CHICAGO – When the Cardinals and Cubs get together, anything can happen and that is exactly how things went Sunday night at Wrigley Field as St. Louis fought back twice to beat the Cubs. St. Louis scored four times in the top of the ninth to bust open a tie game and get a 10-6 win in front of 35,178 fans in the final game before the All Star break.
“I can’t express how proud I am of how these guys play the game,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “It is a very fitting way to end, I know it’s not the half, but to end for the break. It was just a very impressive resiliency.”
The rally started with a one-one double from Carlos Beltran. When the Cubs' right fielder slipped retrieving the ball, Beltran was able to advance all the way to third base. That brought Allen Craig to the plate and the All Star first baseman quickly drove in Beltran for the go-ahead run.
David Freese followed with a single before Yadier Molina crushed his seventh home run of the season. The three-run blast by Molina, the National League’s leading All Star vote getter, put the Cardinals up 10-6.
“We have got a good offense and a good team,” Molina said. “We are not going to give up and we have been proving that for the last couple of years. What happened in the game the inning before, we are going to come after you.”
Newly named All Star closer Edward Mujica (1-1), blew the save in the bottom of the eighth, but retired the Cubs on three ground ball outs in the ninth to earn the victory.
“It was unbelievable,” Mujica said of the Cardinals' offense bailing him out. “This team has been unbelievable in the first half. Those guys have been doing hard work every single day and you can see the results.”
Matheny, not wanting a fan to give his closer the news, called down to the bullpen in the second inning to let Mujica know he had been named to the All Star team.
“He called down to the bullpen,” Mujica said. “He said ‘hey Mujica, congratulations’ when I spoke to him.”
The Cardinals took a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning as Beltran singled with one out and moved to second on a single by Craig. After Freese popped out, Molina drove Beltran in with the Redbirds’ third single of the opening frame.
Chicago tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the second but St. Louis retook the lead in the top of the third.
Page 2 of 4 - Cardinals’ shortstop Pete Kozma entered play riding an 0-for-27 streak and flied out in his first at bat to run the streak to 0-for-28, but in his second at bat, Kozma dropped a bunt down the third base line for his first base hit since June 25th. The hit scored Molina and put the redbirds back in front.
“Kozma getting the bunt down was a huge play,” Matheny said. “I think he was looking for it (the bunt) on his own. We had talked about it, but (third base coach) Jose (Oquendo) did a nice job of picking that up for us and Pete (Kozma) did a perfect execution.”
Kozma noticed Chicago’s third baseman, Luis Valbuena, was playing back and used it to his advantage.
“He was playing back,” Kozma said. “I had thought about it before I got to the dish. … He was pretty much giving it to me.”
By the time Valbuena got to the ball, he did not even attempt to make a throw to first.
St. Louis increased its lead by a run in the fourth. With two outs, Craig doubled down the left field line and scored on Freese’s base hit.
Valbuena was again at the center of the play as it looked like the ball was going to bounce foul and he watched it. However, the ball bounced over third base fair and Craig scored from second on Valbuena’s poor throw to the plate.
Staff ace Adam Wainwright entered the bottom of the sixth inning with 99 pitches thrown. He retired the leadoff batter on a fly out before back-to-back singles put runners at first and second. Wainwright struck out the next batter before Darwin Barney just cleared the left field fence for a temporary go-ahead three-run blast.
Wainwright lasted just six innings in his shortest outing of the season since a May 16 loss to the Mets, in which Wainwright lasted just six innings.
“You are not going to go nine (innings) every time,” Wainwright said. “Obviously that is my goal. I would have been ok with my day had I not given up the three-run homer. Six innings and one run, I would have been able to sleep well. But, we won the game.”
The final batter Wainwright faced popped up a bunt attempt that the Cardinals’ all star hurler caught to end the inning.
“They took some good at bats,” Wainwright said. “I tip my hat to them tonight. I certainly was not sharp, but I was sharp enough.”
Wainwright finished the night allowing one walk and eight hits while striking out four. He allowed all four runs while throwing 111 pitches.
Page 3 of 4 - “Early on I wasn’t very sharp,” Wainwright said. “Deep counts were my fault. I was throwing quality pitches just off the plate instead of quality pitches on the plate.”
Trailing 4-3 to start the seventh, Yadier Molina led off with a double and advanced to third on a ground out before the struggling Pete Kozma came to the plate and drove in Molina with an RBI single that the Cubs' third shortstop and leftfielder were both unable to get to. It was Kozma’s second RBI single of the game.
After Jon Jay flew out for the second out, Daniel Descalso, pinch hitting for Wainwright, singled. With runners at first and second, Matt Carpenter followed with a single that plated Kozma and gave the Cardinals a 5-4 lead.
Manthey said he noticed his shortstop smiling in the dugout.
“Everybody feels good after they get a hit,” Kozma said. “The next at bat I hit one off my fingers and it fell in for another hit. It feels good, but you take them anyway you can get them.”
The Cardinals added another run in the top of the eighth.
With two outs and Freese on base, Matt Adams doubled to left center and Freese came all the way around to score thanks to Cubs' first baseman Anthony Rizzo cutting off a possible play at the plate to make it 6-4.
However, the lead did not last.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Chicago got a two-run double from pinch-hitter Cody Ransom to tie the game. The game-tying hit came of Mujica.
“I was trying to throw my changeup for a strikeout or a ground ball,” Mujica said. “He got a pretty good swing on it.”
Mujica retired the next batter, but the damage was done.
But, the Cardinals are a team that Matheny often says doesn’t give up and St. Louis came out in the top of the ninth, got the lead back, and held it for the win.
As a team, every non-pitcher in the lineup had at least one hit. The only batters not to record a hit were pitchers, Wainwright and reliever Trevor Rosenthal.
“There are a number of offensive stars you can go through,” Matheny said. “We had close plays and at bats and getting guys over and those are the things that we make a big deal about them because it pays off big later on.”
Craig and Molina led the hit parade with four hits apiece while Kozma chipped in a 3-hit night. Molina, the National League’s leading hitter, was 4-for-6 with a homer, a double, a pair of singles, three runs scored and four RBIs. Molina raised his average from .334 to .341.
Page 4 of 4 - “I have been swinging the bat pretty good all year long,” Molina said. “There is some times that you are going to feel bad and I was there, but tonight I made contact pretty solid.”
One at bat before his ninth inning homer, Molina just missed a homer that Cubs’ centerfielder Brian Bogusevic caught while crashing into the centerfield ivy.
“That ball is out of most parks,” Matheny said. “It definitely is out of ours and ours is a very far park.”
Craig was 4-for-5 with a double, two runs scored, an RBI and a walk while Kozma finished the night 3-for-5 with two runs batted and a run scored.
But, those weren’t the only Redbirds knocking the ball around. Carpenter, Beltran, and Adams all had two hits apiece while Freese, Jay and Descalso rounded out the Cardinals 21-hit night with one base knock each.
St. Louis finishes the first half with a record of 57-36 and are sending six players to the 2013 All Star game in New York. The Cardinals will resume play Friday, July 19 when the Redbirds host San Diego at Busch Stadium.