CHICAGO – It was a classic Cardinals versus Cubs battle Sunday night at Wrigley Field that came down to the final inning with the Cardinals pulling out the 5-4 win to avoid being swept by the Cubs.
With the game tied 3-3 and the bases loaded with two outs, the Cardinals needed a big hit. With Yadier Molina taking his turn at the plate, St. Louis must have had a feeling it was in good hands. Molina did not disappoint as he lined a single up the middle to score Randal Grichuk and Mark Ellis in the bottom of the ninth.
“(Molina) did a nice job of staying within himself and putting together a good at bat,” Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny said. “That is the at bat that we talked about all season, just grinding, grinding, fouling off tough pitches and get one where he can find a spot where they were not.”
The game-winning hit by Molina was his only base knock of the day. The Cardinals’ catcher had gone 0-for-4 prior to the at bat and hit into a pair of double plays. Molina’s hit came off Chicago closer Hector Rondon (0-1).
“He pitched me tough,” Molina said. “In the last inning, I was hoping for something in the middle and not striking out. I put the ball in play and a good thing happened, it found a hole.”
Molina was glad to have the opportunity to bat with the game on the line as he wanted to atone for allowing a Carlos Martinez wild pitch get by him with a runner on third that tied the game.
“I am so grateful,” Molina said. “When you mess up early in the game, you want to be there for your team in the end. I came through, so that is a good feeling.”
St. Louis had its own closer issues in the ninth. After a strike out and a ground out, Trevor Rosenthal walked Emilo Bonifacio who advanced to second on a defensive indifference. Bonifacio then scored on Jose Valbuena’s RBI double off the left field wall. But that was all the Cubs would get.
St. Louis got on the board first in the top of the second. With two outs, Jhonny Peralta drew a walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. Peralta then scored when Grichuk collected his first career RBI on his first career triple. The ball stuck in the ivy-covered centerfield wall, but was visible for the Cubs’ centerfielder to grab the ball. Mark Ellis followed with a double to left-center that scored Grichuk, giving the Redbirds a 2-0 lead.
The Cardinals added another run in the top of third. The rally started with a two-out walk to Matt Holliday. Matt Adams followed with a double off the left-center field wall that scored Holliday all the way from first. Adams advanced to third on the throw home, and was left stranded when Allen Craig struck out to end the inning.
Chicago finally got to Lynn in the bottom of the third. After a ground out, Ryan Kalish beat out an infield single to second base. After a walk to John Baker, both runners moved up on a ground out by Darwin Barney. Jason Hammel then singled to right field scoring both Kalish and Baker, cutting the Cardinals’ lead to 3-2.
Chicago tied the game in the bottom of the seventh. Valbuena tripled with two outs. Following an intentional walk to Anthony Rizzo, Valbuena scored on a Carlos Martinez wild pitch.
Molina took the blame for the ball getting by him.
“I was there,” Molina said. “I can’t explain it. I was ready for it and the ball still went through my legs. I was ready for it. I had a man on third base and I was expecting it to be in the dirt.”
Molina takes a lot of pride in his defense and was unhappy about how the play turned out.
“That is my strong side, the defense,” Molina said. “So I need to do better on that. I block that ball like 99 out of 100 times, but tonight I wasn’t able to block it.”
The wild pitch that got past Molina cost Lynn the win. The Cardinals’ starting pitcher didn’t blame Molina, but instead commented on what pride the Redbirds’ catcher takes in his normally flawless defense.
“I am very positive that (Molina) is not happy about that at all,” Lynn said. “That is what makes him the best catcher in the game. The fact that he is very pissed off and not going to let it happen again, that is why he is who he is. And that is why he got the hit in the ninth inning to win the game, because he knows what he is capable of and he does it.”
“He does a nice job of not wearing his emotions and showing how frustrating that is for him,” Matheny said. “It’s hard to count how many balls he keeps in front of or runs that he saves. It is something that we don’t take for granted, but he is a man and not a machine. He is not going to be able to be perfect every single time, but man, is he close.”
Lynn finished the night allowing just three hits and four walks while striking out five. Lynn went six innings and left with a 3-2 lead however, the Cardinals’ starter was saddled with a no-decision.
“I feel good,” Lynn said. “The frustrating part tonight is that I just wasn’t able to throw the ball where I wanted to at times and that is very frustrating.”
With one out, Lynn walked the bases loaded in the third inning, but was able to get out of the jam with no damage. Lynn forced the Cubs three-hole hitter to hit a shallow fly ball for the first out and then got the cleanup hitter to fly out to end the inning.
“Everyone walks the bases loaded to face the three four, right?” Lynn joked. “No, I had some things that didn’t go my way that inning. I was able to make some pitches to the two guys in the middle of the lineup that you definitely don’t want to face with the bases loaded and one out.”
Matheny felt Lynn performance was similar to his previous start on April 29 when he took a no decision as the Cardinals lost in extra innings to the Brewers.
“It was similar to his last,” Matheny said. “He got to a point where I don’t think he could control the movement. It was going both ways. He would try to hit the middle of the plate and it would sink one time and cut the next. Then he would come back out and his last two innings he did a real nice job. It didn’t look like he was gonna get through six but he gave us an opportunity to keep that one-run lead that we ended up not being able to keep. His stuff is real good right now, his location just isn’t where he wants it to be.”
Kevin Siegrist (1-1) picked up the win as he pitched a perfect eighth inning for the Cardinals, striking out the side on 14 pitches.
St. Louis collected 11 hits and four walks. Of the four free passes, three came with two outs and three of the walks scored. Ellis finished the day with a team-high three hits, going 3-for-4. Carpenter and Adams also had multi-hit games. Adams and Carpenter were both 2-for-4. Jon Jay, Peralta, Grichuk, and Molina all had one hit. Jay’s hit came in a pinch hitting appearance when Lynn was removed from the game.
“It was a huge day for Mark (Ellis),” Matheny said. “He needed that. That is the kind of player we know he is. Not that he is going to get three hits every single night, but just a real solid approach and a real short swing.”
All five of the Cardinals’ run came with two outs.
“Anytime you hit with two outs, that is a good sign,” Molina said. “Hopefully we can continue to do that.”
The Cardinals will start a three game series with the Braves in Atlanta tonight. Shelby Miller (3-2) will take the mound against Aaron Harang (3-2).
NOTES: Both the Cardinals and the Cubs challenged an out call at first base by umpire Adrian Johnson. After review, both calls were overturned. Ryan Kalish of the Cubs reached via E5 while Matt Carpenter reached on a single to second. The delay for the Cubs’ call was 1:40 while the delay for the Cardinals’ call was 2:05. Neither player scored after being ruled safe by replay. … Yadier Molina’s ninth inning single extended his hitting streak to six games. ... After getting only one at bat in the series opener on Friday, Matt Adams finished the series 5-for-9 with all five hits i coming in the last two days.