Cardinals hang on to NL Central lead, but drop fourth straight with 8-6 loss
ST. LOUIS — Adam Wainwright was itching to spray champagne in the Cardinals clubhouse Saturday night. It’s been nearly four years since his last boozy bash, and after getting roughed up by the Cubs, he and his St. Louis teammates will have to wait at least one more night.
The Cardinals’ push for a division title will go down to the final day of the regular season following an 8-6 loss to Chicago on Saturday night.
“You can’t ask for anything more,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We’ve had it in our control and we’ve controlled it at the point to the final day with a one-game lead. We can be disappointed, which we are, about tonight, laid it all out there. But we can also look up and realize that on the last game of the season, we control our destiny.”
Wainwright (14-10) allowed four homers for the first time in his career, but the Cardinals maintained a one-game lead over Milwaukee for the NL Central lead when the Brewers lost 3-2 in 10 innings at Colorado. If the teams are tied after Sunday’s regular season finales, they will play a tiebreaking Game 163 in St. Louis on Monday. The second-place finisher will play in the NL wild-card game at Washington on Tuesday.
“I couldn’t be more disappointed in me,” Wainwright said. “Unfortunate, because we needed that game. We needed a win. I’d love to be popping champagne right now, but luckily the Rockies bailed us out a little bit and we still control our own destiny.”
Yadier Molina shouted at Cubs left-hander Cole Hamels after being grazed by a fastball in the second inning, sparking a benches-clearing fracas. No punches were thrown, but Chicago landed some haymakers anyway — two homers from Ian Happ and one each from Kyle Schwarber and Victor Caratini assured the Cubs their first series win at Busch Stadium this season.
Hamels allowed two hits and struck out eight in four innings after Cubs manager Joe Maddon said pregame that he would be limited to three innings. Hamels was making his first start since Sept. 16 after dealing with left shoulder tightness. Chicago has been eliminated from postseason contention.
Wainwright allowed six runs on a career high-tying 12 hits, snapping a string of six straight starts without a loss. He said he feels good but needs to make a mechanical fix.
Molina was awarded first base after Hamels’ 91 mph pitch clipped his left arm. He took a few steps toward first and stared at Hamels, then began barking at him and walked toward the mound. Cubs catcher Jonathan Lucroy stepped between Molina and Hamels, and St. Louis teammate Matt Carpenter dragged Molina away while players poured onto the field. No warnings or ejections were issued.
“We’ve got history,” Molina said about Hamels. “For many years I’ve faced him. Every time he goes inside, he goes in tight and this time I was tired of it. I let him know. We all man up. He said something, I said something, but that was the end.”
Hamels said he was confused by Molina’s reaction but felt he needed to stand up for himself.
“It’s kind of a crazy situation,” Hamels said.
Schwarber launched the first pitch he saw from Wainwright into the right field bleachers for his 38th home run. Happ hit a two-run homer in the third and another in the fifth for his fifth career multi-home run game and first this season. He has 11 home runs since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa on July 26.
Harrison Bader broke up the Cubs’ shutout when he hit his 11th homer of the season off Kyle Ryan in the fifth inning. Tommy Edman added a two-run triple and an RBI single, and Paul Goldschmidt batted with the bases loaded in the seventh but grounded into a double play.
St. Louis’ Paul DeJong hit his 30th homer off Pedro Strop in the eighth, trailing only Colorado’s Trevor Story (35) for the lead among NL shortstops. Story hit a game-ending homer for Colorado to sink Milwaukee.
Cubs: OF Nicholas Castellanos (right groin tightness) was held out of the lineup after being scratched before Friday’s game. Maddon said he doubts Castellanos will play again this season.
Cardinals: 2B Kolten Wong (strained left hamstring) remains day-to-day but says he’s improving. “There’s still that little knot kind of feeling in my hamstring,” Wong said. “Got up to probably 85-90 percent.”
The Cardinals and Cubs wrap up their three-game series Sunday. Shildt announced RHP Jack Flaherty (10-8, 2.85) will start with the division title at stake. He has given up four earned runs in his last 37 innings for a 0.97 ERA, including allowing one run over eight innings against the Cubs on Sept. 19.
“Jack’s our guy,” Shildt said. “We all recognize the job that Jack’s done for this club, really all year, but especially the second half. It’s his game.”
The Cubs will counter with LHP Derek Holland (2-4, 5.47).