win here," Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks said. "We wanted to go back to Wrigley with the chance to win both of those and put it away. With Jake on the mound in Game 3, it's huge to keep this momentum going. Hopefully, we can get them both."
On Saturday, the Cubs rallied in a somewhat unorthodox manner, scoring the first three runs in the fifth on two safety squeezes and an infield single. The Cubs did some bunting drills during the last regular-season series in Milwaukee, and they paid off. St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia made one of two errors in the second, and he was lifted after two innings due to a stomach virus. Soler, inserted in place of left-handed-hitting rookie Kyle Schwarber against the southpaw Garcia, capped the inning with a two-run home run to straightaway center.
"We've done a real nice job all season of limiting the extra bases, the extra outs," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It is hard to watch a club that's played so well defensively, see a couple things happen that are kind of uncharacteristic for us."
Hendricks served up a leadoff homer to Matt Carpenter in the first, then retired 14 of the next 15 batters he faced before Kolten Wong and pinch-hitter Randal Grichuk smacked back-to-back homers with two outs in the fifth. Hendricks gave up three homers once this season, on Sept. 17 against the Pirates.
On Sunday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said they'll have breakfast at Wrigley, enjoy optional batting practice, watch some football and prep for Monday's game. Maddon knows some Cubs fans are nervous since the team hasn't had much success in the postseason.
"Enjoy every moment of this," Maddon said. "That's the thing I think that needs to be understood. We're in a unique position right now. We have worked very hard to get here, and if you're a fan and don't enjoy this, if you're a player and don't enjoy that, then you're really not doing this properly. So from my perspective, fans, continue to worry, please. From our perspective, we have to just go and play."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Penmanship: Maddon has emphasized that the bullpens matter in the postseason, and it was evident Saturday. Trevor Cahill, who spent most of this season in the Minor Leagues, delivered in the eighth inning, striking out two of the three batters he faced. Travis Wood, who was in the Cubs' rotation at the start of the year, gave up one hit over 2 1/3 scoreless innings after Hendricks exited. More >
"Right now, because we didn't throw in the [Wild Card] Game against the Pirates and [in Game 1 on Friday], we put in our minds to try to shut out all the games," said Cubs closer Hector Rondon, who picked up the save. "Any situation we come in, we try to be simple and make an out."
Power surge: After ranking 25th in the Majors with 137 regular-season home runs, the Cardinals continued to ride the long ball in this series with three more solo homers on Saturday. Carpenter, with his sixth postseason home run, joined Lou Brock (1968 World Series) and Fernando Vina (2000 NLDS) as the only Cardinals hitters to lead off a postseason game with a homer. The back-to-back blasts hit by Wong and Grichuk were the first back-to-back homers for the Cardinals in the postseason since Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen in the 2004 NL Championship Series. More >
"He was kind of cruising for the most part," Wong said of Hendricks, who exited after the back-to-back blasts. "Getting a run there, I think, kind of shook him a little bit. Then Grichuk coming up behind me and doing what he did was good for us. We just couldn't capitalize on top of it."
Second inning: The Cubs took advantage of two errors in the second while playing a little small ball. Starlin Castro singled to lead off and was forced out at second on Austin Jackson's grounder, but Jackson advanced to second on the play due to second baseman Wong's throwing error. Miguel Montero walked, with Jackson stealing third during the at-bat. Hendricks then put down a sacrifice bunt, with Garcia fielding the ball and opting to throw to first. But his throw sailed past Brandon Moss for an error. Jackson scored on the play, with Montero going to third and Hendricks advancing to second. Montero then tallied on Russell's sacrifice bunt, and Dexter Fowler followed with an infield RBI single for a 3-1 lead. No small ball for Soler, who launched a 2-2 pitch from Garcia out to center for a 5-1 lead. More >
When was the last time Maddon called for a squeeze play on back-to-back plays? He said maybe sometime with the Rays.
"Everything has to be set up properly for that," Maddon said. "It just was. I mean that happens every so often, I guess a harvest moon, possibly, I don't know, but it's one of those things that you look for, you work towards, but it doesn't always present itself. Factors have to be present."
Waino is bueno: Following an unexpected late-season return from Achilles surgery in April, Adam Wainwright made his first postseason relief appearance since the 2006 World Series. Summoned with runners on the corners and one out in the seventh, Wainwright got an assist from his defense on two well-struck balls to strand both runners. He then struck out the side in the eighth to close an 18-pitch outing. Wainwright, who was making his 10th postseason appearance out of the bullpen, is one of just five pitchers in Major League history to pitch 11 or more innings in relief and not allow a run. More >
"My stuff is good," Wainwright said. "I should probably have located some things a little bit better. But at this point in the game, zeros are zeros, and that's really all that matters. I'll try to get even sharper next time."
"When it first happened, it was a mental mistake from my side. Initially, since it was a hard bunt, I thought to go for the double play. But that should never happen. In that situation right there, you should go home and get that out." -- Garcia, on misplaying a bunt that led to his second-inning unraveling
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Wong, with a solo homer on his 25th birthday, has had his last nine postseason hits go for extra bases. That ties a Major League record, previously reached by Miguel Cabrera and Jayson Werth. Wong had seven extra-base hits in 29 at-bats during the 2014 postseason. He also doubled in Game 1 on Friday.
The Cubs' five runs in the second were the most they've scored in one inning of a postseason game since tallying six in the first inning of Game 2 of the 1989 NLCS against the Giants.
The Cardinals announced that Garcia was removed from the game due to a stomach virus, an illness that had not been disclosed publicly before Game 2. It marked the second straight postseason start for Garcia that lasted just two innings due to an ailment. In a 2012 NLDS start against the Nationals, Garcia was pulled due to shoulder discomfort. Garcia informed the Cardinals about one hour before first pitch that he had been feeling ill for the last three days. More >
"Very, very tough call," Garcia said of notifying the team of his illness. "I've been dreaming and I've been so excited about having an opportunity to do what I did today. But sometimes stuff happens. What are you going to do? I said how I felt, but at the same time, I was going to take the mound and compete."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Cardinals used up their first challenge in the seventh inning trying to appeal for an inning-ending double play. After catching Anthony Rizzo's line drive, Carpenter raced to third base as Fowler slid back into the bag. Fowler was ruled safe, a call that was confirmed after review. All teams are given two challenges for postseason games.
Cubs: The series shifts to Wrigley Field for Game 3, and Arrieta will get his second postseason start on Monday at 4:30 p.m. or 6 ET on TBS. Arrieta is coming off a shutout against the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game. He was 2-1 with a 2.42 ERA in four starts this season against the Cardinals.
Cardinals: Wacha, whose last postseason pitch was crushed by Travis Ishikawa to advance the Giants to the World Series and send St. Louis home, will start Game 3 for the Cardinals. He will be pitching on 11 days' rest after ending the season with a 7.88 September ERA. He finished more than five innings in just one of those five starts.