Cubs strike early and often in Game 2 to even NLDS vs. Cards
For one inning, Jorge Soler and all those Chicago Cubs rookies looked like playoff-tested veterans and the St. Louis Cardinals appeared shaken.
That’s all it took.
Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell had successful squeeze bunts and Soler capped a five-run second with a two-run homer off Jaime Garcia, and the Cubs held off the Cardinals 6-3 on Saturday night to even their NL Division Series at a game apiece.
"Listen, I can’t be more proud of our guys," manager Joe Maddon said. "When you win a Wild Card Game like we did, I promise you, you settle in. We didn’t win yesterday, but we were not overwhelmed by anything."
Maddon made all the right moves a night after the Cubs lost the opener 4-0. Now the teams shift to Wrigley Field for Game 3 Monday, the first playoff game at the friendly confines since 2008, where Chicago’s 22-game winner Jake Arrieta faces St. Louis’ Michael Wacha in the best-of-five series.
"Getting back there 1-1 with our big dog on the mound, the atmosphere is going to be good," Anthony Rizzo said.
The usually steady NL Central champion Cardinals made two errors as the Cubs didn’t hit the ball out of the infield in scoring their first three runs in the second.
"It is hard to watch a club that’s played so well defensively, see a couple things happen that are kind of uncharacteristic for us," manager Mike Matheny said.
Making his first postseason start, Soler connected off Garcia (0-1), who was lifted because of a stomach ailment after the second. The Cubs have been working Soler back into the mix after he returned from a left oblique strain in mid-September.
"All I was trying to do was help the team win," Soler said through a translator. "He got a ball up where I could hit it hard."
Garcia told the team he felt a bit ill about an hour before the game but thought he’d be fine.
"I was going to pitch, it was my game," Garcia said. "I worked so hard all year for this situation and unfortunately it didn’t go my way, but no excuse."
Dexter Fowler, Soler and Starlin Castro each had two of Chicago’s six hits in a game played in front of a lively crowd of 47,859, a postseason record at 10-year-old Busch Stadium, that included thousands of Cubs fans.
Soler also doubled and walked twice in the Cubs’ first postseason victory since 2003. Chicago had lost seven straight Division Series games.
The Cardinals homered three times, including a leadoff long ball by Matt Carpenter. Consecutive shots by Kolten Wong and pinch-hitter Randal Grichuk with two outs in the fifth chased Hendricks one out shy of qualifying for the victory in his postseason debut.
Travis Wood (1-0) allowed one hit with two strikeouts in 2 1/3 scoreless innings for the victory. Hector Rondon, briefly stuck in the bullpen bathroom during Game 1, earned his first career postseason save.
"That’s really funny for me right now," Rondon said with a laugh.
Though none of the runs were earned in the second, Garcia’s first postseason start since 2012 was a disaster.
The Cubs capitalized when Garcia blew a play on a safety squeeze by Hendricks. The pitcher hesitated instead of throwing home with a very good chance of cutting down the run, then made a wild, flat-footed throw to first for an error.
"I didn’t even see it," Hendricks said. "I put my head down and started running."
Russell, the next batter, squeezed in another run, and Fowler had an RBI infield hit before Soler drove a high 2-2 pitch over the center-field wall.
"Everything has to be set up properly for that," Maddon said. "It just was."
The inning was also aided by an ill-advised, off-target relay to first for a throwing error by second baseman Kolten Wong trying for a double play.
Lance Lynn, the presumptive Game 4 starter, replaced Garcia in the third as the first in a parade of relievers. Matheny said there are "options" for Game 4, with Lynn or lefty Tyler Lyons as possibilities.
Two-time 20-game winner Adam Wainwright, coming off a torn left Achilles in late April, fanned three in 1 2/3 scoreless innings, his fourth appearance since being injured and first of more than an inning.
Hendricks allowed three homers in 4 2/3 innings. He had 17 no-decisions in the regular season, most in the majors.
Kris Bryant went 0 for 4, with three groundouts and a strike out. He is 3 for 34 with no RBI in his last nine games.
Ted Simmons, inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame earlier this year, threw out the ceremonial the first pitch. Simmons had been a senior adviser to the Mariners’ general manager but said he’d been let go.
Wong’s last nine postseason hits have gone for extra bases, matching the major league record shared by Miguel Cabrera and Jayson Werth. … Grichuk’s homer gave the Cardinals two homers in three pinch-hit at-bats this series.
Wacha (17-7, 3.38) was St. Louis top winner with 17 but he struggled the final month, going 2-3 with a 7.88 ERA. "I think his highs far outweigh his lows," Wainwright said. Arrieta (22-6, 1.77) is the Cubs biggest winner since Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins was 24-13 in 1971. He tossed a shutout in the NL Wild Card Game.