The Cubs teed off on St. Louis’ rookie left-hander in his third career start.
The Cardinals were riding high after a three-game sweep of San Diego, but three early Cub homers stunted St. Louis’ momentum in a clunky 7-5 loss to Chicago.
A Willson Contreras two-run homer gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead before Liberatore could even record an out, and St. Louis battled to catch up the rest of the evening. The rookie southpaw didn’t have a put-away pitch, striking out just one Cub over 3.1 innings while simultaneously giving up a trio of bombs and walking three at Wrigley Field.
Paul Goldschmidt extended his hitting streak, Harrison Bader hit his fifth homer, and Brendan Donovan continued to prove that he needs to be in the lineup every day, but the Cardinals’ pitching simply did not get it done.
Here’s how it went down
The Cardinals were aggressive against strike-thrower Keegan Thompson in the first inning, but that didn’t result in any baserunners. On just six pitches, Tommy Edman flew out to left field, Paul Goldschmidt grounded out to Patrick Wisdom at third base, and Nolan Arenado flew out to Clint Frazier in right.
The Cubs, on the other hand, had a 2-0 lead before Matthew Liberatore even recorded an out. Rookie Christopher Morel roped a double to left field leading off the game, and Willson Contreras brought him home with his ninth homer of the season to make it 2-0 Cubs. Contreras’ homer landed in the basket in left field, traveling 369 feet.
Wisdom popped out to Goldschmidt at first base for the first out of the inning, and then Frank Schwindel hit a double to right field. Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ both made solid contact in an effort to make it 3-0, but Hoerner flew out to Nootbaar in right field and Happ flew out to Bader in center to end the first inning.
St. Louis was a little more patient in the second, but still wasn’t able to scratch any runs across. Juan Yepez was called out on strikes for the first out of the inning. Brendan Donovan worked a one-out walk.
(Side note: Donovan’s K to BB ratio has been elite thus far, especially for a rookie. He and Juan Soto are the only players in the NL with a positive walk-to-strikeout ratios)
Albert Pujols grounded out to Nick Madrigal at second, but there was nobody covering the second base bag and Donovan was able to move over to second with two outs. Molina grounded out to Madrigal for the third and final out.
Liberatore walked Frazier on four pitches to start the inning, but was able to get three quick outs afterwards to hold things right where they stood. P.J. Higgins flew out to Bader in center, Madrigal flew out to Nootbaar in right, and Morel lined out sharply to Yepez in left.
The Cardinals were able to get on the board — and tie things up — in the third inning. Nootbaar struck out looking for the first out of the inning on a 95 mph fastball right down the pipe. Bader singled to left field on the first pitch he saw from Thompson, and advanced to second on Tommy Edman’s sharp groundout to second base. With two outs, Goldschmidt turned on a 2-2 fastball from Thompson and drove it into the ivy-covered wall in left-center field for a double, scoring Bader and cutting Chicago’s lead to one run.
Arenado then worked the count to 3-1 and singled to left field on a cutter that was outside and probably a ball, but it drove in Goldschmidt and the game was tied up, 2-2.
Yepez then flew out to Frazier in right field for the third out of the inning.
Contreras struck out looking for the first out on a high, center-cut fastball that he clearly was not expecting in a two-strike count. Wisdom popped out to Edman at shortstop for out number two. Liberatore’s attempt at a 1-2-3 inning was spoiled when Schwindel hammered a 2-1 fastball about 20 rows up into the left-field bleachers.
Schwindel’s seventh homer of the season nearly left the ballpark entirely and made it 3-2 Cubs. Hoerner grounded out to Edman at shortstop for the final out of the inning.
Donovan continues to impress. After fouling off two full count pitches, he eventually served the eighth pitch of the at-bat into center field for a leadoff single. Pujols erased that leadoff runner moments later when he grounded into a 5-4-3 double play started by Wisdom at third base. Molina then swung at the first pitch for the second straight at bat, this time flying out to Morel in center field.
Ian Happ led off the fourth inning by hitting his sixth homer of the season to left-center field, making it 4-2 Cubs. It was the third homer off Liberatore.
Frazier drew a walk, and Higgins singled to left field to give the Cubs two men on with no outs against Liberatore. Madrigal was retired on a sacrifice bunt, advancing both runners into scoring position. Morel worked the count full against Liberatore and walked, which brought up Contreras once again.
That was enough for Oli Marmol, and he pulled Liberatore after 80 pitches in the fourth. He was also responsible for all three baserunners (clearly). Nick Wittgren jogged in from the bullpen for his 23rd appearance of the season with Contreras waiting at the plate.
Wittgren was able to wiggle out of the sticky situation Liberatore left him, getting Contreras to pop out to Goldschmidt in foul territory for the second out and getting Wisdom to ground out to Edman at shortstop for the final out of the inning. The score held 4-2 heading into the fifth inning.
