Saturday was a big bounce-back day for the Cardinals in their NL Central battle with the Cubs.
The Cardinals took down the Cubs 5-3 at home to send this series to a pivotal rubber game Sunday. Carlos Martinez pitched effectively for 6 2/3 innings, allowing the three runs on five hits and four walks for his third win of the season.
Saturday’s win came before a crowd of 47,882 — largest in Busch Stadium III history — and with a largely different cast of characters than is usual. Regular starter Randal Grichuk received the day off and was replaced by Magneuris Sierra in right field, while Tommy Pham continued to start in place of the injured Stephen Piscotty.
Pham and Sierra combined to go 4-for-6 with two runs and two RBIs.
The Cubs got on the board first in the second inning when starting pitcher Jon Lester doubled in Javier Baez. It was Lester’s fourth career hit against Martinez, though Lester has only eight hits in the major leagues.
In the bottom of the third, the Cardinals came right back though thanks to a bunt single by Martinez. He drove in Pham to tie the game at 1-1.
The fourth inning was when the Cardinals really took control though. The home team went out in front 2-1 thanks to Jedd Gyorko’s seventh home run of the season, and Yadier Molina came around to score on a Pham single a few batters later.
With the score 3-1, Martinez started to settle in nicely. The Cardinals starter did not allow a hit between the third and fifth innings.
The bottom of the sixth featured two more Cardinals runs, thanks again to Pham and Sierra. Greg Garcia walked with two outs and was doubled home by Pham, who was then in turn driven in by Sierra for his first MLB RBI. The Cardinals led 5-1 heading to the seventh.
After his strong start though, Martinez faltered in that inning, allowing a two-out, two-run home run to rookie Ian Happ, cutting the lead to 5-3. Martinez was removed after the blast.
But Matt Bowman, Trevor Rosenthal and Seung-Hwan Oh combined to throw 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to close out the game. Oh nearly served up a game-tying two-run home run to Kyle Schwarber, but the fly fell short into Dexter Fowler’s glove at the warning track.
Sunday’s rubber game will begin at 1:15 p.m. and will feature Adam Wainwright and Jake Arrieta as the starting pitchers.
Martinez serves up rookie's first major league home run
The Cubs had called up outfielder and top prospect Ian Happ before Saturday's game, and he came up big in the seventh.
With two outs and a man on third base, Carlos Martinez's first pitch to Happ in his seventh-inning at-bat was deposited in the right field bleachers. The two-run home run was Happ's first career homer and his first major league hit, as it cut the Cardinals' lead to 5-3.
After giving up the blast, Martinez was removed from the game in favor of reliever Matt Bowman. Martinez's final line comprised 6 2/3 innings, five hits, four walks, three runs (all earned) and seven strikeouts. He threw 99 pitches, 62 of which were strikes.
Bowman got Anthony Rizzo to ground out to opposing first baseman Matt Carpenter.
Cardinals immediately capitalize as Lester leaves
Jon Lester's pitch count had reached its upper limits and the Cardinals took advantage in the sixth.
The Cubs starter was removed after walking Greg Garcia with two outs in the bottom of the sixth on 112 pitches. Pedro Strop came in for Lester to face left fielder Tommy Pham.
Pham, who had a hot road trip but struck out three times Friday, doubled over the head of Cubs center fielder Albert Almora to send home Garcia from first. Right fielder Magneuris Sierra then singled in Garcia for his first MLB RBI to give the Cardinals a 5-1 lead.
Before that, the Cardinals had put together a couple runs in the fourth, but had been almost silent since offensively.
After pitcher Carlos Martinez led off the fifth inning with a double, five straight Cardinal hitters struck out. Dexter Fowler, Jedd Gyorko went down swinging, while Aledmys Diaz, Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina were caught looking by Jon Lester.
Cardinals escape trouble in fifth thanks to slide rule
A whole mess of confusion erupted in the top of the fifth inning.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo stood in the batter's box with runners on first and third with one out. Rizzo hit a comebacker to the pitcher Carlos Martinez, who lofted an underhand toss to second after bobbling the ball.
Martinez was able to get the out at second, but second base umpire Mike Everitt ruled that the runner, right fielder Ian Happ, had slid past the base and interfered with a potential double play. As a result, Rizzo was ruled out at first the inning came to an end.
