2 pitches, 2 HRs: Cards stun Kimbrel, Cubs
CHICAGO -- For every moment the Cubs capitalized on Saturday afternoon, the Cardinals answered back. Until there weren’t any more moments left, because the Cardinals had answered them all.
Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong hit back-to-back home runs on the first pitches they saw from Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel, tying the game and taking the lead in their eventual 9-8 win Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
And Cardinals closer Carlos Martínez -- pitching for the fourth straight day -- shut the Cubs down after issuing a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth. His final pitch to Javier Báez, pinch-hitting with a fracture in his hand, reached 99 mph and left Báez swinging hard.
Those swings assured the Cardinals a series win in Chicago and pushed St. Louis closer to October -- while pushing the Cubs further from it.
“Winning every moment, picking each other up,” DeJong said. “There were times where we could have mailed it in, but we just kept pushing. We’re at the point in the year where we smell blood. We’re trying to take what’s ours and trying to control our own destiny.”
The Cardinals’ fate rest firmly in their hands. They maintained their three-game lead in the National League Central over Milwaukee. The Cubs, meanwhile, dropped to six games back in the division and three games behind the Brewers for the second Wild Card spot.
With a win on Sunday, the Cardinals can clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2015.
“This group is very sincere about growth,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “Continuing to be the best at getting better every day. Getting better as the game goes, the series goes, the season goes.”
Saturday’s win was the first time since June 20-22, 2016, that the Cardinals won three straight games at Wrigley Field. It was also the first game since Aug. 8, 2000, in which a team hit the home runs off the first two pitches in the ninth inning to tie the game and take the lead. That day, the Yankees did it against the A’s to notch a walk-off win.
“We don’t give up,” Molina said. “Today was a perfect example that we’re never going to give up. We battled back facing a good team. We believe in ourselves. We showed that tonight.”
A windy day at Wrigley Field led to a back-and-forth game that the Cardinals fought through. They came back from four deficits before shutting the Cubs down to end it.
First inning: The Cardinals jumped out to a one-run lead, but the Cubs scored three in the first due to Dakota Hudson walking four consecutive batters.
Fourth inning: Down 3-2, Rangel Ravelo pinch-hit for Hudson and knocked a game-tying single up the middle. Dexter Fowler followed with a two-run single to give the Cardinals a 5-3 lead.
But when the Cardinals turned to the bullpen in the bottom of the inning, Dominic Leone surrendered a two-run, pinch-hit home run Ian Happ, tying the game at 5-all.
Sixth inning: Cubs second baseman Nico Hoerner broke the tie with a solo home run off Ryan Helsley to make it 6-5.
Seventh inning: Marcell Ozuna golfed a two-run home run off Kyle Ryan for the lead, who threw a curveball 1.02 feet off the ground. It was the lowest pitch that a Cardinals hitter took deep since Statcast began tracking in 2015. Only four homers in the Majors this year were hit on lower pitches.
But in the bottom of the frame, Tony Kemp was called back into the batter’s box after Giovanny Gallegos was called for a balk. On the next pitch, Kemp hit a two-run home run to give the Cubs the lead once again.
Ninth inning: Molina and DeJong went back-to-back to give the Cardinals a one-run lead and Martínez locked down the save.
“I’ve been playing in this ballpark for a long time, so I’ve got a good idea of when the ball is flying out,” Molina said. “Today was one of those days. As soon as you put the ball in the air, something is going to happen. I told the guys today, ‘Hey, just keep fighting. Anything can happen.’ It was fun.”