Liberatore’s final line: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB’s, 1 K (80 pitches)
Nootbaar doubled down the right field line (his first double of the season) leading off the fifth inning. Bader was unable to move him over, striking out looking on a fastball that he (and our strike zone) thought was a few inches outside. Edman flew out to Morel in center field for the second out, with Nootbaar tagging up to third base. Goldschmidt grounded out to Hoerner at short for the third and final out of the Cardinals’ fifth.
The Cubs got to Wittgren in the fifth to add to their lead. Schwindel and Hoerner hit back-to-back singles to start the inning, setting up Happ with two runners on. Happ popped out to Edman for the first out, with the infield fly rule called. Then a bad play happened, with some good at the end of it.
Frazier singled to center field, with Schwindel scoring on the play. Bader’s throw to third base was late and low, prompting Frazier to try and stretch his hit into two bases. Arenado picked Bader’s low throw at third and threw a laser dart to second base, nailing Hoerner at the bag for the second out of the inning.
Higgins flew out to Nootbaar to end the inning, which meant Nolan’s heads-up play saved a run. The Cubs led 5-2 after five innings.
Arenado flew out to right field for the first out of the inning, but Yepez, Donovan, and Pujols all worked walks to load the bases (Thompson was pulled after the walk to Donovan). Right-handed reliever Michael Rucker got Molina to ground into what could have been an inning-ending double play, but its slow hit speed plus Pujols’ obstructive slide into second prevented a throw to first, resulting in a Cardinal run. Nootbaar flew out to left field with runners on the corners to end the inning, but St. Louis had cut the lead to 5-3.
Thompson’s final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB’s, 3 K’s (89 pitches, a career-high)
Madrigal grounded out to Edman for the first out in the bottom of the sixth. Morel struck out swinging for the second out. Contreras drew a two-out walk from Wittgren, who was being stretched a bit with four games coming up in the next three days. Wisdom worked the count full and then flew out to Nootbaar in right field for the final out of the sixth.
Submarining right-hander Scott Effross replaced Rucker in the seventh, making his 24th appearance of the season. Bader hit a soft grounder back to Effross for the first out of the inning. Edman then slapped a single to left field with one out, bringing up Goldschmidt as the tying run. Unfortunately, Goldy struck out looking on a slider on the low outside corner for out number two. Arenado then hit a lazy fly ball that Hoerner was able to drift into shallow left field and catch for the final out.
T.J. McFarland took over on the mound after two-plus innings from Wittgren. Schwindel and Hoerner both grounded out to Edman at shortstop for the first two outs of the inning, and then Happ reached on a softly hit infield single between Arenado and McFarland. Jason Heyward — who was in as a defensive replacement in the top of the seventh — popped out to Edman in shallow center field.
Yepez and Donovan both made solid contact against Effross, but the former flew out to Heyward in right field for the first out and the latter flew out to Happ in left for the second out. Pujols struck out swinging to complete a clean 1-2-3- inning for Effross.
Higgins and Madrigal both hit singles off McFarland to start the eighth inning, with Higgins advancing to third on Madrigal’s hit. Morel then hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop, and Edman was able to cut down Higgins at the plate to prevent the run from scoring. After getting ahead of Contreras 0-2, McFarland wound up hitting him in the ankle with an inside sinker to load the bases.
Marmol pulled McFarland in favor of Kodi Whitley, who was making his 14th appearance of the season and struggled mightily against the Padres last weekend. Whitley walked Wisdom on five pitches, forcing in a run and making it 6-3 Chicago. It was Whitley’s ninth walk of the season in 12 innings (at the time). Schwindel then hit a sacrifice fly to right field, recording the second out of the inning but extending Chicago’s lead to 7-3. Hoerner popped out to Donovan in shallow right field to end the inning.
32-year old right-hander Mychal Givens was tasked with protecting a four-run lead for the Cubs in the bottom of the ninth. Molina greeted him with a leadoff single down the left field line. Nootbaar grounded into a fielder’s choice out, with Madrigal going to second base for the first out. Harrison Bader then hit his fifth homer of the season into the basket in left field, cutting Chicago’s lead to 7-5.
Edman grounded out to second to bring up Goldschmidt as St. Louis’ final hope. Givens punched out Goldy looking with a 94 mph fastball on the outside corner to end it, snapping St. Louis’ modest three-game winning streak.
FINAL: Chicago 7, St. Louis 5
Game two of this series will see Miles Mikolas (3-3, 2.67 ERA) on the mound for the Cardinals (29-22) versus Marcos Stroman (2-4, 3.95 ERA) for the Cubs (22-29). First pitch is set for 1:20 p.m.
Around the Central
Reds 8, Nationals 1 – Since starting the season 4-23, the Cincinnati Reds have a record of 14-9.
Brewers 5, Padres 4 – Milwaukee rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth to walk-off the Padres.
Pickle #85 – 6/9
Of the three famous sons on that team, this guy is looking like the worst so far.