For the second night in a row, a Cubs pitcher held the opposing team in check and delivered an RBI single. This time it was Jason Hammel’s turn as he threw six innings of five-hit, one-run ball while striking out six. Facing a one run deficit in the top of the fourth inning, Hammel stepped to the plate with two outs and bases loaded. He proceeded to slap a grounder right between the third baseman and shortstop to drive in not one, but two runs as Jorge Soler and Ben Zobrist came around to score. They would be the only runs the Cubs would score, but ultimately all the runs they would need as the bullpen combination of Warren, Wood, Strop, and Rondon would work innings seven through nine to keep the Cards at bay and make the one-run lead hold up. The Cardinals lone run coming on a Yadier Molina triple in the second inning that scored Randal Grichuk.
It was in many ways a replay of the night before when John Lackey went seven strong innings and nabbed himself an RBI single, albeit not the game winner as Lackey was already working with a lead. This night was “Hammel Time” for sure but Jason Heyward grabbed some of the headline yet again this series. In the bottom of the fourth, with Matt Holliday on third base representing the tying run, Yadier Molina flied out to right field. Holliday was sent by the third base coach and Heyward, using those defensive instincts we’ve heard so much about, got in perfect position to make the catch while already preparing his body to make the throw home. He rifled the ball to Catcher Miguel Montero who was able to apply the tag just as Holliday was sliding towards the plate. Despite another ‘0-fer’ night at the plate, Heyward’s defense has not only helped us to forget the lack of hits but also preserved the Cubs lead at 2 – 1, which would become the final score.
There’s been a bit of fussing lately concerning the low batting averages of some of the Cubs big hitters and rightfully so. After all, we can’t expect Dexter Fowler to keep up the torrid pace he has begun the season with. Still, it ultimately comes down to if you win the game or not, and to date, the Cubs have done a lot more winning than losing. No one says the heart of your order has to bat over .200 to win; sure, it helps, but it’s not required. Sometimes taking a walk, or finding a way to get on base, coupled with a stellar defensive effort is enough to get you in position. The Cubs bats will surely wake up as April gives way to May and (hopefully) warmer temperatures. In the mean time, the Cubs don’t need to apologize for anything. They have won big and now they have won a tight contest; the bottom line is that they are finding ways to win, always the hallmark of a good ball club.
The series finale is currently in progress with the Cardinals jumping on Kyle Hendricks early, notching 2 runs apiece in each of the first two innings. The Cubs got one back in the fourth against Carlos Martinez on an Anthony Rizzo solo home run, but it’s been pretty much all Cards so far. Given how well the Cubs pitchers had kept St. Louis in check in over the first two games, the Red Birds were due to break out a bit, especially at home against the Cubs #5 starter. The game is currently in a prolonged rain delay in the seventh inning.
Here’s hoping the Cubs can get the runs and weather to climb back into this thing and complete the sweep. If not, two out of three ain’t bad.
Let’s Go Cubs!