The Cubs challenged the ruling, taking issue on the play if whether or not shortstop Aledmys Diaz had kept his foot on second base while Happ slid into him -- a necessary element for calling the slide interference. Umpires reviewed and confirmed the call on the field, finishing the frame for good.
Had Diaz not kept his foot on the base, left fielder Kyle Schwarber would have scored the Cubs' second run to cut the Cardinals' lead to 3-2.
Gyorko, Pham lift Cardinals to 3-1 lead in fourth inning
Cardinals third baseman Jedd Gyorko has been a surprise in the cleanup spot so far this season.
Gyorko hit his seventh home run of the year in the fourth inning to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead over the Cubs. The homer tied him with first baseman Matt Carpenter for the team lead.
Later in the inning, the Cardinals had catcher Yadier Molina at third base with one out after he got on with a single and advanced on a stolen base and sacrifice bunt. Left fielder Tommy Pham then singled up the middle past Lester to drive him in, and give the home team a 3-1 advantage.
Pham, however, could not replicate Molina's success on the basepaths, as he was caught stealing for the second out. Outfielder Magneuris Sierra then singled to continue the inning, but attempted to test Lester too early on the basepaths and was picked off trying to steal second.
Molina's stolen base was the 50th of his career.
Cardinals knot score at 1-1 on Martinez's bunt hit
After Jon Lester opened the scoring with an RBI double, Carlos Martinez had to try to outdo him.
With Tommy Pham standing on third base, Martinez bunted a Lester pitch right back to the mound. Taking advantage of Lester's hesitation to throw the ball to any base, Martinez was able to easily drive in Pham as Lester attempted (and failed) a glove flip home.
Martinez then took second base when the Cubs infielders left it open all trying to field the bunt.
Center fielder Dexter Fowler walked to give the Cardinals men on first and second with one out, but both shortstop Aledmys Diaz and first baseman Matt Carpenter struck out swinging to end the inning in a 1-1 tie.
Martinez serves up RBI double to opposing starter Lester
The Cardinals' Saturday game against the Chicago Cubs got off to a bit of an interesting start.
In the top of the second inning with a man on first, Cubs starter Jon Lester came up to the plate. A normally subpar hitter, even for pitchers, Lester surprised the fans and drilled a line drive off the center field wall for an RBI double.
His hit put the Cardinals in an early 1-0 deficit. Martinez got out of further trouble by striking out outfielder Albert Almora to end the inning.
In 188 career at-bats, Lester has only 12 hits to his name. However, four of those have come against Martinez (4-for-15).
Magneuris Sierra to start in right field; Cubs' Bryant sits again
Cardinals outfielder Magneuris Sierra will start Saturday's contest against the Chicago Cubs and bat eighth.
Sierra will play right field, taking the place of Randal Grichuk who homered in Friday night's 3-2 loss. Saturday will be the 21-year-old's fifth start of the season after being called up from advanced Single-A Palm Beach last week.
Grichuk is the only Cardinal to appear in each of the team's first 34 games this season, but that may come to an end Saturday if he doesn't pinch hit.
Infielder Greg Garcia will also receive a start Saturday, taking the place of second baseman Kolten Wong. Garcia will bat sixth in the lineup.
Outfielder Tommy Pham, who was scorching hot during the Cardinals road trip but struck out three times in Friday's opener with the Cubs, is being dropped back to seventh in the batting order. Pham hit second on Friday.
For the visiting Cubs, third baseman Kris Bryant will not start for the second straight game after being scratched late Friday with an illness. The Cubs have called up top prospect Ian Happ to play right field.
1. Dexter Fowler - CF
2. Aledmys Diaz - SS
3. Matt Carpenter - 1B
4. Jedd Gyorko - 3B
5. Yadier Molina - C
6. Greg Garcia - 2B
7. Tommy Pham - LF
8. Magneuris Sierra - RF
9. Carlos Martinez - P
1. Kyle Schwarber - LF
2. Ian Happ - RF
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Jeimer Candelario - 3B
5. Tommy La Stella - 2B
6. Willson Contreras - C
7. Javier Baez - SS
8. Jon Lester - P
9. Albert Almora - CF
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